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Happy Fall from Just Communities

Teaching Circle

Happy Fall image.jpg

"Make a Feather Headress! Come create a colorful feather headdress with your kiddos this Saturday. Get in the holiday mood, teach your children about the role of Native Americans in Thanksgiving and create a keepsake that will provide hours of pretend play fun. We'll have hoards of bright wispy feathers, colorful craft paper, and more! Drop in between 11 and p.m."

The announcement above was posted by a local business and helped to inspire this article. It exemplifies the mainstream society's common tendency to objectify Native Americans (in this case to a colorful feather headdress). This most frequently occurs during the month of November, particularly when teaching children about the first Thanksgiving Day, while ignoring the Native Americans' perspectives or experiences.

Thanksgiving Day is a good time to give thanks for family, friends, home, peace, harmony, and social justice in the world. It is also an excellent time to remember that wherever we live, we are usually on the land that is the indigenous home of other people. A first step is to learn about the Native Americans whose land you now occupy. What tribes lived in your region? Sometimes this information is already available. Many places the indigenous communities still exist and are willing to share and teach about their people's lives and culture and about their stories of first contact with newcomers to the area. In other cases, historical libraries and websites have information.

California's History-Social Science Core Content Standardsreflect a commitment to emphasize historical narrative, highlight the roles of significant individuals throughout history, and convey the rights and obligations of citizenship. Students are to be taught to identify the purposes of, and the people and events honored in, commemorative holidays, including the human struggles that were the basis for the events.

Historical and cultural knowledge about Native Americans should not be relegated to November. While autumn gives us an opportunity to address the ignorance of turkeys dressed as "Indians," every season should provide correct information from multiple perspectives about the first Thanksgiving.

All children-Native and non-Native-deserve the right to learn the full truth about cultures, histories, land ownerships, current and historical contributions, and to see everyone accurately reflected in all classrooms. Let's teach our children, and our future leaders, the truth about our country. See below for a list of recommended resources to learn more

Just Communities plans to develop a Teaching Circle webpage where each month we will post a curriculum and instructional strategies that address social justice issues. Articles and resources will be published by the themes generally related to specific months. Summer months will be included for year-round schools and independent studies students. In time, we hope to add a blog space where educators can share resources and ideas that they have.

We welcome you to send your ideas and suggested resources to Ana Becerra at

Suggested themes to address could include:




  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day

  • New Year Celebrations-January 1st

  • Chinese New Year begins in January or February


  • Black History

  • Presidents' Day

  • Valentine's Day


  • St. Patrick's Day

  • Women in History


  • Earth Day

  • National Arab-American Heritage Month


  • Memorial Day

  • South Asian Heritage Month

  • Haitian Heritage Month

  • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

  • Jewish American Heritage Month

  • Mother's Day

  • Cinco de Mayo


  • Father's Day

  • Caribbean American Heritage Month

  • Flag Day


  • Independence Day


  • Back to School


  • Labor Day

  • Ramadan

  • National Hispanic Heritage Month (U.S.: 9/15 to 10/15)

  • Grandparents Day

  • September 11


  • Halloween

  • Filipino American History Month

  • LGBT History Month

  • National Bullying Prevention Month

  • National Youth Justice Awareness Month

  • Columbus Day


  • Thanksgiving Day

  • National American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month

  • Chanukah begins in November or December

  • Veterans Day


  • Christmas

  • Kwanzaa

Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides Thanksgiving and Native Americans studies resources at:

A useful article, Rethinking Holidays From an Anti-Bias Perspective, by Julie Bisson at:

The 29 tribes of Washington state have endorsed theses curriculum and instructional resources aligned with National Common Core State Standards for the elementary through high school levels:

A standards-aligned curriculum that increases K-12 students' understanding of the history and meaning of California land, fostering appreciation for the motivations and knowledge of California Native American people who engage in land tenure, planning, and use issues:

This site includes a critical evaluation of books and curricula with Indian themes, a resource and reference library; and distribution of literature and learning materials for children, youth, and their teachers with writings and illustrations by Native people from across North America:

PBS's five-part video series that shows how Native peoples have resisted expulsion from their lands and fought the extinction of their culture from first encounter with the English in the 1600s to the liberation movement of the 1970s:

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