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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mohawk Thanksgiving: A year-round event

(Photo by Asbestos)
While some cultures officially celebrate Thanksgiving once a year, the Kanienkehaka (“People of the Flint” or Mohawk) Community in Central New York State celebrates it on an ongoing basis.

The Mohawks, who are members of the Haudenosaunee
(“Longhouse” or “Iroquois Confedacy of Nations”), have lived in New York’s Mohawk Valley since approximately the 12th century.  When conflicts involving European settlers occurred in the 1700s, many Mohawks were forced to flee from their traditional homeland.  According to, a “prophesy was foretold many times throughout the decades, which turned into centuries” that they would one day return to the place where their “ancestors lay to rest.” 

This return incredibly occurred during the 1990s (“while in the midst of troubled times” during which “many people were suffering the devastating effects of alcohol and all the problems that come with it”). Kanatsiohareke, the name of this newfound community (on the banks of the Mohawk River - approximately 50 miles west of Albany, New York) continues to gather strength.  Its current mission
statement includes the “development of a community based on the traditions, philosophy and governance of the Haudenosaunee,” as well as “programs in the culture and traditions of the people.”  Instruction is offered in the “spoken Mohawk language,” and programs include “oral traditions, stories, songs and dances in the unique spirit of the Mohawk path.”

Thanksgiving rituals are an essential part of many ceremonial gatherings at Kanatsiohareke.  They help
“to perpetuate the continuation of life,” and include thanks “to each other, all living things in the natural and spiritual world, and to the Creator.”  The Mid-Winter Ceremony includes Giving Thanks to the Maple (“the leader of all the trees in the natural world”) – the Thunder Ceremony, Seed Ceremony and Strawberry Ceremony later give thanks for the cleansing of the air, replenishing of the waters, food for the people, and healing medicines of the people – the String Bean, Green Corn, and Harvest Ceremonies complete the annual cycle by giving thanks for the Three Sisters (Beans, Corn and Squash) which sustain human life.


Copyright November 16, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

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