Last year when I started teaching my kids about the Wampanoag (the Native tribe the Pilgrims met in 1619), I didn’t think the lessons would stick. I had to look up how to pronounce “Wampanoag” multiple times before I had mastered it enough to teach them. Could I really expect them to remember?
They surpassed my expectations. My (then) four-year-old was fascinated with the Wampanoag, and has not once mispronounced or forgotten their name. In fact, she’s continued to watch this video throughout the entire year.
We are now on year two of incorporating honoring Wampanoag culture into our November rhythms, and I’m excited to keep building on the kids’ knowledge and enthusiasm. It fills my heart with joy to see how easily they appreciate other cultures. Childhood truly is a time when kids are receptive to seeing the beauty in God’s diverse people. It’s an opportune time to show them how to be Kingdom bringers in the way we relate to Native culture.
Many (most?) of us don’t routinely interact with Native American cultures. But that doesn’t mean we can’t honor them in ways that glorify their Creator, especially at Thanksgiving. As I’ve continued to research the Wampanoag people, past and present, I’ve brainstormed a few ways to help my family be actively involved in honoring their culture. The historic Thanksgiving reminds us of the painful Native bloodshed in America’s early history, but it doesn’t mean that tragedy has the final word. The Kingdom of God calls us to be healers and reconcilers. I want my family to be part of that: recognizing the dignity of all humanity and actively seeking to repair what has been broken.
Thanksgiving reminds us not to forget Native cultures but to actively remember and uplift. Here are some ideas for that. Do you want to join us?
- Education. Sometimes awareness and education get a bad rap for being excuses not to “do” anything. But I don’t think this is the case. Knowing history informs our present. There’s not a ton of kid-friendly resources on the Wampanoag, but this video, this book and this book, and this website are great places to start.
- Financially support the Mashpee Wampanoag Museum. The Plymouth-Patuxet Museum in Massachusetts draws approximately 1.5 million visitors annually. But the Wampanoag museum just south of it? Only about 800. That’s a hard statistic to swallow; the tribe is working hard to preserve their language, culture, and traditions. While I would love to road trip over to Massachusetts to tour the museum this week, that’s just not feasible! Instead, we’re going to make a donation with the money we would have spent on admission. It’s just one idea to help make the concept of financial support less abstract for the kids.
- Pay attention to your kids’ observations. I’ve been humbled as I’ve watched my daughter marvel at the beauty she sees in traditional Native dress, dance, and architecture. She picks out things that my brain, with its preconceptions and predispositions, doesn’t. Learning along with our kids gives us a chance to see other cultures freshly and humbly- and a better picture of their Imago Dei. Beauty is far bigger than how one single culture defines it.
- Read the New Testament in the First Nations Translation. This newly released work is currently backordered everywhere (what isn’t?) but is expected to ship sometime in the next month or two. Published by Intervarsity Press and led by a translator of the Ojibwe and Yaqui tribes, “The First Nations Version (FNV) recounts the Creator’s Story—the Christian Scriptures—following the tradition of Native storytellers’ oral cultures. This way of speaking, with its simple yet profound beauty and rich cultural idioms, still resonates in the hearts of First Nations people” (source here). Within the text, the name of Jesus is translated “Creator Sets Free.” Could that be any more beautiful?! I cannot wait to experience the Jesus story through these words.
- Engage in Creation Care. Here’s an area where I fall woefully short. Native voices truly lead the way in showing us how to protect God’s creation and calling us to care about the issue. Some start-small ideas for doing this with kids are:
-Go on a garbage-pick-up-walk around your neighborhood
-Run around the house and turn off any lights/electronics not being used (make it a contest!)
-Teach kids how to recycle well (like clean and dry plastics instead of dirty containers)
-Practice turning the water off quickly after/between use
I’m sure Pinterest is full of even more ideas, should your heart lead you there!
6. You can check out last year’s blog post for even more ideas!
That’s where I’m going to end my list for this year. What is one idea that you could help your kids incorporate into Thanksgiving? No step is too small, even watching an 8 minute video. It’s largely thanks to that video that our family is still engaged in learning about the Wampanoag today.
Happiest of Thanksgivings, friends!