Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Anticipation of the Real Thanksgiving

An abridged Ganyonhon:yonk -- The Thanksgiving address:

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Onkwe’shón:’a
We give thanks to the people.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Yethi’nisténha Ohwéntsya
We give thanks to our mother the earth.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Kahnekarónnyon
We give thanks to the waters.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Kentsyonkshón:’a
We give thanks to the fish.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Ohonte’shón:’a
We give thanks to the grass and vegetation.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Ononhkwa’shón:’a táhnon Ohtehra’shón:’a
We give thanks to the medicines and the roots.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Kahikshón:’a
We give thanks to the fruits.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Tyonnhéhkwen
We give thanks to the foods.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Otsi’nonwa’shón:’a
We give thanks to the insects.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Okwire’shón:’a táhnon Karonta’shón:’a
We give thanks to the bushes and the trees.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Otsi’ten’okón:’a
We give thanks to the birds.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Teyowerawénrye
We give thanks to the winds.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Yethihsothó:kon Ratiwé:ras
We give thanks to our grandfathers the thunderers.

Tetshitewanonhwerá:ton ne Etshitewahtsí:’a Entye’kehnékha Karáhkwa
We give thanks to our elder brother during the day time celestial light.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Yethihsótha Ahsonthenhnékha Karáhkwa
We give thanks to our grandmother the night time celestial light.

Teyethinonhwerá:ton ne Yotsistohkwarónnyon
We give thanks to all the stars scattered about.

Tetshitewanonhwerá:ton ne Shonkwaya’tíhson
We give him thanks the one who finished our bodies (the creator).

I have been thinking a lot about the idea behind Thanksgiving -- and not the glitzy American version or the kinder, gentler Canadian one -- but the idea that we thank everything in this marvelous creation for sustaining our lives. Not prayed for -- but thanked. A lovely Iroquoian concept that I particularly like.

I often wonder if the settlers saw us do this -- the Ganyonhon:yonk is recited at the beginning of every gathering -- and thought it was a good idea. Because it is.

Happy Thanksgiving, if I don't post here between now and then.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Toronto: A Love Song


I have been extremely lazy over this past summer, occupied by my little routine of work/home/sleep/fun. But mostly it’s because I have been enjoying the fact that I live in Toronto and have been immersed in how much I love living here.

I love this city. I have always felt at home here – in fact, I have been an urban dweller for far longer than I lived on the reserve. I left that home for this one when I was 17 and have remained here, reveling in my life as an urban Indian, since that point. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I have been blessed over the course of my career to visit other Canadian and American cities and can honestly say that there is no where else I could even think about living in. I love Toronto. This is a beautiful, living organism, a vibrant and exciting place, pulsing with great expectations for the future. The thing that I love best however is when the ghosts of the past brush against me when I ride my bike home at twilight along Front Street. I can feel the vibrations of my relations here.

I often laugh when people say, “Oh the First Nations here were the Mississaugas”. Well they may have been here when the English settled the town of York, but that’s because the Haudenosaunee had moved to the south side of Lake Ontario to consolidate our power and position in the wake of the Beaver Wars. In our absence the Mississaugas moved in. Up until that point, this entire area was riddled with our villages and hunting encampments. Toronto/Tkaronto itself means “There are trees there in the water”. This is because when our hunting or war parties would come across the lake in our immense elmbark canoes, the tall elm trees that at that point lined the entire shoreline would be reflected in the still surface of the water, looking as though they were standing in the water. How beautiful and how romantic this image is to me. And I love how that word conveys an ownership to my people that we can still claim through our naming of this place.

I love this modern, cosmopolitan place, crammed with its steel and glass towers and honking cars and clanking buses. I love the fact that when I step out of my house I can hear five different languages spoken in the space of a city block. I love looking at the diverse beauty of humanity reflected in the faces of my neighbours. I love the fact that I can go within six blocks of my house and sample ten different cuisines of cultures far beyond Turtle Island. I love the bustle, the crazy intensity, the 24-hour busy-ness of this place. I love the anonymity, but also the strange camaraderie that happens with people that you see every day. I absolutely love riding my bike, dodging in and out of traffic like a modern-day warrior clinging to the back of a pony. I also love the fact that Toronto absolutely does not give a fuck about what anyone else thinks about it. Love it or hate it, it does not care. And this is why I adore it so.

Once upon a time I wrote in a short story which was my first love poem to Toronto: “…you are obsessed with finding the lingering images of Iroquoia that are scattered throughout the city, buried beneath the strata of the modern age, like fossils. The city crest, murals on the sides of buildings, the huge bronze Iroquois brave on a storefront in Yorkville, the names of streets, the wooded and garbage-strewn ravines themselves whisper to you, saying, "Haudenosaunee daughter, here we are, we have not gone away.”

Here in my beloved city the present and the past collide in me, and I think of this often as I zoom around my downtown orbit.