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6 Books to Share with Your Young Ones Exploring the Meaning of Thanksgiving from Native Perspectives

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it's never too early to reflect on the true history of this holiday, its origins, and Indigenous practices and ways of giving thanks. We share some resources from Native authors available to help navigate through the abundance of information out there. These children's books shed light on the true history of Thanksgiving. It is important to seek out the truth and hear stories told by Indigenous people, start with the following book recommendations!



Colonization and the Wampanoag Story

By Linda Combs (Aquinnah Wampanoag)

When contemplating the origins of the American narrative, the familiar images of three ships in 1492 or Pilgrims disembarking from the Mayflower might come to mind—a narrative of new beginnings. However, the reality is far more complex. Christopher Columbus, the Pilgrims, and the Colonists did not encounter an untouched and vast land. Instead, they arrived to discover thriving communities that had lived in harmony with their surroundings for millennia, only to disrupt and alter everything they encountered.

From the so-called "discovery" by Europeans to the iconic first Thanksgiving, the narrative of America's early days has been carefully reshaped. This book offers a perspective shift, narrating the untold story from the viewpoint of the New England Indigenous Nations that these newcomers encountered. It unveils the true origins of America as we recognize it today—a story rooted in the rich history of the Indigenous peoples who had long inhabited the land.

Keepunumuk- Weeâchumuns Thanksgiving

By Danielle Greendeer (Mashpee Wampanoag), Anthony Perry (Chickasaw) and Alexis Bunten (Alaska Native). Illustrated by Garry Meeches, Sr. (Anishinaabe)

Enjoy the rich tradition of Native storytelling with "Weeâchumun's Legacy," an authentic Wampanoag tale. Join Maple and Quill as they discover the true story of Weeâchumun (corn) and unravel the events of the first "Thanksgiving," narrated by their wise grandmother.

Crafted by a collaborative team of authors including Danielle Greendeer (Mashpee Wampanoag), Anthony Perry (Chickasaw), and Alexis Bunten (Alaska Native), this narrative comes to life through the evocative illustrations of Garry Meeches, Sr. (Anishinaabe). Immerse yourself in the cultural richness of this Native tradition, where the vibrant voices of the authors and the captivating artistry of the illustrations converge to create a compelling storytelling experience.

Strawberry Thanksgiving

By Paulla Dove Jennings (Narragansett Niantic). Illustrated by Ramona Peters (Mashpee Wampanoag)

"Strawberry Thanksgiving,"  is a book that describes an Eastern Indigenous tradition and the profound significance of the strawberry. Within Indigenous culture, strawberries are revered as a symbol of love, serving as a reminder to cherish those in your life and release lingering grudges. This narrative beautifully emphasizes the transformative power of love, showcasing how the strawberry stands as a powerful symbol, capable of overshadowing sadness and anger with its message of love and compassion.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

By Traci Sorell (Cherokee)

Embark on a cultural journey with "Otsaliheliga" (pronounced oh-jah-LEE-hay-le-gah), a term cherished by the Cherokee Nation to convey gratitude. This enchanting book guides readers through a complete Cherokee year, starting with the fall new year and concluding with summer, immersing them in a tapestry of celebrations and experiences. To enrich the understanding of Cherokee culture, the book is complemented by a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, an ingenious creation by Sequoyah. "Otsaliheliga" is a celebration of gratitude and cultural exploration that goes beyond the seasons, offering a deeper appreciation of Cherokee traditions.

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message 

By Chief Jake Swamp (Mohawk)  Illustrator: Erwin Printup Jr. (Cayuga/Tuscarora)

Step into the world of gratitude with "Giving Thanks," a children's adaptation of Thanksgiving. This message of appreciation originated with the Native People of upstate New York and Canada and continues to resonate at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, also known as the Six Nations. Immerse young readers in the beauty of this cultural expression of thankfulness, offering a meaningful and enriching exploration of the timeless tradition of giving thanks.

Turtle Island: the Story of North America's First People

By Eldon Yellowhorn  (Piikani Nation) and Kathy Lowinger

"Turtle Island" provides a unique perspective on Native history. Unlike most narratives that commence with the arrival of Europeans in 1492, this book delves back to the Ice Age, offering young readers a glimpse into pre-contact life. The title, "Turtle Island," alludes to a Native myth describing the formation of North and Central America on the back of a turtle. Backed by archaeological findings and scientific research, the authors provide a comprehensive understanding of Indigenous life.

Venturing as far back as 14,000 years ago, the book invites readers to imagine moments in time, exploring various topics such as the evolution of fauna, dietary practices, artistic expressions, and adaptation to the environment. The narrative extends to modern times, addressing the complex and nuanced story of Native Peoples, blending tragedy and hope.


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