Teaching about Thanksgiving in a socially responsible way means that educators accept the ethical obligation to provide students with accurate information and to reject traditions that sustain harmful stereotypes about indigenous peoples. What’s more, since most of our schools do not exactly promote historically accurate portrayals of our nation’s history, it is left to us to bring perspectives and understandings not just to children we know, but to adults who may never have been exposed to or deeply pondered the implications of racism, colonization, and genocide. Thankfully, there are excellent online resources that can help educators and you and I who may be interested in disrupting the prevailing Thanksgiving mythology.
- Teaching Tolerance offers a set of “Thanksgiving Mourning” activities for grades 6-8 and 9-12 that ask students to consider Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective.
- Project Archeology provides links to resources and activities adaptable for all grade levels.
- The National Museum of the American Indian offers a comprehensive resource with teacher-facing ideas and activities for grades 4-8.
- Plimoth Plantation has a Just for Teachers section that outlines professional development opportunities, workshops, a virtual Thanksgiving field trip and activities that incorporate the Wampanoag perspective. In one interactive activity, kids are detectives figuring out what really happened at the first meal.
- The Mashpee/Wampanoag Tribe’s brief history and cultural timeline outlines the nation’s “contact experience” from their contemporary perspective.
- Scholastic’s First Thanksgiving page has teacher’s guides, activities and ideas for pre-K through grade 8. These resources include the opportunity to sign up for emailed “Letters from the New World” with the historical perspectives of a Wampanoag boy and a pilgrim girl.
- The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head offers an activity for grades 3-6 about millennia-old traditions of giving thanks.
Finally, for those who want to take a personal deep dive, I highly recommend Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz’ Indigenous History of the United States and for those who’d like a bit shallower dive, click here for Indian Country Today Media Network, a 16-page report, Intergenerational Trauma: Understanding Natives’ Inherited Pain, By Mary Annette Pember. Click here to get the pdf.