Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thinking of the approaching holiday and my teacher friends

For an Indian, who is also a school teacher, Thanksgiving was never an easy holiday for me to deal with in class. I sometimes have felt like I learned too much about "the Pilgrims and the Indians." Every year I have been faced with the professional and moral dilemma of just how to be honest and informative with my children at Thanksgiving without passing on historical distortions, and racial and cultural stereotypes.

The problem is that part of what you and I learned in our own childhood about the "Pilgrims" and "Squanto" and the "First Thanksgiving" is a mixture of both history and myth. But the THEME of Thanksgiving has truth and integrity far above and beyond what we and our forebearers have made of it. Thanksgiving is a bigger concept than just the story of the founding of the Plymouth Plantation.

So what do we teach to our children? We usually pass on unquestioned what we all received in our own childhood classrooms. I have come to know both the truths and the myths about our "First Thanksgiving," and I feel we need try to reach beyond the myths to some degree of historic truth. This text is an attempt to do this.
Teaching About Thanksgiving (2nd Edition) is a teaching manual originally written and developed by Cathy Ross, Mary Robertson, Chuck Larsen, and Roger Fernandes - Indian Education, Highline School District, WA. Introduction (in part quoted above) by: Chuck Larsen, Tacoma School District. Originating at The Center for World Indigenous Studies in Olympia, WA.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

At the White House

Rather than write my own version, I am posting a link here of what Alec wrote about our trip this week to the other Washington. Here is his: At the White House.

A huge thank you to Liz Latham, the Seattle based filmmaker and wonderful friend who made this happen. Liz has been working on a documentary about the murder of James Byrd, Jr. called Remember His Name since his murder. Filming the signing of this bill was the dream footage she was hoping for.

And a big thank you to Elizabeth Becton, Washington State Congressman Jim McDermott's Executive Assistant/Office Manager who helped Liz Latham get Alec and I cleared to go to the White House for the reception following the signing of The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

It was wonderful to see Matthew Shepard's mom, Judy Shepard again, and to meet Dennis and Logan Shepard.

I loved having time to hang out again with Cathy Renna who I first met in Cortez, CO when I was there with Carolyn Wagner after the murder of FC Martinez. (Renna Communications).

I so wish Carolyn could have been there with us, but she was physically unable to make the trip from Tulsa.

Before we got there I promised her I would be carrying her with me, and I did.

We were finally able meet in person with Elke Kennedy and her husband Jim, parents of Sean Kennedy who are working so hard with Sean's Last Wish to bring change with hate crime legislation to thier home state South Carolina.

We saw other friends and allies there too. Marsha Botzer, Safe Schools Coalition's Co-Chair; Jody Huckaby, PFLAG's Executive Director; and so many others -- please forgive me if I don't list you here.

As Alec mentions, there is more on our trip to D.C. including photos on the Safe Schools Coalition site in Beth Reis' essay, October 28, 2009: Exciting day for human rights -- President Obama signed The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law today.

There are a few other photos on our Flickr account here:

It was a fantastic whirlwind trip and an honor to be there at The White House on such a historic day. And now its good to be home and back to work.