Thanks-Giving

In the United States, we celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday (the 4th Thursday of November). I hope each of you, wherever you are, had a good day with much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving, among other things, celebrates the day in 1621 when about 90 people — native Wampanoags & the Puritan settlers, who had recently arrived from England & needed the help of the local people — gathered together to share food & celebrate the harvest. Since childhood, I have been buoyed up by the image of two very different peoples coming together in a spirit of friendship and sharing. Later, of course, I learned that such a spirit was quickly dissolved as the settlers attacked the indigenous people and stole their land. Still, I like to focus on the image of that moment sharing across divisions.

I am reminded, too, of the Hindu woman in India who received a relief package of rice during hard times. She meticulously counted out the kernels and gave half to her Muslim neighbor. Such caring & sharing is something beautiful that holds the world together. I am thankful for the possibility of this way of being.

Today (Friday) is Native American Heritage Day. This is a time for the indigenous people of Turtle Island to celebrate their traditions, including the ways they have learned to care for the land that sustains them. It is a time for those Americans whose ancestors came from other lands to give thanks for the wisdom that Native Americans have developed over millennia as they have lived with & cared for this land. And it is a time to give thanks for their willingness to share that wisdom now as we all confront the damage that the dominant “settler” mindset has created during the last 5 centuries and that we must now confront together.

This wisdom is embodied in the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, which is proclaimed at the beginning of every solemn gathering. After each short section of the address is recited, all the people present affirm their unity and their gratitude by saying “Now our minds are one.

May we all now affirm our praise and gratitude to the Earth community!

I’ve printed the Haudenosaunee Address below.

You can also find a lovely illustrated & more meditative copy of the Address at https://danceforallpeople.com/haudenosaunee-thanksgiving-address/haudenosaunee-thanksgiving-address-1/

And at https://grateful.org/resource/thanksgiving-address-haudenosaunee/ You can see a video of native people explaining what the Address means to them. On that page, also, Robin Wall Kimmerer is quoted:

“You can’t listen to the Thanksgiving Address without feeling wealthy. And, while expressing gratitude seems innocent enough, it is a revolutionary idea. In a consumer society, contentment is a radical proposition. Recognizing abundance rather than scarcity undermines an economy that thrives by creating unmet desires…The Thanksgiving Address reminds you that you already have everything you need… That’s good medicine for land and people alike.”

— Robin Wall Kimmerer, from braiding Sweetgrass

*******

Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address:
Greetings to the Natural World

The People
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Waters
We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms- waterfalls and rain, mists and
streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

The Fish
We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Plants
Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants
With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden.  Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs
Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

The Animals
We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one.

The Trees
We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

The Birds
We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and
appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds-from the smallest to the largest-we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds
We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength.
With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

The Thunderers
Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one
to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers. 

Now our minds are one.

The Sun
We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.

Now our minds are one.

Grandmother Moon
We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night-time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.

Now our minds are one.

The Stars
We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to the Stars.

Now our minds are one.

The Enlightened Teachers
We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.

Now our minds are one.

The Creator
Now we turn our thoughts to the Creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words
We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.
This translation of the Mohawk version of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address was
developed, published in 1993, and provided, courtesy of: 
Six Nations Indian Museum and the
Tracking Project All rights reserved.

Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World 
English version: John Stokes and Kanawahienton (David Benedict, Turtle Clan/Mohawk) 
Mohawk version: Rokwaho (DanThompson, Wolf Clan/Mohawk) 
Original inspiration: Tekaronianekon (Jake Swamp, WolfClan/Mohawk) 
https://americanindian.si.edu/environment/pdf/01_02_Thanksgiving_Address.pdf 

********

Giving thanks today to the woodland community that has sheltered so many:

Thanksgiving Day walk in the Guilford College Woods near our house — once an important part of the Underground Railroad

3 thoughts on “Thanks-Giving

  1. Reading this post reminded me of something my Dad did every Thanksgiving. This holiday is not known in Spain so when he came to America in 1923 as a contract shepherd, (herding in Nevada), he got into the spirit of sharing food and having a day of thanks. But he felt that we should not have just one day, solely for gratitude, Dad felt that we should be thankful every day for what the land provided, for what hard work provided and for the on-going love and caring provided by family and friends.

    Every Thanksgiving, my Dad would give a special toast. He would raise his bota bag, a goatskin wine keeper, before tipping it into his mouth or pouring wine into his glass and give thanks for the Native Americans that he met while sheep herding in Nevada. He said they were kind to him when he met them on the trail. Over time, he would see the same group so even though Dad did not speak English, gestures and understanding formed, and they would often trade food: He gave them lamb and they gave him rabbit. He never forgot their kindness.

    Like

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