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The day after Thanksgiving is more than simply the mass shopping spree known as Black Friday; it's also National Native American Heritage Day.

Native American Heritage Day, and Giving Children the Real Thanksgiving Story

ICTMN Staff
11/29/13

As Thanksgiving recedes in the rearview, families replete with turkey and football fan out through the malls to kick off their holiday shopping on what is popularly known as Black Friday.

In fact, shopping is considered tradition in many U.S. families. What few people know is that the day also celebrates traditions that go much, much further back. Today is Native American Heritage Day, thanks in large part to the efforts of one Archie Buttram, of Cherokee heritage, according to the Ozark County Times.

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Native American Heritage Day is part of Native American Heritage Month, which is winding down. But there is still ample opportunity, given the continued attention on indigenous heritage in this country, to counteract the watered-down, sanitized version of the Thanksgiving story.

RELATED: President Obama’s National Native American Heritage Month Proclamation

Just before Thanksgiving the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed piece addressing just that, suggesting ways that grown-ups could talk to and teach their children about American Indian heritage. The article stressed that while the notion of the feast and the communality may be “historically accurate,” it stops short of telling the real story.

“What happens next to these 17th century Native Americans and their descendants is usually left out of the classroom,” wrote Susan Rohwer in the November 26 opinion piece. “Too often, Native Americans are reduced to mascots or caricatures, and even many well-intentioned efforts at including Native Americans in children’s books fall flat.”

She outlined a number of resources, including references to stories on Indian Country Today Media Network, “that could be helpful in countering this unsavory American tradition of ignoring Native American cultures and history during Thanksgiving.”

RELATED: Talking to Young Children About Thanksgiving

She also mentions Debbie Reese and her American Indians in Children’s Literature website, as well as the age-appropriate guide for talking about Thanksgiving on the website Offbeat Families. Such education is essential, Rohwer asserted.

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“When we avoid talking about difficult or ugly moments in our history, we are preserving a culture that sees Native Americans as invisible,” Rohwer wrote. “When we expose our children to only racist and simplistic depictions of Native Americans, we are perpetuating the idea that they don’t matter as a population with diverse cultures and contributions. We are also underestimating our children’s intelligence and capacity for thoughtful compassion.”

Read How to Talk to Your Children About Thanksgiving's Ugly History in the Los Angeles Times.

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Helene E. Hagan
Helene E. Hagan
Submitted by Helene E. Hagan on
My recently published book "Fifty Years in America, A Book of Essays" offers an essay I wrote for Common Ground (Marin County, California publication) in 1986, titled "Tisquantum, the story of Thanksgiving" which was written in a very simple style comprehensible by children and teen agers. Table of contents of the book: Mustapha, Memories of Childhood in Morocco (1969) Tisquantum, the Story of Thanksgiving (1986) Fable and Truth in Chief’s Seattle’s Legacy (1991) Plastic Medicine People (1990) Saint Vincent/Silveira Ranch Ethnographic Report (1994) The People of Niram (1998) Apuleius of Madaurus (1999) The Field of Golden Mummies (2000) UN presentation: Amazigh Movement (2002) The Enslavement of Africans (2002) The Argan Tree, Southwest Tradition of Morocco (2005) UCLA Lecture on Ancient Berbers (2007) Review 1: The Berbers, M. Brent and E. Fentress (2004) Review 2: Amazigh Arts of Morocco, Becker (2008) Review 3: Guanche People – Lissner (2008) Lakota Woman Legacy – Cordelia Attack Him (1982)

Mushroom Montoya's picture
Mushroom Montoya
Submitted by Mushroom Montoya on
When we purposely ignore part of our history, we distort our present reality. We can't improve or grow if we don't address and correct the mistakes of our past. We should be honest with our children and teach the truth, if we expect them to be truthful and honest.

Jean Timme's picture
Jean Timme
Submitted by Jean Timme on
Please, Do seventeenth century Natives of this land... really refer to themselves as "Native Americans" in which the term America wasn't even establishes before it was colonized. Were not the First peoples here before the land was called America by the Europeans ???

Jean Timme's picture
Jean Timme
Submitted by Jean Timme on
Please, Do seventeenth century Natives of this land... really refer to themselves as "Native Americans" in which the term America wasn't even establishes before it was colonized. Were not the First peoples here before the land was called America by the Europeans ???

Elena from Charrua´s Nation's picture
Elena from Char...
Submitted by Elena from Char... on
Dear brethren! I want to say THANKS TO YOU ALL ! precious souls of the first Nation people, the deads ones and the lives ones, because the spirit to give and the spirit of love our mother earth remains just in you as a sacred heritage that no one can destroy, and no one can kill ! Teach your children to listen the voice of our ancestors coming up from the earth and they will guide all the people to a better future!

Tony Lucero's picture
Tony Lucero
Submitted by Tony Lucero on
I am Mexican-American, but have always felt the plight of my Native American brothers and sisters. I am so sorry for how my Spanish ancestors treated the native peoples. We could have learned so many beautiful ways to be. I always strive to be a good human being.
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