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Four Directions Youth Project

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Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address


First Nations medicine wheel

First Nations "Four Directions
Medicine Wheel"

Central to the Four Directions Youth Project is the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Thanksgiving Address, a recitation performed at many gatherings which offers a meaningful, respectful greeting to the natural world. The address follows in full.


The People

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.

The Waters

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.

The Fish

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.

The Plants

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 honour 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.

The Animals

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 honoured 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.

The Trees

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.

The Birds

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.

The Thunderers

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.

The Sun

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.

Grandmother Moon

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.

The Stars

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewellery. 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.

The Creator

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.

Closing Words

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.

Haudenosaunee Values

Our culture is a way of thinking, a way of feeling, but also an intuitive way of problem solving and a unique way to express ourselves in the world. The Haudenosaunee call all of this "Ongwehonweka" meaning all the things that pertain to the way of life of the Original People. Ongwehonweka includes all of the values, mores, ethics, philosophy and beliefs that we have inherited from our ancestors.

Values

There are shared values held by each generation that contribute to the concept of the self.

Values are shared principles that are considered important in life, that include:

Thinking collectively, considering the future generations.

Consensus in decision making, considering all points of view.

Sharing of the labour and benefits of that labour.

Duty to family, clan, nation, Confederacy and Creation.

Strong sense of self-worth without being egotistic.

People must learn to be very observant of the surroundings.

Everyone is equal and is a full partner in the society, no matter what their age.

The ability to listen is as important as the ability to speak.

Everyone has a special gift or talent that can be used to benefit the larger community.

Mores

There are mores that are the customs that are considered essential to maintaining the characteristics of the community:

Clanship relations and names are important. Clan identity impacts on nearly all aspects of the social, political and spiritual organization of the community.

Council Chiefs protect the welfare of the people.

Clan Mothers maintain social harmony.

Faithkeepers keep the ritual order moving.

Annual cycles of thanksgiving help establish order and rhythm.

The arts connect the generations in spirit.

The native languages are the keys to the expression of the soul.

Ethics

There are ethics that are the moral philosophy and principles that determine what is right and what is wrong in the mind of the traditional Haudenosaunee:

To be generous

To share

To show respect

To honour others

To love your family

To live in peace

To be honest

To feed others

To be thankful

To be hospitable

To be kind

To be cooperative

To live in harmony with nature

To ignore evil or idle talk

Philosophy

The philosophy of the Haudenosaunee is the search for understanding of the basic truths of the native universe. It is how the Haudenosaunee have come to understand their role in the world and the important lessons that understanding teach:

There is a Creator who produced the things that give bounty to this life.

The universe is full of living beings - sun, moon, stars, earth, winds, and rain.

There is a living spirit in all things - animals, plants, minerals, water, and winds.

People have power, called orenda, that accumulates through life experiences.

People should live in peace with each other.

People should live in harmony with nature.

People should be thankful everyday.

People should be kind, sharing what they have.

Life is a journey, as people are born from the earth, exist on the earth and are returned to the earth to continue that journey after death.

Beliefs

Belief is simply the feeling that something is real and true. The Haudenosaunee trust and have confidence in their beliefs about the universe, about the spiritual powers of that universe and about how humans are to conduct themselves on their journey through life. To believe is a conscious act that affects the way we see the world.

Art, in broad terms of language, music, dance, and making things, is the act by which we manifest belief, express the unseen parts of the world, and express our own personalities of people living in the world. The Haudenosaunee beliefs include the following:

(1) The Universe is a large sphere that is divided into the Skyworld above and the Underwater World below. In the middle plane of that sphere rests the earth, which is like an island floating on the back of a giant turtle.

(2) The celestial bodies and forces of that universe are living entities with a inner spirit that can be beneficial to humans if proper respect is paid to them. All people have a spiritual obligation to perform the rituals of thanksgiving in order to assure the harmony of the universe can be maintained.

(3) The Great Creator has sent three main spiritual messages to the Haudenosaunee after the Creation. These were the Four Sacred Dances, the Great Law of Peace and the Gaiwiio, or Code of Handsome Lake.

(4) The children of the Haudenosaunee are born within a Circle of Tradition, but that birthright also requires duty to maintain that circle. Those that join another religion, become citizens of foreign countries or work against the general welfare of the people are considered to have removed themselves from within this circle. Those that do, leave all of the rights of the Haudenosaunee behind.

(5) Talent is a gift from the Creator that is meant to be used for the sake of the entire community and not self-aggrandisement.