Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pilgrims and Indians

True, this post is not really about Pilgrims. Growing up in an east coast town where the first European settlers arrived in 1630, and where my neighbor's ancestor came over on the Mayflower, we spent a lot of time on the Thanksgiving story, and the histories of the Pilgrims' descendants were present in the graveyards nearby.

The presence of the Indians, though, was muted. We didn't learn too much about their post-Revolutionary War history, probably because they were mostly eradicated from the Boston to Washington DC corridor. 

In college, though, I spent a month in a tiny town in South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Reservation. [It turns out that this county currently holds the honor of the poorest county in the nation.] While there, I stayed with an Indian (Sioux) family and I learned quite a bit more about Indian history. The mom in the family had gone to one of the Indian boarding schools. I hadn't heard about them, either.

So I wasn't entirely surprised (but I was disturbed) to hear this NPR special on the South Dakota foster care system and how it affects Indian kids.

I also recently got, from a friend, a curriculum/history piece about Indian boarding schools. There was one in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan that her relatives had gone to. The ones in South Dakota, I was surprised to see, are still in operation. Visit this link and scroll down for the curriculum guide. There's also a note that says additional teacher materials are coming.

And/or listen to this NPR story, Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many.

In any case, this Thanksgiving, let's all brush up on the Indian side of the equation.

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