Autumn has several holidays; one is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, in the US, is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November; in Canada, they come to the table on the 2nd Monday of October. I first learned of Thanksgiving in elementary school—a long, long time ago. Back then, the stereotypical Pilgrims and Indians presentation was given. There is no way to go back in time and undo the terrible injustices suffered by the native peoples. With the exception of those various tribes of original inhabitants, we are ALL immigrants at some level. Being foreign-born, I’m definitely am!
Thanksgiving: A time of thanks–and learning!
During Thanksgiving season why not give your child a little more understanding of and appreciation for the American Indians that lived in our part of the United States long before there was a United States?
The Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, where I live, include many tribes—the following are just some from the Puget Sound region: Skagit, Snohomish/Tulalip, Sauk-Suiattle, Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Snoqualmie, and Stillaguamish.
Common among all Indians, or First Nations People, was a reverence for Mother Nature and respect for the land. This is still true today. Many environmental concerns are lead by Native Americans. Over-consumption and waste were not practiced by American Indians. Current inhabitants of this Land would do well to adopt that philosophy.
The American Indians should also be credited more with:
• Keeping the early settlers alive
• Giving the settlers the tools and means to forge a new life in their world.
American Indians have continued to contribute—as patriots, as scholars, as athletes, as Americans. This Thanksgiving when you sit down to feast say hyeshqe (pronounced “hi esh ka” the Coast Salish word for thank you) to the Indians.
Thankful in Play!
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” ~Native American Proverb~
FIELD TRIP options:
1. Seattle was named after Chief Sealth of the Suquamish and Duwamish Tribes. Mid April to the end of September, schedule a ferry ride over to Tillicum Village on Blake Island. It is the site of Chief Sealth’s birth place in 1786. There you’ll experience dinner in a traditional longhouse eating salmon roasted over an alder wood fire-pit. Entertainment includes storytelling accompanied by dancers with authentic, traditional masks. Learn more about Chief Sealth at the Duwamish Tribal Center.
2. For Indians that lived near the Puget Sound, water was part of their life and travelling by water was routine. Canoe-making was surprisingly specific. See the JayHawk Institute for several, short video explanations. Another field trip option revolving around canoes: The Center for Wooden Boats has Haida master carver Sāādūūts passing on the carving tradition in The Canoe Project as well as many other workshops.
Stories and tales of Pacific Northwest Native Americans.
Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott
The Wave of the Sea-Wolf by David Wisniewski
Enhance Your Child’s Understanding through PLAY!
Salish Sea, Land & Sky BINGO:
One of the last times I visited MOHAI I spotted a game I knew my Grandbubs would enjoy! This game of BINGO introduces your child to the Salish people who inhabited this area for thousands of years. Their culture is based on the deep respect their ancestors had with the natural world they lived in and the animals they shared it with.
MUSIC & Singing:
Used for dances, ceremonies, games and sacred practices, drums have a special place within a tribe—a revered place even. Drums symbolize the universe; the drumbeat, the pulse of the universe’s heart. Have your child use a drum to practice simple rhythms. Perhaps (s)he can keep the beat while you read/sing There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Trout by Teri Sloat.* A book with a decidedly PNW twist on an old nursery rhyme that builds on itself even as the main character consumes more and more…something many of us do at Thanksgiving!
Sorting beans (BTW, did you know many different types of beans were first farmed by Indians?)
Variety of dried beans
Combine beans in a bowl:
Your child can sort by:
1. Color of bean
2. Shape of bean
3. Type of bean
…putting beans into different sections of a tray depending on color, shape or type.
Using tongs or even only their fingers will develop their pincer strength, fine motor skills plus eye-hand coordination in addition to math readiness from sorting and classifying.
Note if your child isn’t interested in actually sorting but finds using tongs of value, then go with that!
*OR have your child keep the beat while they listen to ME sing the story! It’s one of the books in Story Time!
**Sorting tray—for example something like this you can get from the Dollar Tree
Jordana Ansley says
Hi Teacher Karen, Thank you for this informative blog. I really admire you taking the time to write this up and give folks some alternative activities to do around this tendentious holiday and encouraging people to connect to Native cultures and traditions in their land that we call “home”. I would love to get a touch deeper, could you email me personally to have a brief dialogue? Hyeshqe 🙏
Karen Whittier says
Hi Jordana–I’m glad you appreciated the post! It’s important to me to give choices/options and different perspectives…I’ll follow up with an email to you. Hyeshqe!