Alternative Books to ‘So-Called’ 1st Thanksgiving

Five books by Native writers provide another perspective to the stories that arise this time of year. (Book cover images via Indian Country Today)

Five books by Native writers provide another perspective to the stories that arise this time of year. (Book cover images via Indian Country Today)

Indian Country Today kicks off the week before Thanksgiving with a collection of five children’s books that belie the mythic image of Pilgrims and Indians happily bonding over a turkey feast in “what is commonly – and erroneously – called ‘The First Thanksgiving.'”

These books, as described by Debbie Reese, offer the perspectives of Native writers and represent a departure from the “feel-good” stories portrayed by what are usually non-indigenous writers.

Your local bookstore probably has a special shelf this month filled with books about “The First Thanksgiving.” In most of them, Native peoples are stereotyped, and “Indian” instead of “Wampanoag” is used to identify the indigenous people. When the man known as Squanto is part of the stories, his value to the Pilgrims is that he can speak English, and he teaches them how to plant and hunt. The fact that he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Spain—if mentioned at all—is not addressed in the story because elaborating on it would up-end the feel-good story.

Native peoples, their stories and their characters, can be found in the five book highlighted which are an alternative to those that typically line the shelves of libraries, bookstores and classrooms this time of year.

These books give a far more nuanced, and accurate, account of Indigenous Peoples. They will set children and adults alike straight on what really happened around the time of the so-called First Thanksgiving, and what Native life is like today.

Visit Indian Country Today for the list.

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