MSU offers tools to teach children about Thanksgiving 'Day of Mourning'

The article offers various resources for educating "youth" on the matter.

A recent article published by Michigan State University calls upon students to view Thanksgiving as a "Day of Mourning."

The idea is that the Thanksgiving story includes "cultural myths" that harm Native Americans.

Michigan State University recently published an article calling to recognize Thanksgiving as a “Day of Mourning” in order to consider the Native American perspective, complete with relevant educational materials for grade school children.

The article titled “Fourth Thursday in November marks National Day of Mourning, others celebrate Thanksgiving,” was published by MSU Extension, and indicated Nov. 28, 2019 as the 50th anniversary of the “National Day of Mourning.” 

The holiday in place of Thanksgiving celebrates the “remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience,” according to the United American Indians of New England in Plymouth. 

Citing the first Thanksgiving “story of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags joining together in neighborly friendship,” MSU Extension goes on to explain that the European colonist and Native relationship was “largely marked by hostility, racism, oppression, and genocide.” 

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MSU proposes that the current “traditional” Thanksgiving story includes “cultural myths and misinformation,” and is damaging to Naive Americans. MSU cites “Teaching Tolerance” as an appropriate resource, among others, for youth-centered educational materials on the matter.

Amanda Morris for Teaching Tolerance addresses an educator’s “ethical obligation to provide students with accurate information and to reject traditions that sustain harmful stereotypes about Indigenous peoples.”

She cites children making Indian paper feathers, drawing themselves as natives and singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “Mr. Turkey,” as a damaging and indoctrinating “colonialist narrative of Thanksgiving.”

Teaching Tolerance provides several educational materials; one called “Thanksgiving Mourning” is designed for kids in grades six through twelve.

MSU also cites a resource packet developed by National Geographic for children 9th grade and up titled “Recognizing Native American Perspectives: Thanksgiving and the National Day of Mourning.”

[RELATED: Prof: Thanksgiving centered around ‘myth,’ should be ‘Day of Mourning’]

Participants in this activity are given five directions to analyze a primary source speech which is meant to be read in Plymouth at the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim’s landing. The speech by Wattusma James, an Aquinnah Wampanoag native, was prevented because it was deemed inappropriate for the occasion. 

Students are instructed first to activate their prior knowledge and draw a depiction of Thanksgiving which will likely include, “giving thanks, food, family, football, Pilgrims, and Native Americans,” according to National Geographic. 

The same activity instructs children to analyze the significance of the “National Day of Mourning” and finish by using “drawings and words to depict Native Americans’ perspectives.”

MSU Extension’s article closes by addressing how their “youth development programming seeks to engage youth and the adults who serve them by providing programs and services that help youth become leaders in a globally connected and multicultural world.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter @SergeiKelley