MNN: Ohenton Kariwa’tek:wen, Thanksgiving

mnnlogo1OHENTON KARIWA’TEK:WEN, the Thanksgiving 

MNN.  FEB 3, 2013.  The “words that come before” is a dedication to the coming faces that we do every day.  We place ourselves within an interdependent relationship with the natural world. We remind ourselves that we are equal with all elements of nature.  

The Indigenous women are the progenitors of the soil of this land. It is held for the coming generations of our people yet unborn.  Sovereign power is exercised to remind us of our way of life based on the Kaianereh’ko:wa, the Great Law of Peace. The natural world is the perfect reality. At every gathering, the “ohenton kariwa’tek:wen” is said so that we may gather our minds together as one.

Circle of life.

Circle of life.


First, let us pay our respects to the people and remind ourselves of the necessity of good relations between ourselves in order to be productive and happy.  So be it in our minds. 

Let us extend our respect to our Great Mother Earth, and how the functions of the women parallels the role of the earth.  The immunities and medicines we inherit come from living on her.  So be it in our minds. 

Let us extend our thanks for our cousins, all the waters, and to the contents of the waters – the fish, plant life and other things.  Food and medicines needed to live healthily come from the waters.  So be it in our minds. 

Our Sisters.

Our Sisters.

Let us now extend our respect to our sisters, the plant life, such as corn, beans and squash, strawberries and other foods. So be it in our minds. 

Let us give our respect to our brothers and sisters, the animals, insects and birds, who are also beneficial to the people.  So be it in our minds. 

Let us give our thanks to our grandfathers, the four winds and thunderers. They help renew nature for the peopleSo be it in our minds. 

Let us now give our thanks to our grandmother, the moon, which regulates all female life. From her we learn the best time to put seeds into the ground and pick medicines.  So be it in our minds. 

Let us now give our respects to our eldest brother, the Sun, who is the example for the men to follow. The sun supports the earth by warming it so things can grow. He gives support and reinforcement to the people. He beautifies everything that has been put on the earth.  They protect and support the people, particularly the women. They help raise the children and ensure their well-being and continuation of life. So be it in our minds. 

Let us now give respect to our distant cousins, the stars, who have a lot of knowledge and strength when we need them. So be it in our minds. 

Let us give thanks to our teachers who pass on the language, culture and messages from our ancestors.  So be it in our minds. 

We give thanks to all our relatives of the natural world, to all that helps human life, to the “Kasasten’sera’kowa sa oiera”, the great natural power, which is the power that produces them.  We place ourselves in an interdependent system of relationships of all elements of nature, which are equal.  We shall never know the face of this power, nor the name of this power, nor where this power dwells.  We know it is logical, neither male nor female.  So be it in our minds. 

We, the people have the duty to rescue this earth for the faces yet unborn, who are under its surface and will be released to us. We work together to create an environment that will give them a good life on earth. So be it in our minds. 

We, the people, work together for the continuity of life. Saving humanity and the earth is through exercising the power of the Kaianereh’ko:wa. If there is anything in the great natural world that we forgot to thank, we add it here.  So be it in our minds. 

Now that we have given thanks and respect to all elements of Creation, we are ready to deal with the matters at hand. 

Song: We ask here for the silence, to sit still and block everything out so that we can only hear the Earth spinning. 

Kaneron'kwa:tsera, love is the medicine.

Kaneron’kwa:tsera, love is the medicine.

MNN Mohawk Nation News  For more news, books, workshops, to donate and sign up for MNN newsletters, go to  More stories at MNN Archives.  Address:  Box 991, Kahnawake [Quebec, Canada] J0L 1B0




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