Friday, November 19, 2010

Giving Thanks; A Native American Morning Message

by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Irwin Printup, Jr. Lee & Low, 1995. I received a nice review copy of this book in the mail this week from the publisher. I was sad to learn that Chief Jake Swamp passed away this past October. He was a force for peace in the world and a leader of integrity, serving  the Council of Chiefs in the Mohawk Iroquois Nation for over three decades. He started the Tree of Peace Society in 1984, working to bring folks together around the planting of trees and community building for peace.

He wrote the book Giving Thanks; A Native American Good Morning Message for children, in order to share with the world this poem and prayer for peace and thanksgiving. These words have been shared in the Thanksgiving Address at community gatherings, political meetings, in family homes, and in personal spiritual practice for generations.

Chief Swamp has brought to us the poetry of the Iroquois language and translated it into English as a bridge of joy and thanksgiving in the service of peace. At the back of the book he has it written in the original Mohawk language. I searched for an audio recording that I could link to here, in order to give you the flavor of his voice reading it, but was unable to find it. I did find an audio book for sale at the Weston Woods website, where you can hear the first couple stanzas in both English and Mohawk read by Chief Jake Swamp, as a preview. What a joy it is to hear him speak this powerful poem in Mohawk with his majestic voice! You can purchase the whole thing on CD, video or PlayAway. There are a couple video productions that include this book, and I requested one from my public library to enjoy over the Thanksgiving break. Hear the words:

"To be a human being is an honor, and
we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life.

Mother Earth, we thank you for giving us
everything we need.

Thank you, deep blue waters around Mother Earth,
for you are the force that takes thirst away from all living things."

I won't quote the whole poem here, but I urge you to find a copy and read it together with some young ones. We read it in the library this week and the children were spellbound. The beautiful illustrations by Erwin Printup, Jr. (a Cayuga/Tuscarora Indian & artist) were a perfect match for the solemn and joyful words. With my second graders we followed the instructions on the Lee & Low Teacher's Guide page and made our own accordion books to celebrate what we are thankful for on this World Peace Day. It was a great project! I asked the children to think about how peace and thanksgiving are connected or contribute to each other, and their books really showed how they felt being thankful makes a more peaceful world. I think it might be a refreshing way to look at giving thanks in this world of packaged holidays.

What do you think? If we all said a daily morning message of thanksgiving, would the world be more peaceful? How and Why?

Here are the final words to the poem:

"And most of all, thank you, Great Spirit, for
giving us all these wonderful gifts, so we will be
happy and healthy every day and every night."

PlayAway audiobook
Weston Woods recording
eDigital Media audiobook
Teacher support/lesson plans
Jake Swamp remembered at Lee & Low
Personal Appeal from Chief Jake Swamp

Today's Friday Poetry Round up is hosted  by Diane at Random Noodling. Enjoy your weekend!


Author Amok said...

Hello, Andromeda. Thank you for this beautiful post.

On Thanksgiving and always, it's important for children to hear about the things that different cultures value -- because there is communion in the things we hold dear. It looks like a wonderful book. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Lee said...

Thank you, thank you for this review and the links. I will be bringing Chief Jake Swamp's words and voice into my classroom as we continue to find ways to live with an attitude of gratitude.

Marjorie said...

Thank you for highlighting this beautiful-sounding book. It sounds perfect to share with both my own children and my cub scouts - I will certainly seek it out; and, as you say, it's wonderful to be able to listen to Chief Jake Swamp narrating it hiself, too.