Resources for Educators to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month and Teach Thanksgiving
As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month and Thanksgiving in November, it’s important to take time to celebrate the diversity, history, and culture of Native Americans. As with many holidays, they represent something very different to each person and these resources are gathered to help educators with tools and resources to support students and young people to better understand those differences.
SDCOE is committed to eliminating the boundaries that may be holding some students back, and continuing its work to raise expectations and outcomes for Native American students.
We can't ignore the injustices that have been done to Native Americans, and acknowledging these injustices doesn't take anything away from the pride many feel about our country and its history. Learning from the past and trying to do better is what will propel us forward as a society. It’s also one of the ways that we can give our historically underserved students the education and future they deserve.
- Dr. Paul Gothold, San Diego County Superintendent of Schools
An important resource for educators and the community to strengthen supports for Native American, Latinx and African American students is the SDCOE Equity Blueprint for Action (also translated into Spanish), which includes direct quotes from community members on how schools can elevate the culture and histories of underserved communities.
Native American history is American history. By recognizing the contributions of those who first inhabited this land, we can learn lessons not only about the past, but also about how much promise lies before us. This is especially important for our students, who have consistently shared their desire to see positive representation of contributions from people of all backgrounds.
The following resources will support educators to access culturally-relevant and respectful learning experiences in the classroom. These resources are vetted to support K-12 educators and administrators to learn about Thanksgiving and can be used throughout the year to create spaces that are inclusive, respectful, and honor American Indian Peoples.
Seven Ways to Support Thanksgiving Learning
1. Access California Indian Education for All Educator Resources
California Indian Education for All is a statewide partnership dedicated to helping teachers and schools educate youth about the diverse histories, cultures and contributions of California Native peoples. Learn about the land you live on, oppression and privilege, the history of colonization, and California Indian Peoples and cultures, and continue the process of acting in solidarity with American Indians.
- CIEFA Classroom Resources
- CIEFA 2023-24 Resource Guide
- SDCOE American Indian Education webpage
- Native Ways of Knowing Micro-Courses
2. Land Acknowledgements and Building Relationships with Tribes
Gain insight and learn how to honor and acknowledge the original nations on whose land we live, learn, and work with the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center Land Acknowledgment Toolkit. Acknowledging the land is a transformative act that works to undo the intentional erasure of indigenous peoples and is the first step in decolonizing land relations.
3. Work with a Tribe Near Your School and Respectfully Invite Elders to Visit
Use this interactive online mapping tool for locating California federally recognized tribes, California Department of Education-funded American Indian education centers, and local education agencies.
4. Watch an Award-Winning Native American Film
Access award-winning Native media, films, and documentaries that share Native perspectives with the world.
5. Learn About Food Sovereignty
Think about what you eat for Thanksgiving dinner. How did these foods come to you? Consider buying American Indian foods from local tribes and businesses.
6. Unlearn Myths about Thanksgiving
Listen to perspectives on Thanksgiving from Wampanoag youth in this video.
Articles and Resources
- 6 Things Every Non-Native Should Do on Thanksgiving - HuffPost
- Native Knowledge: Thanksgiving Story - Oklahoma City Public Schools
- The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue - Smithsonian Magazine
- Rethink Native Stories in Classrooms (This article focuses on unlearning stereotypical representations of Indigenous peoples and replacing harmful narratives with accurate information and understandings.)
From the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
- Native Knowledge 360° Education Initiative
- Thanksgiving Digital Teaching Resources
- American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving
- Native American Cultures and Clothing: Native American Is Not a Costume
- Native American Literature in Your Classroom
- Worksheet for Selecting Native American Children’s Literature
- Five Ideas to Change Teaching About Thanksgiving, in Classrooms and at Home (Smithsonian Voices)
7. Follow the Work of Indigenous-Led Organizations
Some Indigenous-led organizations include: California Indian Education for All, California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center, California Indian Museum and Cultural Center, Native American Rights Fund, Illuminatives, National Congress of American Indians, and the American Indian College Fund.
Resources to Honor Native American Culture Year-Round
Dr. Debbie Reese’s Highlighted Resources
Dr. Debbie Reese’s American Indians in Children's Literature provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society.
- Tips for Teachers: Developing Instructional Materials about American Indians
- Critical Indigenous Literacies: Selecting and Using Children’s Books about Indigenous Peoples
- An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People
- American Indians in Children's Literature
- "Debbie, can you recommend some books about Thanksgiving?"
- AICL Best Books Page
- Access SDCOE Archived Spring 2022 Native Ways of Knowing webinars of Dr. Reese - Supporting Literacy and Culturally Responsive Instruction for Native American Students
Books by Native American Writers
American Indians in Children's Literature provides critical analysis of Indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books. Educators can access vetted children's books by Native writers and explore culturally responsive texts that improve representations and classroom climates for teaching about Native Americans.
- Heartdrum Educator Guide
- NIEA Recommended Book List
- First Nations Native Reads Recommended Book List
- AICL Best Books Page
Native American Authored and Vetted Lessons
These resources are highlighted by various state departments of education, school districts, and other public agencies.
- A Story of Survival: The Wampanoag and the English (Oklahoma City Public Schools)
- 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving lesson plan (Montana Office of Public Instruction)
- Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way (Learning for Justice)
- Thanksgiving Mourning (Learning for Justice)
- Plague in Indigenous Patuxet, 1616 - 1619 (PBS Learning Media)
Seven Essential Understandings for California Indian History and Culture
There is great diversity among the 150+ tribes of California in their languages, cultures, histories and governments. Each tribe has a distinct and unique cultural heritage that contributes to modern California.
- 7 Essential Understandings for California Indian History and Culture
- 6Ps: Approaches to California Indian Education for All
Map Treaties and Tribal Lands
The Invasion of America: How the United States took Over an Eighth of the World
Between 1776 and 1887, the United States seized more than 1.5 billion acres from America's indigenous peoples by treaty and executive order. The Invasion of America video maps every treaty and executive order during that period and concludes with a map of present-day federal Indian reservations.
Native Land Website
Educators can use the Native Land website in conjunction with the CICSC Land Acknowledgement Toolkit to interact with maps of indigenous lands and languages. Note: The map may not be updated to the current tribal lands for your region.
More to explore
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