Take Note

 “The Words Before All Else.”

Before anything else is said when the Haudenosaunee, the tribes of the Iroquois, meet for governmental, social, or religious gatherings, and at the end of those gatherings, they recite together what is known as the Thanksgiving Address. In reciting this prayer of thanksgiving together, they as a group, recognize the many gifts they share from the natural world and from the Creator. They recognize what they have and share in common. It begins this way:

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty and responsibility 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 our greetings and our thanks to one another as people. Now our minds are one.

Then the prayer proceeds to recognize the particular gifts of the Earth, of Water, the fish, the plants, the food plants, the medicine plants, the trees, the birds, the four winds, the thunders which bring the rain, the sun, the moon, the stars, the wisdom keepers, and the Creator. At the end of each of the sections of the prayer come the words “Now our minds are one.” Our minds are one in thanksgiving for these particular, now acknowledged gifts that have been given to all of us.

“How beautiful”, I thought when I read this, and “how instructive.” For by acknowledging the gifts we receive from the various natural forms, forces and beings, we also acknowledge our relationship to these particulars and our responsibility in that relationship to maintain their integrity and their health that the Earth and all the creatures of God’s Creation, all the elements and forces that make up this amazing interconnected, living community, might flourish.

While there are several forms of this prayer, at the end of one is spoken:

Now we turn our thoughts to the Creator and send our greetings and our 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 around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.

In this season of Thanksgiving, the Bell Choir and Adult Choir will be bringing to this celebration a Dakota hymn, Many and Great to share with you. May our minds be open to all the many things we have to be thankful for and our relationship to all of the particular elements of this amazing Creation which make our lives possible and beautiful, and may we recognize our responsibility to live in such a manner that all life might flourish.

May our minds now be one in Thanksgiving and Community.