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Celebrating Native American Heritage Month with Farm to School

NFSN Staff Saturday, November 30, 2019
"To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life. Mother Earth, we thank you for giving us everything we need."  - Chief Jake Swamp, Giving Thanks


November is Native American Heritage Month, and the National Farm to School Network is celebrating innovative farm to school initiatives taking root in Native communities from coast to coast. From incorporating traditional foods like blue corn and buffalo into school meals, to learning about traditional plants and growing methods, farm to school in Native communities can be an approach for building food sovereignty and reinvigorating traditional foodways. In a show of support for Native communities and the reality of the Thanksgiving holiday, additional educational resources are also shared below in the comments.

1. Blog Series: Native Farm to School Champion Stories
To celebrate and recognize farm to school activities happening across Indian Country, National Farm to School Network has partnered with the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) to share a series of blogs profiling Native Farm to School Champions. These stories were organized and collected by IAC's Regional Technical Assistance Specialists, and top programs will be recognized for the farm to school leadership at the 2019 IAC Annual Meeting in December. IAC is NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year. Explore the Native Farm to School Champion profiles here
 
2. Blog: Reflections from the Road: Conference on Native American Nutrition
Mackenize Martinez, IAC Partnership Communications Intern, shares her reflections on attending and presenting about farm to school at the Fourth Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition this past September. Read more here

3. Blog: Food Sovereignty, Youth Empowerment & Farm to School
This blog is dedicated to celebrating November as Native American Heritage Month. In April 2019, at National Farm to School Network’s Annual Meeting in Tampa, FL, individuals from various tribal nations around the country participated in a panel discussion. The conversation below highlights thoughts shared on farm to school in Native communities, food sovereignty, and youth leadership. Panel participants representing NFSN's 2019 National Partner of the Year, Intertribal Agriculture Council, include Keir Johnson-Reyes, Shelbi Fitzpatrick, and Megan Forcia. The panel was moderated by Alena Paisano, NFSN Program Manager. A video of the full session is available here

4. Resource: Illuminative Narrative Change Insights and Action Guide
This Insights and Action Guide provide distilled takeaways from the breakthrough research. Here you learn what narrative change is and how to deploy it with your messages. Breakthrough research is made accessible in this simple guide. Implement these user-friendly action tips to make a change in your community, organization, or company. Stand with Native peoples – amplify a new story and change the future! (Illuminative)

5. Article: Native American Heritage Month: Indigenous People Will Not be Erased
Despite this latest slight to Indian Country by the Trump Administration, Native and Indigenous movements for justice and visibility are mobilizing in unprecedented ways. Some may call the celebration of Native American Heritage Month merely a symbolic gesture, but symbols and the movements behind them matter. Read the powerful message voiced by co-authors Crystal Echo-Hawk and Nick Tilsen. (NDN Collective)

6. Article: What Does Thanksgiving Mean to Native Americans?
There are always two sides of a story. Unfortunately, when it comes to the history of Thanksgiving, generations of Americans have been taught a one-sided history in homes and schools. (Native Hope

7. Resource: American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving
Each November educators across the country teach their students about the First Thanksgiving, a quintessentially American holiday. They try to give students an accurate picture of what happened in Plymouth in 1621 and explain how that event fits into American history. Unfortunately, many teaching materials give an incomplete, if not inaccurate, portrayal of the first Thanksgiving, particularly of the event’s Native American participants. This poster incorporates some fundamental concepts about Native cultures, which have too often been obscured by stereotypes and misconceptions. (National Museum of the American Indian)

8. Article: 3 Ways to Expand Native American Curriculum Beyond Thanksgiving Myths
Generalizations tied to the holiday don't paint the whole picture of the numerous cultures that were spread across the Americas. Children's and young adult author Cynthia Leitich Smith sees room for educators to push beyond their lessons a bit when it comes to teaching these topics, suggesting curriculum can be integrated throughout the school year — and across any discipline — with just a bit more sleuthing on the part of teachers and students alike. (Education Drive)

9. Article: Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way
School Thanksgiving activities often mean dressing children in “Indian” headdresses and paper feathers or asking students to draw themselves as Native Americans from the past, complete with feather-adorned headbands and buckskin clothing. These activities might seem friendly and fun, unless you are aware of how damaging this imagery is to perceptions of contemporary Native peoples. This imagery contributes to the indoctrination of American youth into a false narrative that relegates Indigenous peoples to the past and turns real human beings into costumes for a few days a year. It’s not just bad pedagogy; it’s socially irresponsible. Teaching about Thanksgiving in a socially responsible way means that educators accept the ethical obligation to provide students with accurate information and to reject traditions that sustain harmful stereotypes about Indigenous peoples. Thankfully, there are excellent online resources that can help educators interested in disrupting the hegemonic Thanksgiving story. (Teaching Tolerance)

10. Resource: A Story of Survival: The Wampanoag and the English
This Thanksgiving Lesson plan booklet has emerged as a need expressed by our teachers to have something meaningful, tangible and easy to follow in their classrooms. The booklet also emerged because many parents were frustrated with their Native child coming home with make-shift feathers and inaccurate stories of Thanksgiving. This booklet provides a number of useful tools including quick facts for teachers to read to learn about the English and the Indigenous people of this land,  a list of “what not to do” in order to not offend or provide harmful and inaccurate images to ALL children, and lessons that are grade appropriate with photos to follow. (Oklahoma City Public Schools Native American Student Services)

11. Article: ‘I Was Teaching a Lot of Misconceptions.’ The Way American Kids Are Learning About the 'First Thanksgiving' Is Changing
On a recent Saturday morning in Washington, D.C., about two dozen secondary and elementary school teachers experienced a role reversal. This time, it was their turn to take a quiz: answer “true” or “false” for 14 statements about the famous meal known as the “First Thanksgiving.” (TIME)

Explore more resources for farm to school in Native communities on our website.

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