DPSCD celebrates our Indigenous community members by designating the month of November as Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Month. What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the peoples of this land made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose. While some refer to this month as Native American Heritage Month, in DPSCD, we strive to honor those native to this land prior to it being named America and look to elevate their identity as defined and named by them--the Indigenous Peoples of our land.
We take the opportunity to recognize our Indigenous roots and celebrate our Indigenous community members for their incredibly resilient and powerful spirit. Congresswoman Deb Haaland was elected as one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress. Below is an excerpt from her blog about honoring her ancestors:
"Every day we should stop to think about our country’s beginning and that the United States would not exist if not for a great deal of sacrifice, blood, and tears by Indigenous Tribes across the country."
Many students learn the phrase, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue", but Columbus was not the first foreign explorer to land in the Americas. Neither he nor those that came before him discovered America—because Indigenous Peoples have populated the Western Hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. There are always two sides of a story, and we to truly embrace our collective heritage, we must teach and elevate all sides of history and not just the dominant narrative. Unfortunately, when it comes to the history of our Indigenous ancestors, many details are excluded. We see this not only in the story of Columbus' conquest of the Taino people, but also in the story of Thanksgiving--a story that generations of Americans, in both homes and schools, have only heard as one-sided.
The dominant cultural and historical Thanksgiving story has been told from the perspective of the white colonialists who landed near Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620. In this version of the Thanksgiving story, the holiday commemorates the peaceful, friendly meeting of English settlers and the Wampanoag tribe for three days of feasting and thanksgiving in 1621. School activities that only support this narrative and encourage students to create and mimic sacred, spiritual traditions of the Indigenous Peoples, such as headdresses, make it hard for students to recognize the diversity of Indigenous tribes, learn about the massacres of tribes like the Pequot that took place in the years that followed, or understand that English settlers robbed Wampanoag graves and and stole food from them in order to survive during their first years on this new continent.
During Indigenous Peoples' Month in DPSCD, we look to ensure that the dominant narrative is countered with a focus on the experiences of the Native or Indigenous Peoples of this land. In collaboration with the Office of Social Studies, we offer these lessons plans as a way to support the perspectives and stories of the Indigenous Peoples as we work as an Anti-Racist district to decenter the dominant narrative.