Categories
Current Events History

Thanksgiving Legacies Parades Never Taught You: The Sequel

King Phillip’s War

When last we saw each other, I had just told you the story of the Pequot Massacre. Taking place in the 1630’s, the Massacre occurred a little over a decade after the first Thanksgiving, and was responsible for the death of hundreds of Pequot men, women, and children, and the enslavement of hundreds more.

Fast forward to the winter of 1675, Plymouth, Massachusetts. The body of John Sassamon is found, killed and frozen. John Sassamon is A Wampanoag Christian, and educated at Harvard. He therefore represents a bridge. He’s a man straddling two cultures in the borderland of colonial America. And now, he’s dead.

Metacom, aka King Phillip, and his men are implicated in the death. This is where the whole Thanksgiving tie-in is made. You see, Massasoit, Metacom’s father, was part of the first Thanksgiving, and made an “alliance of mutual defense” in 1621 with Governor John Carver, leader of the newly established Plymouth Colony.

Now, however, Massasoit is long dead and Metacom is faced with increasingly imbalanced interactions with the colonists. Metacom, like his father, had entered into various peace agreements with the Brits, but he saw these treaties as mutual while the colonists saw the agreements as Indigenous submission. After the death of John Sassamon, the colonists arrest, try, and kill three of Metacom’s men in British court. I want to be clear, this was British justice, not Indigenous justice and it’s a final straw for Metacom. So, he strikes back, killing nine people in the town of Swansea.

And this is the spark that becomes King Phillips war.

Unlike the Pequot Massacre, this was an all out war between various Indigenous groups and the colonists. This war has far reaching ramifications for both the Indigenous nations in New England, and the colonists. The fighting lasted about fourteen months, and by the end of it most of the Indigenous nations in the area had been pulled into the conflict. The colonists often demanded that Indigenous nations trying to stay neutral prove their neutrality by giving up their weapons, and when they refused, they’d be attacked (see the Great Swamp Massacre). Some Indigenous nations, looking to secure their land and trading rights, sided with the British. In the end, Metacom and his followers were routed and Metacom was killed. At least 3000 Indigenous men, women, and children died, along with roughly 900 colonists. The British colonists sold thousands more Indigenous peoples into slavery. According to the American YAWP Indigenous nations “comprised roughly 25 percent of New England’s population; a decade later, they made up perhaps 10 percent.” The war was brutal, and with the death and enslavement of so many Indigenous peoples, it also secured the Puritans’ foothold in the Americas.

Ok…So What?

Most people don’t know the story of King Phillip’s War. They don’t really even know who was at the first Thanksgiving — preferring instead to stay safe and comfortable in the warmth that a lack of knowledge brings–however, history doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the aftermath of Thanksgiving is as important as the day itself.

Metacom, or King Phillip, was part of the legacy of that first Dinner of Thanks. His people were forever changed by the landing of Pilgrims in Plymouth, and our American history has been informed by the romanticization that Pilgrims/Puritans and Indigenous nations “got along” and “helped each other” out.

When in reality, that first Thanksgiving ushered in hundreds of years of violence, slavery, and displacement. What we call nostalgia, Indigenous Americans call a day of mourning. This is the 400th anniversary of that particular feast (which actually took place in late summer so like..that anniversary has technically past). As we sit down to our squash pies, and cranberry sauce — indigenous foods, by the way– we should be very aware of the legacy of destruction that comes with Thanksgiving. Moving forward, we must not only be cognizant of the history, but willing to take steps to right the wrongs of our past.

Because, you see, you can’t be proud of your ancestors while trying to distance yourself from their wrongdoings. You can’t literally have your pie, and eat it too.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe - BettyCrocker.com
There weren’t pumpkin pies either. The Pilgrims didn’t have an oven.

Categories
Current Events Education History Poetry

The Thanksgiving Legacies Parades Never Taught You

Part One: The Pequot Massacre

On Thursday, millions of people in the United States will sit down with family members they barely like and eat an awkward meal together. Perhaps you’ll have to endure the ramblings of your sister’s boyfriend Deuce (Thaddeus) as he says “at the first Thanksgiving everyone got along, what’s wrong with America now days are our own divisions.”

