It’s November, a time of year when many read children books about what is commonly, and erroneously, called “The First Thanksgiving.” In most of them, Native peoples are stereotyped, and “Indian” instead of “Wampanoag” is used to identify the Indigenous People. As most of us know by now, “The First Thanksgiving” of Pilgrims and Indians is a myth. For many Indigenous People, “Thanksgiving” is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, “Thanksgiving” is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship.
While Thanksgiving seems like a good time to grab people’s attention about Wampanoag – European interactions, it doesn’t need to frame the story. There are many books by Native writers who tell stories from their experience and history. These books give a far more nuanced, and accurate account of Indigenous Peoples. They will set children and adults alike straight on what really happened around the time of the so-called First Thanksgiving, and what Native life is like today.
Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith (ages 4-8)
SkySisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose (ages 3-7)
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp (ages 5-11)
Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac (ages 6-10)
The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose (ages 4-8)
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace (ages 8-12)
Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition (We Are Still Here) by Sally M. Hunter (ages 8 and up)
The Circle of Thanks: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac (ages 4 and up)
Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition by Russell M. Peters, Russell M. (grades 4-6)
The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering by Gordon Regguinti (grades 4-6)
Ininatig’s Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking by Laura Waterman Wittstock (grades 4-6)