A very Ghost Hawk Thanksgiving…

I finished reading Ghost Hawk this fall, and now I’m seeing a fair amount of conversation about the historical accuracy issues surrounding the book, as we head into Newbery season. (I’ll admit, I thought it was wonderful until the very end, though I’m woefully incapable of determining how true to history it is).

At the same time, I’m wandering around the stores, and seeing that there are beginning to be “Indian” items around, in advance of Thanksgiving. Feathers and teepees.  I find myself assuming, based on the comments surrounding Ghost Hawk, that the way schools approach Thanksgiving has changed a lot since I was a kid.  That they no longer dress up in loosely arranged feathers and play out the story of “Pilgrims and Indians.”  I’m wondering what they offer instead. How much of the story?

So as we head into the Thanksgiving season, I’m thinking about how we educate our kids (or don’t), how we give them (or don’t) actual information, as opposed to myth. I’m thinking I have some work to do myself.

All my life, I’ve known versions of the Pilgrim/Indian story, of course.  I’ve watched the Peanuts and Pocahantas.  I’ve argued the merits of telling that story in a benign way with kids, and I’ve argued the age at which kids can learn the real story.  But shamefully, in all those years, I’ve never learned about the TRIBE. The actual tribe.  How is that possible?  At the very least, Ghost Hawk pushed me out of that complacency.  And the conversation surrounding the book is having an even stronger impact on me in that way.

They weren’t “Indians.”  And “Native Americans” doesn’t cut it either in this day and age.  They were The Wampanoag.   And while I’m aware that they didn’t actually share a turkey with “us” (says this Irishy/Jewishy girl with no Mayflower blood in her at all, but who was still somehow taught the language of us/them),  I know absolutely nothing about The Wampanoag.

I think, this year, Mose and Lew will try to learn about the tribe.  Which is not to say “Indians.”  We’ll read about their culture and language, about Massoit and Squanto, and about King Philip’s War. (please, if you have sources you especially like, let me know!)  I hope this will help the boys navigate the myth/truth of this season (and me too!).  So often, specificity helps us see people as people. Because the more general we get, the easier it is to slip into stereotypes купить деревянный стол.

What does your school teach in this season? How much do you know about the Wampanoag?

(Ahem. Full disclosure: for the record, we’ll still be eating turkey at my house, with stuffing and mashed. Because… you know, TURKEY DINNER.)



3 Responses to “A very Ghost Hawk Thanksgiving…”

  1. Rosanne Parry Says:

    Interesting question! I don’t think my kids learned anything about the first Thanksgiving in school. Certainly they never came home with the standard buckle hats and feathers craft project/costume. I think they skipped over the holiday entirely in favor of more attention for Dia de los Muertos.

    I can’t remember ever doing the first thanksgiving reenactment in my childhood either. It doesn’t seem like a very Portland thing. We all know plenty about local tribes though. There are powwows in town, all-Indian rodeo in the region, salmon festivals, parades and more recently plenty of casinos. And Native American’s have lots to say about state political issues. So Indians never seemed distant or mostly dead to me. True I know little about the Wampanoeg in particular, or eastern tribes in general, but I feel like my education served me fairly well within the region.

  2. laurel Says:

    That makes a lot of sense– that it would feel so different in the west.

  3. Debbie Reese Says:


    Thanksgiving reenactments are a popular topic in children’s books. I looked at several a few years ago. Here’s one: http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2007/11/anne-rockwells-thanksgiving-day.html

    This kind of thing is seen in newer books, too, like Jon Sciezska’s TRUCKSGIVING: http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2011/04/reader-writes-to-me-about-jon-scieszkas.html

    Here’s a post I did about resources from the National Museum of the American Indian: http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2009/10/american-indian-perspectives-on.html

    I also recommend you use the website for the Wampanoag rather than the ones you linked to: http://mashpeewampanoagtribe.com/

    Regarding GHOST HAWK, I think Cooper obviously meant well but there is so much romantic imagery in her book that the project itself fails. It is getting lot of good reviews because most people have the same romantic ideas that she does. An alternative to GHOST HAWK is GUESTS by Michael Dorris.


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