How to Honor Native Americans at Thanksgiving and in Homeschool

Nomenclature Cards with Native Americans and a harvest ceremony Thanksgiving printable

“Of all the wise teachers who have come into my life, none are more eloquent than these [the Three Sisters – corn, beans, and squash], who wordlessly in leaf and vine embody the knowledge of relationship. Alone, a bean is just a vine, squash an oversize leaf. Only when standing together with corn does a whole emerge which transcends the individual. The gifts of each are more fully expressed when they are nurtured together than alone. In ripe ears and swelling fruit, they counsel us that all gifts are multiplied in relationship. This is how the world keeps going.”

– Robin Wall Kimmerer

It is Native American Heritage Month AND Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. As a result, we wanted to take some time to share some insights we’ve gained along our homeschool journey. More specifically, today I’m talking about how to honor Native Americans at Thanksgiving and throughout the year in your homeschool.

Included you will find resources from a variety of locations and in a variety of formats. Feel free to explore and consider what works best for your family. We hope it helps cultivate meaningful experiences in your homeschool around Thanksgiving and throughout the rest of your year.

How to Honor Native Americans at Thanksgiving and in Homeschool

Nomenclature Cards with Native Americans and a harvest ceremony Thanksgiving printable

Learn & Teach the Real History of Thanksgiving

The Native Knowledge 360 Education Initiative is part of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and it offers educational materials, programs, and professional development for teachers. It has been a very helpful, informative resource for us. As a result, you will notice several of the teaching and learning resources mentioned throughout this post, including the Rethinking Thanksgiving Celebrations and the Harvest Ceremony printable, are from Native Knowledge 360.

The Montessori Nomenclature Cards pictured above are part of the FREE Native American Printable Pack offered by Every Star is Different and available to subscribers in their freebie library.

The Thanksgiving Lesson

I delivered this lesson similarly to the Fourth Great Lesson and Fifth Great Lesson. I used the narrative in the Harvest Ceremony printable to guide us through the story. We paused to look at the Nomenclature cards as we explored different topics. Finally, we explored some of the discussion topics at the end of the guide.

Native American illustrated printable activities about chinook salmon and trees

Explore Indigenous Food/First Foods and Life Cycles

You may recognize some of the activities in the picture from our Fourth Great Lesson Chinook Salmon materials. We explored the Chinook Salmon life cycle, food web, and ecosystem using these beautiful printables. The illustrations were completed by Gitxsan and Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw, Squamish Nation artists.

The Native American Chefs’ Thanksgiving Recipes are also a great resource. We’ve followed a couple of them already. They have a nice mix of simple, easy-to-follow recipes along with more complex ones.

The First Foods Celebration is also local to us. Our kids were really interested in the list of foods served, including bear meatballs and elk heart.

books about Native American History and Native peoples of Oregon

Learn About Indigenous Peoples’ History

Take a class, read books, or watch a documentary. Be mindful of who is telling the story. During your studies, you may want to use a word cloud generator or jot down on paper some words or events that are unfamiliar. Also, write down topics you and your children would like to learn more about. This will help you identify where you’re headed next.

Foundations for Transforming Teaching and Learning about Native Americans is a FREE Smithsonian course that you can participate in from the comfort of your home. I would highly recommend checking it out. It really is a wonderful professional development opportunity. I have loved the Smithsonian ever since I first visited the National Museum of Natural History. If you’re like me, you will appreciate this webinar experience.

Native American and English language cards written in Chinuk Wawa and English

Learn About the Land and Native Peoples Where You Live

Once you find out more about where you live, consider creating a meaningful land acknowledgment for your homeschool. Also, reach out to the tribal community near you. Find out what resources are available. We’ve been in touch with several folks throughout our learning journey and everyone has been really kind and helpful. We’ve received articles, booklists, and event information to help guide us along.

Child reading a book by a Native American author while sitting on the floor

Include Indigenous Voices and Resources in Your Homeschool

I talk more about You Hold Me Up in our Montessori Indigenous Education Books. It’s a beautifully illustrated book with a very powerful message.

The Teaching Slavery podcast episode is on Teaching Hard History via Learning for Justice.  Dr. Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) gives guidance on selecting children’s books by or about Indigenous peoples.  This is a really great FREE resource for Thanksgiving and the fall season that you will also find helpful throughout the year.

Fry Bread book honoring Native American and a bowl of fry bread

Honor Native American Culture, History, and Contemporary Existence

Talk about Native Nations in the present tense. Also, nurture meaningful experiences through education instead of cultural appropriation (costumes, reenactments, etc.).

Gather is a film about the destruction of Native American foodways and Indigenous food sovereignty. If you’re a subscriber, you may already know that we were able to view the film as part of a FREE Screening hosted by Oregon State University Extension Master Gardener Program. Watching this documentary is a pretty powerful experience and I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Rachel of The Tattooed Momma and her family are registered Choctaw Native Americans. She has some really awesome DIY crafts for kids. I highly recommend watching the video that accompanies the Corn Husk Doll Tutorial.

The Smithsonian’s Beaded Corn Necklace Activity is another fun craft option and it also has a video to accompany the tutorial.

Montessori Math shelf for an early preschooler

Honor Native Americans Throughout the Year and Across Subjects

If you’re looking to learn more about how to honor Native Americans, this is an excellent way to do just that. No need to end the learning once Thanksgiving is over.

Our preschooler’s top shelf works include the How Many Bones? printable. It’s a free printable that is part of the curriculum for members of The Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde. In fact, it’s an activity to accompany The Salmon and the Eel: A Traditional Grande Ronde Story.

Is there a specific Native Nation or resource your kids would like to explore in more detail?

Conclusion for How to Honor Native Americans at Thanksgiving

We hope you find this information useful as you expand your understanding and plan your own unique homeschool activities. Also, for more information about a Montessori approach to holidays, I would check out Building an Equitable Holiday Approach: An Online Workshop for Promoting Inclusion. It’s an excellent course taught by Tammy Oesting and hosted by Trillium Montessori.

More Indigenous Education and Resources

Montessori Approach to Holidays

Thanks for stopping by!

– Kristin


Learn how to decolonize and honor Native Americans and Indigenous peoples at Thanksgiving, NAHM, and throughout the year as part of your homeschool curriculum.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. Amazon links are not affiliate links. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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