If you’re anything like me, your family has already heard how the Thanksgiving Story was romanticized by a magazine editor to be barely true, or you’ve discussed how FDR changed the date of holiday to extend the Christmas shopping season. In short – your family has probably already told you to “keep your liberal views” to yourself at the table, while everyone else spouts off incorrect information about the holiday and what America lacks now-days.

Well. If this is you – I have you covered. Welcome to Part One of the Thanksgiving Legacy you never knew about. The Pequot Massacre.

Pilgrims Vs. Puritans

First, I want to note. The people involved in the Pequot Massacre were largely Puritans. The Puritans are NOT the Pilgrims. Seriously, they aren’t. The Puritans wanted to leave England and create a “city upon a hill”, which is to say they wanted to create a cool kids club that everyone in Britain would look at and want to be like. The Pilgrims – the ones who celebrated the “first” Thanksgiving – arrived on the Mayflower and landed on what they called Plymouth. They were religious separatists who wanted nothing to do with Britain. Pilgrims were poor, and had very small numbers. Puritans were middle class, and came in droves.

Also, neither group landed here first. In fact – the Pilgrims arrived in New England in 1621 – Jamestown was founded in 1607, cannibalism occurred in Jamestown in 1609-1610, and the first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619. So no. Pilgrims and religion did not “found” America. Profit, labor, and exploitation “founded” America.

The Massacre

Let me set the scene. It’s 1637. Settlers in New England have “claimed” land that was occupied by Native Americans, the Pequots. Obviously, these settlers have no real authority over this land, but this is what we call a “borderland”. Which is to say, it’s an area where two or three very different groups come in conflict with one another. And by conflict, I mean fighting. Borderlands are generally violent spaces, drought with tension and misunderstandings. That’s exactly what had happened between the New England colonists and the Pequots. As the colonists encroached on Native land and trade, the Pequots fought back. Sporadic fighting occurred on both sides, leaving a handful of dead in its wake.

In May of 1637, a group of armed colonists marched into the Native American territory, calling themselves the “sword of the Lord.” The group was made up of men from various New England colonies, including Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Connecticut. The men surrounded the Pequot village, and the massacre began. The colonists lit the houses on fire and killed anyone trying to escape, shooting them or cutting them down with swords. Men, women, and children were killed. Upwards of 700. Families attempted to escape their burning houses and were callously slaughtered, not by the dozens, but by the hundreds. This was not a fight, not a war, this was a massacre. Not only that, it was a premeditated massacre.

Ok…So What?

Over the course of the next two months, the colonists and their allies, decimated the Pequots in a series of other attacks. By the end of the summer of 1637, most of the Pequot nation was dead. Those who survived, the Puritans sold into slavery – yes, the New England colonists engaged in the slave trade, they were enslavers and sellers of Native Americans and Africans.

So, sixteen years after the first “Thanksgiving”, the New England colonies and the Native Americans were killing each other over land and trade disputes, and the colonists were fighting dirty, ambushing and killing without remorse. In killing Pequots, colonists could gain land, maximize profit by selling people into enslavement, and take resources and trade routes for their own.

This was only a first step. The 1670’s brought King Phillips War. Join me on Thursday for Part II of “The Thanksgiving Legacies Parades Never Taught You”

History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
They didn’t eat Turkey at Thanksgiving either.

Categories
Education History Poetry

Lost Cause

A sprinkling of Haiku’s and Poems from middle schoolers reflecting on our lesson regarding the Lost Cause.

A note on the lesson: The students read both primary and secondary sources that discussed the rise of the LMA’s and the UDC. The prompt was to use poetry format to answer one of the following questions: “What was the Lost Cause Narrative?” or “How was the Lost Cause Narrative Spread?” What follows is their own assessment based on their prior knowledge of enslavement (both colonial and antebellum) and the Civil War. You may find our classroom textbook here.

Angie

With women to help

Through textbooks and monuments

The lost cause was spread

Brooklyn

Lost Cause Narrative.

Manipulated children.

Lie in history.

Christopher

information false

yet its spread was never sparse

education jacked

none of it was the fact

Dylan and Dreyden

Lost cause narrative

was spread through education

and through monuments.

