+
upworthy
Most Shared

A pull-no-punches Q&A with a Native American teacher on how she teaches Thanksgiving.

There are two sides to the Thanksgiving story — the one taught in most American grade schools and a more complicated one that coexists alongside it.

Every year, millions of Americans gather around family tables to eat turkey and toast the fellowship of the Pilgrims and their American Indian hosts. And every year, Native American educators attempt to re-contextualize the holiday to add more first-American perspectives to the traditional telling of the history.

The differences are often striking: While most lesson plans treat the first Thanksgiving as a feast co-planned by the Pilgrims and their Native neighbors, from the Wampanoag perspective, the meal was one they happened upon by accident and nonetheless helped rescue with a successful deer hunt. While many non-Native Americans treat the feast as a celebration, many Native people observe the holiday as a day of mourning.


One such educator is Gillian Murr, a fourth-year eighth-grade humanities teacher at Marysville School in Portland, Oregon — and an alum of the American Indian Teacher Program at Portland State University.

Photo via Gillian Murr.

Murr, who is Walla Walla and Yankton Sioux, told me about how she approaches the holiday in the classroom and what other teachers can do to include Native perspectives in their lesson plans.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

UPWORTHY: What do you love most about your job?

GILLIAN MURR: My favorite part of teaching is really connecting with my students — sharing and learning from them. I don't remember ever having a connection with any teachers when I was younger, and I think it is so important.

I work in a very diverse school, and a Title I school, and I think connections, especially in eighth grade, can make or break the learning that goes on in my class.

UP: What kind of connections do you make with your students? What do you bond with them over?

GM: Having persevered through poverty and oppression, I really try to connect with my students on that level. I think there is a level of vulnerability that is required and that students, this age especially, need and respect.

I let my students know that I have gone through things like they are. I grew up poor, I had parents with addiction problems, I have family members in jail/prison, etc. I think it makes them feel more comfortable in my class. I also share a lot about my own children with them. They in turn feel safe to share and open up in my class.  We also connect about current events, music, TV/movies, etc.

UP: Do you feel like your students come into class with a lot of misconceptions about Thanksgiving?

GM: They come in with all the typical myths. There is always one or two students who have already had the myths debunked, but by and large, the myths are strong when they enter my classroom: "The Pilgrims came on the Mayflower and the Indians helped them by giving them food and helping them plant and grow food, and then they all had a dinner together where the Pilgrims gave thanks."

Murr with students. Photo via Gillian Murr.

UP: How do you start breaking down these myths for them?

GM: We always start with what they know and then discuss why that is what they know. One of the overarching questions we always come back to in my class is: "Who is writing the history?" So I like to remind them of that.

Then we just really get into the meat of the lesson. In the past, I have done a couple different lessons. My main objective for them is to be able to look at Thanksgiving from the tribe's perspective.

UP: How do you fold the Wampanoag perspective into your lesson plan?

GM: Last year, I found this great lesson on the Teaching Tolerance website, which has a speech and an essay about Thanksgiving from two different Natives. We analyzed these and then discussed why what they learned is different. We also watch portions of Part 1 of the "We Shall Remain" series. It gives students, especially students who have different learning styles, a solid understanding that it wasn't all potlucks and thanks.

I generally have a class discussion after students have had time to analyze the texts and watch the movies where I have a few leading questions, and they are allowed to come to their own conclusions about why we know what we know. A lot of them are truly blown away with what was left out of history and their earlier teachings.

UP: What parts of the Thanksgiving story are typically left out?

GM: The Native perspective is usually completely left out. I think it is important for them to know while, yes, the Wampanoag people helped the Pilgrims, that help was not reciprocated.

The Pilgrims were religious people, and they gave thanks to their god for subduing the Native peoples. That's a pretty big myth, or lie, rather. Furthermore, this began the long genocide of the Native people of the Americas that continued, and still continues today.

UP: How do your students typically react when they hear this?

GM: There is definitely some surprise involved in their reactions, but at the same time, by this time, we have already studied Columbus, and so they have some prior knowledge about how our history books like to skew things.

Murr and family on the beach. Photo via Gillian Murr.

I don't really get any kind of pushback from students. Maybe partially this is because I am a Native educator, and they don't feel comfortable pushing back, and/or more likely also because I teach a diverse population who already have insecurities about how their families and ancestors have been treated in the history of the U.S.

