I have published this prayer for the past two years during Thanksgiving week. It is timeless and appropriate at any time of year, but particularly now.
Thanksgiving prayers are common to most religious groups. Native Americans had entire ceremonies just for the purpose of expressing thanks – sometimes the ceremonies lasted for days.
This Thanksgiving Prayer comes from the Seneca Nation and is at least 500 years old.
It is traditionally done around a fire, with spiritual food on the altar. I have adapted it to be used as a Thanksgiving Prayer on our national holiday:
Seneca Thanksgiving Prayer
And now we are gathered together to remember the Great Mystery’s first instruction to us: to love one another always, we who move about on this earth.
And the Great Mystery said that when even just two people meet, they should first greet each other by saying: “Nyah Weh Skenno” which translates to “thank you for being” and then they may take up the matter with which they are concerned.
[Nyah Weh Skenno more literally means: “thank you for being alive in the here and now and not adding to the confusion of the world.”]
The Great Mystery gave us our lives and requires in return only that we be grateful and love one another. The purpose of this prayer is to pass on those instructions and give us the opportunity to express our gratitude.
So the first thing we will do is give thanks for our lives.
A couple of weeks ago my friend Gary posted on Facebook that he was going to do 30 days of yoga and no sugar and asked who would join him.
I was the only taker! And neither Gary nor I had even watched the documentary “Fed Up” yet.
“Fed Up” proposes a 10-day no sugar challenge. If you go to the website www.fedupmovie.com you can sign up to join the challenge and get helpful reminder emails for 10 days.
You can watch the “Fed Up” trailer at the end of this post.
I am now on day 11 and feeling great. But I’m surprised no one else wanted to join us so I thought a blog post on why we should be avoiding sugar was in order.
Because sugar is slowly killing us as a nation.
The Fat Fallacy
In the mid-1970s, a misconception swept the U.S that the fat in dairy and meat made us fat, birthing the “non-fat,” “fat-free,” and “reduced fat” movement.
Food was engineered to reduce or eliminate the fat, which made it taste terrible, so sugar was added to make the food palatable.
Scientists have since learned that it’s the added sugar that makes us fat, not the natural fat found in food.
The 30+ years that Americans have been eating non-fat, sugar-pumped foods have given rise to an unparalleled obesity epidemic.
In the history of mistakes, replacing relatively harmless fat with harmful sugar was a pretty big one!
This post first appeared on this blog in October 2013. I will repeat it every “Columbus Day” until this holiday is nationally changed to Indigenous People’s Day, following the lead of Berkeley, California, Seattle, Washington and Minneapolis, Minnesota. I do not believe we should be celebrating a murderer and slave trader.
Imagine a foreign-speaking stranger walked into your house one day, claimed it was now his and threw you out, or even enslaved or killed you and your family.
Would you celebrate him with a national holiday?
Neither would I.
Yet the United States and other countries in the West continue to celebrate Christopher Columbus as having discovered the “New World” even though there was a perfectly marvelous civilization already living here.
[Columbus Day in 2014 is Monday, October 13 – a Federal holiday.]
My Lakota dad Wallace Black Elk called Columbus “the first illegal alien.”
Do you know where you come from?
I’m not talking geography here, I’m talking about our ancestors – those who walked before us and paved the way for our life today.
Learning about your ancestors can give your life a whole new meaning.
Know your ancestors, know yourself
In 1992, I accompanied a Native American elder to Australia for a conference including Maori and Aborigine elders.
Maoris are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, but the group traveling with us was living in Australia at the time.
Known for their warrior culture, Maoris are also known for their traditional haka war dance. If you’ve ever watched New Zealand’s rugby team, the All-Blacks, you’ve likely seen them perform the haka before the game. It’s meant to intimidate their opponents and raise their own energy and is quite a sight to behold and feel. You can find quite a few videos of it on YouTube.
But Maoris are also very friendly and fun loving and loved to sit around camp singing and inviting people over for coffee and laughter.
Because they were living in Australia at the time, the Maori family invited our group to come and stay at their home in Adelaide for a few days in between teaching events. It was here that I got the most powerful life lesson of that trip.
In my years of “walking the red road” as well as well as living in the non-Indian world, I’ve come across a few misconceptions about Native American spirituality that I’d like to lay to rest.
Here are the most common misconceptions I’ve heard:
- Native Americans idolize things such as bison [buffalo] skulls and nature.
- Native Americans don’t believe in God.
- Native Americans believe in ghosts.
None of the above is true. Here’s what is true as to what Native Americans believe in:
One: Respecting, appreciating and protecting all life
That includes the natural world and animals. And not just four legged animals, but
creepy crawlers [insects],
the tall standing brothers [trees] and
the green nation [everything else on earth].
While a bison skull may be seen in Native American ceremonies, it is not being worshipped any more than the statues of the saints in a church are worshipped.