Elijah

lost cause narrative

taught children the lies of the

confederacy.

Categories
Current Events History

Why You Can Judge Historical Actors

On Monday, the nation celebrated what is now proclaimed as Indigenous Peoples day. Previously, it was called Columbus day. The name of this day has been the cause of quite a bit of controversy over the years, but while the name change is a good step forward, it doesn’t really do anything actionable for Indigenous People in the United States. Americans will continue to receive the day off whether they call it Columbus Day or Indigenous People day, and the worst kinds of these people will whine about the name change.

That whining is what I want to talk about today.

It is well documented that Columbus is the worst. He stumbled into what is modern day Bahamas by luck and/or accident. He wrote about how he planned to enslave the people he encountered, and he was so awful that he was brought home in disgrace and jailed. There’s no real argument that he was awful.

The argument comes in whether we can judge him for how shitty he was.

This is something that comes up a lot when people talk about history. I say something like “UGH, I HATE Columbus.” And, inevitably, some dude bro (probably Deuce) says “ok, but you can’t judge someone in history based on modern day values.” As though it was perfectly fine to rape, murder, exploit, and enslave people (it may surprise to you find out there were laws back then.)

You too, may have run into this problem when talking about history. This idea, that we can’t judge historical actors is usually a bad argument. It’s an attempt to shut down the conversation while still uplifting one of the “hero’s” of history that’s on the decline. Because here’s the thing, it’s true that we shouldn’t judge historical actors based on our modern day values (though there’s another argument about “progress” in there somewhere). However, we CAN judge historical actors based on how contemporaries judged them.

Take Columbus for example. I’ve already mentioned that the Spanish monarchs had him jailed for tyranny he was doing in the new colonies. But if we only talk about colonizers, then we are missing a large part of the story.

You see, we are missing the voices of the exploited.

The argument of “you can’t judge someone on modern day values” excludes the judgement of people who were colonized, enslaved, and exploited. It takes away their agency and their story. The Indigenous People of what became the Bahama’s weren’t like “Oh hi, yes, please! Take my land, take my labor, take my body!” NO, they resisted. They did not want Columbus to exploit them. Their voices matter, and the argument of “don’t judge” ensures that the voices of victims remain obscured.

Ok…So What?

People who were exploited, colonized, enslaved – all of them resisted. Their constant, daily resistance was a judgement against their exploiters. They judged Columbus, just as enslaved people judged their enslavers.

So, when someone is shitty in history, your first thought should not be “Yes, well he was shitty but…” *gestures* “It was the 1500’s” *shrug*. Your thought should be, “how did people resist this exploitation?” Because guaranteed, the people being exploited did not want to be exploited. They had agency, and they absolutely judged.

Part of growing up is complicating the stories you thought were true. That includes the people who were pitched to us as historical hero’s. We can and should judge them, and we do that by listening to the voices of the exploited. As a nation, and as a people, this is the only way we can “progress.”

Columbus was the WOOOOoooOOOORrrRSssST

Categories
Current Events History

Social Media is awful. What now?

It’s no surprise to find out that Facebook is complete trash. We’ve known that Facebook is complicit in lots of things, including election meddling. Now, we know that Facebook and Instagram are doing damage to teens 13+ and under 13. And, honestly, we all knew this anyway, because social media can really mess with us mentally.

But…what do we do about it?

It’s very difficult for me, as someone who is connected to so many people on the internet, to say something like “burn it down.” We know Facebook is shit, but places like Twitter or Tik Tok also come with a ton of problems. However, these apps, and the internet, connect us in ways we’ve never been connected before. Never has that been more apparent than the past 18 months as we’ve lived through the isolation of Covid.

Social media as the Triangular Trade

In class, I often bring up the the internet and social media as a sort of modern day Triangular Trade. If you don’t know, the Triangular Trade (you may have learned it as the Columbian Exchange, but fuck that guy) is the global exchange of people, plants, animals, goods, and diseases.

The triangular trade ushered in a new era, opening the world in a way it had never been before. People were suddenly connected to a world across the ocean. They talked about it, read about it, ate new foods, learned new information, and some moved there and became colonizers.

