Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving Thanks

Dear Friends,

In telling and retelling the story of those first Pilgrims who survived a harsh New England winter, we remember how their second year saw a crop raised and a community gaining a foothold. We say that those early settlers learned much from the Native Americans- about corn, squash, turkey and medicine. But there is more.

The Native Americans gave witness to the settlers that giving thanks is essential for life.
On our part of the country, the Iroquois Nation had (and has to this day) a custom called the Thanksgiving Address – an address given to help the gathered  listeners  achieve what the Iroquois called one-mindedness. They argued that, from the basis of that perception, one-mindedness, the human community could work consentually  toward  oneness of life. In this Thanksgiving Address, offered at special times of the year, Mother Earth was blessed, the cycles of the season were  blessed, as the crowd punctuated whatever was held up for thanks with their “yes.” The people were reminded that what the Creator wants is for us to remain peaceful, to protect and nourish creation. Yes!

The Native American worldview impacted the new American society in other ways as well. Jose Barreiro, one-time editor  of the Northeast Indian Quarterly, reported there of “a memory that has been told and retold among the Iroquois Six Nation people…that  in the formative days of the American republic, statesmen from the Indian Confederacy informed prominent colonists, including some of our Founding Fathers, on the Indian concepts of democracy.”
Research show that, indeed, Washington, Franklin and early members of our founding congresses, had Native American friends whose ideas found their way into our Constitution, much to our benefit.
So this Thanksgiving, as we celebrate our national holy day and tend to focus our thanks to God for family, friends, faith and the basics of life, let’s enlarge our own Thanksgiving Day gratitude to include the blessings of liberty, a strong Constitution and the wisdom of our early leaders who recognized the power for good contained in the Native American vision of peacemaking and reverence for life. For those Native Americans of the Iroquois Nation (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora) whose lands we walk today here in beautiful  Upstate New York, let’s pray in the words of the Ute People of the West:
I greet the highest in you.
Your goodness walks in front of me.
Your gentleness bids me good day.
Your quietness leads me.
I greet the highest in you.

And while we are at it, let’s use that same prayer as we gather for our Thanksgiving Day meal.

Blessings on your  day!