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NMAI, American Indian Persepctives on Thanksgiving

For Lower-El

  • First, while many of these recommendations are geared toward educators and toward teaching more accurate things about Native people at any time, I think these guidelines/strategies are helpful:




A number of positive strategies can be used in classrooms, writes Reese. Provide knowledge about contemporary Native Americans to balance historical information. Teaching about Native Americans exclusively from a historical perspective may perpetuate the idea that they exist only in the past.” 

1. "Prepare units about specific tribes rather than units about 'Native Americans.' For example, develop a unit about the people of Nambe Pueblo, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa, the Potawotami. Ideally, choose a tribe with a historical or contemporary role in the local community. Such a unit will provide children with culturally specific knowledge (pertaining to a single group) rather than overgeneralized stereotypes

2. "Locate and use books that show contemporary children of all colors engaged in their usual, daily activities (for example, playing basketball or riding bicycles) as well as traditional activities. Make the books easily accessible to children throughout the school year. Three excellent titles on the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico are Pueblo Storyteller by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith; Pueblo Boy: Growing Up In Two Worlds by Marcia Keegan; and Children of Clay by Rina Swentzell.”

3. "Cook ethnic foods but be careful not to imply that all members of a particular group eat a specific food.”

4. "Be specific about which tribes use particular items, when discussing cultural artifacts (such as clothing or housing) and traditional foods. The Plains tribes use feathered headdresses, for example, but not all other tribes use them.

5. "Critique a Thanksgiving poster depicting the traditional, stereotyped Pilgrim and Indian figures, especially when teaching older elementary school children. Take care to select a picture that most children are familiar with, such as those shown on grocery bags or holiday greeting cards. Critically analyze the poster, noting the many tribes the artist has combined into one general image that fails to provide accurate information about any single tribe.

6. "At Thanksgiving, shift the focus away from reenacting the 'First Thanksgiving.' Instead, focus on items children can be thankful for in their own lives, and on their families' celebrations of Thanksgiving at home.”

Besides using these strategies in their classrooms, teachers need to educate themselves," Reese continues. "Stereotyping is not always obvious to people surrounded by mainstream culture. Numerous guidelines have been prepared to aid in the selection of materials that work against stereotypes. Much remains to be done to counter stereotypes of Native Americans learned by young children in our society," writes Reese in the conclusion to her ERIC Digest. "Teachers must provide accurate instruction not only about history but also about the contemporary lives of Native Americans.”

Found at: As a side note, I would NOT recommend some of the other things from this site. 


  • We tend to have more resources geared toward older children engaging in these critically conscious conversations that provoke a lot of the cognitive dissonance around what they expect the story of Thanksgiving to be. That said, these are some of the specific resources we have for younger students related to Thanksgiving: 



  • Teaching Young Children About Native Americans , One of the most significant things you can do — especially this early in a child's education — is to explain to your students a little bit about what happened AFTER the first Thanksgiving. The first gathering of Europeans and Native Americans was peaceful, but that's not how the story ends. In fact, while most Americans celebrate the fourth Thursday in November, many Native Americans consider it a National Day of Mourning.

  • Have a Discussion about stereotypes:

  1. Have students add their own ideas regarding Native American culture and discuss those to see if they ring true or may be the product of another stereotype.

  2. Ask students if there are things they have encountered in their own lives, prejudices, or ideas that would be considered stereotypes about themselves..

  3. Why are stereotypes considered inappropriate or wrong?

  4. Have students think of things that they could do to change old myths or stereotypes that are hurtful.

  5. Does television and what is online have anything to do with promoting old negative myths about people?

  6. Today, the image of the Native American has far less visibility than anytime in recent history. Books, television shows, websites, and movies are fewer in number that depict a good truthful story about Native people. Could stereotypes that have been around for years have contributed to this situation?

  7. Some art critics and connoisseurs of classical architecture and art frown on the use of the term "art" and "architecture" when it comes to Native American culture. Why do think that is true and is there anything that can be done to change that old notion?

  8. Images depicting warriors as hostile also may give viewers the idea that these people acted out their "savage" anger without any real debate went into whether it was warranted or not. Are there any good reasons for people to believe this? If not, explain.

  9. Which of these images is more of a stereotype? Why? What could you do to change it and make it more accurate? Are there other pictures that could be added to illustrate how Native people really lived in the Woodlands?

Thanksgiving & 'Columbus'/Indigenous People's Day

'Columbus Day/Indigenous People's Day
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