Iroquois Thanksgiving Address

We gather with family and friends today to give thanks for all that we are grateful for. One of the most beautiful, whole, and comprehensive givings of thanks I’ve heard is that of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois); their Thanksgiving Address is better described by the Iroquois Indian Museum than by me:

“The Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen means ‘The Words That Come Before All Else.’  It is also referred to as ‘The Thanksgiving Address,’  ‘Giving Greetings to the Natural World,’ or ‘The Opening Address.’ Traditional Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) say these words to begin and end each day, important meetings, ceremonies, and socials.   The Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen is an expression of acknowledgement, greetings, love, and appreciation for every part of the Natural World.  The Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen helps to bring the thoughts of the people together.  It is a way by which the Haudenosaunee remind themselves that human beings are only one strand in the Web of Life and that we are all connected to each other and to the rest of Creation.”

I feel that this thanksgiving has vital meaning for all of us who now occupy “Turtle Island,” the lands of the original people of North America. Perhaps these profoundly beautiful words from those who have lived here long before the rest of us can rise up through us from this ancient ground and help us live right with each other and with this land. They have as much meaning for all of us now as they have had at any time. Indeed, our future depends on thoughts such as these.

“Below is a video presentation featuring Mohawk storyteller Kay Olan’s spoken version of the Thanksgiving Address along with images created by Tuscarora graphic artist Melanie Printup Hope supplemented with additional photographs.”

I post this with the approval of the Iroquois Indian Museum. They ask that we please visit their website and support their museum by donating or becoming a member.

“We are a private non-profit with no line items or support from the government and can use all the help we can get.”

[By the way, if the embedded video below does not show up on your device (e.g., I don’t see it on my iPad; maybe because it is flash), just click on the link below to go to the original location on the Museum’s website.]

Check here for the original web location of this video.



A Thought on Indigenous Peoples Day

I was pondering last night the history of European American views toward living with nature, which have been dominated by mountain man and hermit images. Even Thoreau’s cabin seems somewhat like that (though it was just a 2-year retreat), or Anne LaBastille’s cabin in the Adirondacks. Not to say that there is no value to seeking solitude in the wilds to get closer to our true selves and nature.

What has been less common has been images of society living in harmony with nature; that comes harder to us, though we try. That’s one of the things I appreciate about indigenous American peoples, where both harmony with nature and mutually supportive and sharing community are integrated and seamless. Our society as a whole is mostly out of sync with that, as the behavior of our large corporations painfully and dangerously exhibits.

The old survival of the fittest model was dominated by thoughts of individuals surviving in nature, whereas our survival utterly depends on the social group. Hermits die off alone.

Joseph Knowles, depicted in his adventure in the Maine woods

A century ago, Bostonian Joseph Knowles did much to feed the myth of individual self-sufficiency in nature with his well-publicized naked walk off into the Maine woods.