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Wishing a happy Thanksgiving season to you and your family, and especially to educators and parents who can do much good by educating about the meaning of Thanksgiving to the First Nations who continue to be very much a part of the life of the United States.
Let us remember at this turbulent moment that, whatever adversities we face, we still have much to be thankful for in our country—not least because of the contributions of those First Nations.
Thanksgiving is a time to remember them. The earliest European communities in what is now the United States survived only because of the help these Native Nations offered—only to be later treated with great brutality and injustice.
Even today, after the wrongs that were done to Native peoples have been acknowledged in many quarters, our indigenous sisters and brothers continue to suffer from the corrosive effects of systemic racism and poverty.
Educators bear a special responsibility, especially at Thanksgiving. At Thanksgiving, we need to remember the contributions that Native Nations have made—and are still making—to the life of our country. Very fittingly, President George H.W. Bush in 1990 proclaimed the entire month of November as Native American History Month.
It is up to educators to teach accurately and fairly about the Native Nations of this land. Debbie Ross, a member of the Nambé Pueblo, has written an excellent article on how to accurately teach about Native peoples at Thanksgiving and throughout the year. Among her key recommendations:
- Choose books that are tribally specific.
- Use present-tense verbs to talk about Native Nations.
- Choose books by Native writers.
- Use books by Native writers all year round.
We urge you to read this article (or at least the summary from the National Council of Teachers of English) and use it to shape your teaching at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.
Also consider inviting a panel from ING’s new Intercultural Speakers Bureau to discuss the roots and interconnections of all forms of bigotry and racism.
1. If your kids come home with a stereotypical Thanksgiving celebration activity such as kids dressing up like Natives as described in this article, speak up and let the teacher know that that approach is not acceptable.
2. Avoid decorations or themes which center on pilgrims or include stereotypical representations of Natives.
3. Check out books written by Native or social justice writers and read them to your kids as Thanksgiving approaches.
4. Talk to your children about the oppression and injustice Natives experienced and continue to experience and how it is similar to oppression occurring today in various parts of the world.
5. Consider cooking a dish that reflects Native foods to add to your Thanksgiving dinner.
6. On Thanksgiving Day, have your kids share what they learned with others at the table, including background about the dish they may have prepared.
Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a peace-building organization providing face-to-face education and engagement opportunities that foster understanding of Muslims and other misunderstood groups to promote harmony among all people.