We at the Network are always excited when we hear of or see instances of inclusive community building. In that vein, we would like to share with our broader community the kindergarten Thanksgiving celebration at Lynch School, which was recently brought to our attention by Lynch parents who are volunteers on our Schools & Youth Committee.

The Kindergarten Thanksgiving Celebration at Lynch

On Wednesday, November 21, over 80 Lynch kindergartners, along with their families, gathered to sing songs and make crafts to honor the traditions of Thanksgiving. This year, however, staff were very mindful of how Native Americans were depicted and indigenous symbolism was used. The activities included book-making, creating turkey headbands, and drawing and learning about Native American symbols.

For years, elementary-aged children across America typically celebrated Thanksgiving donning a black capotain or feather head-dress and pretending to be a Pilgrim or Native person engaging in goodwill. However, we have come to learn that the goodwill between the new settlers and indigenous Wampanoag was not as feel-good as most history books have lead us to believe. In fact, it wasn’t feel-good at all. Women and children weren’t present at the fabled first Thanksgiving, and while harvest celebrations were (and still are) traditions honored by Native people, historians studying the era have come to understand that the meal between Wampanoag and Pilgrim leaders was more business or diplomacy-related than celebratory in nature.

Moreover, the Wampanoag believe that feathers are a sacred symbol honoring a person’s personal achievement or accomplishment, given as a sign of respect and honor. To misappropriate the feather in the way that many school-based Thanksgiving programs have erodes and demeans what the feather continues to stand for in indigenous communities. Therefore, this year, Lynch kindergarten students did not dress in costumes; they focused their efforts on making crafts that honored the holiday without unintentionally misrepresenting or appropriating revered cultural traditions.

We applaud the efforts by Lynch staff and administrators to examine their traditional practices through a new lens and make changes that honor the spirit of the holiday without sugar-coating the history behind it. As Lynch Principal John Dupuis said, “Modeling life-long learning ourselves, as educators, it is very important for us to listen, collaborate and make needed adjustments for the betterment of Lynch.”

The VISIONS, Inc. model of promoting multiculturalism and social justice, which is foundational for the work of the Network, stresses the importance of expressing appreciations and highlighting what we call “multicultural victories.” We would welcome hearing from you about any changes adopted by your family, school, or organization that enhance inclusion and advance equity, so that we can continue to share this information with a broader audience.