Fear of Thanksgiving

authorities call it “a religion”

MNN. May 25, 2005. Wampum 7 of the Kaianereh’ko:wa/Great Law of Peace, the Constitution of the Kanion’ke:haka/Mohawk, provides that the “Ohenton kariwa”te:kwen” shall be recited at every gathering of the people. It means “the words that come before every matter”. Every day we give thanks to all of Creation that helps human life. We thank the Kasastensera’ko:wa sa’oie:ra, the great natural power, for producing these.

The ohenton kariwa’te:kwen is a philosophy, not a religion. It is a form of consensus making that starts before any meeting or activity. The speaker is
responded to by everyone with “henh” meaning “Yes, it’s true”. We place ourselves within an interdependent system of relationships of all elements of the natural world. They are alive and equal, not above or beneath anything. We thank the earth, water, animals, people and Creation. The natural world is our family and we respect all our relatives.

An elder explained, “Creation is perfect with all the forces and facilities necessary to help the people”. The natural world is the perfect reality. The Kaianereh’ko:wa is based on this reality. Once we reach a consensus, we realize that there are things greater than our conceptions or grievances. We never pray or ask for anything. The natural world provides everything we need to live. We are taught to face reality and to give thanks. That is why we must take care of the environment and all our relationships for our future generations.

We are not a minority on our own homeland. The Europeans invaded and occupy our territory. They have become the majority population. According to international law we have a right to learn our languages and history, and to teach them to our
children. We must also teach the majority about our history from our own perspective.

As American schools are on Onkwehonwe/Indigenous land, we have an obligation to teach them the ohenton kariwa’te:kwen. The United States thinks it’s above international law. Judges refuse to respect it and school principles do the same.

Americans are trying to extinguish those elements that are contrary to their hierarchical pyramid style ideology. They try to put a dollar value on every living and inanimate thing.

The whole story is told in one brilliant scene. On Monday, May 23rd, Glen Bellinger, superintendent of Salmon River Central School, Fort Covington, New York
State, suspended some Mohawk students. Around 60 % of the students in this non-native school are Mohawks from nearby Akwesasne. For the past three years the Mohawk students have recited the ohenton kariwa’te:kwen over the school loudspeaker. Suddenly it was decided to interpret this philosophy as a prayer,
which, they say, violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

The students explained that they are pledging allegiance to the circle of life. The non-natives are pledging allegiance to the U.S. Government and the flag. We Mohawks have our own constitution and government. Giving thanks to the natural world goes back thousands of years. Pledging allegiance to the flag is recent. It was not part of the original U.S. Constitution. The practice was added in the late 1800’s.

The school authorities refused to allow the Mohawk youth to use the public address system. They told them to go into the gym and say their “prayer”. The youth went there and completed the ohenton kariwa’te:kwen. Most students left to go to their
classes. About 40 remained in the gym. The authorities turned the lights off and left the students in complete darkness. Parents and Great Law Longhouse people arrived. Ten students refused to budge. They could not compromise the ohenton
kariwa’te:kwen. Some were suspended.

There is nothing more metaphorical than what they did to these young people. What does this act of turning the lights off mean? Instead of celebrating their
thoughtful action, the school authorities feared the intelligence of the Mohawk youth. They cannot understand how social order can be maintained when humans are treated equally. The establishment, in maintaining their ‘mono culture, must have similarity of language, belief and ideology across the globe, controlled from the top.

The opening address says it all. It defines who and where we are. Their hysterical reaction did not quiet the youth. The youth tried to remind them of the perfect reality of the natural world which has a momentum of its own. To shut off the lights and to try to cast the children into darkness cannot stop the
natural world. It is a weak action by those who live in the darkness of their minds and souls. They are trying to put out the flame, the voice of these young people. But they can’t.

Why were the colonizers afraid? In their confusion they tried to control the light inside the children who were defending the way of life, the culture and the
language. The newcomers to our land have been trying to kill our fire, our voice, ever since they arrived. They sense it is glowing in our children today who are the progenitors of our nation.

Our children are not in the dark. The Indigenous people have seen it coming for a long time. All humans must make the journey back to nature. Our children are starting the journey.

The actions of the children frighten them. They are reacting by attacking the ohenton kariwa’te:kwen. They think if they stop the children, they can continue to try to control the environment and the world.

An elder said, “Our people want to send our kids to white schools. We have to create our own schools. Let’s stop mimicking the outsiders who have abused us and our children”. Education has always been used as a weapon, a tool of indoctrination of people into their foreign culture. Today they cannot force Christian religion and doctrines down our throats. But they will keep trying in any way possible.

The pattern is shifting to what is real. It will all be played out. Those who have been raised on the ohenton kariwa’te:kwen will be able to see the big
picture. On Thursday, May 26th, 150 students protested again in the school gym. Five of the 6th grade students were suspended.

Kahentinetha Horn
MNN Mohawk Nation News

poster: Thahoketoteh