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Class Joins In Thanksgiving Celebration
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Kindergarten teacher Nancy Brayton-John, center, hands a plate of corn in the form of tortilla chips to students during their Friday Thanksgiving feast, a special classroom celebration. Marg Jackson/The Times

Wrapping up a study of the Native Americans, students in Nancy Brayton-John’s kindergarten class at Dent Elementary School had an early Thanksgiving celebration on Friday.

It didn’t feature the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing one associates with a November feast, rather, it focused on foods that were available to the Native Americans, with nuts and berries taking center stage.

Students learned about the Indians and their life in teepees, hunting the Buffalo and living on the plains, while other tribes had corn as their primary form of sustenance, building their homes with clay in their desert-like surroundings.

“It was a whole ecosystem study,” Brayton-John explained.

That prompted the rather unusual menu.

“Would the Indians have Capri Sun?” the teacher asked the students, as she instead passed around bottled water.

“They would have water but it wouldn’t be in bottles, would it?” she added, with students assuring their teacher that water would have come from a nearby stream to drink.

Jerky – dried meat – was a staple for the feast, as were tortilla chips, signifying corn. Nuts and dried berries were also featured, giving the students a taste of food that likely would have been eaten at the first Thanksgiving.

A total of two dozen students shared the feast, wearing colorful headdresses and vests they decorated out of grocery bags and including their chosen Native American names. Fast Buffalo, Strong Waters and Bright Sun were just a few names written on the backs of the vests.

“My high school TA talked with them, about what they like the best, that’s how they came up with their names,” explained Brayton-John of students choosing a new name for themselves.

Children sang a song of thanksgiving before eating their ‘feast’ and some enjoyed the jerky, while others weren’t brave enough to take a taste. All seemed to like the corn representative, chips, while nuts and berries also made their way to the plates.

It was a way for the class to wrap up their study in a festive way before enjoying a week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, Brayton-John said.

Meanwhile, community members can also enjoy a feast, with the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner set for Thursday, Nov. 28 at the Escalon Community Center, open to all free of charge. Meals can be eaten in and there is also home delivery offered to shut-ins and the elderly. The feast includes the traditional turkey dinner and all the fixings, down to the pumpkin pie for dessert.