O’siyo. The hoilday season is here and now is the time to highlight a great Native book for children that discusses the true meaning of the “first Thanksgiving”. The People Shall Continue, by author Simon Ortiz, a member of the Acquemeh (Acoma) Pueblo is just the book. Ortiz’s wonderful story begins with, “the moment that all things came to be, when the People were born.”
Excerpt: Beyond the So-Called First Thanksgiving…By Debbie Reese, ICTMN
“…Your local bookstore probably has a special shelf this month filled with books about “The First Thanksgiving.” In most of them, Native peoples are stereotyped, and “Indian” instead of “Wampanoag” is used to identify the indigenous people. When the man known as Squanto is part of the stories, his value to the Pilgrims is that he can speak English, and he teaches them how to plant and hunt. The fact that he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Spain—if mentioned at all—is not addressed in the story because elaborating on it would up-end the feel-good story.
There are a multitude of works by Native writers who tell stories from their experience and history. While Thanksgiving is a good time to grab people’s attention about Wampanoag-European interactions, it does not need to frame the story. These books give a far more nuanced, and accurate, account of Indigenous Peoples. They will set children and adults alike straight on what really happened around the time of the so-called First Thanksgiving, and what Native life is like today.
The People Shall Continue, by Simon Ortiz (Children’s Book Press, 1977) The starting point for this picture-book poem, illustrated by Sharol Graves, is not 1492, nor is it 1621. The story begins the moment that “all things came to be,” when “the People were born.” This provides an immediate departure from the typical re-telling of creation stories by non-Native writers, who tend to cast our stories in a romantic and mystical realm.
Right off the bat, Ortiz tells us that the People differ in how they came to be:
[ What their special jobs were]:
As the poem progresses, the People start talking about strangers who seek treasure, slaves and land. Across the continent, the People fight to protect themselves:
In the West, Pope called warriors from the Pueblo and Apache Nations.
In the East, Tecumseh gathered the Shawnee and the Nations of the Great Lakes, the Appalachians, and the Ohio Valley to fight for their people.” Read more…
Kudos to Simon Ortiz for his wonderful stories and inspiration! To parents, teachers, and others, who continue to teach children the important values in life.
“We must ensure that life continues.
We must be responsible to that life.
With that humanity and the strength
Which comes from our shared responsibility
For this life, the People shall continue.”
~ Simon Ortiz~from his book, The People Shall Continue.
For Younger Children:
Naturally, Simon Ortiz’s story is for older children. We want to begin teaching the younger ones things they should be “thankful” for (e.g., mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, teachers, friends, good food, etc.). Here are some fun ideas for preschool, kindergarten and elementary learners from the Enchanted Learning website. The materials for these projects can be found around the house, like egg cartons, cardboard, paper, boxes, string, crayons, etc. Click on the images to get instructions on how to make the projects.
Wishing Everyone A Day of Thankfulness!