(From an idea by Ayla Stein. Written by Micah Kenfield)
This Thursday is Thanksgiving, the quintessentially American celebration of – as the story goes – Native Americans sharing their bounty with our forefathers as they suffered the winter together. The holiday’s general message of setting aside a day to be grateful for our friends, family, and lot in life is a positive one. Unfortunately, many Americans make the mistake of attempting to honor the efforts of Native Americans through grotesque cultural appropriation*.
A cursory Bing search for “thanksgiving crafts” turns up dozens of pages featuring things like faux-native headdresses and worksheets with caricatures of indigenous people at the top of their results**. Most of the others also feature colonial imagery from the Mayflower and ‘Pilgrim Hats’. We can do better. Here’s a quick list of some possible craft projects that you and yours can tackle while waiting for the pies to cool this Thursday, without the negative connotations.
Mason Jar crafts (courtesy Make Magazine) – http://makezine.com/2014/11/21/10-diy-thanksgiving-mason-jar-ideas/These are adorable, and fit a wide variety of different ages / skill levels. I’m a sucker for decoupage and loved the project they did with leaves, but you have a lot of options and can’t really go wrong with any of them.
Turkey Paper Bag Puppets – http://www.dltk-holidays.com/thanksgiving/m-bag-turkey.htm
Paper bags already lend themselves to adorable hand puppets. This particular project takes things a little bit further than your standard markers-and-pencils found in every elementary school art curriculum. Whether your child’s dialogue for the finished puppet is “Bwock bwock” or a soliloquy on its role as a mascot for its kinds’ mortality is entirely up to them.
DIY Turkey Muffins –http://www.parenting.com/article/pumpkin-turkey-muffins?cmpid=obinsite
I like to bake so I’d probably swap out the store bought muffins for lovingly home-baked ones, but there are few things more entertaining as a child than having an excuse to decorate your food.
- As a fan of American Football and the Green Bay Packers, the Vince Lomturki Trophy (http://www.instructables.com/id/Turkey-Bowl-Trophy/) seriously appeals to me, but it might be just a littttle bit outside of the scope of a 20 minute children’s craft project.
So if you’re looking for craft ideas this week, try one of these. Steer the kids away from treating other cultures as fodder for art projects, while still letting them have some seasonally-appropriate fun.
* this mindset can also be seen in campaigns such as University of Illinois Alumni advocating ‘honoring The Chief’ and the verbal contortions that Washington’s football team uses to justify its current name.
** for a Native American perspective on this issue, http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2015/11/dear-teachers-open-letter-about-images.html provided a very good overview with regard to options for younger children
For a quality general overview on what cultural appropriation is and why it’s bad, here’s a solid place to start: https://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/cultural-appreciation-or-cultural-appropriation/
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