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True history of Thanksgiving
Mansi VasaNovember 13, 20232 min read

Reflecting on the True History of Thanksgiving with Children

Around Thanksgiving, students often discuss what they are grateful for. At Corlears, we conduct this activity with our youngest students, and in our upper age levels, through our social justice time, students begin to examine the history of the holiday Thanksgiving and its continued role in American social life.

There are few, if any, holidays where the taught myths and the historical realities are farther apart. During Thanksgiving, we encourage families to honor the lives and legacy of the Indigenous people of this land by critically examining the dominant stories perpetuated by this holiday.

Here are a few tips for how discuss the true history of Thanksgiving with your children, and how to move beyond the singular narratives that reinforce negative stereotypes and myths about Native People.

Discussing Thanksgiving's Counter-Narratives

If you are engaging in Thanksgiving-themed activities, texts or discussions at home, consider the following racial literacy terms as you make choices: 

  • Bias: Preference or favoritism of one idea, person, or group over another.

  • Omission: Completely leaving out one or more perspectives. 

  • Stereotype: Making generalizations about a group of people based on one part of their identity. 

To support critical thinking, consider asking the following questions around the dominant stories of Thanksgiving:

  • What perspectives, practices, and/or people are centered or valued?

  • Does the author use their power to repeat stereotypes or to challenge them?

  • If we only knew about Thanksgiving from this perspective, what would we think is true? Why is that a problem?

It is essential for children to hear and grapple with counter-narratives in developmentally appropriate ways. Books for Littles shares a comprehensive book list of counter-narratives that allow for a depth of thought and understanding, center human stories, and face history. 

Other Ways to Honor Indigenous People This Thanksgiving

As you sit down at the table, recognize that where you are was once the home of a people from whom it was taken.

Instead of perpetuating myths, start your festivities by acknowledging the land you are inhabiting. Families can do this by referencing Native Land Maps to discover the names of the indigenous peoples’ land you are on. Discover more information about land acknowledgments and their importance on the Native Governance Website.

Educating our children and ourselves to learn from history in honest and complete ways will allow us to move forward, without repeating injustices from the past. When we share the whole story with our children without bias, omission, and stereotype, it allows our hearts to expand and our consciousness to grow as we strive to create a more equitable world. 

More Resources for Talking About Race and Identity

Visit the Corlears School Blog for more resources for discussing race, social justice work, and identity, including:


Mansi Vasa

Mansi is the Assistant Head of School and Director of Equity & Inclusion at Corlears School. She has a master's degree from Bank Street College in Elementary Education, and a bachelor's degree from Barnard College with a focus on Political Science, Human Rights and Elementary Education. She brings 20 years of experience from public, charter, independent and international schools. She is passionate about educational equity and creating spaces of belonging where all families and children are able to access what they need to succeed in school and in life.