An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States of Young People Lesson Plan

From Beacon Press: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States of Young People Lesson Plan

Teachers and librarians: Are you looking for a lesson plan that asks students to think critically about Thanksgiving?

Spanning more than 400 years, this classic bottom-up history examines the legacy of Indigenous peoples’ resistance, resilience, and steadfast fight against imperialism.

Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity.

The original academic text is fully adapted by renowned curriculum experts Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, for middle-grade and young adult readers to include discussion topics, archival images, original maps, recommendations for further reading, and other materials to encourage students, teachers, and general readers to think critically about their own place in history.


Origin Narrative: Thanksgiving
Social Studies, Grades 6-8
Duration: 1-2 hours
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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States of Young People Lesson Plan
Photo Credit: Democracy and Me


This lesson plan supports chapter 3, “Cult of the Covenant,” in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese, as well as drawing upon key concepts from the introduction chapter. It deconstructs the philosophical foundation of the Thanksgiving narrative and interrogates the function of origin narratives.

Learning Targets:

  • Students will examine the role of origin narratives in developing a (national) shared identity.
  • Students will analyze the US Thanksgiving celebration from a nontraditional perspective.
  • Students will write a short story.

Essential Question:

How does the transmission of history become ingrained in collective memory?


  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6 Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.


  • Terminal narrative
  • Origin narrative
  • Ingrained

Prior Knowledge:

  • Students should be familiar with commonly retold variations of the “first Thanksgiving” story.
  • Students will be asked to share knowledge of the origin of their own name.

Resources and Materials:

  • Sticky notes and/or butcher paper
  • Poster paper
  • Markers
  • Projector
  • OPTIONAL: Word cloud software, such as a Poll Everywhere account; prepared to accept student submissions via computer and/or cell phone.

Read on for the learning activities: Beacon Press Lesson Plan

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