American Indian Perspective on the “First Thanksgiving”
Each November educators across the country teach their students about the First Thanksgiving, a quintessentially American holiday. The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian has designed a poster to encourage teaching about Thanksgiving in a new way—one that recognizes the country’s original people and gives real meaning to November as American Indian Heritage Month. The freelydownloadable poster, designed for educators and students in grades 4–8, takes a look at just a few Native communities through the prism of three main themes that are central to understanding both American Indians and the deeper meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday: Environment—traditional knowledge about and understanding of the natural world; Community—the role that group identity plays in Native cultures; and Encounters—the way interactions between cultures have affected those cultures. Within these fundamental areas, students begin to see the innovations and contributions of American Indian peoples to the world at large. The poster is a resource for teachers to use as a jumping-off point for more in-depth discussion. Discussion activities and other classroom ideas are included in each section. Before jumping into the content of the poster, however, teachers are encouraged to introduce students to the “real Thanksgiving story” found in the study guide “Harvest Ceremony: Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth.”
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