• Jean Linville

Raspberries & Haudenosaunee


I recently began reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants written by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Published in 2013, it would be easy to wonder why it has taken me so long to pick up this wonderful book, but I know that it has come into my life now because it is the perfect time for it. I have been engaged in my "Walden Experiment" since the beginning of this year (see my February 1 blog for more information), and in the ensuing months I have learned much, including just how much I still have to learn about this little plot of land that we live on. Focusing on a teeny, tiny, little corner of the world has amplified my appreciation for how rich, complex and intertwined life on our planet is and the essays contained within Kimmerer's remind us of this as well.

Currently, I am hitting the pause and rewind button repeatedly on her chapter entitled Allegiance to Gratitude. It has captivated me and has me rethinking how it is that I should start each day. In this essay, she contrasts the morning ritual of the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools with the Thanksgiving Address spoken in the Onondaga Nation school, sharing The Words That Come Before All Else with readers. This address is not a prayer, but rather an acknowledgement and a giving of thanks and it is done at any gathering of people, be it in school, a meeting or a social gathering. It comes from the Haudenosaunee People (The Iroquois Nation), with ancient roots dating back to when the Great Law of Peace was brought to the people by the Peace Maker, Dekanawidah (“Two River-Currents Flowing Together”), the Iroquois prophet, statesman, and lawgiver. The beauty of this address is that it is not rigid and it can be tailored to specific occurrences in the the natural world. I have always thought of myself as a grateful person, but reading this address has shown me an even more focused way of giving thanks. Click on the Iroquois belt to hear from an elder about this oral tradition.

As I begin living out a new day, I think of the Thanksgiving Address and how I might speak it to our yard and modify/expand it to honor the gifts of the day. I hope all the beings are listening and hear how much I value each and every one of them. Here are two excerpts from The Words That Come Before All Else with my interjected words for today written in green.

"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." Today I thank the wren, cardinal and robin for your morning greeting, your songs buoy my heart and inspire my art. "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." I am thankful for the rain that fell last night that is giving life and nourishment to all the plants and has filled our lake. "With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water. Now our minds are one."

"The Food Plants. With one mind, we turn to honor 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." Today the raspberries are offering themselves to the world. I am grateful for the berries and I love and respect them for nourishing me. "We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks." I will do what I can to provide them with a healthy and safe environment in which to grow. "Now our minds are one."

To read the entire Thanksgiving Address, click on the image of the raspberries. May you have a day full of giving thanks.

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