Words of Thanksgiving Offered to the UN Peace Summit


Audrey Shenandoah

Audrey Shenandoah interviewed after the Onondaga Nation's Press conference announcing the Land Rights Action on March 11, 2005. Photo: Phil Arnold

Audrey Shenandoah, Onondaga Nation clanmother,and Oren Lyons, faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation, represented Indigenous Peoples of North America at the UN Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, August 28-31, 2000. The following is taken from the statement Audrey made there. Only some of her message is presented here, since part was spoken spontaneously and was not recorded. Oren's message previously appeared in the June 2004 PNL.

We are honored and privileged to have both Audrey and Oren as speakers at SPC's Birthday Dinner . Joe Heath, attorney for the Onondaga Nation, will also be present to help answer questions about the Land Rights Action.

Nya Wenha Skainon
My people are the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee. A confederation of Nations, we are comprised of the Mohawk Nation, Oneida Nation, Onondaga Nation, Cayuga Nation, Seneca Nation and Tuscarora Nation. We are joined in that order by our Peacemaker who walked among our people in another millennium or time in our history. Today we continue as brothers and cousins, a family of people since that time.

We humbly offer today these words of thanksgiving, in this joint effort of Spiritual Leaders to bring about peace and contentment to our troubled Earth and the life contained within.

A most important responsibility among my people is always to address greetings of acknowledgment and thanksgiving to all components of this miraculous cycle of creation. All components contribute and work together insuring that life will continue in peace and balance.

At this time we will wrap all our minds together as one mind as we address thanksgiving, acknowledgment and greeting. Our instruction that people be first as we give thanks tells us that people being caring and giving to one another must be paramount in Creator's plan for life. We are given a pattern to follow.

Now we address greetings, acknowledgment, and thanksgiving for all components of Creation. Our Mother Earth who gives and nourishes all life: the Waters; the Plant Life from which we gather food and medicine; the Woodlands, our Brothers; the Four Leggeds and the Winged Ones.

Our acknowledgment and thanksgiving includes our Grandfathers, the Thunderers who bring the rain, cleansing and nourishing all life; the Moving Winds, the air that we breathe; our Elder Brother the Sun, providing light and warmth to Earth and all its bounty; our Grandmother Moon and the beautiful stars of the nighttime sky carrying on their duties as given at their creation.

All of these are good medicine for our well-being and peace of mind. We are all born to this Earth with honor and responsibility. We are not put on earth to wander without guidance and direction. Creator has provided four Sacred Beings, our Protectors, whose duty is to keep straight our minds and our capability to reason with responsibility.

With all our minds wrapped in a huge bundle as one, we bring closure to our greetings of acknowledgment and thanksgiving and address our Creator, the provider of all these life forces which in turn provide that we may have life and know contentment and peace as we journey our path on this Earth. We thank Creator for the ways man is given to help us keep a balance. We all are given a way to live in peace.

We are gathered at this great center today in these troubled times to put together our minds as one in efforts to bring about peaceful coexistence among peoples of the Earth. There is much talk of peace by those in positions of power in the governments of this world.

Not much is being done to de-escalate the conditions creating the chaos all over this planet. Weapons of war must cease to be top priority. To care for the people! Save the Earth! Reviving spiritual values, respect for life and living things must be renewed and practiced.

Our minds put together as one can be one of great power. Our acknowledgments and thanksgiving reinforce that we all are connected, all related, family. We address the whole universe as such. Our mother; our brother; our sisters, plant life; our grandmother; our grandfathers.

Shongwa ya'dihsaih skwaya'da genha. Onhwanja qwegih. Deskwennya donh, lhs qwa'sa'satstenhsa, en yongwa'sko gwa'. Da ne'toh. Nya wenha.

This piece is reprinted from Neighbor to Neighbor, Nation to Nation, a booklet published by Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) in November, 2001, which will soon be reprinted and updated.