In Emma Field, Book Three, Randall Pierce comes to his grandmother to ask her to teach him The Thanksgiving Address which is offered every significant gathering of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). Orenda Pierce relays to him the steps in the address which offer thanks to the many and varied parts of creation that support life. In acknowledging the kinship with the natural world, she weaves together the prayer which acknowledges the sacred web of life and the peace and harmony that can be found in doing so.
Imagine that! Imagine if the morning announcements in every classroom in Canada began with “We give thanks for…the sun, the waters, the plants…”. Imagine if in The House of Commons and every board room across the country men and women paused before beginning their work of the day to acknowledge the sacredness of the very air we breathe and soil on which we walk! Don’ t you think we’d be making different decisions? Don’t you think it would be much easier to be in good relations with one another and the natural world?
The offerings of thanksgiving in Haudenosaunee culture are not just reserved for the start of significant events. The continual cycle of thanksgiving follows the change of seasons and the ripening of crops in ceremonies that give thanks to what has already been provided as staple foods. The Maple Dance in March gives thanks for the ‘sweet water’ of maple sap. The Thunder Dance of April gives thanks for the arrival of spring rains. The Sun Dance of May, the warming of the earth by the sun, the Seed Blessing or Planting Dance for the three staples of corn, squash and beans. All year long there is a continual cycle of thanksgiving for the gifts of creation.
And imagine that! Our holiday of Thanksgiving seems to give us pause to consider the bountiful harvests we enjoy, but imagine if we also paused to appreciate and give thanks for the many berries that grow on Canadian soil, the sap that flows through the awakening maples and the corn that is pollinated each summer. Such a simple, grace-filled act could do no harm and would perhaps give us the moment to consider how intricately connected we are to the fruits of the land – the land we are systematically and dare I say deliberately destroying!
In 1977 the Haudenosaunee Council offered a message about their people and beliefs to the rest of the world through a United Nations conference. The document was called A Basic Call to Consciousness: The Haudenosaunee Address to the Western World and was a call to the “consciousness of the sacred web of life in the universe.”
“In the beginning, we were told that the human beings who
walk about the Earth have been provided with all the things
necessary for life. We were instructed to carry a love for
one another, and to show a great respect for all the beings
of this Earth. We are shown that our life exists with the tree
life, that our well-being depends on the well-being of the
Vegetable Life, that we are close relatives of the four- legged beings.
In our ways, spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics.”
A spiritual connection to all living things that pervades all aspects of our lives and culture here in Canada – wouldn’t that be a fine thing to uphold? Wouldn’t it be a fine thing to bind us all together?