“Correctly taught, the issues of the era of the first Thanksgiving could help Americans grow more thoughtful and more tolerant…”~James Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, 1995

National Native American Heritage Month and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday provide an excellent and relevant opportunity for teachers to examine Native American perspectives of history. Celebrate our country’s Native American Heritage by investigating a traditional shelter once used by a tribe near you. Check out our shelter database for more details:

1. North Slope Ivrulik of the Inupiat people (Alaska)
2. Midwestern Wickiup of the Meskwaki tribe (Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota)
3. The Basin House of the Ute people (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah)
4. Northwest Coast Plank House of the Tsimshian tribe (Washington, Alaska)
5. Great Basin Wickiup of the Northern Paiute people (Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California)
6. Rock Shelter of the Ute tribe (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming)
7. Plains Tipi of the Crow people (Montana, Wyoming)
8. Pawnee Eathlodge of the Pawnee tribe (Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri)

Project Archaeology also wrote a free lesson you can download below or access in our shop here.

There have been many significant questions raised in the past few years, such as those concerning monuments in public spaces. Analyzing art and answering these questions is not easy, but it is important. Students will investigate monuments, consider their place in the public sphere, and learn the history of public art in this lesson. Through the lens of artistic analysis, students will work to gain an understanding of how visual media reflects cultural values. Working as a class, students will analyze a piece of artwork to uncover broader meanings and then independently analyze a monument of their choice.

Collaborating with Project Archaeology for this lesson is Mr. Nicholas Galanin, a Tlingit and Unangax. He has been educated around the world and apprenticed with several masters to become the artist he is today. His work “offers perspective rooted in connection to land and broad engagement with contemporary culture.” In this lesson, we feature Mr. Galanin’s Shadow on the Land for student and classroom analysis. Shadow on the Land isan excavation of the shadow cast by the Captain Cook statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Following tracing and transfer of the shadow to the site, careful excavation retains the shadow’s shape and reveals what the land holds beneath the surface.” If you are interested in seeing more artwork by Mr. Galanin, click here. We have also included a full biography and artistic statement within the new lesson.

Art may be everywhere, but the ability to understand its meaning and purpose is not. These skills are important and valuable, and something we have worked hard to foster in this lesson. We hope you enjoy it and learn from it.

Download the free lesson here.

Here Project Archaeology gathered a selection of teacher resources that support cultural, accurate, and inclusive understanding of the historical events surrounding the popular myth of the first Thanksgiving.

logo_nmaiThe National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) provides great reading material and discussion questions for use in the classroom. The materials are created in collaboration with Native community members.

American Indian Perspective on Thanksgiving Poster

For teachers: The poster addresses three main themes that are central to understanding American Indians and Thanksgiving: Environment, Community, and Encounters. This resource includes ideas for the classroom and helps teachers start in-depth discussions based on the background information in the document and links to radio stories.

Harvest Ceremony: Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth

For students:  Introduce your students to the “real Thanksgiving story” in a five-page study guide which also contains discussion questions. Help students bring this important conversation to their Thanksgiving table.

Blog Post on the NMAI Website

“In thinking about my earliest memories of elementary school, I remember being asked to bring a brown paper sack to class so that it could be decorated and worn as part of the Indian costume used to celebrate Thanksgiving. I was also instructed to make a less-than-authentic headband with Indian designs and feathers to complete this outfit. Looking back, I now know this was wrong”…

plimothThanksgiving Interactive: You are the Historian

The Plimoth Plantation developed an on-line interactive site for students to take on the role of history detectives and investigate what really happened in 1621. Two young descendants, a boy from the Wampanoag tribe and a girl whose ancestor was at the harvest celebration, guide students through an exploration of primary sources, oral history, pictures, myths, and facts. Expert historians are on hand to further explain information provided on the site by clicking “Visit the Expert”. In the end, students create a museum exhibit showcasing what they learned. A teacher guide is provided!

A Tale of Two Societies: The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags at Plymoth.

An essay by Matt Goerss on how he would use his experience visiting Plimoth Plantation in the classroom. His visit changed his perspective and it can change how your students view the place too. He recommends reading two documents: 1621 Treaty with the Wampanoag Indians and 1675 Speech by the Wampanoag Leader, Metacom. (The links in the essay are dated so I provide new ones here)

What You Need to Know: The Wampanoag

The Boston’s Children Museum provides teachers with the building blocks for an accurate, respectful curriculum on the Wampanoag people. You can read quotes by Wampanoag people about their history and culture. Ideas for lesson plans are also available on the site.

Thanksgiving Mourning

Some Native Americans observe the National Day of Mourning on the traditional Thanksgiving holiday because the day serves as a reminder of colonization’s devastating impact on indigenous people. Jennifer Holladay created an original lesson for Teaching Tolerance. In this activity, students read two works by Native American authors: the famous speech by Wamsutta James from 1970, and an essay by Jacqueline Keeler. Students will examine how diverse groups can perceive shared experiences differently, make inferences based on the written information, and write a journal entry reflecting on their new knowledge.

IEFA1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving

The Montana Office of Public Instruction has created a Thanksgiving unit constructed around the book 1621 A New Look At Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac. Students read and discuss topics using information from the text. Then students explore and list Thanksgiving myths vs. facts.

Are You Teaching the Real Story of the “First Thanksgiving”?

Education World offers come guidelines and positive teaching strategies as you approach the Thanksgiving holiday.

msulogo  Indigenous Perspective Video

Montana State University held a workshop in October 2012, called The First Thanksgiving: Dispelling Myths and Misconceptions. You can watch a video of the presentations for a better understanding of Thanksgiving from an indigenous perspective. Dr. Henrietta Mann, President of the Cheyenne Arapahoe Tribal College, and gkisedtanamoogk, Spiritual Leader of the Wamponoag/Wabanaki Nation both shared their perspective.

Deconstructing the Myths of “The First Thanksgiving”

A blog post of 11 myths to help teachers and students think critically about Thanksgiving and deconstruct what has been taught previously so myths are not perpetuated year after year.

MomAICLLogoWebColorThanksgiving Book Recommendations

Debbie Reese is a respected educator and a valuable resource for teachers and librarians seeking reviews on children’s literature, specifically books about indigenous people. Her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, provides lists of recommended books about American Indians for every grade level. She even offers a special list of good books for Thanksgiving.

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