Episode 23: Keepunumuk: How to Indigenize Thanksgiving through Story and Food (with Alexis Bunten and Anthony Perry)
When I heard from Bioneers about a new children’s book about the story of Thanksgiving, written by Native authors, complete with curricula for elementary school students – I signed up for their presentation right away. Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with two of the authors, Alexis Bunten and Anthony Perry.
If you too have wanted to share a more accurate, more complete story of Thanksgiving with children – appropriate for their ages – you’re going to love Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story. It’s co-written by three Native authors, including Danielle Greendeer, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Citizen, Hawk Clan.
The story is told from the perspective of Corn (Weeâchumun), and emphasizes human relationship with the plants and animals who feed us, and the generosity and care we can show by feeding each other.
(And, my dreamers and dreamworkers will love this: Weeâchumun sends dreams to the First Peoples, urging them to help the hungry newcomers.)
To me, the Great Turning toward a life sustaining society requires us to take a deep look at our history. Especially for those of us without direct access to the wisdom of our indigenous ancestors, it requires learning from more life-sustaining societies, past and present. As a mother of elementary school aged children, I relate to the authors’ perspective that the stories we tell young children shape their views of themselves and the world around them.
This means we can participate in the “shift in consciousness” dimension of the Great Turning by sharing books like Keepunumuk with our kids.
I had the opportunity to speak with two of the authors, Alexis Bunten and Anthony Perry, just before Thanksgiving 2022.
Click Play above to hear us explore:
- how the mainstream Thanksgiving story landed with Tony and Alexis when they were children
- ways we can decolonize and indigenize our own Thanksgiving celebrations
- the cultural shift toward recognizing and respecting the Indigenous peoples of North America
- the authors’ choices about gently mentioning the history of colonization, pandemic and genocide among Native American people, before and after the first Thanksgiving
- contemporary food issues, including the challenges and the possibilities around reconnecting with what we eat
- and curriculum resources for children in elementary through high school
I loved hearing the care that both Alexis and Tony have for children and families of all backgrounds, as together we face the challenges of these times. I’m grateful they’ve written this book, and hopeful it will nurture a deeper understanding of our history, and our interconnection with the life that feeds us, and with one another.
MORE ABOUT MY GUESTS
Alexis Bunten is Unangan and Yup’ik, from the village South Naknek, in Bristol Bay of southwest Alaska. Alexis co-directs the Bioneers Indigeneity Program. She is an Alaska Native writer, media maker, consultant and educator. Her first book, “So, how long have you been Native?” Life as an Alaska Native Tour Guide (2015) won the Alaska Library Association Award for its originality and depth. Her writing has appeared in “First American Art Magazine,” “Cultural Survival Quarterly,” “NMAI Magazine,” and in many academic journals. Her second picture book, What your ribbon skirt means to me: Deb Haaland’s Historic Inauguration, will be published in 2023. Alexis lives in Monterey, California with her husband, daughter, 3 dogs, cat and lizard. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, studying DNA and creating cultural tours.
Anthony Perry is a citizen of the Chickasaw nation, originally from Oklahoma. He now lives in England with his wife and young children. This is his second children’s book. His first book, Chula the Fox, brings 18th century Chickasaw history to life and is being adapted into a film. He works as a quality improvement manager in the National Health Service in England and volunteers with hospitals in Pakistan to improve health services. He loves history and enjoys spending time with his family and traveling. Perry has an undergraduate degree in comparative religion from Dartmouth College, a master’s degree in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a master’s degree in public policy from Birkbeck College, University of London. He is currently working on a sequel to Chula the Fox.
Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story, by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten, and illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr.
Bioneers Indigeneity Curriculum (including Keepunumuk for Grades K-1, and The Real Thanksgiving for grades 9-12)
3 Ways to Decolonize Thanksgiving an article by Alexis Bunten
Chula the Fox, by Anthony Perry
How the Other Half Eats, by Priya Fielding-Singh (the book Alexis mentions during our conversation)
Indigeneity Conversations (Alexis’ podcast)