Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen – Chapter 3 (The Truth About the First Thanksgiving) and Chapter 4 (Red Eyes)
Since I enjoyed reading the first two chapter’s of Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, I decided to continue reading this book for this week’s content area reading assignment.
The first chapter I read was about the first Thanksgiving. Loewen discusses the major misconceptions related to this event, which is almost always covered in elementary school projects. One of the biggest alternative conceptions students have about the Pilgrims is that they were the first settlers of America; the Pilgrims weren’t even the first Europeans to settle in America (Spaniards had attempted settlement in the 1500s, and the first permanent British settlement was Jamestown in 1607), let alone the Indian inhabitants who had been living there for hundreds of years. The Pilgrims didn’t create the tradition of a feast at Thanksgiving, as so often is portrayed – in fact, “Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries” (Loewen, p. 87). It was the Indians who taught the Pilgrims – about growing crops, using the land, etc. – not the other way around.
The second chapter revolved around how American Indians are poorly represented in textbooks – the pictures of these people are painted through a white perspective. This leaves students of American Indian descent feeling mistreated and even disenfranchised. Loewen quotes Rupert Costo who says, “There is not one Indian in the whole of this country who does not cringe in anguish and frustration because of these textbooks. There is not one Indian child who has not come home in shame and tears” (p.90). In history Indians have been distinctly separated from “civilization”, implying that until white settlers arrived, they knew nothing. A few textbooks have gotten somewhat better in terms of acknowledging and (somewhat) accurately representing Native American history, as society has become more aware of discrimination over the course of the twentieth century, but there is still a long way to go in order to paint a full picture. Loewen argues that students must learn Indian history “not to wallow in our wrongdoing, but to understand and to learn, that we might not wreak harm again” (p.128).
3 Things I learned that I don’t want to forget:
- 1. Who Squanto was – was (allegedly) taken to England as a boy and taught English; sold into slavery in Spain; found way back to North America, only member of village still alive; taught Pilgrims how to use the land, tried to teach them to bathe
- 2. Not everyone on the Mayflower was a Pilgrim – the “others” on the ship were sailing to the new world to find gold.
- 3. In 1778, Delaware Indians asked to Congress to admit Indians into the Union as a separate state. Congress rejected the proposal.
2 Controversial ideas:
- 1. Using textbooks that do not accurately address American Indian history with students that are of that heritage.
- 2. Settlers claiming that God was working in their favor by delivering plagues to the Indians – religious justification of taking the land
- 1. Throughout history, have any American Indians sued textbook companies for misrepresenting the history of their people? Can textbook companies get in any legal trouble for doing so?