News Story

State Education Department Promotes Far-Left U.S. History

An anti-American polemic called ‘A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving’ links to inaccurate claims

The Michigan Department of Education is distributing a resource guide that promotes far-left ideology and asserts the U.S. has a white supremacist culture.

The product was assembled by the Confederation of Michigan Tribal Education Departments, and the state education department confirms it has distributed the document to every public school district in the state. The 91-page publication addresses many topics and includes references to websites published by other organizations.

Specifically, the resource guide produced by the tribal group links in seven separate instances to “A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving for Educators and Families,” a section of a website published by the Interfaith Worker Justice network. Interfaith Worker Justice is funded by left-wing groups, including the Ford Foundation and the Chicago Teachers Union, according to the nonprofit organization Influence Watch.

The tribal council says the document, which carries the name Maawndoonganan, is “intentionally aligned with the Social Studies Standards adopted by the Michigan State Board of Education in June of 2019.” It is published on the council’s website, as well as that of the Michigan Department of Education, which will hold a webinar on the guide June 29.

“Our children deserve to learn about the full breadth of U.S. and world history,” said State Superintendent Michael Rice in a March 24 press release promoting the webinar. “As educators, we have the responsibility to teach them this full breadth of history, including race, racism, sexism, and other difficult and challenging subjects.”

On its website, Interfaith Worker Justice links to a 2015 article published by the blog Truthout. The title of the article is “No Thanks: How Thanksgiving Narratives Erase the Genocide of Native Peoples,” by Joanne Barker.

Barker wrote, “Thanksgiving, like mascots and faux headdresses, serves the capitalism of empire. The national holiday image of a happy extended family inviting another to generously celebrate a harvest of good food erases, distorts, shames and belittles Native people in the interest of making a buck...”

Barker also made a claim about Thanksgiving that the liberal fact-checking site Snopes declared to be inaccurate.

She wrote, “John Winthrop, governor of an English colony in what is now Massachusetts, held a feast in honor of a volunteer militia who had returned from their massacre of 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Nation.”

Snopes evaluated that claim and declared it false, stating, “The incorrect association of Thanksgiving to the Pequot massacre is a small part of a larger obscuring of the full context and origins of Thanksgiving over the years, something experts seek to correct today.”

The 1637 Pequot massacre occurred 17 years after the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. It was part of a wider conflict involving the colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Another document the Interfaith Worker Justice website points to is a 2013 article published by ChangeLab and written by Scot Nakagawa, a self-described political strategist.

“Our white supremacist culture is a conundrum,” Nakagawa wrote. “Our racist culture was created out of the justification for slavery and genocide, xenophobia, war, internment and exclusion. Once created, these justifications were reinforced through cross-generational transfer of values, customs, and norms, not to mention by making these justifications into a patriotic ethos in order to commit such acts and then accept the mantle of hero.”

“But collectively, whites remained trapped within the culture of racism, the most pernicious aspect of which is white privilege. I’m reminded of this every Thanksgiving,” Nakagawa wrote.

Another article the Interfaith Worker Justice website points to was written by Christina “Krea” Gomez for In it, Gomez urged teachers to “Display a poster of a traditional, stereotyped Thanksgiving (with pilgrims and Native Americans) and encourage your class to critique it.” It told teachers to ask students, “How would you feel if strangers forced you and your family to leave your home? If you could go back in time, how would you respond to this situation?”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive directive in 2019 to require all state departments to identify activities in which they must consult federally recognized tribes in Michigan.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.