Not for victory,
but for the day’s work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.
— Charles Reznikoff, excerpt from poem: Te Deum
Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living in a mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend. ― Wendell Berry
No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.
— John Greenleaf Whittier
The United American Indians of New England meet each year at Plymouth Rock on Cole’s Hill for a Day of Mourning. They gather at the feet of a statue of Grand Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag to remember and reflect in the hope that America will never forget. — Dennis Zotigh
SONGS about THANKS:
- Thank You for Being a Friend by Andrew Gold (pop): https://youtu.be/voNEgCKzves
- Thank You by Sly & The Family Stone (rock):https://youtu.be/NOa5UOHdwnc
- In My Life by the Beatles (rock): https://youtu.be/YBcdt6DsLQA
- Give Thanks & Praises by Bob Marley (reggae): https://youtu.be/3TK34aQwC7Q
- Thank God I Found You by Mariah Carey (rock/pop): https://youtu.be/7KVxjQUCyn0
- Thank You by Dido (pop ballad): https://youtu.be/1TO48Cnl66w
- Grateful by Hezekiah Walker (Christian Gospel): https://youtu.be/yE0W-kQyz6A
- Be Thankful by Natalie Cole (rock): https://youtu.be/6eLwhlxcJy8
- Thank God for You by Sawyer Brown (country/folk): https://youtu.be/nSDt_v2K_dY
- Kind and Generous by Natalie Merchant (pop): https://youtu.be/uAwyIad93-c
- Thank You by Alanis Morissette (pop): https://youtu.be/OOgpT5rEKIU
- Thank You for Loving Me by Jon Bon Jovi (rock ballad): https://youtu.be/_9wKi1keg8g
INFO about THANKSGIVING
- FACTS & INFO from History.com: https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving
FEASTING — John O’Donohue
As we begin this meal with grace,
Let us become aware of the memory
Carried inside the food before us:
The quiver of the seed
Awakening in the earth,
Unfolding in a trust of roots
And slender stems of growth,
On its voyage toward harvest,
The kiss of rain and surge of sun;
The innocence of animal soul
That never spoke a word,
Nourished by the earth
To become today our food;
The work of all the strangers
Whose hands prepared it,
The privilege of wealth and health
That enables us to feast and celebrate.
BLESSING the BREAD, the CUP — Jan Richardson
Let us bless the bread
that gives itself to us
with its terrible weight,
its infinite grace.
Let us bless the cup
poured out for us
with a love
that makes us anew.
Let us gather
around these gifts
and deeply blessed.
And then let us go
bearing the bread,
carrying the cup,
laying the table
within a hungering world.
WORDS & RESOURCES for WHEN WE FEAST
ALONE or IN SMALL NUMBERS: REMEMBERING
Video resource shared by a bereaved community member for people about getting through the holidays: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GYnT8rr3VM
PIE with SPIRITS— Mary Wellemeyer
This is the very pumpkin pie
my grandmother made—almost.
She was a modern woman
who knew how to follow recipes.
Receipts, she called them,
because they had been received.
She had a rule
for pie crust that was constant
until, from time to time, it changed.
I have that rule, in turn,
and it has moved on,
just a bit, from where she left it.
This is my special shared moment
with her, departed a quarter century.
As I work, I am all ages of myself,
and the thought of my tall son
comes to join us,
though he hardly knew her.
He makes pies with wild abandon,
sculpting them from material and artistry.
He has received pie somehow
at the level of soul.
The three of us make pie together,
preheating the oven,
cutting butter into flour,
flouring a board,
rolling the crust.
To honor her, I follow the recipe.
To honor him, I change just one thing.
To honor myself, I take my time and smile.
ALONE on THANKSGIVING — Katherine Bebbington
For the snow and bitter cold
For windows that rattle
And floorboards that creak
Ancient clocks that tick
Loudly in the silence
A cat curled against my side
A fire burning, candles lit
Lifting their smoke and fragrance
To God like prayers.
I’m thankful fo
r this moment
Alone and quiet, and that
Somehow there is beauty
Even in this loneliness.
The courage to be brave;
For this I am thankful.
THANKSGIVING for TWO — Marjorie Saiser
The adults we call our children
will not be arriving with their children in tow for Thanksgiving.
We must make our feast ourselves,
slice our half-ham, indulge, fill our plates,
potatoes and green beans
carried to our table near the window.
We are the feast, plenty of years,
arguments. I’m thinking the whole bundle of it
rolls out like a white tablecloth. We wanted
to be good company for one another.
Little did we know that first picnic
how this would go. Your hair was thick,
mine long and easy; we climbed a bluff
to look over a storybook plain. We chose
our spot as high as we could, to see
the river and the checkerboard fields.
What we didn’t see was this day, in
our pajamas if we want to,
wrinkled hands strong, wine
in juice glasses, toasting
the decades of side-by-side,
our great good luck.
