DENVER — There’s no question kids and families will be ready for the break this Thanksgiving, but a letter out to some Denver parents this week is raising eyebrows.
“It’s a day to give thanks, not a day to give guilt,” said Jon Caldara, parent and founder of the libertarian think tank, Independence Institute.
The letter to families at Willow Elementary in Denver Public Schools states students “will be discussing thankfulness that includes more of an indigenous history.” It goes on to say the school will be “dispelling some of the common myths and misconceptions that are often associated with the holiday.”
It’s drawing praise from some members of the community and criticism from others.
“It’s a lot more complex than the simple story of the pilgrims got together with the indigenous tribes and they had a feast and it was all kumbaya after that,” said Aron Wahkinney, member of the Comanche Nation and the grants manager at Denver Indian Health and Family Services.
“The plan is to indoctrinate their kids,” Caldara said. “That’s what this is all about. If you really want to help these kids understand oppression, the best thing you can do is teach them how to read and teach them how to think instead of what to think.”
Others say the way Thanksgiving is taught should be reframed.
“A lot of people think 1492 is the beginning of the United States, and that’s just simply inaccurate,” Wahkinney said. “The story in itself is very complex in what actually occurred.”
“It didn’t quite happen in such a simple way,” said Dr. Amy Gile, principal at Willow Elementary who sent the letter home to parents.
“We really want to engage in a more critical analysis of what most of us think of when we think of the Thanksgiving story, especially that first Thanksgiving,” Gile said. “We’re going to do that by reading a book that’s called, ‘1612, A New Look at Thanksgiving.’”
It's a new look at an old holiday celebrated for centuries in America.
“I would say it’s expanding the conversation,” Gile said. “No one’s canceling Thanksgiving.”
“We, as parents, are saying 'we’re getting really tired of this,'” Caldara said.