Saturday, November 13, 2010

Native American Unit

In anticipation of the Thanksgiving Feast next week at Grace's preschool, the kids have been learning about Native Americans and Pilgrims. Grace has had so much fun with this unit. She LOOOOOVED the Native American Fry Bread they had for snack time, which reminded me a lot of "arepitas", a little fried pastry my Aunt Dima made for me when I was little and we lived in Puerto Rico.

But her favorite part was picking out her Native American name....Running Deer! It fits her perfectly...she can go fast and furious but she's quite graceful in the process and can be a bit timid at times. How cute are all these names?!?!?I'm not sure if the shirt - or this necklace - inspired the name or not, but she just insisted on wearing this cute little shirt to school the very next day to show her teacher :) And how about the Papoose they made while learning how Native Americans carried their babies around? So cute! I love that she laced it up all by herself. The kids made both Native American and Pilgrim costumes and yesterday each student picked which costume they wanted to wear for the Feast. When I asked her what she picked, she matter-of-factly told me, "Running Deer, my Native American name, mama! That's me, Running Deer."

I can't wait for their school program next Wednesday!

And here's the recipe for the Native American Fry Bread from Grace's teacher, Mrs. Bryan, in case you want to try it with your littles during the week they're on holiday for Thanksgiving!

Native American Fry Bread
It's in single serving quantities and the steps are written for kids since each child made their own prior to the teacher frying them, so adjust accordingly.

Step 1. Put 1 tablespoon Corn Meal in a cup.

Step 2. Put 1 tablespoon Self-Rising Flour in the same cup.

Step 3. Put 1 teaspoon of Sugar in the same cup and stir.

Step 4. Put 1 tablespoon of water in the cup and stir.

Step 5. Have an adult fry the bread in hot oil.

And that's it! Enjoy with a little syrup according to Grace :)

Hope you're having a great weekend!


Unknown said...

I know the following comment will probably result in some very defensive reactions, especially by parents and teachers, but I implore you to please be critical of how stereotypes of minorities are perpetuated in our society, even by people with the best of intentions. Your unit, as described above, is incredibly offensive and insensitive to contemporary Indigenous peoples, none of which have names that in any way resemble "swimming fish" or "jumping squirrel." Please do your colleagues, your family, and the future generations you are teaching a huge service by NOT stereotyping and fetishizing Indigenous cultures in such a way that can lead to cultural insensitivity, appropriation,the perpetuation of white privilege and an ignorance of the true history of the United States' colonization of Native peoples. In addition, the dominant culture's account of the "traditional" Thanksgiving that you are teaching these young children is nothing more than an oppressive myth that masks terrible cultural, spiritual, and physical atrocities suffered by North American tribes at the hands of European settlers. If you examine primary sources on both sides of this pivotal period in United States' early history, you can find a lot to substantiate this claim.

It would be my assumption that there are no Native people that attend or teach at this school. A really easy mistake to make, speaking as a K-12 teacher, is to replicate content presented in packaged curricula to our students. Even if other teachers in the school, the district, or in the country are doing a "Native American unit" in honor of Thanksgiving, know that unless you are Native and have an innate knowledge of a particular tribe's heritage, that you are intentionally misrepresenting an entire people, minimalizing their diverse traditions into a stereotype of a beaded headband, feathers, papooses, "Indian" names,and frybread. Equating hundreds of tribal traditions with these inappropriate and inaccurate lessons continues to disempower a demographic that has been oppressed by the American people for centuries.

A really easy way to avoid this mistake next year would be to reach out to the resident tribe(s) in your state, or to contact a professor at a nearby tribal college or university, to assist in co-creating a more truthful and respectful unit that is appropriate for your students. These cultural experts can better guide you and your school toward an appreciation of Indigenous peoples that promotes cross-cultural dialogue and respect.

You can choose to NOT be the oppressor, engage in a discursive dialogue with those that are oppressed, and begin to free yourself through liberatory education, just as Paulo Freire envisioned. As an educator, you have a responsibility to lay down your ego and do what is in the best interest of your students. You make the call.

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