Kris McDaniel and David O’Connor have worked together at DPI for over 10 years to assist educators across the state in implementing quality social studies and American Indian studies into their classrooms, schools, and districts. Focusing on the idea of community, many of their suggestions for districts center on the concept of place-based learning: What is happening near you, in your region, state, and country? How can we encourage student inquiry to learn more about cultures across their communities?
During Native American History Month, and especially around Thanksgiving in the United States, it is extremely important to not play into stereotypes of Native Peoples, and instead to focus on what is accurate and authentic. Following is a list of recommended resources for teachers and administrators to help lead respectful, relevant conversations about the holiday and American history.
- The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) offers a set of lesson plans on “American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving” designed for grades 4-8. It has four different topics (Environment: Understanding the Natural World, Community: Group Identity in Culture, Encounters: Effects of Cultures, and Sharing New Perspectives Year-Round) that support our Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies and the requirements of Act 31 (1989) without falling into stereotypes of our First Nations. NMAI also has a study guide “Harvest Ceremony: Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth” available for teachers.
- Lindsey Passenger Wieck wrote an article on “Decolonizing Thanksgiving” on Medium. She offers a number of resources to combat stereotypes in the classroom.
- In the activity “Recognizing Native American Perspectives: Thanksgiving and the National Day of Mourning," National Geographic offers primary sources for students to learn a Native American’s perspective on the arrival of the Pilgrims. A similar article from Native Hope outlines “The History of Thanksgiving from the Native American Perspective."
- Markell Foster and Onipede Oluwatobiloba Ifeoluwa discuss “5 Ways you can Honor Indigenous People on Thanksgiving” on Medium. They include learning about the land (place-based learning!) through website maps such as http://native-land.ca, where you can see what tribal lands you are on; listen, follow, and support Indigenous voices, rewrite your food tradition, see Native American movies, and patronize Native American and Indigenous brands and businesses.
- David O’Connor recently co-authored an article with Dr. Heather Ann Moody entitled “4 National Native American Heritage Month Activities and Lesson Plans." In it, he encourages people to move beyond land acknowledgments (which are often more performative than productive), and integrating Native American content into the curriculum rather than having “The Indian Unit."
- More information on American Indian Studies in Wisconsin can be found at https://dpi.wi.gov/amind and don't forget the powerful resources of the Wisconsin First Nations web site. The articles, maps, videos, and other tools found there are a collaboration between DPI, UW-Madison,and PBS Wisconsin Education.
This item was submitted by Kris McDaniel, Social Studies Consultant, and David O’Connor, American Indian Education Consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.