World News – USA – Thanksgiving Class Throws Off Pilgrim Hats, Welcome Truth


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BOSTON (AP) – A friendly festival shared by the brave pilgrims and their local neighbors? That’s yesterday’s Thanksgiving story.

Students in many U. . S.. . Schools are now learning a more complex lesson that includes conflict, injustice, and a new focus on the people who lived in the country for hundreds of years before European settlers arrived and called it New England.

Inspired by the nation’s reckoning with systemic racism, schools are scrapping and rewriting lessons that treated Indians as a footnote in a story about white settlers. Rather than making pilgrim hats, students hear what scholars call « hard history » – the more shameful aspects of the past.

Students still learn about the festival of 1621, but many also learn that peace between pilgrims and Native Americans was always troubled and later split up into years of conflict.

On Cape Cod, language teacher Susannah Remillard long noted that her sixth grade students had been taught far more about the pilgrims than the wampanoag, the Native American people who attended the festival. Now she’s trying to balance the narrative.

She asks the students to rewrite the Thanksgiving story from historical records, and she asks them to write a poem from the perspective of a person from that era, half settler and half wampanoag.

« We have this colonial view of how we teach, and now we have a moment to go beyond that and think about whether this is harmful to children and if there is no better way, » said Remillard, who teaches at the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in East Harwich, Massachusetts. “I think we’ve got to a point where people are ready to listen now. ”

At Arlington Public Schools near Boston, students wear colonial attire annually until recently. Now off-limits, the costumes were phased out in 2018, and the district is working to expand and correct the classes on Indians, including debunking Thanksgiving myths.

Kindergarten students are now being taught that harvest festivals were part of life in Wampanoag well before 1621 and that thanksgiving is a daily part of life for many tribes.

They are also taught that the Pilgrims and Wampanoag were not friends and that it is important to « unlearn » misconceptions about the festival.

« We don’t want the Pilgrim and Native American coloring books, » said Crystal Power, a social studies trainer. “We want students to engage with what really happened, with those who lived here first, and understand that there is no New World. It was only new from one side’s point of view. ”

Indigenous Education Advocates Beware, there is still much that can be improved. Change has been slow and spotty, and many schools clung to insensitive traditions, including costumed dramas and paper headdresses.

« Progress seems to be picking up speed, but there is still a lot to be done, » said Ed Schupman, manager of Native Knowledge 360, the national education initiative at the National Museum of the American Indian, and a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation from Oklahoma. “Changes are still required and only relevant in a few places. ”

Schupman and the museum have worked with states to create new teaching standards for indigenous cultures. Montana was among the first schools to teach tribal history in 1999 and is now supported by Washington, Oregon, and others.

Following national protests against the police killing of blacks, the Arlington History Department established a Committee to Investigate the Race, which led to discussions about expanding and correcting teachings about African American, American Indians and other groups that are too often left out were.

More recently, the nearby Brookline School District encouraged teachers to include indigenous perspectives on issues that are not necessarily specific to indigenous peoples. For example, it promotes the impact of the coronavirus on Native Americans and Neilson Powless, who recently became the first Native American to compete in the Tour de France.

Although schools say parents have embraced the changes for the most part, they recognize that they can be polarizing. Prominent lawmakers have resisted efforts to rethink Thanksgiving, including Sen.. . Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican who blew up « revisionist charlatans of the radical left » last week. « 

School officials say they are not changing the story, but rather adding parts that have been left out. Standard social study textbooks contained little about Indians, and alternatives were long hard to find. Teachers say this is changing thanks to local scholars who have authored children’s books, lesson plans, and other materials.

In Massachusetts, every public school this year will receive copies of a new state history book co-written by a Wampanoag author and historian. The book was published on the occasion of the 400. However, the story of the Wampanoag begins thousands of years ago.

Many schools offer classes in indigenous cultures throughout the year, including Columbus Day, which some districts now refer to as Indigenous Peoples Day. Others are also looking for ways to bring indigenous voices directly into the classroom.

Prior to the pandemic, Boston schools held annual visits by Annawon Weeden, a performing artist and member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

Weeden is keen to wear modern clothes to dispel misconceptions about indigenous people. Only after asking questions and debunking myths does he transform himself into traditional insignia and demonstrate tribal dances.

« A lot of kids think we’re just in the past. A lot of kids think we’re living in a long house or a teepee or whatever, ”Weeden said. “Such stereotypes are very difficult to defeat. ”

Thanksgiving, Wampanoag, Mayflower, Pilgrim, Plymouth Colony

World News – USA – Thanksgiving Lessons Throw Pilgrim Hats Off, Welcome Truth
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