A Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) eats peanuts at a feeder in Fort Washington State Park. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Words Before All Else

A new year begins. I think it fitting to begin the year with words of thanksgiving.

The Words That Come Before All Else, are an ancient supplication of the indigenous Six Nations peoples of Northeastern North America, the Mohawks, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora. The address is not a prayer but expresses gratitude and empathic connection to all of creation. Words Before All Else are the words that Haudenosaunee  (Ho doe na show knee) people speak before ceremonial and governmental gatherings and some people speak it to start and end their days. The words address the People, Earth Mother, The Waters, Fish, Plants, Food Plants, Medicine Herbs, Trees, Birds, Four Winds, Thunderers, Sun, Grandfather Moon, Stars, Enlightened Teachers, and The Creator. Each element of the natural world is spoke to and thanked for their contributions to all life. These words bind us and promote empathy with all creation.

The words speak of an understanding and gratefulness to those beings and elements of creation which by following their instructions, to keep creation running. We as humans need to do out part by following our creator-given instructions which fit in with the cycle of life here on Earth.

In 1995, Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp published a children’s book, Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message (Reading Rainbow Book) (Reading Rainbow Books). In writing the children’s book, Chief Jake Swamp’s original vision was to give the words of the Thanksgiving Address to the children of the world “so that later in life, when they go out and meet one another, they will find that they are all coming from the same place.”

In this video above, Whatweni⋅neh – Frieda Jacques, Turtle Clan and Kateri – Riley Thornton, Snipe Clan of the Onondoga Nation explain the purpose, origin, and uses of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address or the Words That Come Before All Else. Thank you to Ms. Jacques and Thornton for uploading and sharing the video on YouTube.

You can find the words of the Thanksgiving Address and download them on the National Museum of the American Indian  website. http://www.americanindian.si.edu/environment/pdf/01_02_Thanksgiving_Address.pdf

The Tracking Project has a pocket-sized booklet entitled, The Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World, published by the Thanksgiving Address Project and is available in several different languages including English/Mohawk, Mohawk/German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Bisayan, French, Italian and Hawaiian. http://www.thetrackingproject.org/ttp/products/.

Wado.

Leave a Reply