Richmond Co. pupils get Thanksgiving lesson

When Richmond County elementary school pupils sit down for the Thanksgiving meal Thursday, many of them should have lots to say about the holiday's origin.

The children might recall how there aren't many documented writings about the first Thanksgiving and that it's not certain turkey was on the menu.

"They don't even know if they had turkey," said A. Brian Merry Elementary fourth-grade teacher Gina McGowan. "They definitely had deer meat."

In the past week, students learned the first Thanksgiving was called the "Harvest Celebration." And an A. Brian Merry or Lake Forest Hills elementary pupil likely won't use the word "Indian."

"We call 'em Native Americans," said fourth-grader Martinique Davis, 10, who attended a Pioneer and Native American Day event Friday at A. Brian Merry, where students visited display booths about the first Thanksgiving and that time.

Elementary teachers tell their students the term "Indian" was a misnomer started by Christopher Columbus, who thought he had landed in India.

"I make the mistake saying Indian more than they do," Ms. McGowan said.

Richmond County teachers say they make sure children are taught the interaction between the Pilgrims and Native Americans.

"Native Americans helped the Pilgrims plant and get ready for Thanksgiving," said Xavier Ashment, 9, a fourth-grader at A. Brian Merry.

"We do talk about the devastation that wiped out whole villages," Ms. McGowan said, referring to the germs and microbes that the Europeans brought.

Ms. McGowan said teachers hope students learn about those who lived off the land, respect for other cultures and that "the key thing is they understand giving thanks."

"You should be grateful for what you have," said Lake Forest Hills fourth-grader Aaliyah Cofer, 9, who also attended the Native American Day event.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

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