Thanksgiving can be difficult to teach, especially to young ones. Our country’s treatment of Indigenous peoples has been horrific, so it can be tempting to tell the old story of “Pilgrims” and “Natives” breaking bread and living in apparent harmony. However, this erases history and Indigenous peoples’ experience while it fails all children in understanding our culture and the importance of changing our culture for the better. (I write this as I watch my son complete Thanksgiving activities on his virtual kindergarten.)
Below are some Thanksgiving teaching resources for teachers and parents, which tell a more accurate, and in most cases, anti-racist story. Full disclosure, I have not checked each and every link on every page. Also, I found these resources on the excellent Facebook page, Teaching Social Justice Resource Exchange.
- Archaeology Education Clearinghouse’s Thanksgiving resources, divided into teacher resources and kid’s age groups
- “A Story of Survival: The Wampanoag and English, A Thanksgiving Lesson Plan Booklet from a Native American Perspective“, downloadable pdf
- “Five Ideas to Change Teaching about Thanksgiving, in Classrooms and at Home” article from Smithsonian Magazine, November 14th, 2020
- Teaching Tolerance website, doesn’t have a dedicated page, but I searched for “Thanksgiving” and got plenty of hits.
- Rethinking Schools doesn’t have a dedicated page, but I searched for “Thanksgiving” and got some hits.
DID BENJAMIN FRANKLIN WANT THE NATIONAL BIRD TO BE A TURKEY?
The story about Benjamin Franklin wanting the National Bird to be a turkey is just a myth. This false story began as a result of a letter Franklin wrote to his daughter criticizing the original eagle design for the Great Seal, saying that it looked more like a turkey. In the letter, Franklin wrote that the “Bald Eagle…is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly…[he] is too lazy to fish for himself.”
About the turkey, Franklin wrote that in comparison to the bald eagle, the turkey is “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage.” So although Benjamin Franklin defended the honor of the turkey against the bald eagle, he did not propose its becoming one of America’s most important symbols.