Call me insensitive. But I don’t care if a first grade Thanksgiving pageant fails to represent the full spectrum of indigenous cultures. At a Skokie, Illinois elementary school, Indian and Pilgrim costumes were banned from the Thanksgiving celebration because of one parent’s complaint. The Chicago Tribune reports:
After a parent complained that the costumes the children had made might be offensive, the principal told the kids to leave their construction-paper headdresses on the classroom shelves.
Those who had opted to be pilgrims fared no better. Their paper black hats and bonnets also were banned, and for the first time in more than two decades, the 1st graders at Madison School commemorated the events of October 1621 in their school clothes.
Principal Pete Davis consulted the American Indian Center, which has become a consultant for schools on how to celebrate Thanksgiving. Center officials say dressing up promotes stereotyping.
“The things schools are doing is they are representing Native Americans as one group of people, not a diverse community,” (David) Spencer said. “It’s incredible how many Chicago public school teachers don’t know anything about indigenous culture.”
Instead of the re-enacting the first Thanksgiving in costume, Madison School’s first graders listened to Leonard Malatare talk about Lakota Sioux culture. Which has nothing to do with the Wampanoags — part of the Eastern Algonquin confederation — who celebrated the first Thanksgiving.
Malatare taught the pupils a few words in the Oglala Lakota language and led them in a traditional blessing.
And no parent was offended by the blessing?
Captain Yips found links suggesting that Massasoit’s tribe — the ones who actually participated in the original Thanksgiving feast — did wear feathers. In fact, they wore droopy feathers, which heightens the resemblance to the typical first-grader-designed head dress.
My first dramatic role came as Goodwife Bradford in the fourth grade Thanksgiving pageant at Ravinia School. I still remember my line. “The common house needs cleaning.” Every girl got a line — mostly filling in feast back story — while we cleaned. Then the boys took over for the denoument.