Oh”§ŗn:ton Karihwat”§ŗhkwen ("Words Before all Else") 

The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

English text  

Mohawk-English and Mohawk Audio

 

 

              " aboriginal way of doing "

   The Loyalists came from all walks of life and all cultural backgrounds, bringing their own unique heritage, strengths and contributions to the country that inspires our pride: Canada.

   Spreading out and settling in various areas of the vast wilderness from the Maritimes to present-day southwestern Ontario, the influences of these people left an indelible mark on many of our communities.

   The Dutch, Scottish, Mennonite and African American influences are still visible today in areas where these Loyalists settled; it's important to acknowledge these modern-day signs of Loyalist presence and pay tribute to not only the ancestors of today's residents, but their descendants as well.

   Grand River Branch UELAC encompasses a large area of southwestern Ontario which contained approximately 950,000 acres of land given to the Loyal Haudenosaunee after the Revolutionary War by HM King George III.  Called the Haldimand Deed, it would be trimmed by the Simcoe Deed before being officially granted to the Six Nations.

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  Six miles on both sides of the Grand River, from its source some 280 km in the north winding its path to the mouth on Lake Erie, the Grand River is the spine that runs through many Ontario villages, towns and cities.

   Sales, trades, gifts and squatting would reduce the size of the original deed by some 95%, to the present size of 46,500 acres.  Nevertheless, Six Nations of the Grand River remains Canada's most populous reserve with over 12,000 on-reserve residents.

   As such, Grand River's history and the surrounding area is inextricably interwoven with that of a Native culture.

   A view that often remains hidden and unknown to their non-Haudenosaunee neighbours, the Traditional perspective presents a unique and compelling culture which is centuries old.  It is a way of life that pre-dates European contact yet is still vibrant and relevant in the 21st Century for those who choose to practice its teachings in their daily lives.

   Paradoxically, this Traditional way of life - while holding valuable lessons for us all - is nonetheless a lifestyle which has been chosen by their Creator for the sole use by the Haudenosaunee.  It is not a 'religion', per se, in the sense that its spiritual guidance is appropriate for everyone.  Neither is it proselytized or shared with anyone other than the Haudenosaunee themselves.  Understandably, this may cause resentment, frustration or misinformation by those who are unable to accept this seeming cultural exclusivity.

   There are volumes of books and sources on the Traditional aspect of the Haudenosaunee People; many are written from an outsider's point of view and some are (more appropriately) described by these Traditionalists themselves.

   In the interest of sharing a small and very basic portion of the Haudenosaunee Traditional culture so that it fosters greater understanding, Grand River Branch UELAC would like to present a component of its Branch's geographic area and its residents.

   In doing so, we hope that education will lead to understanding.

   And understanding will hopefully lead to strengthening the common bond that connects Loyalist heritage with that of the Haudenosaunee People.


Fundamental to any Haudenosaunee gathering is a recitation given prior to any other activity; the Oh”§ŗn:ton Karihwat”§ŗhkwen ("Words Before all Else"), which is also known as the Thanksgiving Address.

It is only appropriate that the Oh”§ŗn:ton Karihwat”§ŗhkwen is presented here first as well.

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Chief Jake Swamp-Tekaronianeken

1942 - 2010

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The late Traditional Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp (Tekaronianeken) was a key Haudenosaunee figure of our time.  Educator, mentor, counsellor and friend, Chief Swamp dedicated his life to advancing and living a way of life that has become challenged in an age of rapid change.  His desire to see peace among the various Nations and Peoples of the world was an inspiration that lives on.

"A speaker is chosen to give the Thanksgiving Greetings on behalf of the people.  

They choose their own words, for we are all unique and have our own style, but the general form is traditional.

It follows an order in which we can relate to all of the Creation.

The Address is based on the belief that the world cannot be taken for granted, that a spiritual communication of thankfulness and acknowledgement of all living things must be given to align the minds and hearts of the people with Nature.  This forms a guiding principle of culture.

