April Supplementary Reading (4-5-99)

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500 Nations - Final Assignment Reaction Paper Shelby Dowty

I recently read an article titled, Why Im Not Thankful for Thanksgiving, by Michael A. Dorris. I found this article very intriguing after watching the 500 Nations videos. From the beginning of October through the end of November, greeting cards are presented with cute little Indians. (Dorris, 1992) Will Native Americans have to forever adapt themselves to put up with such adult exhibitions of ethnocentrism? During the same time we are buying these cute little Indian (Dorris, 1992) cards, we are celebrating Thanksgiving in our primary school classrooms with Indian headbands and brown-fringed paperbag Indian vests. In the intermediate grades, during the month of November, we are studying the heroism of Christopher Columbus. What Im trying to point out here is that the education of American Indian history is traditionally taught during the month of November. How is it possible to educate our students on the history of the American Indians in approximately twenty days? As adults, we make sure that we strap our children into seatbelts, keeps poisons out of the reach of our children, and we make sure that our children are aware of strangers. There are many dangers in the world today when it comes to raising our children. One danger that exists, but is avoided and is permitted to continue, is the imperfection of our own attitudes about the indigenous people. These attitude imperfections have been allowed to continue generation after generation and have remained unchallenged. Many times these imperfect attitudes continue, time after time, unconsciously. According to Dorris, attitudes pertinent to racial or sex role identity are among the most potentially hazardous--particularly by the minority child. (Dorris, 1992) These attitudes are internalized and can affect behavior in childrens self-concept, confidence, and aspiration. A child can be inhibited by these attitudes before he or she has learned to define personal talents, objectives, and limits. If a young child is informed through attitudes that he or she will become an underachiever, then underachievements will regularly continue. What are we as educators and parents to do when children encounter demeaning attitudes among other children in our presence? What do would you do if you heard a classroom student calling another student Indian giver? What would you do if you heard a fellow peer call a group of unruly children wild Indians? What would you do if you found an alphabet book in the library with I is for Indian in it? What would you do if you heard a fellow teacher tell his or her students to sit Indian style? All of these Indian sayings are extremely harmful to whoever hears them. These sayings are demeaning to the Native American people and can give white people a feeling of superiority. It doesnt matter what race we are, when we hear the above sayings, it is harmful to all people who walk the face of this earth. According to Dorriss article, it might not be possible to put a stop to all sayings or theatricals, but we need to start some place to stop the demeaning stereotypical manner that is present in the world today. In many ways, Dorris blames the adults of this world for this stereotypical manner. We as educators, I think, can only do so much to rid the world of racism. However, I believe that we can make a difference in how children respect and appreciate people of all races and genders. A fellow teacher recently asked me, How can we change the prejudicial way of thinking that some students come to school with? I answered this question by saying that we have to do what we do best--teach. It would be difficult to go against a parent because a child would have a hard time trusting either their parent or teacher in the future. All we can do as educators is teach children the truth with respect and appreciation for all people. In doing the best we can do as educators, means not letting comments like the following continue generation after generation, They served pumpkins and turkeys and corn and squash. The Indian had never seen such a feast! (Dorris, 1992) Excuse me, but the foods mentioned here were all foods that the Native American people provided and they would eventually teach the Europeans how to plant such crops. The historical evidence provided about the First Thanksgiving was based upon journals kept by Governor, William Bradford. According to Bradfords journal, there is no reference to a harvest taking place between the Pilgrims and the neighboring Native American people. Sometime later in Bradfords journal, he writes that the Native American people were invited to a feast some time later during that same year. According to the 500 Nations videos, the First Thanksgiving implies there was a relationship between the Native American people and the English colonists. The Plymouth Colony was provided with food arranged by Massasoit, a war chief of the Wampanoags. The American Indians did teach colonists how to hunt game and plant corn. Since the Pilgrims were aware of the Indians traditional custom at harvest time, they invited the Wampanoag tribe to a holiday of thanksgiving. After a communal feast that lasted three days and nights, the Pilgrims and Massasoit agreed that this harvest celebration would be celebrated yearly. Many Native Americans today object to the stereotypes that surround the celebration of Thanksgiving. It is important to know that Thanksgiving is also a celebration of families reuniting. Many other cultures throughout the world, as well as Native American people, celebrate Thanksgiving as a harvest celebration. That means it is not just an American celebration. The constant retelling of the ethnocentric falsehood of the First Thanksgiving will not do anyone of us any good. I believe that children should know the truth of the First Thanksgiving. When I speak of the truth, I speak of all the shameful motivation and history involved. Educators and parents should also teach children the truth of who really discovered America--Christopher Columbus? There were 500 Indian Nations in North America before Columbus set foot on this continent. The misinformation that Columbus discovered America has caused some discontent among the American Indian people. I think there is reason for discontent. Saying that Columbus discovered America would mean ignoring the American Indians ownership of their own land. Columbus was directly responsible for the genocide of American Indian people for 400 years. After Columbuss arrival, what followed the American Indian people was loss of life, property, culture, religion, and human rights. Is Columbus a hero? Does Columbus deserve to have a holiday named after him? Wouldnt that be the same as having Europe celebrate the Holocaust? Something is definitely wrong with this picture. Once again, as educators, we can teach what history lends itself. If children are taught something else at home, we may not be able to change their way of thinking. It is important to be careful on how we teach the past history of the American Indian people. I think children need to know the truth, but we have to accomplish telling the truth in an appreciative, respectful, and considerate manner. Even though history books do not display the truth about the 500 Nations already settled in North America, I think it is important that we set an example by telling the truth in a respectful and considerate manner. The 500 Nations videos have changed my live, and they will change the American Indian history outlook with the kids in my classrooms. I plan to continue my research on the best practice for American Indian education, grades K-6, in the State of Minnesota. Through this research, and with all the knowledge I have learned from this assessment class, I know I will be appreciative, respectful and careful in my teachings of the truth of the American Indian history. The first place I will start my teachings will be with the First Thanksgiving and the heroic light that surrounds Christopher Columbus.

-- Anonymous, April 05, 1999

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