On my regular morning walk, along the half mile stretch to my favorite redwood groves, I usually encounter one or sometimes as many as three drivers, their cars parked at the curb, their motors running, practicing finger exercises on their electronic toys. Courteously, I knock at their rolled up windows. “Good morning,” I say. “I hope you won’t take it badly if I ask you please to turn your motor off unless you plan on taking off right away.“ I follow my ask with this somewhat lame explanation. “The arctic is melting and all of us are going to suffer a great deal.”
And usually my politeness yields the desired results. Some good but oblivious people actually thank me. But yesterday, after listening to me, a truck driver rolled his window back up in response. He continued his finger exercises while his motor purred.
Most of us wear clothes and observe the niceties, but although we have joined the urban minuet, as a species, I don’t tend to think homo saps is terribly advanced, although we may like to think so.
Recently my reading has taken me to works dealing with pre-contact America, books like 1491 (by Chas. Mann) Braiding Sweet Grass (by R.W. Kimmerer). Of the latter, one section in particular caught my attention. In it the author contrasts the Pledge of Allegiance which every school child, hand on heart, mutters throughout his years of schooling with the Thanksgiving Address of the Haudenosaunee People.
These are the People whose languages the U.S. and Canadian Governments tried to suppress by kidnapping their children and sending them to institutions euphemistically called Indian Schools where they were beaten if they tried to speak their languages. Recent revelations disclosed the hundreds of children’s graves surrounding these institutions, attributing some of those deaths to nutritional experiments to see how little food Indian school children could live on and yet survive.
Which would you like: the Pledge, or the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving address?
Which of the two would you prefer your children recited every morning? What kind of a society, what kind of a polity do you think might result if they recited the latter?
I quote it here in its entirety.
TODAY we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us, we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.
We are thankful to our Mother the Earth for she gives us everything that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about on her. It gives us joy that she still continues to care for us, just as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother, we send thanksgiving, love and respect. Now are minds are one.
We give thanks to all of the waters of the world for quenching our thirst, for providing strength and nurturing life for all beings. We know its power in many forms, waterfalls and rain, mists, and streams, rivers and oceans, snow and ice.
We are grateful that the waters are still here and meeting their responsibility to the rest of Creation. Can we agree that water is important to our lives and being. We put our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to the Water? Now our minds are one.
We turn our thoughts to all of the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that they continue to do their duties and we send to the Fish our greetings and our thanks Now our minds are one.
Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come. Now our minds are one.
When we look about us, we see that the berries are still here, providing us with delicious foods. The leader of the berries is the strawberry, the first to open in the spring. Can we agree that we are grateful that the berries are with us in the world, and send our thanksgiving, love, and respect to the berries? Now our minds are one.
With one mind, we honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden, especially the Three Sisters who fed the people with such abundance. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and fruit have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them as well. We gather together in our minds all the Plant food and send them a greeting and thanks. Now our minds are one.
Now we turn to the Medicine Herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are so happy that there are still among us those special few who remember how to use them for healing. With one mind, we send thanksgiving, love and respect to the Medicines and the keepers of the Medicines. Now our minds are one.
Standing around us we see all the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who each have their own instructions and uses. Some provide shelter and shade, others fruit and beauty and many useful gifts. The Maple is the leader of the Trees. To recognize its gift of sugar when the People need it most. Many peoples of the world recognize a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind we greet and thank the Tree Life. Now our minds are one.
We gather our minds together to send our greetings and thanks to all the beautiful animals living in the world, who walk about with us. They have many things to teach us as people. We are grateful that they continue to share their lives with us and hope that it will always be so. Let us put our minds together as one and send our thanks to the Animals. Now our kinds are one.
We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them the gift of beautiful songs. Each morning they greet the day and with their songs remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader and to watch over the world. To all the Birds from the smallest to the largest we send our joyful greeting and thanks. Now our minds are one. `
We are all thankful for the power we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe, They help to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind we send our greeting and thanks to the Four Winds. Now our minds are once.
Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers the Thunder beings live. With lightning and thundering voices they bring with them the water that renews life. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.
We send greeting and thanks to the eldest brother the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to our Brother the Sun. Now our minds are one.
We put our mind together an give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the nighttime sky. She is the leader of women all over the world, and she governs the movements of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure the time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth, Let us gather our thanks for Grandmother Moon together in a pile. layer upon layer of gratitude and then joyfully fling that pile of thanks high into the night sky that she will know. With one mind, we send greeting and thanks to our Grandmother the Moon.
We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewels. We see them at night, helping the Moon to lift the darkness and bring dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered as one, we send greetings and thanks to all the Stars. Now our minds are one.
We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring Teachers. Now our minds are one.
We now turn out thoughts to the Creator, the Great Sprit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation, Everything we need to live good lives here on Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator. Now our minds are one.
We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it is not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greeting and thanks in their own way. And now our minds are one.
Would you like your child to recite this pledge of allegiance to the planet every single day?
What kind of a society do you think we’d have if we heard these words throughout the days of our schooling?
Do you think it would be different from what we have here today?
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