November brings us Thanksgiving — one of the biggest holidays in our country. It is a special time of year where we are reminded of our blessings, and encouraged to express gratitude for all that we have.
November is also Native American Heritage Month. As educators we carry the responsibility to address the complicated and painful aspects of our history that occurred between the pilgrim settlers and Native people of this land.
November also gives us the opportunity to become more familiar with the contemporary life of the First Nations People The more we learn the more we are able to transform our disappointments and anger over the past into action today working together for a more just world.
A CLASSROOM ACTIVITY :
This classroom activity leads students through a process of observing, reflecting and posing questions in response to images of European settlers and Native American or First Nation people to explore issues of inclusion and exclusion today.
This activity can be built around images in your textbook, images around the school, or through the resources available through the Library of Congress website: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/thanksgiving/
First, ask your students to make OBSERVATIONS along the following lines:
What do you notice first? What is small but interesting to you? What do you notice that you can’t explain?
Next ask your students to share REFLECTIONS on where the images came from. Why do you think somebody made this? Who do you think was the audience for this item? If someone made this today, what would be different?
Finally, ask you students to pose some QUESTIONS in response to the images.
Who…? What…? When…? Where…? Why…? How…?
Ask students to draw contemporary parallels to the way that Europeans and Native people were portrayed. For homework, ask students to bring in images from current media that reflect similar themes of exclusion between people today. Ask students to present on the images by making observations, sharing reflections, and posing questions.
You could make these images into a collage and use it as the starting point for a class pledge for a more thoughtful Thanksgiving holiday.
This Classroom or Group Pledge is a way to draw together the main outcomes of your sessions with your students about Native Americans. This text is simply a model that
can be developed in your own situation and context – with a few students or many students
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving table, let us remember that we are part of creating history today with our actions. We’ll do what we can to be inclusive in our own lives.
Today we remember those who have been left out of the discussion, the decision-making and the fellowship of our school and of our country.
We remember times during which we have been left out or we have excluded others. And we remember times when others have extended their hands in welcome to us or when we have been the ones to include others.
May we remember to include all people at the tables at which we sit in the future. There is room for all of us.
Ideas for Lesson Plan Starters :
- Students could read the Presidential Proclamation of Native American Heritage Month and then investigate the people the President refers to as distinguished “inventors, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, and scholars”..
- Students could do a very local and current assessment of issues of power today by focusing on what groups are not “at the table” of decision making at your school or in the community;
- Students could research what Native tribes lived or live in your region and investigate the particulars of those communities now;
- Students could research the stories of how their families came to the United States, where they settled, who used to live there, who lives there now and then share those stories during class time..
Reminders for Teachers
- Remember that conversations about power and historical accuracy can be complicated and uncomfortable for students on all sides of the issue.
- Lay the groundwork to create a non-judgmental climate in the classroom to honestly explore these issues.
- Research Native history and contemporary life in your region so that treatment of these questions is not only historical, but also present.
Go to these RaceBridges lessons on this site for further exploration . . .
- New – Celebrating Native American Culture and Encouraging Awareness. Streamlined Lesson Plan.
- The Spirit Survives : The American Indian Boarding School Experience: Then & Now by Storyteller Dovie Thomason. Lesson Plan and audio download with classroom activities.
- Search Across the Races : by Storyteller Gene Tagaban. A Native American Looks at his mixed identities. Lesson Plan and audio download with classroom activities.
- New – Gratitude. Streamlined Lesson Plan and classroom activity for around Thanksgiving.
- Thanksgiving : Who Is Missing From The Table ? Reflections and activities around Thanksgiving for classroom, school or group use. Resource.
Other Recommended Resources
- Native American Heritage Month / Educator Resourceshttp://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/teachers/
- Presidential Proclamation of National Native American Heritage Monthhttp://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-proclamation-national-native-american-heritage-month
- Education World includes a list of lesson plans on Native American history.http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson209.shtml..