Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Address

( A little spot in the Pine Barrens of NJ)

On this day of Thanksgiving I want to share with you a wonderful tradition that comes from the Mohawk Nation, a version of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Thanksgiving Address-Greeting to the Natural World. This address was and is spoken before all tribal meetings and official business by members of the six nations. Variations of this address were often done not only by the Mohawk and Iroquois but many other Native Americans on a daily basis before the sun rose each day. Now I don’t expect you and your family to run out and create your own family Thanksgiving Address and read it each morning. But how about once a week?

It doesn't even have to be a lengthy spoken event. A simple nod or acknowledgement of nature could be enough. Maybe pick a tree that you walk by each day and say hello. I like to say howdy to the sun and the moon each day, especially when they are both in the sky at the same time like the photo above.

By spending a little time each week thinking about the natural world it their own words, kids can build a stronger connection to their sense of place. Adults, you might also benefit from this process. So enjoy reading the Thanksgiving Address, and next week back outside! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The Thanksgiving Address

The Words Before All Else.

The People

Today we have gathered and 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, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Waters

We give thanks to all the Waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms—waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

The Fish

We turn our minds to all 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 we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Plants

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.

The Food Plants

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs

Now we turn to all 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 happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

The Animals

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one.

The Trees

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty, and other useful things. Many peoples of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

The Birds

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds—from the smallest to the largest we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds

We are all thankful to the powers 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 greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

The Thunderers

Now we turn to the west where our Grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightening 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.

Now our minds are one.

The Sun

We now send greetings and thanks to our 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 greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.

Now our minds are one.

Grandmother Moon

We put our minds together and 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 movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.

Now our minds are one.

The Stars

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to all the Stars.

Now our minds are one.

The Enlightened Teachers

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have 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.

The Creator

Now we turn our thoughts to the Creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this 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.

Closing Words

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

And now our minds are one.

I hope you enjoyed reading this version of the Thanksgiving Address. Have a wonderful day!

This translation of the Mohawk version of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address was developed, published in 1993, and provided here, courtesy of:

Six Nations Indian Museum and the Tracking Project

All rights reserved.

Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World

English version: John Stokes and Kanawahienton (David Benedict, Turtle Clan/Mohawk)

Mohawk version: Rokwaho (Dan Thompson, Wolf Clan/Mohawk)

Original inspiration: Tekaronianekon (Jake Swamp, Wolf Clan/Mohawk)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Still Hunting.

(Great Horned Owl)

As the seasons continue to change from fall to winter it is a great time to be outside seeing the changes. This time of year is a great time to experience bird migrations. If you live in an area where large migrations occur, definitely spend some time watching the birds travel to their winter homes. A friend of mine counted 200+ Red Throated Loons (gavia Stellata) in one morning here on the coast! If you live in a non-migratory area, it is still a great time to get out and look for birds and small animals due to the lesser amount of foliage on the trees and Still Hunting is a great way to experience wildlife close up.

Still Hunting does require a little patience and the ability to stay relatively still for a while. First find yourself an area where you can sit comfortably, lying down is also an option. This is best done either early in the morning or just before and during dusk. These are the times when birds tend to be the most active. Once you are comfortable, take a few deep breaths to help quiet yourself down. Once you have settled in, practice using your deer ears and coyote eyes to explore the area. After a few minutes, begin making a series of bird calling noises. Pick a rhythm and begin making the following sound, Psshtt, Psshtt, Psshtt, Psshtt. You might only make two or three of these calls per minute.

Do not make the sounds with great enthusiasm or volume because it could be interpreted by birds as a warning call and actually scare birds and other critters away. You are attempting to call birds towards you, not scare them away. If you remain still, and continue to make the calling noises every 30 seconds or so, you may be able to get birds curious enough and feel safe enough to come fairly close. This can be a great way to get started in the hobby of bird watching.

There are a few things that you can do to help make this activity more successful. First wear clothes that are natural in color, like brown and greens. Second, bring something soft to sit on. And third if you really want to blend in either get some cheap camouflage clothes or you can lie down on the ground and cover yourself with leaves and ground debris.

