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Beyond the “first Thanksgiving”

Beyond the “first Thanksgiving”

Debbie Reese writes In Indian Country Today Media Network that the so-called “First Thanksgiving” does not do the time justice:

It’s November, a time of year that many parents, teachers, and librarians look forward to giving children books about what is commonly—and erroneously—called “The First Thanksgiving.” Others seek books that counter the narrative of Pilgrims and Indians warmly sharing a meal together, and still others want to avoid that disingenuous feel-good story altogether and provide children with books that are about indigenous people, books that provide insights and knowledge that are missing from all too many accounts.

Your local bookstore probably has a special shelf this month filled with books about “The First Thanksgiving.” In most of them, Native peoples are stereotyped, and “Indian” instead of “Wampanoag” is used to identify the indigenous people. When the man known as Squanto is part of the stories, his value to the Pilgrims is that he can speak English, and he teaches them how to plant and hunt. The fact that he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Spain—if mentioned at all—is not addressed in the story because elaborating on it would up-end the feel-good story.

Reese offers 5 children’s books that do more than a simple “feel good” story (which can be found in her post).

These books give a far more nuanced, and accurate, account of Indigenous Peoples. They will set children and adults alike straight on what really happened around the time of the so-called First Thanksgiving, and what Native life is like today.

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