Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address as Inspiration for Giving Thanks Daily for our Planet

As an avid reader with an interest in learning more about our natural world and what can be done to live in a way that supports our planet, I searched for websites, books, and more that could be of value. In my search, I also began looking for knowledge of Native American cultures as they were the first stewards of these lands, lived in harmony with it, and maintained a reciprocal relationship. I hope to honor their knowledge and gain some further understanding as I move forward. In honoring this knowledge I would like to first link to the resources that inspired this post:

As a whole, the human population on earth has failed to maintain our connection to the earth, living in our minds, instead of feeling through our feet and grounding to the earth beneath us. Modern life has disconnected us from the knowledge of where things come from, how things are created, their impacts on our natural world as well as why that should matter to us. In damaging our relationship with our planet we have also failed to protect it. While taking it for granted we miss all the little miracles around us and we have to be reminded of everything we have to thank our world for.

While reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass I came across the Haudenosaunee (hoe-dee-no-SHOW-nee) Thanksgiving Address in which I found a simple and beautiful way to remind ourselves daily of all that we have in our lives to give thanks for. It was written as a daily reminder to be thankful for all the planet has provided for us.

The Haudenosaunee name refers to the confederation/alliance of six Native American nations which is more commonly called the Iroquois Confederacy in modern US History books. The Iroquois Confederacy was an inspiration for those who wrote the US Constitution. Living on the east coast myself this history is directly related to the land that supports me every day.

I designed the image above of the Thanksgiving Address using the copy included in the PDF I linked at the beginning. I did so as my own way to sit with and reflect on the content, as well as give myself a way to come back to it. The header is purple and includes an illustration of the Hiawatha belt, the color was chosen because the actual belt is made of wampum beads. Wampum (WAHM-pem) is something I have been familiar with since I was a child visiting Martha’s Vineyard and going quahoging (clamming for quahogs) with my family. The purple and white shells of the quahog are turned into beads that are still used in jewelry and other things today. The belt is a symbol instead of an accessory and is not worn as a belt. It represents the alliance of the original five nations in the Confederacy connected by the Great Law of Peace.

‘Thanksgiving Address’ does not refer to the holiday in the US but rather the concept of giving thanks and it is meant for daily use not just one day a year. The Haudonsaunee began and ended all social and ceremonial celebrations with the address and sometimes referred to it as “the worlds that come before all else.” This places a huge amount of importance on giving thanks to all the world provides for us and keeping it foremost in our minds. Traditions like these would be even more important today to remind us in modern times to remain connected to the world around us and grateful each day.

Finding myself inspired by The Thanksgiving Address I decided to expand on words I had already chosen as daily reminders—Gratitude, Happiness & Humility, Wonder—to build it into something longer. Many of the concepts, words, and phrases here also come from other places and people who have inspired me (In case you are interested one of those is the blog brainpickings.org).

GRATITUDE. Today we express our gratitude. We see the cycle of rebirth continues in the unceasing stream of life. Moments layer upon one another an interplay of all that has passed within the present moment. It is our sacred duty to live in balance and harmony with everyone and everything.

We breathe deeply bringing awareness and mindfulness as we give greetings and thanks to all the interdependent particles of the universe.

HAPPINESS & HUMILITY. Today we are present in this moment. As we meditate the walls between self and other vanish, here there is serenity and bliss, we are not alone. We float freely in the moment recognizing all Mother Earth has provided for us. Time ceases and we know no urgency just being.

Humbled and free we breathe deeply as we give thanks to the invisible force that connects the natural universe from stone to amoeba, mountain to river, songbird to human.

WONDER. Today we look at the natural world in wonder. We turn our minds towards forsaking labels that impoverish experience to wonder at the beauty of all beings. All processes and phenomena but condensed miracles interwoven in the quilt of life. As we are, so we see.

With our sight full of wonder we give thanks to its myriad kaleidoscopic manifestations as we breathe in the element of air and steady the wind of the mind.

View at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego California

What do you know about water?

How often have you asked yourself about water? You are generally aware of it’s necessity in your life and you’ve probably been told you can only live 3–4 days without water; but how much do you consider water?

If you’ve ever driven by a reservoir regularly and noticed the changing water level, did you think it was due to drought conditions or human consumption? Did you consider how many people the water supply of the world can support?

It’s altogether too easy to take for granted a simple thing like water. How many times have you let the sink run over a dish while doing something else, taken a long shower, done a small load of laundry or dishes, dumped a water bottle down the drain because it wasn’t cold?

We probably learned in elementary school and are often reminded when looking at a world map that 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water. What we might forget is that only 3% of the earth’s water is freshwater. With less than 1% of the earth’s freshwater being accessible to us. This means 99% of earth’s freshwater is inaccessible. Source

  • 0.3% of freshwater is found in lakes, ponds, rivers, and wetlands
  • 30% of freshwater is found in groundwater
  • 68% of freshwater is inaccessible in icecaps and glaciers

With so little water accessible to us conservation is key. 1,320 gallons of water the equivalent of 32,911 glasses of water or 5 showers an hour are needed a day to support the diet of the average American. 2/3rds of this water is used to produce the food we eat.

70% of all the freshwater used by humans is for agricultural purposes. Producing the food we eat, the clothing we wear, electronics, and more all contribute to our freshwater use. Producing 1 pound of beef requires more than 1,750 gallons of water. Producing 1 pound of rice requires between 400–650 gallons of water. Rice, Cotton, and Sugar are thirsty plants requiring heavy water use. Check out this water footprint calculator.

With construction on once protected and public lands we eliminate streams, vernal pools, and wetlands. With the dumping of sewage and storm water we taint freshwater sources. With our use of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and other chemicals we taint groundwater, ponds, and streams. With our mining for fossil fuels and minerals we taint groundwater which eventually joins larger freshwater sources. While it is inaccessible to us, global warming is melting the icecaps and glaciers — raising sea levels, yes, but that’s another topic — our largest potential freshwater source.

While we continue to affect our freshwater sources with our activities we place greater demand on them as well. Today 780 million people lack access to freshwater and about 1.5 million people die each year from diarrhea. With projected population growth by 2025 (just 7 years from now) 35% (or 2/3rds) of the earth’s population (48 countries) will be affected by water stress and scarcity.

Take a step back each day with wonder, humility, and gratitude for the natural world. As small as it may seem, do your part, and use the bare minimum you need. Together we can make a difference.

A few ideas for water conservation:

  • Buy only as much food as you eat
  • Buy less “thirsty” plants and meats (Beef, pork, rice, etc)
  • Take quick showers and shower less
  • Flush less
  • Run only full loads of laundry and dishes
  • Don’t leave the sink running
  • Wash your car less and with only a bucket of water
  • Water the lawn less
  • Avoid filling that hot tub or pool