ALONE on THANKSGIVING— Jaucelyn Montgomery
I am thankful for the time alone
Glad everyone is going home
Now I can sit and be really lazy
No one to drive me absolutely crazy
Eat pizza and drink some beer
Sit around in my lowest gear
Watch football on T.V.
Light a fire and put on a favorite CD
Dance and sing to my heart’s content
This time alone will be well spent
So if you get the chance to skip Thanksgiving,
Make it fun don’t have misgivings
NOVEMBER for BEGINNERS — Rita Dove
Snow would be the easy way out—that softening sky like a sigh of relief at finally being allowed to yield. No dice. We stack twigs for burning in glistening patches but the rain won’t give. So we wait, breeding mood, making music of decline. We sit down in the smell of the past and rise in a light that is already leaving….
WORDS for FRIENDS & FAMILY that GATHER
CATALOG of UNABASHED GRATITUDE (excerpt) — Ross Gay
… and you, again you, for hanging tight, dear friend.
I know I can be long-winded sometimes.
I want so badly to rub the sponge of gratitude
over every last thing, including you, which, yes, awkward
… Goodbye, I mean to say. And thank you. Every day.
PERHAPS the WORLD ENDS HERE — Joy Harjo
The world begins at a kitchen table.
No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.
So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it.
Babies teethe at the corners.
They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human.
We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children.
They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table. This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table.
It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror.
A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
FAMILY REUNION — Maxine Kumin
The week in August you come home,
adult, professional, aloof,
we roast and carve the fatted calf
—in our case home-grown pig,
the chine garlicked and crisped,
the applesauce hand-pressed.
Hand-pressed the greengage wine.
Nothing is cost-effective here.
The peas, the beets, the lettuces hand sown,
are raised to stand apart.
The electric fence ticks
like the slow heart of something
we fed and bedded for a year,
then killed with kindness’s one bullet
and paid Jake Mott to do the butchering.
In winter we lure the birds with suet,
thaw lungs and kidneys for the cat.
Darlings, it’s all a circle
from the ring of wire that keeps the raccoons from the corn
to the gouged pine table that we lounge around,
distressed before any of you was born.
Benign and dozy from our gluttonies,
the candles down to stubs, defenses down,
love leaking out unguarded
the way juice dribbles from the fence
when grounded by grass stalks or a forgotten hoe,
how eloquent, how beautiful you seem!
Wearing our gestures, how wise you grow,
ballooning to overfill our space,
the almost-parents of your parents now.
So briefly having you back to measure us
is harder than having let you go.
FIRST THANKSGIVING (excerpt) — Sharon Olds
When she comes back, from college,
I will see the skin of her upper arms, cool, matte, glossy.
She will hug me, my old soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair!
She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object, like a soul in a body.
She came into my life
the second great arrival, after him,
fresh from the other world—
which lay, from within him, within me.
Those nights, I fed her to sleep, week after week,
the moon rising, and setting, and waxing—
whirling, over the months,
in a slow blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has had it.
She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she’s fast asleep,
I’ll exult to have her in that room again, behind that door! …
THANKSGIVING — Edgar Albert Guest
Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,
An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;
An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they
Are growin’ more beautiful day after day;
Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,
Buildin’ the old family circle again;
Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.
Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.
Father’s a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin’ our stories as women an’ men.
Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there.
Home from the east land an’ home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We’ve come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank,
Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank.
Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.
The THANKSGIVINGS — Margaret Maxwell Converse
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here
to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created
men and women, and ordered
that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products
to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs
for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming
from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows
for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder
and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun
that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank
all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being
of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs,
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard
through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit’s music,
and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies
on this occasion.
COMMENTARIES on THANKSGIVING
GRACE as a PRAYER BEFORE a MEAL
No matter how you say it, grace can transform an ordinary meal into a celebration—of family, love, and gratitude. … So now someone at our holiday tables always ends up saying grace. I think we’re in it for the pause, the quiet thanks for love and for our blessings, before the shoveling begins. For a minute, our stations are tuned to a broader, richer radius. We’re acknowledging that this food didn’t just magically appear: Someone grew it, ground it, bought it, baked it; wow.
We say thank you for the miracle that we have stuck together all these years, in spite of it all; that we have each other’s backs, and hilarious companionship. We say thank you for the plentiful and outrageous food … We pray to be mindful of the needs of others. We savor these moments out of time, when we are conscious of love’s presence, of Someone’s great abiding generosity to our dear and motley family, these holy moments of gratitude. And that is grace. — Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow
TEN THOUGHTS on THANKSGIVING — Sr Joan Chittisters
Whether you will be wrapped in the loving chaos of family on Thanksgiving or eating turkey burgers with friends at a local dive or serving bird with all the fixings at church or the local soup kitchen, I pour out the blessing of gratitude on all your heads. Here are thoughts from Benedictine sister and writer Joan Chittister for you to carry with you:
- It’s important to dot our lives with unscheduled as well as scheduled feast days. That way we remember that we are able to make joy as well as to expect it. Or as Lin Yutang, the Chinese philosopher put it: “Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks.”
