Thanksgiving – Giving Thanks to the Bounty of the Land
In the summer of 2000 I met a remarkable Native American warrior woman. Within 10 days she taught me more about nature and our connection to the natural world than I had learned in decades growing up in the Western world.
Here’s one pearl of Native American wisdom that honors Mother Earth. It is simple and it is powerful. Perfect for adults and children. Enjoy!
By Bettina M. Gordon, Thanksgiving 2011
In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. ……While initially, the Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed half of the 102 colonists, the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the Pilgrims by providing seeds and teaching them to fish. - Wikipedia entry on Thanksgiving.
I know nothing about life in Plymouth in 1621, but I remember well my first Thanksgiving in America in 1996: a group of Europeans had gathered around a large, sturdy wooden table at my friend Nathalie’s loft in Chelsea in New York City. The table almost buckled under the weight of the homemade turkey, fixings and pies. Mariah Carrey and Celine Dion blared from the radio, followed by Coolio and his Gagsta’s Paradise, which was my personal favorite then.
We were young and energized, loudly communicating in (more or less broken) English with accents that immediately gave away our foreign origins. We had left our European homes and families behind and found ourselves thrown together on that evening to give thanks. We raised our champagne glasses to the new country, the new “family”, grateful for the bounty before us. It was a remarkable evening. That night none of us thought that the resources of this planet might be exhausted one day.
Not too long after my first Thanksgiving my curiosity about all things American led me to a remarkable member of America´s First Nations. She was all but five feet tall, with long white braids and a mischievous smile. Her name is Oh Shinnah Fast Wolf. Oh Shinnah took me and a handful of other non-natives on a 10-day journey through the land of her ancestors, following the Apache trail of purification.
Oh Shinnah did not teach me how to fish, as the Wampanoag Natives did with the colonists in the 17th century, but she planted seeds in my mind and heart.
One of her teachings I want to share with you today is the seed of gratitude to nature and Mother Earth’s bounty. It is based on the fact there is nothing we humans eat or use in our daily lives – even if its natural form is unrecognizable to us like in plastics, car parts or micro chips – that does not come from Mother Earth. Pretty trippy, if you think about it in earnest, which most of us hardly ever do.
So before or after coming together with our families and friends this Thanksgiving I suggest taking a walk outside and giving reverence to the planet that provided all the food we enjoy on this day.
In this short video, taken from my documentary “All is Made Beautiful”, Oh Shinnah teaches two simple principles to honor our surroundings whenever we are outside and tempted to pick up a flower, gather sage in the mountains of Colorado (as we did in the video) or harvest the pumpkins in our backyards. This video is all about gratitude and the simple ways we can show ours.
Oh Shinnah: “Everything we use we take from this Mother Earth. The only thing we can give back is the way we live our lives”
Please share this with the youngsters – kids are so receptive to these simple rituals. They will have a blast following Oh Shinnah’s teachings and heeding her only two “rules”:
- Never take more than you need.
- Always leave an offering for what you take. Leave something personal like a hair, or tobacco you brought (Natives often use tobacco for rituals and ceremonies, so they seem to always have a stash close by). You can also leave your saliva. Yes, in this case spitting is about reverence, not a bad habit.
This teaching, as simple and almost “duh” as it is, was an eye opener for me personally. I’ve always felt very connected to nature, but boy do things shift when one is encouraged to leave a hair for everything one takes from nature! (I have a hunch that cheap mass production of food would come to an end if this principle would be applied.) I became much more mindful of my actions and appreciative of the wonders around me.
Warning: Practicing this mindful ritual might lead to spontaneous outbreak of happiness in front of a blooming flower. Or encourage the loud exclamation of “Bravo!” when passing a bright yellow fall tree.
Personally, I want to thank Oh Shinnah Fast Wolf today. Before I knew her I did not know how much wisdom and sophistication is embedded in her Native traditions. I guess I had been ignorant just as the colonists had been when they first arrived on Turtle Island so many years ago. Now I know better and I can do better. That’s why I produced and directed a whole documentary on Oh Shinnah’s teachings a few years back called “All is Made Beautiful.” A labor of love.
I would like to also thank every Native American who carries on the traditions of her ancestors and shares them openly and graciously with all of us. Your bounty is truly appreciated.
Wishing you all a most wonderful Thanksgiving!
With deep gratitude,