UP: What's the most important thing you think your students get out of your lesson?

GM: I think the most important thing I convey to them is to look for what, or who is missing, and then [encourage them to ask] why?

UP: What advice would you give to fellow teachers who are struggling to teach Thanksgiving?

GM: I would say to look into what you teach now and ask the same question I hope my students start to ask: Whose perspective is being told, and whose is being left out?

Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

Keep ReadingShow less

Kevin Bacon's farm songs have become a social media favorite.

When Beyoncé dropped two songs from her upcoming album of country tunes, Renaissance: Act II, she may not have expected to make history, but that's exactly what happened. Her first single from the album, "Texas Hold 'Em," shot to the No.1 spot on the Billboard country music charts, making her the first Black female artist to hit that top spot. The catchy tune also topped the Billboard Hot 100 the last week in February 2024, a week after it debuted at No. 2.

Presumbaly, Queen Bey didn't expect her song to become an Irish stepdance hit, though that's also exactly what happened. And surely she didn't expect it to be sung by Kevin Bacon to a bunch of farm animals, yet that also has happened.

Perhaps we should all have expected that, though. There's a precedent here, after all.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photos by Daniela on Unsplash (left) and Rens D on Unsplash (right)

Peeling garlic is notoriously challenging.

If you ever cook with fresh garlic, you know what a challenge it can be to remove the cloves from the skin cleanly, especially if you're starting with a full head.

There are various methods people use to peel garlic, with varying levels of success. Doing it by hand works, but will leave you with garlic-smelling fingertips for the better part of a day. Whacking the head on the counter helps separate the cloves from each other, but doesn't help much with removing the skin.

Some people swear by vigorously shaking the skinned cloves around in a covered bowl or jarred lid, which can be surprisingly effective. Some smash the clove with the flat side of a knife to loosen it and then pull it off. Others utilize a rubber roller to de-skin the cloves.

But none of these methods come close to the satisfaction of watching someone perfectly peeling an entire head of garlic with a pair of tongs.

Keep ReadingShow less

Teen with size 23 feet receives new shoes from Shaq

Any adult responsible for raising a teen will tell you that not only do teens eat a lot and sleep nearly as much as they did as infants, they also grow quickly. Sometimes it feels like their growth spurts are literally happening overnight. You go to sleep with a squeaky voiced teenager that's still shorter than you only to wake up to what appears to be a fully grown man wearing your child's clothes.

It's no wonder that parents can have a hard time keeping up with the ever changing clothes and shoe sizes that come with a growing teen. But Tamika Neal's son has surpassed what would be considered the average height and weight of a 16-year-old, which means he's also outgrown sizes carried in the stores.

According to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, boys aged 16 are typically between 5-foot-3 and 6-foot, weighing between 104 to 180 pounds. Jor'el Bolden is a towering 6-foot-5 and 380 pounds with a size 23 shoe.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Erin Bailey Law (used with permission) and Monstera Production/Pexels

Erin Bailey has taken a hard stand on sleepovers.

A mother who’s a criminal defense attorney is going viral on TikTok for a hard stance she has taken on her children going to sleepovers. For Erin Bailey of South Carolina, the answer is a big no. The reason? There are too many variables that could make her children vulnerable to sexual assault.

Bailey has a practice in Georgetown and is ranked among the Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers in South Carolina by the National Trial Lawyers.

"I don’t allow my children to go to sleepovers. I’m a criminal attorney and here’s why,” she opens the video. “First and primary is the S.A. [sexual assault] risk. While you may feel like you know the parents who are hosting the sleepover really well, and you know and love and trust them, that's exactly who's committing S.A.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Harold Krichel, Wikipedia/Representative Image from Canva

Anne Hathaway hilariously tries to sit in a tight latex dress during Fashion Week in Milan

Anne Hathaway might have played fashion-oblivious Andrea Sachs in “Devil Wears Prada,” but nowadays, in real life (or at least on the red carpet) she’s more on the level of Miranda Priestley—turning heads at every event with showstopping looks.

However, no matter how high her status as a fashion icon rises, the “Princess Diaries” actress still holds onto her humility.

Case and point: she has no problem sharing what it’s really like to wear certain designer dresses. Spoiler alert: it’s not quite as effortless as the fashionistas make it look.

Keep ReadingShow less