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I'd love to read more of your

I'd love to read more of your thoughts on balancing "developmentally appropriate" lessons for elementary school students with the tough realities of history. I gather that your curricular choice is to sidestep the clichés of Pilgrims and Indians, at least for 1st graders.

When and how can students begin to understand that English-Indigenous interactions were often disastrous for native peoples? How do elementary-education specialists teach that content without running afoul of more... patriotically-minded school administrators?

In response to the above

In response to the above question, honestly, I've been lucky to work with administrators who understood and agreed with my sentiments here. So it's hard for me to speak about how to handle that tricky situation.

When I taught fourth grade we did tackle the challenging ideas of early interactions between Native Americans and settlers. Those students were definitely ready to handle it. My second grade daughter has some idea about this (but that may be because she has a father who is a college history professor who can't let historical misconceptions slide). I would think that late second grade or third grade is a time when students can begin to understand this. It would help a lot, I think, if we presented history to students from a young age as something that is not set in stone. If students learned from the beginning that people interpret history in different ways they would be better equipped to tackle complex issues. Kids can get that idea pretty early. Everyone has had a time that they remembered an event (good or bad) differently than a family member or friend.

For many Americans,

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a celebration, and I teach the holiday's history in that spirit. I acknowledge the tragedies of first contact between early European settlers and Indigenous Americans, but I focus my history narrative on Sarah Josepha Hale and Abraham Lincoln, who together initiated the first annual American Thanksgiving holiday in the middle of the Civil War, shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg.
Hale's abolitionist leanings, her story as a widow with five children to support, and her unstoppable letter campaign for a compassionately protected union, make a great story of triumph in the face of tragedy, hopefulness and thanksgiving. We read President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1863, as a significant primary source. It's a great story for all ages, in keeping with the spirit of celebration.
There are many ways to talk about Indigenous Americans in American history in terms of American tragedy, our fixation with property and prosperity, sovereignty, and the uniqueness of federal Indian law. But when most of my students' minds are on turkey, pie, and family, I want to catch them with the power of history narration with the Hale-Lincoln story.

We read quite a few books,

We read quite a few books, and compared the way they put things so that students could realize that you can't just trust the way one book puts it. One book said what they ate, and then a video told us no one knows completely for sure, and we talked about how accounts from that time are unreliable, and why.

Maybe I'm teaching 2nd graders to be skeptics, but I just think it's worth knowing not to believe everything you hear. They love being history detectives and trying to figure out the real story.

Reading about Squanto's life helps to balance how good or bad Europeans were to the Native Americans, and it fit well with when we talked about Columbus Day (trying to break some preconceived notions there, too!).

What bothers me most about our celebrations of Thanksgiving, though, is that we still have people saying "Indian." Seriously? How many generations have we had to get it right?

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