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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 By

"Mom?" Emmie says. "Do you miss da Native Amer-cans?"

Man, it is too early in the morning for this stuff. I am standing in the bedroom with one leg in my tights and one leg out. I have no idea what kind of stories the Richmond County School System is telling, but I am certain that it is filled with the kind of inaccuracies and outdated information I have seen all year. For example, how many types of matter are there? Four! Not three, RCSS. Get your information updated, please!

"Uh, well, it's not like they've gone anywhere, Em. What are you trying to ask me, sweetie?"

"Well, ders da people, dat are da Native Amer-cans, whut my teacher say Indians, but you say Native Amer-cans so dass whut I say, too. And dey're missing! We godda fine dem!"

What? What the heck is she learning?

"Honey, I think we know where they are," I say, and then mutter to myself: "because we marched them there."

"We do?!"


"Wull, we godda go get dem, because whut if we forget how to hunt?" she asks, brows furrowed in concern.

"Are you worried about that?" I ask, confused. I mean, I hunt my food at the grocery store - except for eggs - so I really don't know what would happen if we forgot how to hunt. I guess I'd learn quickly.

"Yeth! Whut if we forget to hunt, an' fish, and grow plants to eat?" she asks, palms out and worry framing her eyes. "We godda fine da Native Amer-cans, so dat don't happen!"

Ah. Now I get it. They're studying the first Thanksgiving.

"Okay. Well, first of all, Daddy knows how to hunt, and Mommy and Daddy know how to fish."

"Whut about da plants?" she asks.

"Well, okay, Daddy knows that better than I do," I concede. "But I think we'll be okay."

"But..." she interrupts.

"Sweetie, the people you think of as Native Americans? With the feathers?" I say, trying to access the images in her head. "They're just people, like you and me. Most of the time they wear jeans and T-shirts, like we do, and go to school, and have jobs, and live almost exactly like we do. Which may be a good thing, may not be. Because there are also beautiful differences, like their languages, and their music and stuff I don't even know about - like their fancy ceremony clothes, with feathers and animal hide, which they might choose to wear at special parties, just like they did when the Pilgrims first got here," I say.

"Yeth! An' dey help dem to not die! Because dey were cold and hungry, and dey were gonna all be dead! But da Native Amer-cans sabe der life!"

Sigh... yes, and no. I have a strong feeling that we're not doing our children any favors by relaying fairy tales. I don't need some dream of America to let me know what a great country we live in; I appreciate my freedoms every day. And being married to someone with a degree in history makes it difficult, to say the least, to allow these stories to pass without comment. But how to keep it appropriate for a kindergartner, and yet not undermine her teacher's authority?

I don't have a frickin' clue.

"Yes, some of the native Americans taught the settlers some very important lessons to help them survive in a new place with different animals to catch and plants to eat. But the Native Americans aren't missing, and they aren't dead. They're alive, and they live in this country, too. And it's important that we think of them as real people, with real lives and real feelings. And to remember that the story you're learning happened a long, long time ago. The people in the story have all grown and changed over the last two hundred years," I say.

"So, dey're not missing?"


"Good!" she sighed. "I was worried about dem. Der fambilies would be sad."

Oh. She was worried about their families. Maybe the lecture wasn't necessary after all. Do I take things too seriously sometimes? That's a big 10-4.


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