By Esmé Forbes, AmeriCorps Farm to School Coordinator
Visual depiction of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address (Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen) – Greetings to the Natural World by Erwin Printup, Jr. The illustration is from the book, Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp.
This year, Green Mountain Farm-to-School’s AmeriCorps members are aiming to dismantle Thanksgiving myths and preconceptions with students. These lessons seek to acknowledge the violent history of settler-colonialism and continued injustices Indigenous peoples face across the country. They aim to reject the “First Thanksgiving” myth and instead highlight Indigenous perspectives within this National Day of Mourning.
In one lesson, students read the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address (Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen) – Greetings to the Natural World and discussed what it means to give thanks to different living and non-living beings and entities.
Students became engrossed in one question in particular: how can you ask fish for permission to harvest and consume them? This led to conversations of Haudenosaunee foodways versus settler-colonial, neoliberal food systems. Through these conversations, students came to new understandings of sustainability and speciesism. One student related Haudenosaunee foodways and sustainability to his family’s fishing practices: he described how they only take the amount of fish needed to sustain their family and when they do encounter excess, they share it with their neighbors. Through these stories it became clear that 2nd and 3rd graders were both eager and willing to participate in anti-colonial discussions and foodways.
As a class, they then discussed food as a way of celebrating and building community. Students were asked to pull upon intergenerational recipes – recipes that ignite feelings of happiness and gratitude. One student was ecstatic to discuss a kale chip recipe passed on to him from his grandparents. A recipe that his family cooks every year to celebrate Thanksgiving. As students discussed their favorite recipes, they recorded visual depictions, ingredient lists, and personal stories all pertaining to the foods. They then created a class cookbook filled with pages from every student! Afterwards the cookbook found itself a cozy nook to call home in the classroom. Students will be able to look back at and flip through the cookbook as they please throughout the year.
For more information on ways to dismantle Thanksgiving myths with kids see: