The Mohawk Thanksgiving Address: Words Before All Else

“We who have gathered together are responsible that our cycle continues. We have been given the duty to live in harmony with one another and other living things.”

These are the opening words of the Ohenten Kariwatekwen, also known as the Thanksgiving Address, a traditional prayer or greeting recited in Akwesasne. Often meetings start and end with the greeting as a way to get everyone in a good mind to work together for the best for all. Translated from Mohawk, Ohenten Kariwatekwen means “the words that are spoken before all others.”

In this traditional greeting, all elements of creation are acknowledged and we say thank you to them.

This beautiful greeting finds its origins in a traditional Mohawk and Haudenosaunee religious ceremony and has been adopted in settings outside of the longhouse like business meetings and social gatherings. Some might say it serves a general mindfulness practice for living in harmony with nature. The spirit of the Thanksgiving Address can be felt throughout Akwesasne in how people live their lives, interact with each other and conduct business.

In the address, each verse ends with “Now our minds are one.” This final phrase of each section helps join people together in a common goal. This prayer is so meaningful to our identity that we have included portions of it in our tourism video, shown below.

Our young Akwesasne narrator shares excerpts from this prayer in Mohawk.  This ancient greeting’s meaning and spirit are just as relevant in Akwesasne today as they were hundreds of years ago.

Ohénton Kariwatékwen: Words Before All Else

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne onkwehshon:ah ne akwe:kon sken:nen akenhake tsi teionkwatawenrie ne ken:tho ohwentsia:ke tewen:teron…eh kati’ niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for the people gathered here, that everyone is at peace here where we live on earth…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne iethi:nistenha ohwentsia. Ne:e kiakotka’wenhakie oh nahoten’shon:ah ne sken:nen akenhake ne ken:tho ohwentsia teionkwatawenrie…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for (this is repeated throughout the prayer) Mother Earth. She has given us everything we need to live in peace…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne kaienthoh:sera. Ne:e ionkhiia’takehnhahs no:nen tewatonhkariak… eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for the food plants. They help us when we’re hungry…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne kahi’shon:ah tanon ne kwah tkonwakowa:nen ken’niiohontehsha. Ne:e kanenhri:ne’s ne kahi’shon:ah…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for fruits and especially strawberry, the head of the berry family…now our minds are one. 

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne ohonte’shon:ah. Okia’ke kakhwa tsi tewatsta tanon okia’ke ne ononhkwa’shon:ah…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for the grasses. Some we use as food and some as medicine…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne oneka’shon:ah, tsi kahnekaronnion, kanientara’ko:wa, kanientarahere, tsi iohonwa:taien tanon ne ohwentsiakonhshon iotnekahtenkionhakie. Tsi she:kon wa:tons ionkwaha’tanawenhsta…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for water; the rivers, the lakes, the oceans, and that clean water keeps running all over the earth. It keeps our thirst quenched…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne kentsion’shon:ah. Ne wahe kionkhiia:wis ne ka’satstenhsera ne tohsa aetewatonhkariak…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for fish. They give us strength so we don’t go hungry…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne ononhkwa’shon:ah tsi she:kon ionkhiia’takenhnhas no:nen ionkwanonhwaktani…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for medicines, that they still help us when we are sick…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne kontirio tsi she:kon ionkhiia’takenhnhas no:nen tewawistohs tanon no:nen tewatonhkariaks…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for wild animals, that they still help us when we are cold and hungry…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne okwire’shon:ah tanon ne kwah tkonwakowa:nen wahta tsi nikakwiro:ten tsi she:kon eh nikontiiehrha oh naho:ten shakoniahesha:on ne Shonkwaia’tison…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for the trees, especially maple, the head of their family, that it still creates sap as the Creator made it to do…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne otsi’ten’okon:ah tsi she:kon ionkwathon:te karenni:ios ratiha:wi tanon ne kwah tkonwakowa:nen a:kweks tsi nihohsenno:ten…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for the birds, that we still hear the nice singing that they bring, especially the head of the bird family—the eagle is its name…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne iethisohtho’okon:ah ratiwe:ras tsi she:kon a:se shonnon:nis tsi kahnekaronnion…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for our grandfathers the thunderers, that they make new waters…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne kaie:ri nikawera:ke tsi she:kon eh nihatiiehrha tsi naho:ten shakoniahesha:on ne Shonkwaia’tison…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for the four winds, that they still do what the Creator has asked them to do…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne Shonkwa’tsi:ah kiehkehnehkha karahkwa tsi she:kon tehohswathe:ton tanon ro’tariha:ton ne ohwentsia:ke. Ka’satstenhsera o:ni tehshonkwa:wis…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for our brother, the sun, that it is still bright and warms the earth…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne Iethihsohtha ahsenthenhnehkha karahkwa tsi she:kon iethi:kenhs tanon tsi she:kon ronwati’nikonhrarakies ne ratiksa’okon:ah…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for our grandmother, the moon, that she is still in charge of when children are born…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne otsistanohkwa’shon:ah. Ne:e iakokia’tahseronnia’tahkwa ne iethihsohtha ahsenthenhnehkha karahkwa…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for the stars, that they dress the sky for our grandmother, the moon…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon teiethinonhwera:ton ne kaie:ri niionkwe:take ne wahi ronwatirihonte ne aionkhiia’tanon:na ne onkwehshon:ah…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give thanks for the four messengers; their job is to take care of the people…now our minds are one.

Akwe:kon enska entitewahwehnon:ni ne onkwa’nikon:ra tanon tenthshitewanonhwera:ton ne Shonkwaia’tison tsi akwe:kon roweienenta:on ne ohwentsia:ke tsi naho:ten tehshonkwa:wi…eh kati’niiohtonhak ne onkwa’nikon:ra.

We bring our minds together as one and give our thanks to the Creator for everything that he has done for the people…now our minds are one.

AKWESASNE TRAVEL

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