Friday, November 16, 2007

Circle of Thanks

Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving, told by Joseph Bruchac and pictures by Murv Jacob. This is a joyful collection of praise and thanksgiving songs and prayers from fourteen different Native American cultures. Joseph Bruchac is himself part Native American (Abenaki, from central New York state) and he has made a career of writing and storytelling drawing from a rich heritage. We have several of his books in our library and they are all excellent.

The fly leaf to Circle of Thanks tells us:
"The tradition of giving thanks is one that is deeply ingrained among the native peoples of North America. For Native Americans, every day is a day to give thanks, and the oral traditions of this continent are rich with songs and poems of thanksgiving."
The songs celebrate the earth our Mother, the plants that give us clothing and medicine as well as food, the wind, the stars and the people living in harmony. Here is one of my favorites, which I want to teach to my sons:

The Circle of Thanks

As I play my drum
I look around me
and I see the trees.
The trees are dancing
in a circle about me
and they are beautiful.

As I play my drum
I look around me
and I see the sun and moon.
The sun and moon are dancing
in a circle about me
and they are beautiful.

As I play my drum
I look around me
and I see the stars.
The stars are dancing
in a circle about me
and they are beautiful.

As I play my drum
I look around me
and I see my people.
All my people are dancing
in a circle about me
and my people, they are beautiful.

- Micmac, Northeast Coast

In this season when we celebrate giving thanks, so many school programs are focused on a folk history of the pilgrims that is a mixture of fact and fantasy. It is refreshing to read the true history written from an Indian's perspective, which is what we find in another of Bruchac's books titled Squanto's Journey. If you are looking for the real story of how the pilgrims survived you need to read this book and share it with the children in your life. My own young sons are getting a cloying diet of feather headdresses and hand print turkeys at their day care this fall. I am planning on gifting their teachers with these books to attempt to balance the scale some.

Squanto's Journey tells the story from the Native American perspective, which I find is rare in books for children. Squanto was a Patuxet born in 1590. He was kidnapped and taken to Spain against his will in 1614 and made a slave. He was able to escape slavery and made his way to England, where he learned the language and managed to make allies and procure a job that would take him by ship back to his homeland. Squanto found that all his people were killed by smallpox when he finally reached his home. His wife, children, parents and all his friends were dead. In spite of this he was a man of peace and worked to establish mutually beneficial relationships between the Indians of Nemasket the Pokanoket, and the Narragansett tribes. Massasoit, the sachem of the Pokanoket and Samoset, the sachem of the Pemaquid people came together with Squanto to befriend the English settlers. Squanto taught them how to plant and harvest the three sisters of corn, beans and squash, which kept the settlers alive. Their three day feast of the harvest in 1621 was in large part the result of Squanto's life work. In spite of the threat to himself, his people and his homeland he was a man of peace and he teaches us all the meaning of giving thanks. He is a hero in that he used his strength, intelligence, creativity and honor to reach out to his potential enemies and make a way of peace. This little book is a beautiful way to share the story with today's children. Check out this chat with Joseph Bruchac at Wordsmith in 2001, where he talks about poetry and children.

Today's Friday Poetry round up is at Big A, little a. Head on over and read some!

6 comments:

Sara said...

What a cool idea for a book...I'll have to look for this one. What we give thanks for also shapes who we are, don't you think?

Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks for the recommendation. (And thanks for commenting on my blog.) I like your perspective. Exposing our children to different perspectives often takes extra effort, and it's good to find allies to share resources.

jama said...

That's a lovely poem. You're right about the need for a balanced perspective. Thanks for recommending this book.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Cloudscome,

I must own more than twenty books written by Joseph Bruchac--but not the first one mentioned in this post. Joe was the featured speaker at the winter meeting of our reading council in early March. He also came to speak to the students in the children's literature course that I teach. He's such an impressive man. I enjoy his adult books as well as his children's books. Have you read any of the poetry he has written for adults?

Shannon (The Cole Mine) said...

Love the poem - so simple and pure. We should be giving thanks for these things every day. Thanks too for the great book recommendation - I plan to check it out.

Crispus Attucks said...

Thank you, Cloudscome. You inspired me to work on my own Thanksgiving post for later this week.