- Food and feasting are the things that remind us of the unending glory, the limitless love, of God. Voltaire said of it: “Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”
- A Jewish proverb teaches us that “Worries go down better with soup.” Treating food as a sacrament rather than a necessity reminds us that, in the end, there is always more good in life than bad. The trick is to notice it.
- To love good food is a measure of our love of life. Food preparation teaches us to do everything we can to make life palatable, spicy, comforting, full of love.
- Sitting down to a meal with the family—table set, food hot, salad fresh, water cold, dishes matched and food served rather than speared—may be the very foundation of family life in which we celebrate our need for one another. The loss of the family feast may do more to loosen the family bonds than any other single dimension of family life.
- One purpose of feasting is to get back in touch with the earth that sustains us, to glorify the God that made it and to pledge ourselves to save the land that grows our food.
- In this country, we are conditioned to think that taking time to eat together, to make a meal an event rather than an act, takes time from the important things of life. That may be exactly why we are confused now about what the important things of life really are. “Happiness,” Astrid Alauda writes, “is a bowl of cherries and a book of poetry under a shade tree.”
- Good food is the hallmark of every season: fresh fruit in summer, roasted chestnuts in the fall, warm bread in winter, oyster stew in the spring. Leslie Newman says of it. “As the days grow short, some faces grow long. But not mine. Every autumn, when the wind turns cold and darkness comes early, I am suddenly happy. It’s time to start making soup again.” Good food is the sacrament of life everlasting.
- Food doesn’t have to be exotic to be wonderful. Peasant societies give us some of the best meals ever made. It is always simple, always the same—and always different due to the subtle changes of sauce and cooking style that accompany it. As the Polish say: “Fish, to taste right, must swim three times—in water, in butter and in wine.”
- To be feasted is to be loved outrageously.
TO GIVE THANKS
For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile. — Elie Wiesel
Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life. — Rumi
Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. — Maya Angelou
“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.” I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions. ― Wendell Berry
Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day. — Robert Caspar Lintner
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. — Meister Eckhart
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year because it reminds us to give thanks and to count our blessings. Suddenly, so many things become so little when we realize how blessed and lucky we are. — Joyce Giraud
I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. — Albert Schweitzer
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. —Melody Beattie
I don’t need a holiday or a feast to feel grateful for my children, the sun, the moon, the roof over my head, music, and laughter, but I like to take this time to take the path of thanks less traveled. — Paula Poundstone
I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. — Henry David Thoreau
The emperor Caesar — the head of the Roman empire — was believed to be “lord and savior.” He owned everything, the benefactor who distributed his gifts and favors (“gratia” in Latin) at will… Caesar’s gifts, however, were not free. They were transactional. When you received from Caesar, you were expected to return gratitude, your “gratia,” through tributes, tithes, taxes, loyalty and military service. Until you returned appropriate thanks, you were in Caesar’s debt…
There is, however, an alternative to the pyramid of gratitude: a table. One of the enduring images of American self-understanding is that of a Thanksgiving table, where people celebrate abundance, serve one another and make sure all are fed. People give with no expectation of return, and joy replaces obligation. This vision of gratitude is truly virtuous, sustains the common good, ensures a circle of equality, and strengthens community. — Diana Butler Bass, New York Times
…an intelligently planned feast is like a summing up of the whole world, where each part is represented by its envoys. — Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin
When we develop a right attitude of compassion and gratitude, we take a giant step towards solving our personal and international problems. — Dalai Lama
When you allow your heart to open to the universe’s flow of love, gratitude comes with that flow. Gratitude for the people that you love, and for those who share your life. Gratitude for the Creation of the beautiful Earth as our home in this great cosmos. Gratitude for the Sun that gives us life. Gratitude for being alive, for just existing, for being in the flow of the wonder of life. — Owen Waters
O Lord, who lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness. — William Shakespeare
Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” — Buddha
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. — Albert Einstein
Thankfulness is measured by the number of words. Gratitude is measured by the nature of our actions. — David McKay
We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count. — Neal Maxwell
NATIONAL HOLIDAY PROCLAMATION
Below is the proclamation which set the precedent for America’s national day of Thanksgiving. …
Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” … The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary how he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.
