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MacCallum: Hide Truth About Indian-White Relations

Reported by Judy - November 22, 2006 -

Some Native Americans have a slightly different view of the Thanksgiving holiday than that held by non-native people. They see little reason to celebrate the first successful English settlement on the East Coast, which began several centuries of genocide and dispossession. But Fox News' Martha MacCallum argued Wedneday (November 22, 2006) that the relationship between Indians and the pilgrims was "very complex" and shouldn't be explained to children.

During the A-List segment of the "Live Desk," MacCallum discussed an incident in which a third grade teacher (MacCallum didn't bother to mention where this happened) took items away from third graders in his class and then asked them how they felt. When they said they felt bad and wanted their things back, the teacher replied, "Now you know how the Indians felt."

Her A-List panel generally disliked the teacher's actions, insisting that third graders were too young to learn what happened between Indians and white settlers.

For example, Adam Housley, Fox News correspondent, said children should not be expected to grow up too fast by learning such unpleasant lessons.

And MacCallum insisted that the relationship between Indians and whites was "very complex" and that "Both sides got something out of it at different points in that relationship.”

It's true that Native Americans who cooperated with Europeans generally had their own motives for doing so, but by no means did the relationship turn out to have equal rewards. MacCallum and Housley's approach would mean children would be indoctrinated with a feel-good story about Thanksgiving and then suddenly given the facts when they were judged old enough to understand them.

This ignores several realities. For one thing, what about children of Native descent in the classroom? Should they be expected to join in the fun of the fiction about their ancestors' dispossession?

It would be nice if they could be spared the facts of what really happened between whites and Indians, but they live with the reality of it already and nobody worries about whether they are too young to have to deal with the poverty and deprivation that many tribes still endure because of their dispossession.

The teacher was attempting to teach empathy, and it sounds like he did it in an age-appropriate way. He was not expecting young children to understand the intricacies of Indian removal or native sovereignty.

Furthermore, how will children react when they find out what they have been learning was essentially a lie? Which lesson will stick -- what has been ingrained from youth or what they learn in junior high?

And what should schools be doing if not teaching children the truth?