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Los Angeles school district’s Thanksgiving presentation suggests students’ understanding of holiday is ‘wrong’

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is under fire for a lesson plan that challenges students to consider that what they know about Thanksgiving is “wrong.”

One of LAUSD’s advisory lessons released in June and available to educators was titled, “Let’s Talk about Thanksgiving.” The presentations were created by its Office of Human Relations, Diversity & Equity.

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“Everything We Know about Thanksgiving is WRONG?” the PowerPoint presentation asks.

“The version we learn in school, starts with the landing of the Mayflower in 1620 in a small bay north of Cape Cod,” the next slide says, before offering a contrast. “In the Native American version [of Thanksgiving], the arrival of the Pilgrims marks the beginning of the end.” 

“The Indigenous peoples had a hundred years of contact and trade with the Europeans before the pilgrims arrived in 1621,” the next slide read, with the word “MYTH” outlined in bold. It went on to say that “years earlier British slaving crews introduced smallpox to the native people; over 90% of the local population died.”

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Another “myth” the presentation appeared keen to dispel was that “Thanksgiving is a celebration of the unity between the Indigenous Peoples and the European Settlers.”

Typical Thanksgiving lessons have suggested that the pilgrims, fresh off the Mayflower, celebrated the harvest with Native Americans.

“Researchers doubt that there was a celebration or unity between the Indigenous Peoples and the European settlers,” the LAUSD plan read. “European settlers continually pushed the Indigenous Peoples off their land and made them conform to European customs.”   

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The presentation also encourages teachers to show students a video from Teen Vogue entitled, “Native American Girls Describe the REAL History Behind Thanksgiving.” The young women in the video say that European settlers “celebrated” the uprooting and killing of several villages and that today’s holiday amounts to celebrating the “deaths of many people.”

Engraving depicting American colonial leader Edward Winslow visiting Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag Native Americans, circa 1641. 

The school district’s presentation concludes by recommending students find out “whose land” they are living on and linking to resources where they can learn more.

Parents Defending Education Director of Outreach Erika Sanzi was among those who blasted the lesson plan.

“There is no one right way to teach about Thanksgiving but this is an example of the pendulum swinging to an ideology that seeks to redefine and tear down a centuries old tradition of unity through gratitude,” Sanzi told Fox News Digital. 

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Fox News Digital has reached out to LAUSD for comment.

Several media pundits have claimed in recent years that Thanksgiving is about “genocide” and “imperialism.” Ahead of last year’s Thanksgiving, for example, Native American activist Gyasi Ross appeared on MSNBC to criticize the holiday. 

“Instead of bringing stuffing and biscuits, those settlers brought genocide and violence,” he said.

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“I know several people who call it ‘Colonizer Christmas,’ because they don’t really like the idea of what Thanksgiving represents,” MSNBC regular Jason Johnson similarly said in November 2020.

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth in 1621, paint from 1914. Private Collection. Artist Brownscombe, Jennie Augusta (1850-1936). 

Many schools have also advocated for a “rethinking” of the way students learn about Thanksgiving’s origins. “What Kids Are Learning About Thanksgiving Is Changing,” TIME wrote in 2019. The piece noted that many teachers have begun to explore how they can adapt their assignments to become more “culturally sensitive.” 

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