PC Thanksgiving

Discussion in 'Kindergarten' started by bethany1120, Nov 11, 2007.

  1. bethany1120

    bethany1120 Companion

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    Nov 11, 2007

    What are your thoughts on teaching kids about Thanksgiving? I always try to use Native Americans rather than indians with my kids, and last year I barely even did any activities with Native American themes around Thanksgiving, just because I didn't want any backlash that I was teaching things not PC.

    There are a ton of cute "indian" lessons (especially from littlegiraffes.com my favorite website!) But I'm not sure what is ok to use and what isn't.

    What are your thoughts on this?
     
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  3. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Nov 11, 2007

    The Thanksgiving holiday season is a time when American Indian history and culture are frequently discussed in the schools. Unfortunately, the information and materials available to teachers are often incomplete or stereotyped in their presentation. For example, some commercially- produced bulletin board posters depict Plains-style Indians with feather warbonnets, tipis in the background, and horses tied nearby, sitting down to dinner with the Pilgrims. While these images are popular, they do not accurately represent the unique culture of the New England Indian tribes, whose lifestyle was quite different than that of the Plains Indian stereotype.

    HOW TO AVOID OLD STEREOTYPES

    If you enact the story of the first thanksgiving as a pageant, drama, or art project in your classroom, here are some things to consider:

    * Indians should wear appropriate clothing. NO WARBONNETS! A blanket draped over one shoulder is accurate for a simple outfit. The Indians at the first thanksgiving did not wear headbands, or headbands with feathers. A few of the Indian men had a single feather in the back of their hair. Most of the men and women in the Wampanoag tribe wore a single braid. They did not wear double braids (sometimes called pigtails.)

    *The word “squaw” is considered offensive. The word has a negative and derogatory origin. (If you don't know what the word actually means, please feel free to ask me privately.) Just as you wouldn't use the "n" word to describe someone of African American heritage, please do not use the "s" word to describe Native American women. When in doubt, simply use the term "women."

    *Some tribes consider the term “braves” as offensive. Others do not. The term “warrior” is considered offensive by some because of its inaccuracy – not all men were fighters: many were hunters, farmers, craftsmen, healers, and spiritualists. In some tribes, a small number of women were “warriors.” When in doubt, simply use the term "men."

    * Many believe that Squanto (Tisquantum) and Samoset spoke excellent English. Other Indians would have said things in the Algonkian language. Algonkians of this area are noted for their formal speaking style. Their speaking would not have sounded like grunts. It was smooth and melodic.

    * Indians in the Woodlands area did not have tipis (teepees) or horses, so these should not be part of any scenery, backdrop, or decoration regarding the First Thanksgiving. The Wampanoag Indians lived in wigwams, which are very different from tipis. Neither the Pilgrims nor Wampanoag Indians had any horses during the first thanksgiving feast.

    *The Indians were confused by the custom of sitting at a table to eat. They were accustomed to sitting on mats on the ground. They did sit at the table during the first thanksgiving feast. However, the Pilgrim women did not sit at the table. Only the Pilgrim men sat with the Indian men and women. (Some historians do not believe any Wampanoag women actually attended. Others believe they did.) As was their custom, Pilgrim women did not sit down to eat until AFTER all of the men had eaten and left the table.

    * Authentic foods from the First Thanksgiving include:
    -- corn soup
    -- succotash
    -- white fish
    -- red meat (deer)
    -- various fowl (turkey, partridge, duck)
    -- berries (including whole cranberries) (but not sweetend cranberry sauce)
    -- maple sugar candies
    -- corn starch candy (believe it or not, candy corn is almost authentic except for the colored dyes)
    -- watercress
    -- any kind of bean (red, black, green, pinto)
    -- squash
    -- corn (in the form of corn meal or corn pone)
    -- a type of sweet potato (but not sweet potato pie) [the presence of sweet potatoes is debated by various historians]
    -- pumpkin (but not pumpkin pie)

    *The Indians actually provided most of the food for the first thanksgiving feast. The Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag chief, Squanto, and Samoset, and “their families,” to join them for the feast. The Pilgrims had no understanding of how large Wampanoag families were. The Pilgrims expected around 10-15 Indian guests. Imagine their surprise when over 90 guests showed up. The Wampanoag chief saw there wasn’t enough food, and sent his family back to the Wampanoag village to bring more food.

    *While turkey and duck were served, the main food at the first thanksgiving feast was deer and succotash.

    *The piligrams did not, at this time, have ovens. Food was cooked over an open fire.


    I hope this information will help.
     
  4. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Nov 11, 2007

    Why would Native American themes be bad? I agree, the Indian thing bugs me to no end, but Native American is the politically correct term, they are a culture that exists in the United States, why not discuss them? Just like you would discuss black history in February?
     