But contact also meant that 90% of indigenous people died. It meant that millions and millions of Africans were enslaved in the Americas. It meant that the people and the land was used, abused, and forever remade to shape a new vision of the world.

So, you know. Not great.

Ok…So What?

In the years after 1492, there were many people who wanted to make gobs of money by doing absolute shitty things. Why? Because it didn’t matter, they’d be rich, so they took advantage of an opportunity.

That’s kind of like Zuckerberg right now. Facebook is shitty – but so are a lot of internet companies and people. The internet is so new, and we are all still learning how to use – and abuse – it. So what can you do about it?

Focus on the kids

Look, we can’t hide the internet from kids, it’s here, and they are way better at internetting than we are. They have finsta’s (fake insta’s), they have Tik Tok, Facebook, and Snapchat (also terrible) and they will and do hide it from you. I know, because I’m a teacher, and they will straight up tell me that they hide social from their parents.

Adults must have hard conversations with kids. These conversations must center around teaching kids how to be good internet citizens – just like we should try to teach them how to be good global citizens. How do you do this? Well, you, as the adult, must be willing to set rules, and follow them. This is super difficult, but there are apps for that. My family has Disney Circle, which allows us to limit access to the internet on their devices and see what they are looking at. This provides them with autonomy, and it provides us with control. This isn’t the only option available though, so do your research and find what’s best for your family.

You should also speak to your kids, or kids in your life, frequently, about the internet. Don’t demand their phone and go through it. Instead, build a tech relationship with them. Discuss the pros and cons of the internet. The pro’s and cons of apps. Teach them how to Twitter, and lead by example.

Because, bottom line, tech is progressing at an unprecedented pace. As an average human, we don’t have the ability to stop shitty people from being awful. However, we can teach our children, and ourselves, how to be responsible on the internet. How to spot bad facts, how to look up valid sources. Essentially, we have to learn how to consume the internet without it consuming us.

Recently surfaced early photo of Christopher Columbus (colorized). Strange resemblance, right?

Categories
Education History Local Government

Systematically tackling the word “systemic.”

If you’ve been a part of the interwebz at all then you know that the way history is taught in k-12 schools is under attack. I’ve already created a few blog posts that discuss the attack on history and here I am again, singing another song. This time it’s a ballad.

School boards and/or state legislatures are attempting to ban certain language in a history classroom. This is an insidious move, because language matters, and the way we speak about the past matters. By attempting to ban specific language, Conservatives imply to their base that “systemic racism” and “equity” either doesn’t exist or are an attempt to make white people feel bad.

Do you teach CRT?

Before school started, a colleague straight up asked if I teach CRT. I asked them to define what they meant by CRT. This person said “well, like, do you teach about systemic racism?” and I said “yes, because racist systems have and do exist in history.” Then, I said “why don’t you define what you mean by the terms “systemic and racism'” They couldn’t define the terms.

This is a problem, because Conservatives are spreading fear about language to a base that doesn’t even understand the language being used.

So let’s break it down.

One word that makes every “banned” list is the word “systemic.” Of course, systemic simply means affecting all parts of a system, whatever that system may be. In a historical sense, it usually means the system of laws that define our nation.

And see, here’s the thing. We do have systemic racism built into the very fabric of our laws. This is true now, as well as historically. Banning the word only bans the history, which perpetuates bias and…wait for it…more systemic racism.

If you’re saying, yes, but what laws?! Well, that’s a long answer, but I’ll give you a run down. I wont even talk about the slave codes or the 3/5 compromise. Let’s talk about citizenship and the rights of citizens.

Dred Scott v Sanford stated that Black people in the United States (free or enslaved) were not citizens. It wasn’t until the Fourteenth Amendment that the Black community received citizenship (Indigenous peoples wouldn’t receive citizenship until 1924).

Ok ok ok, that was so long ago right? Well yes…but…we know that the Reconstruction Amendments didn’t fix racism, instead it was woven into laws in different ways. For example, Black men were segregated during war time until Vietnam. Often, this meant that Black families couldn’t benefit from the service acts that came after WWII.

