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  • Writer's pictureAshley

Helping kids explore Thanksgiving from the Native perspective

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

Most Americans will find this story to be very familiar:

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock where they immediately met the “Indians.” They taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and other crops. At the end of the season, everyone was friends and they had a large feast to celebrate everything that had occurred that year. The end.

Except, that’s not what happened.

Historically, the winners have written history. The white me told the Thanksgiving story from their perspective and has made it incredibly friendly. So, let’s do something new this year…

Let’s teach our kids about Thanksgiving from the Native perspective.

November is not only National Family Literacy Month or the beginning of the Christmas season, or Thanksgiving month; it is also Native American Heritage Month.

So let’s honor those who have been here much longer than most of our ancestors by exploring their cultures and learning about those who star in the traditional Thanksgiving story.

Below you will find some resources to explore with your children. Let me know what you learn this season!

“Plimoth Patuxet Museums brings to life the history of Plymouth Colony and the Indigenous homeland.” This is a museum dedicated to exploring and teaching adults and kids about the truth of the first Thanksgiving and those involved.

Although visiting the museum in person would be a fabulous experience, I am forced to look from afar right now, as many of you are, as well. There are many different online options to fit many different family learning styles.

Simply click on the ‘Learning’ tab and find many things to dive into.

I personally recommend older kids or families play the “You Are the Historian” game. It provides valuable information in a gam-based, puzzle-focused way. Try your hand today!

Other fun activities include traditional riddles that pilgrims may have told, historic cooking recipes from both the Wampanoag and European traditions, as well as several interesting videos to watch.

Take time to explore these free resources with your family today. You will find things appropriate for all different ages. I use this website and its resources every year as I explore this subject with my students.

This is another website that has many resources available for exploring, investigating, and sharing with your family. Simply scroll down to the Thanksgiving section. Here you will find blog posts, videos, handouts, and digital lessons. Although many of these are aimed at classroom teachers, you are teaching your children so feel free to use those resources, as well.

In fact, here is a lesson plan that you can peruse and pick out exactly what will work for your family.

Many of the resources on this page are for children in grades 3 and up. If you have younger kiddos don’t be afraid to use what you can, but you may have a little less luck finding what you are looking for.

In which case, jump straight to my collection of favorite picture books…

Picture Books

This great children’s book explores some of the most frequently asked questions about the time and events of the Plimoth Thanksgiving from both the Wampanoag people’s and the English settler’s perspectives. It is geared towards 1st through fifth graders.

Take part in a traditional Thanksgiving address that is still spoken at some events for the Iroquois people. This book will help you to understand what Thanksgiving looks like to some Native peoples.

While this book does not address Thanksgiving, due to the significance of food during this time, it is still an excellent read. Follow a family who tells of the importance of special food. It doesn’t just mean food, it means many other things. This is a similar view to the American celebration of Thanksgiving.


An upper elementary read that illustrates a more accurate telling of 1621 and the first Thanksgiving. Although it is a quick read, it is great to have on hand for repeated readings and examining.

Take a full-year journey through Cherokee celebrations and gratefulness practices. This book is written by a member of the Cherokee Nation. A great way to explore how others show gratitude, whether Thanksgiving or not.

If you are looking for your own exploration of books about and written by Native peoples, hop over to the Social Justice Books: A Teaching for Change website. Each list of books is organized by age and reading type. You can see suggested books from board books for little learners through adult reads.

If you have an upper elementary reader or older, I highly suggest this list. I have read several books on the middle school and high school lists and I definitely recommend them.

This website is not a Thanksgiving website, but it is geared toward Native voices and stories, including those about Thanksgiving. Keep this list saved for future reference.

As you take time to celebrate the Thanksgiving season with your own holiday traditions, take the time to learn about and teach your child(ren) about the true Thanksgiving story and those who truly took part in it.

Let me know what these resources helped you learn this Thanksgiving season.

If you have further questions or are interested in learning more about how 1-1 tutoring can help your K-5 child specifically, click here to sign up for a free phone consultation.

If you’re looking for fun and engaging ways to help your child practice skills at home, download my FREE guide. It will show you how to take homework and learning time from boring worksheets at the kitchen table, to fun, active, and engaging learning.

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