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"No fair!"

"Why do I have to do all the work?"

"But I was here first!"

Sound familiar? Kids have their own rationale about how things work. No doubt about it.

But as parents we can, and should, use that last bit of reasoning about the importance of being there first to justify Native Americans' rights.

Here's some guidance on how to say it so it sinks in.

Short Answers are the Best Answers

The truth is that most children just want a simple answer to their question and that is all. As adults, we have a tendency to provide the full backstory behind our answer. But kids usually ignore that part.

Have you ever found yourself talking to nobody because your child is long gone after hearing the only part of the answer they needed?

It's really common.

Kids learn by processing the information we give them. The simpler the answer to their question, the easier it is for them to process the information. They don’t need any information beyond what they’re specifically asking.

Our suggestion? Try to keep your answers simple and short. So if your child asks “Who was here first, us or Native Americans?,” all you have to say is “Native Americans.”

Communicating with kids about touchy subjects like native American history is an art form.

Briefly Explain Where Native American Lived Before European Settlers Arrived

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the Native Americans lived as self-governing nations (also known as tribes) across the continent. They lived from Alaska across Canada, and throughout the lower 48 United States. They lived sustainably and understood the importance of preserving the natural world.

Keep it simple. You could say something easy like:

"Before European settlers arrived, Native Americans had been living for centuries across the United States and Canada where they protected the environment. They were forced to move to a single "Indian territory" in Oklahoma.

Kids' Logic

In the minds of children, if you tell them that Native American were already living in America when European settlers arrived on the Mayflower, that's all they want to know. To them, that means that Native Americans were here first and deserve all the advantages that come along with being first.

Things like feeling important, making decisions for others, and getting to pick first - everything that's supposed to be reserved for the ones who came first. That didn't happen.

That's all they need to know. For now.

If you found this article helpful, please check out How to Tell Kids the True Story About Native Americans (without scaring them). It's a concise booklet for parents that's full of more suggestions about how to tell kids the truth about Native American history.
DEI for Parents