By Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP
Every year I hunt for a message for the Thanksgiving season that seems meaningful.
This year, I happened on this beautiful poem by Peter Blue Cloud, born in 1933 of the Turtle Clan of the Mohawk Nation who is widely acclaimed as a poet and folklorist.
Accompanying the poem is art by Isaac Murdoch, who has committed his life to the preservation of Anishinaabe cultural practices and has spent years learning from elders.
May we all say thankful words for what we have been given. Happy day of gratitude.
White Corn Sister
And season merged into season,
and we learned the life cycles of all around us,
like the moon, the face of each thing is in constant change,
and yet life goes into death a seed awaiting rebirth.
And season into season,
we grew into a nation of many lodges and cornfields,
and ceremonies were given to us,
as were beans and squash.
And we sat in council,
male and female,
to ponder the future of our children,
of our nation,
and again Creation heard
and answered with the voices of our elders.
And season into season,
like the sapling pine,
grew the thinking of our elders
into a Great Tree,
and the laws by which our nation was to live
became known as the Great Good.
and these laws were like seeds of corn,
each separate, yet bound to a single core,
and these laws were spoken often to our people,
so that none forget.
And the memory of these laws were woven into beaded belts,
like rows of seed corn,
and the words were said to the hearts and the minds of the people
as a living part of life,
and not mere words to drift away upon a breeze.......
.....The seed corn in Earth,
the newborn child,
the sun rising as ever to warm the good earth,
all these in promise to a scattered nation.
So it was spoken and remembered by a scattered people,
remnants of a nation.
So did they seek to keep the fires of the Great Good alive.
And even into today,
in the heart of this nation,
the Great Good lives,
held by a few threads of sinew,
which must be gathered into a strong and binding cord.
This sinew, these threads of life connecting elder to child,
and child to Creation,
is the meaning of our Mystery.
We, the elders, are gatherers of this thread,
we are the singers who send our voices to the directions,
calling our children to return,
to be reborn a nation.
Come home to us and touch our hands,
and life the soil and smell the rich damp earth,
yours forever in promise.
Return to us and dance the praise of the Great Good,
and sit with us in council close to the warming hearth.
And season follows season,
and born a nation we plant the sacred corn,
and do you see your elder
back bent with age,
hoe in hand
slowly walking to the cornfield?...
And will you bend beside him and hear his whispered words,
that he welcomes home his children and that now,
when his eyes close upon that final sleep,
his journey will be in peace?....
...Counsel wisely with your elders,
then counsel your mind and heart
and do not trust yourself to speak of the Great Good
until your heart and your mind are one.
Offer advice only if you have tasted of the turmoil in question,
and be strong inside and truly believe
before using the outward power of your voice
to convince others of your truth.
And when a feast is given,
thank the Creation that people have food to eat.
And eat the corn and squash and beans
knowing that your back has bent
to the rhythm of the hoe.
And at the fire's warming glow
be pleased that you have shared
in the gathering of the fuel to keep warm the lodge.
And know and praise the seasons
in the knowledge that you
have shared their constant change."
- Excerpts from "White Corn Sister" by Peter Blue Cloud. Thanks to @rowenwhite on Instagram who introduced me to this beautiful poem and the art by Isaac Murdoch. The art is Thunderbird Woman and Her Eggs by Isaac Murdock, 2016.