Grovel at Thanksgiving?

Thank to Orbusmax for covering this issue.

Seattle Public Schools issued some telling, progressive suggestions to staff regarding the way they should deal with Thanksgiving. Behold, diversity-hustling at its finest (emphasis mine + added email addresses):

November 8, 2007

Dear Seattle Public Schools Staff:

We recognize the amount of work that educators and staff have to do in order to fulfill our mission to successfully educate all students. It’s never as simple as preparing and delivering a lesson. Students bring with them a host of complexities including cultural, linguistic and social economic diversity. In addition they can also bring challenges related to their social, emotional and physical well being. One of our departments’ goals is to support you by suggesting ways to assist you in removing barriers to learning by promoting respect and honoring the diversity of our students, staff and families.

With so many holidays approaching we want to again remind you that Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time for many of our Native students. This website http://www.oyate.org/resources/shortthanks.html offers suggestions on ways to be sensitive of diverse experiences and perspectives and still make the holiday meaningful for all students. Here you will discover ways to help you and your students think critically, and find resources where you can learn about Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective. Eleven myths are identified about Thanksgiving, take a look at #11 and begin your own deconstruction.

Myth #11: Thanksgiving is a happy time
Fact: For many Indian 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.

It is our goal as a District to strive towards being inclusive and aware of the needs of all our students by respecting and honoring the many cultural experiences of our students, staff and families. This does not mean that schools and staff have to avoid recognizing Thanksgiving, but rather calls upon each of us to be sensitive and mindful of every child in our classroom.

We appreciate your willingness to struggle with these complex issues by considering the impact on many of our Native students when teaching about Thanksgiving in traditional ways. If you have any questions or need assistance planning or preparing for any holiday, please feel free to contact the Department of Equity, Race and Learning Support at 252-0138.

Respectfully,

Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D. (cdhollins1@seattleschools.org)
Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support

Willard Bill, Jr., Program Manager (wibill@seattleschools.org)
Huchoosedah Office of Native American Educ

Janine Tillotson, Consulting Teacher (jetillotson@seattleschools.org)
Huchoosedah Office of Native American Educ.


I think anyone would agree that we should have a truthful and historically accurate curriculum taught in any school. Of course that’s not the aim here and would not fit with certain Blame America First narratives, such as this, that certain school administrations are trying to proscribe. Nope, guilt the poor little beggars into believing that they are eternally beholden to anyone non-white for the remainder of their lives. Indoctrinate them into the religion of (skin-deep) diversity where no one is allowed to travel any further in life than what has been dictated by their heritage. Remind them that they are a product of their environment, incapable of making choices for themselves, and that government institutions know best.

So, let’s start with one salient truth about Thanksgiving that even Wikipedia gets right:

The first official Thanksgiving Proclamation made in America was issued by the Continental Congress in 1777. Six national Proclamations of Thanksgiving were issued in the first thirty years after the founding of the United States of America as an independent federation of States. President George Washington issued two, President John Adams issued two, President Thomas Jefferson made none and President James Madison issued two. After 1815 there were no more Thanksgiving Proclamations until the Presidency of Lincoln, who made two during the Civil War.

President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a Federal holiday as a “prayerful day of Thanksgiving” on the last Thursday in November. Since then every U.S. President has always made an official Thanksgiving Proclamation on behalf of the nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941).

Yes, the first meetings of the Indians and Pilgrims have been considerably romanticized. Indians Native Americans (#$%&@ PC-ness) in general are divided on how to commemorate this day. I appreciate the approach mentioned in this article last year

Chuck Narcho, a member of the Maricopa and Tohono O’odham tribes who works as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles, said younger children should not be burdened with all the gory details of American history.

“If you are going to teach, you need to keep it positive,” he said. “They can learn about the truths when they grow up. Caring, sharing and giving — that is what was originally intended.”

Growing up in a family of agriculture (wholesale Christmas tree farming… I know, totally not PC… it was beautiful), November was an especially busy harvest month. Thanksgiving was truly a time in our family for thanksgiving. In school, yes, we were fed the romanticized version of events, but, strangely, were also taught of the not so bright side of the European’s forays into the New World.

However, Lincoln’s actions have always had much more significance to me. Making a Federal holiday out if it, declaring it as, “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” was an incredible move in the midst of the Civil War.

So, please, gather with what family or friends you have; give thanks for the tremendous country you live in and the incredible bounty we have. Do not envy, covet, or be jealous of your neighbor. Give thanks, with a grateful heart.

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6 thoughts on “Grovel at Thanksgiving?

  1. Let’s also not forget that a vast majority of those non-Amerindian students cannot trace their lineage back to an early Colonists nor one who took part in the western expansion of America. Even if you subscribed to the pernicious idea of collective inherent guilt (guiltism), I don’t see how those children would carry the imagined burden or need to be inundated by it.

    BTW: Half my family were legal immigrants in the 1900s and the other half got sold to – annexed – America during the Louisiana Purchase. LOL!

  2. I note the unconnected capitalization of “Native” (Native students) and “District” (our goal as a District) and wonder if I’m looking at reification. I also wonder about “deconstruction” (begin your own deconstruction) as a term meant to combine semantics (denotation and connotation) with linguistic relativism (the notion that language creates thought) rather than the reverse.

    I am struck by the observation that more than 100 years after war decided the winners and losers the defeated are still whining about the loss. This is rather like many southerners (if they are to be taken at all seriously) who can be heard saying, “The South (sic) shall rise again.”

    I am 1/8 Irish, 1/8 English, 1/8 German, 2/8 Swede and 3/8 Norwegian. My English self oppressed my Irish self 300 years ago and 900 years before that my Norwegian self enslaved both. My German self invaded my English self 1400 years ago (not to mention what my German cousins did to the Jews only 60 years ago). So I denounce all of me except my Swedish self. I AM SWEDISH AND I WANT MY RIGHTS!

    Now I am thoroughly deconstructed and can be very proud that none of me/us ever did anything to the Natives one way or the other. Oops, sorry. I forgot about my Texan self. Seven generations of Texans with my last name to my heritage but they never owned slaves or beat down the Tejano. They were too concerned with making a living.

    Only in an opulent society can we concern ourselves with such trivia.

    Brandon T

  3. Thanks for visiting and reading, Idetrorce! …but please do elaborate (or don’t if you wish)… what is interesting? What don’t you agree with?

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