A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving for Educators and Families

Photo: Mary Jane Topash/Burke Museum
Photo: Mary Jane Topash/Burke Museum
November 22, 2019 | Mary Jane Topash

This November, the Burke Museum celebrates and honors Native American history month and Native American Heritage Day (November 29). As the State Museum of Natural History and Culture, we support Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee's proclamation recognizing these events.

The museum values and celebrates native and indigenous peoples and cultures. We stand against efforts to diminish or overlook the national tradition of celebrating Native American history in November, and view them as present-day examples of the continual erasure of Native history.

Recommended Reading

The Burke's Education team recommends the Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving for Educators and Families compiled by the Center for Racial Justice for Education, based out of New York City. Formerly known as Borders Crossers, they focused on working directly with students to develop understandings that would dismantle racism.

In 2010, they changed their name to Center for Racial Justice in Education and shifted their focus into training educators and providing resources and information for the classroom, community, and in the home. This is intended to help confront the impact of racism in students’ daily lives and provides training for educators. 

Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving

lummi dance group on stage in regalia
Photo: Mary Jane Topash/Burke Museum
Photo: Mary Jane Topash/Burke Museum

Inside the Guide

This is an extensive resource guide that includes interviews, articles, lists, and book lists for talking points about social justice and systemic racism. 

The guide features: 

  • Teaching approaches
  • Lesson plans / study guides
  • Native American perspectives, contributions and celebrations
  • Historical Resources 
  • Resource for families 
  • Book lists

We encourage you to click through and look at different points of view. It touches on imagery that contributes to false narratives, activities for in-class learning, Native perspectives, and videos. 

Whether you are teaching in a classroom, having a conversation with your children and family, or want to further your own personal knowledge, this guide can help navigate these sensitive topics. The intention is not guilt about the celebration of Thanksgiving, but to help navigate perspectives and historical truths. Our hope is to provide a culturally-responsive way to approach the holiday while considering Native perspectives. 

Additional Resources: View more Native American Heritage Month teaching resources and tips for teaching about Native peoples from the Burke Education team.

Mary Jane Topash (Tulalip) is the Assistant Director of Cultural Education Initiatives at the Burke Museum.