by Roy Saunderson | November 21, 2016

Too often, traditions like Thanksgiving take on a habitual pattern year after year based upon handed-down history. Often we get so caught up in the details of holiday preparation that we overlook the deeper meaning and origins of the holiday, particularly the influence of Native American culture and ideas. This month we take a look at changing that with Top 10 Perspectives for a New Look on Thanksgiving.

1. Thanks for Mother Earth. Are we thankful for nature and the environment around us? The Haudenosaunee (also known as Iroquois) Indians share, "We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she given us all that we need for life." Family and turkey may be traditions today, but let us first consider the origins of life.

2. Thanks on a daily basis. Early colonists settlers would not have survived were it not for the Wampanoag Indians. For these Native Americans, giving thanks was an essential part of their daily life and religious practices. It was far more than just a once-a-year event. We should all learn from this idea.

3. Thanks by sharing with others. The Wampanoag people celebrated the harvest with a ceremony that combined feasting, dancing, and ceremonial games with a "give away." Families would give away some of their personal possessions to those in need within the community. Perhaps we need to make sacrifices, too.

4. Thanks for cultivating gifts. Native Americans cultivated several varieties of corn, beans, and squash, which were dried and stored in underground caches. What gifts and talents are you developing that are hidden from family and friends? Strive to cultivate the gifts you have for everyone's benefit.

5. Thanks for community. Native communities focused on relationships and contributing to the tribe. The needs of everyone were met by working together -- hunting, farming, and celebrating. We can follow their example by being more aware of each other and helping one another as a community.

6. Thanks for agricultural insights. Most of us take for granted eating a turkey dinner with cranberry sauce, corn, and mashed potatoes. Native people shared their agricultural practices and traditional foods to save the lives of early settlers. How often do we honor those who saved our ancestors?

7. Thanks for harmonious living.  We can learn a lot from Native people's ability to live in harmony with their natural surroundings. Through generations of observation and experience they know the weather, nature, and seasons. Create harmonious relationships with everyone at Thanksgiving.

8. Thanks for wise stewardship. In most indigenous cultures there is a law of reciprocity in how you use the produce and animal life of the earth. What you remove from the earth you must give back, and take care of nature. It is ironic that our modern world is only just catching up with the need to be green.

9. Thanks for generosity. Are we thankful for those who help others in our communities? The generosity and knowledge of Native peoples saved the lives of many explorers and European settlers. Consider the generosity of those in your network and let them know you appreciate what they do.

10. Thanks for tradition. Dependence on the bison was lost with the federal bison slaughter in the 1800s. Tribes are again raising buffalo herds to reclaim their reliance on nature, their regular diets, and traditional culture. Let us make sure we do not lose our cultural practices, but keep our traditions alive.


Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Real Recognition Way and is the Chief Learning Officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions' Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training company which helps leaders and managers get recognition right. He can be reached at [email protected]. Also, check out the library of Real Recognition Radio shows.