Wampanoag Traditions of Giving Thanks - “For the Children of the Earth”
- Nancy “Smiling Dove” E. Eldredge (Nauset Wampanoag)
First published by Plimoth Patuxet Museums in Almanack, November 1998
The American custom of giving thanks did not begin with the arrival of Europeans. Spirituality was (and is) a deeply sacred and personal part of Wampanoag life. Everything is sacred, and giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts is an integral part of daily life. From ancient times to the present, the Native People of North America have held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests and other good fortune. According to the oral information of tribal elders, giving thanks was the primary reason for ceremonies or feasts. According to Wampanoag historian and educator, Nancy Eldredge:
From time immemorial, Wampanoag and other Indigenous people of the northeast have held ceremonies to give thanks in the early spring for the hope of a good growing season, and in the fall, for a successful harvest. At other times, they celebrate good fortune surrounding events such as the birth of a child or a marriage. Annual ceremonies mark the thirteen moons of the lunar year, and Wampanoag people give thanks for the seasonal harvests of strawberries and cranberries. The Wampanoag honor the spirit of every plant harvested and animal hunted or fished. Today, as in the 17th century, daily thanksgivings are also held for the abundance given by the Creator for everyday life. By emphasizing gratitude, the Creator’s gifts cannot be taken for granted.
Let every Day
be one of giving Thanks
Let every Being of Creation
along our paths
Let all plant life be acknowledged
Let all the winged ones of the air
know your gratefulness
Thank you for all that is
For all we take
We will give at least
Thank you for every mountain
And every grain of Sand
Water and Air
Fire and Earth
For every living thing
And for the Beauty of our lives this day
We thank you.
Learn more about the Wampanoag tradition of strawberry thanksgiving - another seasonal harvest celebration held in late spring or early summer - from Kerri Helme (Mashpee Wampanoag).
Who is Smiling Dove giving thanks to? What is she thankful for?
What are you grateful for?
How do you show gratitude?
How are your traditions similar to Smiling Dove’s? How are they different?