It is customary among Iroquois people, to begin each meeting or gathering with the Ohenten Kariwatekwen or Thanksgiving Address. In this greeting, they acknowledge the contributions of all elements of creation and say thank you. The end of each meeting is closed with similar words.
The following version of the Thanksgiving Address was sent by the Mohawk Nation and the Haudenosaunee Grand Council via Chief Jake Swamp to the Fourth Russell Tribunal, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, November, 1980.
We who have gathered together are responsible that our cycle continues. We have been given the duty to live in harmony with one another and other living things.
We give greetings that our people still share the knowledge of our culture and ceremonies and are able to pass it on.
We have our elders here and also the new faces yet to be born, which is the cycle of our familie-for this we give thanks and greetings. Now our minds are one.
We give greetings and thanks to our Mother the Earth-she gives us that which makes us strong and healthy. We are grateful that she continues to perform her duties as she was instructed.
The women and Mother Earth are one-givers of life. We are her color, her flesh and her roots. Now our minds are one.
We greet and thank the medicine plants of the earth. They have been instructed by the Creator to cure our diseases and sicknesses. Our people will always know their native names.
They come in many forms and have many duties. Through the ones who have been vested with knowledge of the medicine plants, we give thanks. Now our minds are one. We give greetings and thanks to the plant life.
Within the plants is the force of substance that sustains many life forms. From the time of the creation we have seen the various forms of plant life work many wonders.
We hope that we will continue to see plant life for the generations to come. Now our minds are one. We give a greetings and thanks to the strawberry plants.
We see them when the wind becomes warm again on the earth; the strawberries are indeed hanging there. And it is also true that we use them, that we drink the (straw)berry water. Now our minds are one.
THE THREE SISTERS
We have been given three main foods from the plant world-they are the corn, beans, and squash the Three Sisters.
For this we give thanks and greetings in the hope that they too will continue to replenish Mother Earth with the necessities of the life cycle. Now our minds are one.
We give thanks to the spirit of waters for our strength of well being.
The waters of the world have provided many things-they quench our thirst, provide food for the plant life, and are the source of strength for the medicines we need. Now our minds are one.
We give thanks and greetings to the animal life. They are still living in the forests and other places.
They provide us with food and this gives us peace of mind knowing that they are still carrying out their instructions as given by the Creator.
We therefore give greetings and thanks to our animal brothers. Now our minds are one.
We acknowledge and give greetings to the trees of the world. They too continue to perform the instructions which they were given.
The maple trees are the symbols as the head of the trees. It is the maple trees that provide us with sap for our syrup and is the first sign of the rebirth of spring.
The trees provide us with shelter, shade, and fruits. Long ago our people were given a way of peace and strength and this way is symbolized by the everlasting tree of peace. Now our minds are one.
We now turn our thoughts toward the winged creatures. They have songs which they sing to help us appreciate our own purpose in life. We are reminded to enjoy our life cycle.
Some of the winged are available to us as food and they too are carrying out their responsibilities.
To us the eagle is the symbol of strength. It is said that they fly the highest and can see the creation. We show our gratitude for the fulfillment of his duties. Now our minds are one.
THE FOUR WINDS
We listen and hear the voices of the four winds. We are assured that they are following the instructions of the Creator. They bring us strength.
They come from the four directions. For this we give greetings and thanks. Now our minds are one.
To the Thunderers we call our Grandfathers we give greetings and thanks. You have also been given certain responsibilities by the Creator.
We see you roaming the sky carrying with you water to renew life.
Your loud voices are heard from time to time and for the protection and medicine you give, we offer our thanksgiving. Now our minds are one.
Our thoughts now turn to the sky. We see the sun, the source of life. We are instructed to call him our Eldest Brother.
With the sun we can see the perfect gifts for which we are grateful. Our Brother sun nourishes Mother Earth and is the source of light and warmth.
Our Brothers is the source of all fires of life. With every new sunrise is a new miracle. Now our minds are one.
During the night time we see the moon. We have been instructed to address her as our Grandmother. In her cycle she makes her face new in harmony with other female life.
Our Grandmother Moon still follows the instructions of the Creator. Within these are the natural cycles of women.
She determines the arrival of children, causes the tides of the oceans and she also helps us measure time.
Our Grandmother continues to lead us. We are grateful and express our thanksgiving. Now our minds are one.
The Stars are the helpers of Grandmother Moon. They have spread themselves all across the sky.
Our people knew their names and their messages of future happenings even to helping to mold individual character of mankind.
The Stars provide us with guidance and they bring the dew to the plant life. As we view the beauty of the Stars we know that they too are following the instructions of the Creator. Now our minds are one.
THE FOUR BEINGS
The four powerful spirit beings who have been assigned by the Creator to guide us both by day and night are called the Sky Dwellers.
Our Creator directed these helpers to assist him in dealing with us during our journey on Mother Earth. They know our every act and they guide us with the teachings that the Creator established.
For the power of direction, we give greetings and thanks to the Sky Dwellers. Now our minds are one.
We now turn our thoughts to the Creator himself. We choose our finest words to give thanks and greetings to him. He has prepared all things on earth for our peace of mind.
Then he said, “I will now prepare a place for myself where no one will know my face, but I will be listening and keeping watch on the people moving about the earth.”
And indeed, we see that all things are faithful to their duties as he instructed them. We will therefore gather our minds into one and give thanks to the Creator. Now our minds are as one.