Bay of Plenty Times

US look again at Thanksgivi­ng

Some states ex­am­ine his­tory of Na­tive Amer­i­cans

- Society · Thanksgiving Day · Celebrations · England · Cape Cod · Massachusetts · East Arlington, MA · Boston · Museu Nacional · Oklahoma · Arlington County · Cape Town · East Harwich, MA · Harwich, MA

Afriendly feast shared by the plucky Pil­grims and their na­tive neigh­bours? That’s yes­ter­day’s Thanksgivi­ng story. Stu­dents in many US schools are now learn­ing a more com­plex les­son that in­cludes con­flict, in­jus­tice and a new fo­cus on the peo­ple who lived on the land for hun­dreds of years be­fore Euro­pean set­tlers ar­rived and named it New Eng­land.

In­spired by the na­tion’s reck­on­ing with sys­temic racism, schools are scrap­ping and rewrit­ing lessons that treated Na­tive Amer­i­cans as a foot­note in a story about white set­tlers. In­stead of mak­ing Pil­grim hats, stu­dents are hear­ing what schol­ars call “hard his­tory” — the more shame­ful as­pects of the past.

Stu­dents still learn about the 1621 feast, but many are also learn­ing that peace be­tween the Pil­grims and Na­tive Amer­i­cans was al­ways un­easy and later splin­tered into years of con­flict.

On Cape Cod, lan­guage arts teacher Su­san­nah Remil­lard long found that her sixth grade stu­dents had been taught far more about the Pil­grims than the Wam­panoag peo­ple, the Na­tive Amer­i­cans who at­tended the feast. Now she’s try­ing to bal­ance the nar­ra­tive.

She asks stu­dents to re­write the Thanksgivi­ng story us­ing his­tor­i­cal records, and then she asks them to write a poem from the per­spec­tive of a per­son from that time, half set­tlers and half Wam­panoag.

“We carry this colo­nial view of how we teach, and now we have a mo­ment to step out­side that and think about whether that is harm­ful for kids, and if there isn’t a bet­ter way,” said Remil­lard, who teaches at Cape Cod Light­house Char­ter School in East Har­wich, Mas­sachusetts. “I think we are at a point where peo­ple are now ready to lis­ten.”

In Ar­ling­ton pub­lic schools near Bos­ton, stu­dents un­til re­cently dressed an­nu­ally in colo­nial at­tire. Now taboo, the cos­tumes were abol­ished in 2018, and the district is work­ing to ex­pand and cor­rect class­room teach­ings on Na­tive Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing de­bunk­ing Thanksgivi­ng myths.

Stu­dents as young as kinder­garten age are now be­ing taught that har­vest feasts have been part of Wam­panoag life since long be­fore 1621, and that thanksgivi­ng is a daily part of life for many tribes.

They’re also be­ing taught that the Pil­grims and Wam­panoag were not friends, and that it’s im­por­tant to “un­learn” false no­tions around the feast. “We don’t want the colour­ing books of the Pil­grims and the Na­tive Amer­i­cans,” said Crys­tal Power, a so­cial stud­ies coach. “We want stu­dents to en­gage with what re­ally hap­pened, with who lived here first, and to un­der­stand that there was no such thing as the New World. It was only new from one side’s per­spec­tive.”

“Progress seems to be gain­ing mo­men­tum, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” said Ed Schup­man, man­ager of Na­tive Knowl­edge 360, the na­tional ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive at the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian, and a ci­ti­zen of the Musco­gee (Creek) Na­tion of Ok­la­homa.

“Change is still needed, and it has only been sig­nif­i­cant in some places.”

Schup­man and the mu­seum have worked with states as they cre­ate new teach­ing stan­dards on Indige­nous cul­tures.

Even in states where it isn’t manda­tory, how­ever, class­rooms are be­com­ing more in­clu­sive.

Af­ter na­tional protests over killings of Black peo­ple by po­lice, Ar­ling­ton’s his­tory depart­ment cre­ated a com­mit­tee to ex­am­ine race, which led to dis­cus­sions about ex­pand­ing and cor­rect­ing teach­ings about African Amer­i­cans, Na­tive Amer­i­cans and other groups too of­ten left out. — AP

 ?? Photo / AP ?? US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump par­dons Corn, the na­tional Thanksgivi­ng tur­key, as Me­la­nia Trump watches on.
Photo / AP US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump par­dons Corn, the na­tional Thanksgivi­ng tur­key, as Me­la­nia Trump watches on.

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