Today’s poem is about thanksgiving with a small “t.” It is not specific to the holiday of Thanksgiving. Rather, it is a lovely litany of the natural gifts of our generous planet, gifts that give us a reason to be thankful every ordinary day.
Its sentiments and structure are Native American in origin. The poem, known as “The Thanksgivings” or “The Iroquois Thanksgivings,” has been credited to Harriett Maxwell Converse, dating to the occasion of the Iroquois Green Corn Festival in New York in 1890. Ms. Converse was a Native American advocate of the 19th century and an adopted member of the Seneca Nation.
The faith and beliefs of the Iroquois imbue the natural world with both human and divine characteristics. Their rich, luscious vision of our physical surroundings reveals a profound respect for nature, man and God.
The poem honors “our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.”
According to legend, the “supporters” are a trio of sister spirits who are guardians of the corn, the beans and the squash, respectively. I really like the idea of a spiritual guardian for my squash, especially the pumpkins that become a tasty pie….and spicy muffins…and bread 🙂
The poem celebrates “that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.”
Ga-ne-o-di-o was a controversial leader whose name, in English, is Handsome Lake. He helped the Iroquois Nation deal with the destructive effects of colonization by renewing traditional beliefs, eschewing alcohol and elevating the importance of family and faith. He wrote The Code of Handsome Lake, a moral and spiritual guide for the people. These are “the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o” to which the poet refers.
I hope that you have many blessings and many strong, spiritual guardians to watch over you, now and all year long. Happy Thanksgiving!
Click the link and enjoy the poem! The Thanksgivings, by Harriett Maxwell Converse
For more information on the poet: Harriett Maxwell Converse bio from pbs.org
For more information on Handsome Lake: Wikipedia bio, Handsome Lake