Don’t get me started on the internment of Japanese Americans, or the “repatriation drives” of Mexican Americans during the depression.

These are just a smattering of real, impactful, lasting laws that were made by this country that directly impacted citizens. These laws weren’t based on birth, rather they were based on heritage and skin color.

So…they are examples of systemic racism!

OK…So What?

One thing that Conservatives don’t want to feel is guilt for the past. Another thing they don’t want is the education of demonstrable truths. You see, if teachers educate students in straight facts about the laws in our nation, then the students might grow up to tear those laws apart, resulting in a loss of privilege for Conservative politicians and their base (white liberals I’m eyeing a lot of you too).

The strategy to teach a Conservative history of the United States is not new. However, this is its current iteration. Just like book banning, the banning of language is an attempt to hamstring teachers from teaching about the darker parts of our American past. Here’s the problem with that attitude…we can’t continue to “progress” if we don’t change.

And there’s the crux of the matter. Change means the loss of power and priviledge. It also means discomfort and reckoning with actions of the past. Redlining was legal until 1968, and it still exists outside of the law through “standard practices.” This is not a long ago past, this is our present. Until we fix the laws that treat citizens unequally, we will never be a United country.

School board elections are as important as national elections

Categories
Climate Education History

Why History Teachers Should Teach Climate Justice

I have a lot of “soap boxes” in my life. One is that history is the most important subject to learn. Another is that we as individuals, communities, nation, and as a world, must make radical changes to save our planet.

Let’s talk about the intersection.

I teach American history to 7th and 8th graders. As part of the curriculum, we delve into the colonization of the Americas, the Triangular Trade, and the enslavement of Africans. My MA is in American history, with an emphasis on colonial enslavement, so these are always some of my favorite lessons to teach. It’s also where those seeds of climate justice can begin to be planted.

Most adults know, at some level, that the colonization of the Americas was a brutal process. 90% of indigenous Americans died as a result of disease and tens of millions of Africans were enslaved and brought to the Americas. However, what’s not often talked about is how brutal colonization was on the land as well.

Turned out, the Americas were perfect for growing cash crops (rice, tobacco, indigo, sugar, cotton, among others). With the indigenous population dying from disease and enslavement, Europeans had more access to fertile land. So what did they do?

They wrecked it.

Europeans forced their enslaved labor to cut down the forests, damed up the waterways, and burned the land, why? Those money making cash crops. They wanted gold and glory, and honestly they didn’t fucking care what it did to the people or the land – as long as they could live how they thought they should live. This goes for any colonizer, by the way. Don’t at me and tell me that the Quakers didn’t like slavery. I fucking know. They still took land and made it their own.

OK…So What?

Colonization is the brutal extraction of resources from the land and the people that live on the land. Which, really, is no different than what hundreds of companies are doing now. This is why history is important and this is why history teachers should intersect their lessons with lessons about climate injustice.

You see, if students understand the motivations of European Colonizers, they’ll also recognize the motivations of oil companies that try to put pipelines on sacred land. If students understand the remaking and reshaping of land for capitalistic purposes, they’ll understand the continued destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. If students understand the enslavement of humans for profit, they’ll understand the use of migrant labor for farming and other industries.

Look, the “other side” (by which I mean the conservatives who think I teach some random version of CRT) try to control what’s taught in history exactly so that effective change is not made. So that the profits continue to roll in – gold and glory and all that. Therefore, it becomes essential to teach real history. The truth. Not a garbled and whitewashed version of it.

History has the power to create radical change makers, and all you have to do is connect the dots from the past to the present.

Probably your sister’s boyfriend’s ancestor.
Categories
Education History

You Check On Us…

Actual note I received – minus the student’s name.

The above note is an actual note that I received from a student on Monday. It’s sweet, and heartwarming, and was more meaningful than I think the student knew.

Let me drop it into context.

I decided to discuss the events of September 11, 2001 with my classes. I put together a mindful presentation that was geared toward their age group. Interspersed through the lesson, I told the students where I was that day, how I felt at each event, and how I and my friends reacted. I was 19 at the time of the attacks.

And, occasionally, I got emotional. It was an emotional day, and it was difficult to relive it six times for six classes. A number of students were concerned and one of them wrote me this note – cute right?

