What follows, I found in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, “Braiding Sweetgrass.” I have drawn only segments of this commonly quoted version of the Thanksgiving Address of the Haudensaunee tradition by John Stokes and Kanawahientun, 1993. Robin quotes this and uses the Onondaga name “Words That Come Before All Else.” She sought and received not only permission but encouragement to share this traditional way of beginning any gathering or meeting. In her book she speaks of how it is used to begin each school day on the Onondaga reservation.
Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that
the cycle of life continues. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one
as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.
We are thankful to our Mother Earth, for she gives us everything that we need for
life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she still
continues to care for us, just as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother,
we send thanksgiving, love, and respect. Now our minds are one.
We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst, for providing
strength and nurturing life for all beings. We know its power in many forms —
waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans, snow and ice. We are
grateful that the waters are still here and meeting their responsibility to the rest of
Creation. Can we agree that water is important to our lives and bring our minds
together as one to send greetings and thanks to the Water? 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 their 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 honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden,
especially the Three Sisters who feed the people with such abundance. Since the
beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans, and fruit have helped the people
survive. Many other living things draw strength from them as well. We gather
together in our minds all the plant foods and send them a greeting and thanks.
Now our minds are one….
We gather our minds together to send our greetings and thanks to all the beautiful
animal life of the world, who walk about with us. They have many things to teach us
as people. We are grateful that they continue to share their lives with us and hope that
it will always be so. Let us put out minds together as one and send our thanks
to the Animals. 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 the gift of beautiful song. Each
morning they greet the day and with their song remind us to enjoy and
appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader and to watch over the
world. 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 for the power we know as the Four Winds. We hear their
voices in the morning air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They
help 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 hearts are one.
Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers the Thunder Beings live. With
lightening and thundering voices they bring with them the water that renews
life. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our
Grandfathers, the Thunderers.
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 and give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon,
who lights the nighttime sky. She is the leader of women all over the world and
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. Let
us gather our thanks for Grandmother Moon together into a pile layer upon
layer of gratitude, and then joyfully fling that pile of thanks high into the night
sky that she will know. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our
Grandmother, the Moon.
We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We
see them at 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 as one, we send greetings and thanks to all 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.
We now turn our thought 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 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.
Imagine the profound difference it will make in our relationship with Mother Earth and All Living Beings to greet each day with this deep gratitude for the Love and Abundance of Creation.