By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
COMMENTARIES FROM NATIVE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE
… we can’t keep perpetuating the old myths. Let’s instead honor the truth, reclaim it and transform it with the light of our understanding. As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US we are reminded like Terra Trevor said on the Huffington Post:
“the ‘Thanksgiving’ holiday was coined and continues to be celebrated based on a story that does not include factual Native American history… It serves as a period of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many Native people from disease, and near total elimination of many more from forced assimilation. As celebrated in America ‘Thanksgiving’ is a reminder of 500 years of betrayal.”
“I’m within the assemblage of American Indians whose family and Native friends celebrates Thanksgiving. But our focus is not on pilgrims. … “Our celebration is deep-rooted in the simple tradition of honoring, remembering our ancestors, our history, with a focus on celebrating the harvest. We feast and pray for the healing to begin…”
I found this channelling by Wes Annac and I wanted to share it with all of you in light of this Thanksgiving holiday here in the US…
“We wish to talk to you about the holiday that many know as Thanksgiving. This is a holiday that is being celebrated in the United States, and we wish you to know that yes, it does have a very dark history. … “So as you go about your celebrations, we ask you to honor the spirits of those who had their lands forcefully taken away from them, and at the same time dear souls we ask you to honor, we ask you to appreciate the bounty that you are being blessed with on these holidays. …
I am grateful to all of you for opening you hearts, for your sisterhood and brotherhood. Our circle of connection is palpable and we are building bridges of light as we join hearts across space and time…. — Mijanou Montealegre (excerpt of post)
I celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving.This may surprise those people who wonder what Native Americans think of this official U.S. celebration of the survival of early arrivals in a European invasion that culminated in the death of 10 to 30 million native people. Thanksgiving to me has never been about Pilgrims…. As a child of a Native American family, you are part of a very select group of survivors, and I learned that my family possessed some “inside” knowledge of what really happened when those poor, tired masses came to our homes.
When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock, they were poor and hungry — half of them died within a few months from disease and hunger. When Squanto, a Wampanoag man, found them, they were in a pitiful state. He spoke English, having traveled to Europe, and took pity on them. Their English crops had failed. The native people fed them through the winter and taught them how to grow their food.These were not merely “friendly Indians.” They had already experienced European slave traders raiding their villages for a hundred years or so, and they were wary — but it was their way to give freely to those who had nothing.
Among many of our peoples, showing that you can give without holding back is the way to earn respect. …. It was believed that by giving there would be enough for all …
To the Pilgrims, and most English and European peoples, the Wampanoags were heathens, and of the Devil. They saw Squanto not as an equal but as an instrument of their God to help his chosen people, themselves.
Since that initial sharing, Native American food has spread around the world. Nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples. I sometimes wonder what they ate in Europe before they met us. Spaghetti without tomatoes? Meat and potatoes without potatoes?
And at the “first Thanksgiving” the Wampanoags provided most of the food — and signed a treaty granting Pilgrims the right to the land at Plymouth, the real reason for the first Thanksgiving. What did the Europeans give in return? Within 20 years European disease and treachery had decimated the Wampanoags. Most diseases then came from animals that Europeans had domesticated. Cowpox from cows led to smallpox, one of the great killers of our people, spread through gifts of blankets used by infected Europeans. Some estimate that diseases accounted for a death toll reaching 90 percent in some Native American communities.
By 1623, Mather the elder, a Pilgrim leader, was giving thanks to his God for destroying the heathen savages to make way “for a better growth,” meaning his people.In stories told by the Dakota people, an evil person always keeps his or her heart in a secret place separate from the body. The hero must find that secret place and destroy the heart in order to stop the evil.I see, in the “First Thanksgiving” story, a hidden Pilgrim heart.
The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism.
Where is the hero who will destroy that heart of evil? I believe it must be each of us. Indeed, when I give thanks this Thursday and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused.
Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle. And the healing can begin.— Jacqueline Keeler, member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux.
Each November in America we celebrate the harvest festival of Thanksgiving. Over the years, much lore has evolved surrounding early Thanksgivings and feelings of brotherhood and good will between pilgrim settlers and the Native inhabitants of North America. Sadly, most of these stories are inaccurate at best, and serve to ignore or gloss over a broad history of atrocities. In our hearts, we cannot celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the way revisionist history teaches our school children. We still feel the pain and suffering of our ancestors as the Pilgrims celebrated their thanksgivings by theft of our lands and the genocide of our peoples.
Still, Native Americans are grateful for all that nature provides, and many of us celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in our own ways. Moreover, we give thanks every day as we greet the morning star in the eastern sky giving thanks to the Creator, our families, our ancestors and our survival.
We wish you and your families a happy holiday, and hope you are able to set images of pilgrims aside and join in gratitude for the bounty the living earth provides us. In that spirit, let us share with you the words of “Thankgiving” from our Mohawk relatives in belief that one day there will truly be a Thanksgiving for all. — ohnwentsya, Spirit in Action blog journal
Haudenosaunee “Thanksgiving” Prayer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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