Join me this week of Thanksgiving . . . as I focus on gratitude.
Last year, I read Robin Wall Kimmerer’s wonderful book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. This book – a smart and savvy collection of essays about nature and ecology imbued with indigenous wisdom and spirituality – is a life-affirming gift for anyone concerned or interested in their relationship with the natural world. While Robin Wall Kimmerer’s words have stuck with me in the year+ since I’ve finished the book, there is one thing she wrote about that rises to the very top for me: The Thanksgiving Address.
If you have also read Braiding Sweetgrass, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about here. But in case you haven’t had a chance to read this book yet, here is a brief explanation of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address – the “words before all else” – from the website Dance for All People.
The Thanksgiving Address (the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen) is the central prayer and invocation for the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora). It reflects their relationship of giving thanks for life and the world around them. The Haudenosaunee open and close every social and religious meeting with the Thanksgiving Address.
It is also said as a daily sunrise prayer, and is an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and her inhabitants. The children learn that, according to Native American tradition, people everywhere are embraced as family. Our diversity, like all wonders of Nature, is truly a gift for which we are thankful.
When one recites the Thanksgiving Address the Natural World is thanked, and in thanking each life-sustaining force, one becomes spiritually tied to each of the forces of the Natural and Spiritual World. The Thanksgiving Address teaches mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what is done to one part of the Web of Life, we do to ourselves.
from Dance for All People
After reading about the Thanksgiving Address in Braiding Sweetgrass, I went looking for more . . . and I found this lovely video recitation. It’s a little long (about 14 minutes), but beautiful and well worth a listen during this week of Thanksgiving.
“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
If you’d like to learn more about the Thanksgiving Address, you can check out these links and references:
- For a written version of the Thanksgiving Address, you might want to check out this version (which includes lovely accompanying images) from the Naraya Cultural Preservation Council.
- If you haven’t read Braiding Sweetgrass (yet), but you’d like to sample it, you can read the chapter ‘Allegiance to Gratitude’ (which introduces and explains the Thanksgiving Address) from the book by clicking here. (It’s a pdf version of that specific chapter.)
- And to learn more about the Haudenosaunee perspective on being thankful, and to hear more about what the Thanksgiving Address means, watch this short video from the Onondaga Historical Association.
Let’s bring our minds together and give our thanks to one another.