  5. RainStorm

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    Nov 11, 2007

    Actually, despite the wave of political correctness in the 1990s, during which "Native American" was often trumpeted as a more sensitive phrase, American Indians remain split on which term is preferable. More prefer to be called American Indians than Native Americans.

    A 1995 Census Bureau Survey of preferences for racial and ethnic terminology (there is no more recent survey) indicated that

    49% of Native people preferred being called American Indian,
    37% preferred Native American,
    3.6% preferred "some other term," and
    5% had no preference.

    As The American Heritage Guide to English Usage points out, "the issue has never been particularly divisive between Indians and non-Indians. While generally welcoming the respectful tone of Native American, Indian writers have continued to use the older name at least as often as the newer one."

    As Christina Berry, a Cherokee writer and producer of the website All Things Cherokee, counsels:
    In the end, the term you choose to use (as an Indian or non-Indian) is your own personal choice. Very few Indians that I know care either way. The recommended method is to refer to a person by their tribe, if that information is known. The reason is that the Native peoples of North America are incredibly diverse. It would be like referring both a Romanian and an Irishman as European. . . . [W]henever possible an Indian would prefer to be called a Cherokee or a Lakota or whichever tribe they belong to. This shows respect because not only are you sensitive to the fact that the terms Indian, American Indian, and Native American are an over simplification of a diverse ethnicity, but you also show that you listened when they told what tribe they belonged to.

    When you don't know the specific tribe simply use the term which you are most comfortable using.
     
  6. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Nov 11, 2007

    Bethany,

    As a teacher, who is also of American Indian descent, I am glad you realize that this is a sensitive issue. I used to CRINGE when I saw our Kindergarten classes go home wearing "war bonnets" on the day before Thanksgiving. First of all, war bonnets, are not historically accurate for the tribe involved in the first thanksgiving. Secondly, even in a plains tribe, a war bonnet would not be worn to a friendly feast.

    Instead of getting angry, I chose to educate my fellow teachers. Please teach about Native Americans or American Indians, or whatever term you choose to use, but make sure it is correct information.

    Thank you.
     
  7. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Nov 11, 2007

    Wow... that really surprises me... in Canada, the term Indian is extremely offensive. Mainly because it's not true. Native Canadians are not from India, so why call them Indians?
     
  8. bethany1120

    bethany1120 Companion

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    Nov 11, 2007

    Wow, thanks for all of the great information. And to clarify, I didn't mean that I don't want to have a Native American theme, I just meant I was nervous about what to teach and what not to teach. So I guess I'll just have to educate myself better before preparing a lesson (which is a great learning experience for me as well!). RainStorm, thanks for your imput as well, it's great to hear back from someone who is effected by all of this!
     
  9. RainStorm

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    Well, to be pedantic, they aren't really "native" to Canada, either. DNA testing shows most Canadian tribes are descendants of Asian people.

    And many American Indians have an equal aversion to being called "natives." Natives is often used in a derogatory manner.

    That's what makes this issue so "PC"... Everyone has their opinions of what is, or is not, offensive. Tribal groups don’t agree either. When in doubt, I use the tribal name. If not, I use American Indian, since it is what 49% of the respondents prefer, or Native American if I'm in a community where there is confusion with Indians from India, or if the term Indian is considered derogatory.

    There is no one size, fits all, answer.
     
  10. RainStorm

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    Nov 11, 2007

    I'm glad you are going to teach about American Indians/Native Americans. I'm sure your students will have a wonderful and educational time!
     
  11. kimrandy1

    kimrandy1 Enthusiast

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    Nov 11, 2007

    This is a fantastic thread! It is so full of great information that I can use, and intend to use. I introduce the term "Native American" to my students, but they don't get it yet...they call them "indians." I try to use the terms interchangably, in odrder to help them understand. And I am very careful about any kind of costume - we make turkey hats instead.
    Kim
     
  12. Dzenna

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    Nov 11, 2007

    I agree!! We have many Juaneno families in our community. We are not doing the Pilgrim/Indian thing in our class. Instead, we do what I am thankful for t-shirts (suggested from the Pre-K sight). I was going to do pasta colored necklaces (with patterns). I'm going to save those for another time!!
     
  13. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    Nov 11, 2007

    We're making Thankful Wreaths... I have a ton of leaves that I'd already cut out for a different activity but have spares... so they're each going to tell me things they're thankful for, and I'll write one on each leaf... they can glue on a paper plate wreath. They looked SO cool last year, and it's really interesting to see some of the things they're thankful for :)

    We're also going to have them dictate to us how you cook a turkey. ;)
     
  14. Silmarienne

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    Thanks for all the great information, RainStorm!!

    The whole PC thing is such a bugaboo. I try not to get too caught up in worrying about that. Whatever I do, someone will be offended sooner or later. I try to present things accurately, and if someone has a question, I can show them that I have information backing me up.

