By Katherine Hodge, Project Archaeology Interim Program Lead

With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving next week, a new year is fast approaching. As is our tradition, Project Archaeology has put together some excellent, free resources on how to teach Thanksgiving in a responsible way.

A few things to remember as we head into the holiday:

  1. Culture is not a costume. Students dressing up in inaccurate and stereotypical costumes is wrong, and this practice also often portrays all Native American cultures as one homogenous group. In reality, there are thousands of independent cultures who had different ways of dressing.
  2. Native American life and culture is not a thing of the past. In the US census, 5.2 million people identified as Native American in 2010 versus 9.7 million in 2020. Many Native American groups have worked hard to preserve their histories, languages, dress, and practices. These practices and the effort to retain them should be honored and respected.
  3. Be accurate and be specific. When teaching, please be accurate and specific. If you know the name of the Native American group, be specific and name them instead of using vague terms. For example, we know that the pilgrims met and ate with the Wampanoag Tribe in what is now Massachusetts. Native American groups within the United States are incredibly diverse. Whenever possible, name who you are talking about and specify the differences. Work to have your students understand the falsehoods in many stereotypes, like that all Native Americans lived in tipis. There are many different types of shelters, and tipis are just one example that are used in one part of the US.

      A Free Lesson

      Project Archaeology wrote and published a free lesson last year called Understanding Monumentality Through Art. You can download it for free here or get it through our online store for free here.


      Some Resources:

      Museum of the American Indian: American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving

      Smithsonian Magazine: Do American Indians Celebrate Thanksgiving?

      PBS: An Authentic Look at Thanksgiving

      A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving for Educators and Families

      Learning for Justice: Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way

      NEA: Native Educators Say Thanksgiving Lessons Can Be Accurate

      Center for Racial Justice in Education: A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving

      Time: The Thanksgiving Tale We Tell Is a Harmful Lie