BOSTON (AP) – More U.S. schools are rethinking traditional Thanksgiving lessons that focus on the English settlers but teach little about Native Americans. Students are now learning a more complex lesson that includes conflict, injustice and a new focus on the people who lived on the land for hundreds of years before European settlers arrived and named it New England.
The updated lessons include more about the Wampanoag people, the Native Americans who attended the 1621 feast. Students still learn about the feast, but many are also learning that peace between the Pilgrims and Native Americans was always uneasy and later splintered into years of conflict.
Advocates for native education applaud the recent wave of action, but they also warn that there’s much to improve. They say that progress has been slow and spotty and that many schools still teach outdated and insensitive lessons.
Although schools say parents have mostly embraced the changes, they acknowledge it can be polarizing.
In Massachusetts this year, every public school is getting copies of a new state history book co-written by a Wampanoag author and historian. The book was published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival, but it notably begins thousands of years earlier, with the history of the Wampanoag people.
Many schools are also adding lessons on native cultures through the year, including around Columbus Day, which some districts now mark as Indigenous Peoples Day.
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