The story could end there…but I have a point to make…

Being a teacher is difficult. I’ve talked before about all the hats we have to wear and all the things we have to juggle on any given day. One of the things teachers – especially new ones – struggle with is classroom management. And it’s hard…because it can’t be taught, it has to be learned.

Any textbook, admin, or teacher blog will tell you that relationships and connections with your students are the FIRST thing you can do to be an effective teacher and to nail your classroom management.

But what does the word “relationship” mean?

Without knowing it, my student defined “relationships” for us in this note. He said “You check on us so I want to check on you.”

Yes, I am a teacher that checks on their students, I ask them how their day is, I ask them who their friends are, I try to make sure that they are seen as individual humans with goals, and dreams and failings…not just as students in my classroom.

Ok…so what?

Relationship building is more than just “checking on” students. Effective classroom management and relationships comes when students feel safe in your classroom. They need to feel safe in who they are (including who they identify as). I teach middle school – it’s pretty difficult for students to feel comfortable..because…you know…middle school.

So, how do you do it? Well, students need to know what to expect at all times in the classroom. You’ll hear this referred to as “structure.” Books will say that you should lay out what classroom expectations are, show what you’re doing that day, but again…what does “structure” mean? It’s a nebulous word that could mean a lot of things to different people.

You can even have a full list of expectations, but if you don’t follow through they are trash. Additionally, if the consequences are too harsh for the transgression it’s trash…and they’ve lost trust in you.

What does “structure” and “safety” look like? Well, I have a very specific layout that we follow in my class everyday. The kids know what to do when they come in, and they know how to transition from activity to activity. My homework is predictable, and I’ve modeled it for them. They know, absolutely know, that they will have three questions of homework every day. They know how to answer the questions and they know how those questions are graded. I don’t throw them curveballs, I don’t give them surprises, and I don’t give them homework on the weekend

Now, you may be saying…but what about RIGOR?! You know, that word that every principal holds up as a shining beacon of light guiding you to testing season. Look: We have rigor in the classroom. Because when students feel safe, it means they feel safe to try, to go further out on a limb, to give a guess that goes deeper even if they are wildly incorrect.

Because ultimately, you’ve taught them that failing is a part of learning. You’ve taught the students when they fail in your class, you’re going to check on them, and pick them up and help them start again. They trust you to do that.

And then, when you’re struggling…they’ll check on you too.

Categories
Education History

Hi, You Got a Second?

We’re proud of you too, Steve

More than ever it is so easy to be upset at the world. Our nation is utterly divided because of the politics of Trump. We’ve lost 650,000 people to Covid (and counting). Climate change is becoming more visible and impacting our lives in tangible and frightening ways. Our communities are hurting, and we are all so fucking exhausted.

And then, in walked Steve.

On September 7, 2021, Steve Burns from Blue’s Clues spoke to us from our screens. Framed by an orange and salmon colored background, he wore his signature green striped shirt and hat. Not only did he address, and apologize, for the “abrupt” way in which he left Blue’s Clues so many years ago, he reminded us how far we had come. He looked straight into the screen and told us that we were going to be ok. Then, to top it all off, he told us that despite the pandemic and all the bread we’ve been eating, we look good.

And, collectively, we weeped.

Ok…so what?

Look. His appearance is advertising the fact that Blue’s Clues is coming up on it’s 25th year anniversary. It’s still some strange form of capitalism wrapped up in all the feels. But. I don’t fuxxing care.

Despite how divided we are, or how alienated we may feel from our communities or our families, despite the fact that I spend time on Twitter everyday yelling at my local politicians for the terrible decisions they’re making, Steve reminded us that we are human.

He reminded us that sometimes things happen that we have no control over. And, when we face challenges, we do the best with what we have. We pick ourselves up and we keep going. We are not the people we were when Steve left us so many years ago. We also aren’t the people we were in January of 2020, before the pandemic started. We’ve changed.

And he reminded us that that’s ok.

Categories
Haiku History

Haiku Review

Twenty years ago

We experienced trauma

Covid brought some more

To people saying

“We came together back then”

What have you done now?