“Why does the average American see nothing wrong with purchasing that mask and dressing up her child as AN INDIAN…but would never think to masquerade as another ethnic group?” (from “I” is not for “Indian”)
These tips are from Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Teaching Respect for Native Peoples (visit the site for many more):
- Don’t use ABC books that have “I is for Indian” or “E is for Eskimo.”
- Don’t use counting books that count “Indians.”
- Do avoid arts and crafts and activities that trivialize Native dress, dance, or ceremony.
- Don’t use books that show Native people as savages, primitive craftspeople, or simple tribal people, now extinct.
- Don’t have children dress us as “Indians,” with paper-bag “costumes” or paper-feather “headdresses.”
- Don’t sing “Ten Little Indians.”
- Don’t use materials which present as heroes only those Native people who aided Europeans.
- Do use materials which present Native heroes who fought to defend their own people.
- Do discuss the relationship between Native peoples and the colonists and what went wrong with it.
- Don’t speak as though “the Indians” were here only for the benefit of the colonists.
- Don’t have them make “Indian crafts” unless you know authentic methods and have authentic materials.
- Do make sure you know the history of Native peoples, past and present, before you attempt to teach it.
Below are two wonderful PDF resources from the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Both provide guidelines for teaching about Thanksgiving and Native Americans in general, and provide some alternative ways to celebrate with your class.
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