Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story – Perfect Picture Book Friday

In this beautiful book, three authors (from three different tribes) come together to shift the Thanksgiving narrative, honoring indigenous perspectives.

A Wampanoag woman tells her grandchildren a story about how the harvest feast of 1621 came to pass, and it lays bare the truth: without the help of the Wampanoag people, the Pilgrims may have starved to death.

The story gives voice to corn, squash, and beans (known as the Three Sisters) as well as to wild animals, showing how the Wampanoag listened to the voices of the land, voices that guided them to teach the Pilgrims how to grow the Three Sisters so they would survive the long winter. The voices are ones of generosity and compassion for all living things.

When Fall comes, the Pilgrims celebrate the first year in their new home by holding a three-day feast with the Wampanoag people, the ones to whom they owe their bountiful harvest and their lives. The narrative explains that while this was a time of thanksgiving for the newcomers, many indigenous people now consider Thanksgiving to be a day of mourning, and rightly so. For we all know what history had in store for them over the next three hundred years.

Back matter includes a map showing where different tribes of Wampanoag lived in the Cape Cod area. There’s also information about storytelling traditions, harvest feasts, and how the Wampanoag give thanks to the guardian spirits that take the forms of plants and animals. The final page also provides a traditional recipe, Nasamp, a cornmeal mush served with nuts, seeds, berries, and maple syrup, as well as a photo of a Wampanoag grandmother with her grandchildren, two of whom are featured in the story.

The book also includes a glossary of Wôpanâak words, the language spoken by Wampanoag people, and a pronunciation guide.

The illustrations, painted in earth tone acrylics, depict the lush landscape (also harsh in winter) inhabited by the Wampanoag people, the Pilgrims, and the ethereal spirit advisors. It’s a beautiful book!

Activities:

Pair this book with We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illus. by Frane Lessac. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for and hang it in your room. Add to your list whenever you have new things to be thankful for.

Make origami corn and origami pumpkins

Make corn husk dolls

Pop flint corn for eating.

Title: Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story

Authors: Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, Alexis Bunten

Illustrator: Garry Meeches Sr.

Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2022

Themes: Thanksgiving, Indigenous stories, U.S. history

Ages: Elementary school

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.

8 thoughts on “Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Patricia Tilton says:

    It’s about time we see more stories shared about how the Native Americans actually helped the Pilgrims survive harsh conditions. If only we could go back in time and see how the first settlers interacted. I am sure it would be a different story. I have an ancestor who arrived a few years later in the 1600s. I heard recently that the First Nations don’t want to be referred to as tribes, but as cultures. They each have their own languages and traditions. This is a book that I’d like to own! Thanks for sharing today!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, it’s time we heard a different narrative. And it’s such a beautiful, spiritual story. The three authors use the term “tribes” here, and I have heard that using the word “tribe” in a non-indigenous way, such as “I found my tribe,” is considered cultural appropriation. The authors of this book also use the term “First Peoples.” So, like any cultural terminology, it depends on who is speaking. I recall Sherman Alexie saying (years ago) that “we Indians call ourselves Indians,” so I think the best that we non-indigenous descendants-of-colonizers can do is try not to offend and ask what’s appropriate in a given situation.

  2. Maria Marshall says:

    I love that it is written from three authors voicing the Three Sisters. This is a very important book and one I hope will help expand our understanding of the nations actual history. Thanks for featuring this book!

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