In 1620, a ship carrying European settlers landed off the coast of Massachusetts and started a settlement at an abandoned Native American village of the Wampanoag tribe. Some native people helped them through their first difficult year, teaching them how to grow and gather native food. When the settlers harvested their first crop, they shared some food with Wampanoags. This was the first Thanksgiving.
Here are excerpts from the Thanksgiving Address, the central prayer and invocation for the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy) which is a daily sunrise prayer, and an ancient message of peace. The Thanksgiving Address teaches mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what is done to one part of the Web of Life, we do to ourselves.
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty and responsibility 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 our greetings and our thanks to one another as people
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.
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.
The fish 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.
As far as the eye can see, plants grow, working many wonders.They sustain many life forms.
Since the beginning of time, grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive.
From the beginning, medicine plants 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.
Animals have many things to teach us as people. We are honored 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.
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.
The Creator gave birds beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life.
We hear the voices of the four winds in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength.
With lightning and thundering voices, the thunders bring with them the water that renews life.. Each day our eldest brother, the sun, travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life.
Our oldest grandmother, the moon, 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.
We give our thanks to the stars who are spread across the sky like jewels. 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.
Wisdom keepers have come to help the people throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live.
The annual Indigenous Peoples’ Thanksgiving Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay will occur again this year, featuring dancers, drums, songs and prayers. Ferries leave from Pier 33 beginning at 4:14am and continues every 15 minutes until the 6am ceremony, with ticket sales beginning at 3am. For more information, go to iitc.org.