    (off-topic, but where I live in Africa, the terms "black" and "white" are totally used and accepted. No one takes any kind of offense at all.)
     
  15. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    One of my biggest pet peeves about teaching on Thanksgiving here in Canada, is that teachers don't understand that our Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the Pilgrims and Native Canadians. And yet they still do the easy printables from online that say they are for Thanksgiving.
     
  16. Silmarienne

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    What is the origin of Canadian Thanksgiving? (I sure wish we celebrated in October- farther away from Christmas, and it would tone down the Halloween frenzy.)

    If I were to do a Unit on Canada, what would you recommend? When I did one, I emphasized winter/snow/doglsedding, as these are unknown here. Thanks.
     
  17. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Nov 12, 2007

    Canadian Thanksgiving came as a time of celebration and giving thanks to God for the harvest. Of course, Canadian Thanksgiving is earlier than the US, because we have an earlier harvest.

    As far as teaching a unit on Canada... I would say hockey is a must! I'm not sure what else for a Kindergarten class... let me think on that a bit...
     
  18. Silmarienne

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    Yeah, we did a little hockey... I lived a long time in Vermont, so we had a dogsled team and we touched on that... thanks.

    In my poking around today I was surprised to discover that the Pequots, who were from my original area (CT), did indeed wear warbonnets. I didn't know that! I thought it was only a Plains thing.
     
  19. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Nov 13, 2007

    Thank you, Rainstorm, for all the valuable information. We have an American Indian teacher at my school and she has educated me tremendously. She commented on my bulletin board set that is, indeed, accurate. I think it is made by Trend.
     
  20. Kteacher06

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    Rainstorm (or anyone else), do you have some references to websites that contain this (or other accurate) info on Thanksgiving so that I can share it with my fellow teachers?
     
  21. RainStorm

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    Nov 13, 2007

  22. love2teachk

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    Nov 14, 2007

    Quick question for you (by the way thanks for the great info!!). The K teachers (including me only because they've done it forever and I am new) make headbands with sentence strips(incorporating math by making patterns) and give the kids a few feathers to add on, because they say that the Native Americans (or whichever group they are) earned them. They talk to their kids about earning feathers and what kinds of things WE can do the be good people to earn feathers. Is there ANY truth to this? I have never read it personally anywhere, but didn't know anyone who really seemed to know enough to have a good answer. TIA.
     
  23. RainStorm

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    Earning feathers wasn't about being "good", but they are symbols of bravery.

    That being said, here is some information that might be helpful in making your decision regarding making headbands with feathers for Kindergarten students.

    The feather symbolizes trust, honor, strength, wisdom, power, freedom and many more things. To be given one of these is to be hand picked out of the rest of the people in the tribe - it’s like getting a gift from a high official.

    Once an Indian receives a feather he must take care of it, and many will hang it up in their homes. It is disrespectful to hide it away in a drawer or a closet. An Indian will be given a feather to hold on to or to wear, and if they hold it they must put it out for everyone to see. This will be a constant reminder of how to behave. An eagle feather is a lot like the American flag, it must be handled with care and can never be dropped on the ground.

    The only way an Indian can actually get one of these feathers is by doing a brave deed, like fighting off a bear or going up against the enemy. They were never allowed to wear the feather until they went in front of their tribal court and retold the story of their victory. It was at this time that they were allowed to put it in their headpiece.



    I got this quote from http://www.nativechild.com/resources/article.html . It addresses Head Start teachers, regarding Native American imagery.

    "We are all familiar with the popular use of a headband with one feather or a headdress containing numerous feathers (warbonnet) as symbols for Indian imagery. And many of us encourage our children to make feather headbands - after all, we made them when we were kids. But these headbands are a trite representation of American Indians.

    Historically, eagle feathers were worn only by certain members of the Plains cultural groups who had distinguished themselves as worthy of such adornment. Feathered headdresses were not worn as everyday clothing, but rather for special ceremonial occasions. Today, feathers still carry highly religious meaning in most tribes. Making feathered fans in tribes for Pow Wows and religious ceremonies is accompanied by appropriate prayers and songs. Handling feathers is not taken lightly.

    Despite the purpose of feathers in certain American Indian cultures, it might seem a little severe to stop making feather headbands in Head Start classrooms. After all, it's just a fun way of introducing our children to Indians. But as teachers, would we put a Catholic priest's robe in the dramatic play area?"





    In the end, the decision is yours. I personally wouldn't do it, but each person must make his or her own decision.

    I'd prefer to make "turkey hats" or some other fun item, rather than make a decoration out of a solemn religious article.

    Just my :2cents:
     
  24. love2teachk

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    Nov 16, 2007

    THANK YOU!!!
     

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