Down to Earth: A Review of Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story

Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story
Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten. Illustrated by Gaary Meeches Sr.
Charlesbridge
August 2nd, 2022
Ages 3 – 7

Keepunumuk is an embedded narrative about the harvest feasts that became known as the first Thanksgiving, composed in the style of Wampanoag oral storytelling tradition. When Maple and Quill ask their grandmother to tell them a story about the three sisters, the personifications of Corn, Beans, and Squash, she tells them about Keepunumuk, the first Thanksgiving. Weeâchumun (Corn), the eldest of the three sisters, is told of the arrival of newcomers to Turtle Island (North American continent). When Fox asks if they should trust the newcomers, Weeâchumun cautions them to watch them over the winter. These newcomers, the pilgrims, are seen struggling until spring. Weeâchumun and her two sisters decide, along with Fox and the other animals, to help these new people and send the First People, the Wampanoag, to teach them how to live with the land. With the help of the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims are saved and can survive the year. With the harvest that saved their lives, they had the first Thanksgiving. Meeches’ art, based on the Plains art style, excels at the depictions of Weeâchumun and her two sisters. Her form flowing out of corn stalks reinforces this connection between the personification and the crop she represents. The choice of detailing Weeâchumun and Fox more than the various humans in the narrative also supports the idea that the flora and fauna of Turtle Island are of primary importance in this story. Compared to the simple depictions of the pilgrims, they are important to the story only as beings to be cared for and the first people as willing helpers to the other residents of the land. The front and back of the book include additional materials for the readers about the Wampanoag, the first people of Massachusetts. The backmatter contains sections on Wampanoag storytelling tradition, traditions of giving thanks, a brief historical overview of the land and its inhabitants before the Pilgrim arrival, the basics of the aftermath of that arrival, a glossary of Wampanoag language (Wôpanâak) terms, as well as a recipe for Nasamp, a cornmeal-based dish.

A reimagined indigenous folktale about giving thanks to the world that provides for us.