No thanks to Pilgrims

Thanksgiving was no picnic for the Indians, some teachers stress.

Teacher Bill Morgan walks into his third-grade class wearing a black Pilgrim hat made of construction paper and begins snatching up pencils, backpacks and glue sticks from his pupils. He tells them the items now belong to him because he “discovered” them. The reaction is exactly what Morgan expects: The kids get angry and want their things back.

Morgan is among elementary school teachers who have ditched the traditional Thanksgiving lesson, in which children dress up like Indians and Pilgrims and act out a romanticized version of their first meetings.

He has replaced it with a more realistic look at the complex relationship between Indians and white settlers.

Where does he teach? San Francisco.

At other schools, children aren’t allowed to dress up like Indians any more, or told they can wear a headband but not a feather.

About Joanne


  1. Is that part of the “San Francisco Values”? Hey guess what kids, there is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy either.

    I don’t understand why kids can’t dress up anymore. Why is it ok to dress up as Jason from Friday the 13th but not as an Indian? Forget the Native Americans, if Jason gets offended, you’re really in trouble. The YMCA group my daughter and I participate in used to be called “Indian Princess” and now is called “Adventure Princess” due to pressure from Native American groups. I think that sucks. The group was always very respectful of the Indian culture. There was an opportunity there to learn and experience a little of what it was to be an Native American. What it’s like to wear those kind of clothes, what do the feathers and beads represent? Now the kids will learn next to nothing, except that the Indians got screwed I guess.

  2. Exaggerated negative views instead of exaggerated positive views. Such an improvement.

    I just want to hear whether San Francisco teaches about different native American tribes being constantly at war, killing each other and taking slaves. Or is it the “new happy savage” mythos all over again?

  3. wayne martin says:

    This article has been posted in a number of blogs. A couple of people seemed to think that this guy was teaching his students to hate their country instead of teaching them anything about Thanksgiving, or the English Colonization. Certainly the truth about the eventual clash of cultures between the native Americans and the English needs to be addressed, but should it be in elementary school, and in a way such as this guy has introduced into his classroom?

    A quick WEB-search kicks out some interesting facts about this guy Morgan that the articles doesn’t mention — he’s a rabid labor/union advocate, and has written teaching materials that introduce the idea of labor unions to young minds at the elementary level:

    Chiu and Morgan are two of the hundreds of
    teachers nationwide helping children understand
    the importance of America’s union movement
    by integrating lessons about workers into their classrooms.

    Bill Morgan – UESF Labor In The Schools Program

    Labor in the Schools Committee
    THE PURPOSE OF LaborTech is to bring together
    labor video, computer and media activists in the US
    and from around the world to build and develop labor
    communication technology and media. The first
    conference was held in 1990 and they have been
    held throughout the United States as well as
    Canada and Russia. Labor Media conferences
    are also held in Seoul. We believe that a critical
    task for labor is building a labor communication
    media movement that can tell our stories and
    break the corporate information blockade in
    every corner of the world.

    If anyone wonders why our kids aren’t learning history .. well here’s reason #693.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    The ultimate paternalism is the desire to keep indiginees in their culture. Imagine the change the horse, a European introduction, made in the culture of the plains Indians.

  5. I like Morgan but don’t like unions.

  6. Well, yeah, the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians is a myth.

    It’s a myth that makes American school children comfortable with a criminal history.

    Those who fight for ambition, to enslave other people, to get more power, to take land away from others, those are criminals.

    Jose Marti, Martin Luther King, Ben Linder, Cesar Chavez and those who opposed James Polk, those are heroes.

    I like Morgan’s lesson. I think I’ll I do something similar in my classroom next year.

    Too bad he’s a stupid-head when it comes to unions. Knee-jerk lefties are just as bad as knee-jerk right-wingers. Less dangerous but only when they’re unarmed.

  7. wayne martin says:

    > the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians is a myth.

    The following snippet is from the writings of Edward Winslow, one of the English colonists at the first Thanksgiving:

    Edward Winslow, in Mourt’s Relation:

    Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

    Not clear why anyone would call the tradition that Edward Winslow and his fellow Colonists started a myth.