For those of us in the United States, the autumn holidays can also be seen as Colonization season, with the dominant culture celebrating occasions like Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, both of which have direct ties to settler colonialism and the suffering of Indigenous people. In this edition of The Quieted Mind, James leads us in a recitation of the Haundenosaunee Thanksgiving Address. Despite the title, this address has no connection to the North American Thanksgiving holidays. It is an invocation recited at the opening and closing of religious and cultural meetings among people of the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations). In reciting it, the Haudenosaunee express and reaffirm their gratitude for life, the world around them, and the interconnectedness of all things. Join with us in honoring the Haundenosaunee people and decolonizing our understanding of Thanksgiving as we feed and nourish seeds of love and gratitude.
Referenced In This Episode:
Haundenosaunee Thanksgiving Address
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
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Music by The Wakeup Call and '86 Aerostar
“In gratitude, you have watered seeds of love in me. In gratitude. In gratitude, I will water seeds of love in someone too. I know you’re there for me and I am so happy. And when you suffer some please call and I will come. In gratitude, you have watered seeds of love in me. In gratitude. In gratitude, I will water seeds of love in someone too”. – Thich Nhat Hanh.
You’re listening to The Quieted Mind.
The holiday season can be a loaded time for many of us. It is intended to be a happy, peaceful time of gathering with friends, biological family and chosen family, in which we share meals, exchange gifts, and express love and gratitude. Some of us approach the holidays with some mixture of excitement and apprehension as we face the stress that comes from things like wanting to create or experience the perfect event, or knowing that we’re going to encounter people, ideas, and rhetoric that makes us feel uncomfortable or even unsafe. Expectations driven by our notions of what the holidays should or will be can lead to suffering when things fall short of what we may have hoped. I recommend the Quieted Mind episode entitled Home for the Holidays as a meditation for managing the expectations and frustrations that accompany the holiday season.
Another source of unease this time of year can come from the knowledge that some of the holidays we observe have roots in suffering. For those of us in the United States, the autumn holidays can also be seen as Colonization season, with the dominant culture celebrating occasions like Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, both of which have direct ties to settler colonialism and the suffering of indigenous people. Even Christmas carries baggage, as Christianity has manifested at various points as both a colonized religion and a colonizer’s religion, to say nothing of the so-called “War on Christmas” that the culture wars have brought about.
One of the focuses of this podcast feed, particularly during this time of year, has been decolonization. Our decolonization episodes remain available if you care to scroll back and listen or re-listen. In today’s episode, I’m renewing our focus on decolonization with a recitation of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address. Despite the title, this address has no connection to the North American Thanksgiving holidays. It is an invocation recited at the opening and closing of religious and cultural meetings among people of the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora). In reciting it, the Haudenosaunee express and reaffirm their gratitude for life, the world around them, and the interconnectedness of all things. Today, in the spirit of honoring the Haudenosaunee and joining with them in gratitude for the natural world and each other, and to water seeds of love in ourselves and others as described in the quote that opened this episode, I invite you to listen and meditate along with me. I also recommend bookmarking either this episode or a copy of the Thanksgiving Address for future use in nourishing gratitude in your everyday consciousness. I will link to a copy of the Thanksgiving Address in the show notes.
As a brief note before I begin, there are lines in the Address that discuss gratitude for the sacrifice of animals for our nourishment. Although I myself observe a vegetarian diet, I am presenting this Address unedited, out of deference to the Haudenosaunees’ deep understanding and respect toward those animals, and for those of us for whom meat is still a necessary and integral dietary component.
Join me now in the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you for joining with me in this recitation of the Haundenosaunee Thanksgiving Address. I hope those who are listening take this presentation in the spirit in which it is intended: not as appropriation or colonization, but as an effort to affirm and honor Indigenous wisdom in a time and place in which such things are often downplayed, tossed aside, or glossed over in service to observances and traditions that serve the colonizers.
For those seeking additional insight on Indigenous Wisdom in general and the Thanksgiving Address in particular, I highly recommend Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, by Professor Robin Wall Kimmerer. Writing as a botanist and a member of the Potawatomi nation, Kimmerer weaves science and Indigenous wisdom to demonstrate that the two are not as diametrically opposed as many of us might think. I will link to this title in the show notes, but please look for it or request it at your local library or wherever you buy books.
Until we meet again, in gratitude : May you be safe, may you be happy, and may you be free.