In a few days, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving once again. It has always been my favorite among the major holidays, probably because of my childhood memories of the day when many among my extended family would gather at our house. My mother spent most of the day slaving in the kitchen to provide a feast for us all, and, of course, I never appreciated any of that until it was much too late.
Now, on Thanksgiving, our extended family who live in the area gather at our house for the feast. But everybody brings at least one special dish for the meal. My brother-in-law even brings the smoked turkey, so I only have to prepare the dressing (old family recipe) and the rolls and maybe one or two side dishes. And after our feast, my husband, sometimes with help from the daughters, loads the dishwasher. Things have improved in that regard since my mother's era.
We tend to think of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday, but maybe we don't realize just how American it is. Long before our country's beginnings, many Native Americans celebrated a Thanksgiving ceremony, and, often, there were traditional prayers of giving thanks that were spoken or sung as a part of the ceremony. Here is one of them.
Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer
by Harriet Maxwell Converse (1908)
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for His goodness in making the forests, and thank all of its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs, the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged to continue in His faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this occasion.