We believe that all people at one time in their history had similar words to acknowledge the works of the creator.  With this in mind, we offer these words in a written form as a way to re-acquaint ourselves with this shared vision.  Our version of the Thanksgiving Address has been modified for a young, general audience; it has been shortened and many specific references to the culture of the Six Nations have been generalized.  We hope this will enhance the accessibility of the words for readers around the world.

It was Jake Swamp's original vision that this Address would go out to the children of the world, "so that later in life, when they go out and meet one another, they will find that they are all coming from the same place."

You are invited - encouraged - to share in these words, that our concentrated attention might help us rediscover our balance, respect, and oneness with Nature.

Now our minds are one."

The following is the English version of the Oh”§ŗn:ton Karihwat”§ŗhkwen as translated by Tekaronianeken, founder of The Tree of Peace Society.

Oh”§ŗn:ton Karihwat”§ŗhkwen ("Words Before all Else") 

The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

 

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 honour 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 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 game 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 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.

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 nightime 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 jewellery.  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 our.  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.

The following is another shorter version of the Oh”§ŗn:ton Karihwat”§ŗhkwen in both Mohawk and English text, as well as audio links of the spoken Mohawk word.

Click on the to hear the verse in Mohawk using RealPlayer.

Ohenton
Karihwatehkwen

Ne'e Ayontati'
Niya'tewenhniserake
Tsi Teyontenonhseratons

 

Before the business is set

That is what One would say Every day When Giving thanks.

Onkwehson'a

Akwekon enhskat tsi
entitewahwe'nonni' ne
onkwa'nik”§”ćnra,
tanon tenyethinonhweraton' ne
Onkwehson'a ne' akwekon skennen akenhake'.

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra.

 

The Peoples

We will all join together in our minds,
and we will give thanks to the People for their continued peace.

So our minds will continue to be.

Yethi'nihstenha Onhwetsya

Akwekon enhskat tsi
entitewahwe'nonni' ne
onkwa'nik”§”ćnra,
tanon tenyethinonhweraton' ne
Yethi'nihstenha Onhwentsya ne tsi
tyakotkawenhatye' naho'tenhson'a
skennen aetewanonhtonnyonhseke'.

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra.

 

Our Mother the Earth

We will all join together in our minds,
and we will give thanks to Our Mother the Earth as we go along continuing to think good things.

So our minds will continue to be.

Ohontehson'a

Teyethinonhweratons ne akwekon
onhwentsy”§¢ke kayen ne ohontehson'a
Otya'ke kakhwa itewaks.
Otya'ke ononhkwahson'a tewatstha'.
Akwekon teyethinonhweratons ne
Ohontehson'a tsi shekon
yonkhiya'atakenha's

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra.

 

The Grasses / Plants / Vegetation

We give thanks to all of the vegetation on the earth.
Some are foods we eat.
Some are medicines we use.
We give thanks to all of the Plants that are still helping us.

So our minds will continue to be.

Ohnekahson'a

Teyethinonhweratons ne
Ohnekahson'a tsi shekon watonhs
yonkwatawenhstha',
tanon enskar”§¢kewe' ne wahetkens
kayen ne onhwentsy”§¢ke.
Enhskat tsi entitewahwe'nonni' ne
onkwa'nik”§”ćnra,
tanon teyethinonhweraton ne
Ohnekahson'a

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra

 

The Waters

We give thanks to the Waters that still was down on us,
and wipe away the nasty things on the earth.
We join together in our minds, and we give thanks for the Waters.

So our minds will continue to be.

Kario'tahson'a

Teyethinonhweratons ne
Kario'tahson'a tsi shekon yethikens,
tanon tsi shekon yonkhiya'takenha's
ne onen tewatonhkarya'ks,
tanon ne onen tewawihstohs.
Enhskat tsi entitewahwe'nonni' ne
onkwa'nik”§”ćnra,
tanon teyethinonhweraton ne
Kario'tahson'a.