It might take up to 30 minutes for a good amount of birds to come by and visit. But often within 15 minutes you can attract birds to your area. Also, if you can remain somewhat still, you will not alarm the birds and animals, and they will come around. If you really want to have an advantage, spread some some birdseed around the area for a couple of days before you go still hunting to get birds and small animals use to the food being there. Have fun, and if you have a quiet camera, take some photos!

If you have any questions or feedback, please email me at:

Nature Nugget:
If you have fairly young children and it is a challenge for them to remain quiet for extended periods of time, simply go for a slow walk and count the number of birds and small animals you can see. It is a start to developing skills for Still Hunting.

Websites to visit:
Two websites about bird migrations:

A fun little game about bird migration.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The F.B.I!!

They are EVERYWHERE, the F.B.I: Fungus, Bacteria, and Invertebrates! Yes that is an actual invertebrate (Banana Slug)in this photo, and I have size 8 1/2 feet. Heading out and looking for the F.B.I can be a wonderful experience for everyone involved. You might actually get a little dirty, muddy, and maybe even a little soggy. But not necessarily. The F.B.I, the decomposers and scavengers of the natural world are amazing!

Going on an F.B.I hunt is easy, and you often do not have to go very far. Now in reality you are only going to see Fungus and Invertebrates. You might smell the presence of Bacteria but without special equipment, you will not see Bacteria.

Searching for the F.B.I brings our attention to a much more concentrated arena. Almost the opposite of using wide angle vision! However, I have found, especially with fungus, that I find myself noticing fungi in my peripheral vision on walks in the woods.

During an F.B.I hunt you can get as detailed as you wish. You might opt for simply finding and looking at various fungi and invertebrates, or you might go out with field guides and spend more time identifying what you find.

You will also be able to find evidence of the F.B.I. on your hunts. Rotting logs, decomposing leaves, and slug or worm scat. Start be simply digging through leaves and under logs. You might be surprised by what you find. Without the F.B.I we would be wading through piles of refuse, and our ecosystems would not get the nutrients they need from dead material. These little creatures are a key link in nutrient cycles. Have fun with the F.B.I!

Nature Nugget:
A brief word about mushrooms specifically. There are many species of mushrooms that grow wild, and some of them are very tasty like oyster, slippery jack, and the morel. However, there are other mushrooms such as the DEATH CAP and the DESTROYING ANGEL that will kill you. Unless you 1000% certain about the mushrooms you find in the wild, DO NOT EAT THEM! Every year there are incidents of skilled mushroom hunters dying from eating mushrooms that are slightly out of season. So please tread lightly into the world of mushroom hunting. Seek out qualified instruction.

Cool Website I found!
Check out this site, it does a great job of explaining the phases of the moon and how they happen.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Water Cycle Boogie!

Water is literally the life blood of all living things. As humans we can go for 3-4 days without water. Now 3 days is possible, but you would be a tad grumpy by then. The record I know of is 7 days with some very special circumstances. Anyway, water is a critical part of our lives, but I have found that many people know very little about where our water comes from. So in this posting, I am going to send you out to be a water detective.

First with your kids, do a little research on where your water comes from. Are you on city or town water? Do you have a well? Do you have a water catchment system? Once you have discovered that information, use a little math to calculate your water usage. It might be enlightening.

Next lets figure out what watershed you live in. Go to this website and search around. Knowing what watershed you live in can help you explore on local maps to see what water sources are in your area and may effect your water supply. Here in California water rights are a constant issue in local politics. Some areas of the country are in either long or short term droughts. Do you live in one of those areas?

If you have a topographical map of your area, trace your watershed on the map. You might be surprised to see what areas are included in your watershed.

Until next time, enjoy November, and if you have any questions or suggestions about topics to explore, please email me! Have fun exploring!

Nature Nugget:
Here is some information about our water resources. Just in case you're wondering:

The Oceans contain 97.5% of the water on the planet.
That leaves 2.5% of all the water left as fresh water.

Of that 2.5%, 74% is frozen in ice caps and glaciers.
The remaining 26% of that 2.5% is in ground water.

Of that 26% of the water left, 98.5% is in the ground and the remaining 1.5% is surface water.
In that 1.5% left, this is the water we can see or interact with is water in the biosphere, atmosphere, soil moisture, and lakes and rivers. Not much hmmm?

Websites: Information on a water purifying system called a living machine.