Native Traditions of Giving Thanks

( [email protected] ) Nov 25, 2003 11:01 AM EST

The American custom of giving thanks did not begin with the arrival of European colonists. 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 up to the present day, 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.

Giving thanks was an important part of the celebrations, called Nickommo, which are still held by the Wampanoag. Give-away ceremonies, feasting, dancing and sports and games were common features of these occasions. Give-away ceremonies show gratefulness to the Creator who provides for the people and makes possible the blessings celebrated. The act of giving away material things shows respect and caring for others, while reminding the participants that material objects are only secondary to one’s spiritual life.

Thankfulness was woven into every aspect of Wampanoag life. If an animal was hunted for food, special thanks were also given to the Creator and to the spirit of the animal. If a plant was harvested and used for any purpose, or a bird or a fish, if an anthill was disrupted, gratitude and acknowledgement were given for the little ones’ lives. To this day it is the same with most Native people