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra

 

The Wild Animals

We give thanks to the Wild Animals that we still see,
and that are still looking after us when we are hungry,
and when we are cold.
We join together in our minds, and we thank the Wild Animals.

So our minds will continue to be.

Okwirehson'a

Akwekon enhskat tsi
entitewahwe'nonni' ne
onkwa'nik”§”ćnra,
tanon teyethinonhweratons ne
Okiwirehson'a tsi shekon eh
nihatiyerha' oh nah”§”ćten
shakori'wanontonnih ne
Shonkwaya'tihson,
tanon nӤӤne akwah tkonwakowanen
Wahta tsi nikakwir”§”ćten'
teyethinonhweratons.

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra

 

The Trees / Bushes

We will all join together in our minds,
and we give thanks to the Trees as they still do what the Creator asked them,
and the biggest tree is the Maple,
and we give thanks to them.

So our minds will continue to be.

Tsi'ten'okonha

Teyethinonhweratons ne
Tsi'ten'okonha tsi shekon
yonkwathonte' karenniyos ratihawi',
tanon nӤӤne akwah tkonwakowanen.
Akweks tsi niyohsenn”§”ćten'.
Teyethinonhweratons ne tsi
rati'nik”§”ćnrare' tsi
teyonkwatawenrye'

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra

The Birds

We give thanks to the birds as we still hear them carrying their songs, and the greatest of them is the Eagle.
We give thanks as they guard as we travel along.

So our minds will continue to be.

Tsi yoweratatye's

Akwenkon enhskat tsi
entitewahwe'nonni' ne
onkwa'nok”§”ćra,
tanon teyethinonhweraton tsi
yoweratatye's shekon eh nihatiyerha'
oh nah”§”ćten shakonyahehsa'onh ne
Shonkwaya'tihson.

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra

 

The Winds

We will all join together in our minds,
and we will give thanks as the blowing winds still do what the Creator is depending upon them to do.

So our minds will continue to be.

Ratiweras

Teyethinonhweratons tsi nikayen
Ratihnekahawis tsi shekon eh
nihotiyerenhatye' oh nah”§”ćten
shakonyahehsa'onh ne
Shonkwaya'tihson.
Yonkhiya'takenha's ne kӤӤntho
onhwentsy”§”čke tew”§”§nteron'.

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra

The Thunders

We give thanks to the Water Bringers (Thunderers) as they still go along doing what the Creator is depending upon them to do.
They are looking after us living here on the earth.

So our minds will continue to be.

Etshitewahtsi'a Entye'kehnekha' Karahkwa

Tetewatenonhweratons tsi shekon
tewatkahthos ne Karahkwa
tehohswath”§”§ton' ro'tarih”§”čton' ne
k”§”§ntho onhwentsy”§”čke.
Ka'shatstenhsera tihshonkwawis
akwekon enhskat tsi
entitewahwe'nonni' ne
onkwa'nik”§”ćnra,
tanon tetshitewanonhweraton ne'
Etshitewahtsi'a Karahkwa.

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra

Our Elder Brother the Daytime Celestial Light

We are giving thanks as we still see the Sun lighting and heating the earth.
He is giving us the strength and we will all join together in our minds,
and we give thanks to him Our Elder Brother the Sun.

So our minds will continue to be.

 

Yethihsotha Ahsonthenkha Karahkwa

Teyethinonhweratons ne Yethihsontha
tsi shekon yethikens,
tanon tsi yetsi'nik”§”ćrare' ne
sewaksa'okonha.

Etho niyohtonhak
ne onkwa'nik”§”ćnra

Our Grandmother the Night time Celestial Light

We are giving thanks to Our Grandmother as we still see her,
and she is still looking out for us her children.

So our minds will continue to be.

Many thanks (Nia:wen ko:wa) to Mr. Trevor Lewis for providing the pronunciation of this page! He is currently taking a Brock University Mohawk Language Course taught by David Kanatawakhon Maracle.