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SUBMITTED by Amy Blum (16-Sep-2011)

"Words That Come Before All Else," The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address Opens Native American Lecture Series

Tom Porter, Mohawk Elder and Spiritual Leader is First Guest Speaker

For most people in this country, the word “thanksgiving” conjures up turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. For the Haudenosaunee people (Iroquois, or Six Nations Confederacy), “thanksgiving” isn’t limited to a day in November, but instead, is at the core of their worldview. On Wednesday, 28 September 2011, from 7-9 pm at Nazareth College’s Shults Center, guest speaker Tom Porter will discuss the “Thanksgiving Address” (Words That Come Before All Else)–which explains the connection to the natural world—to open the first of three lectures in the 2011 Native American Lecture Series. This year’s series is a partnership between Friends of Ganondagan and the Center for Service-Learning and the Religious Studies Department at Nazareth College.

The traditional Thanksgiving Address is a greeting to the natural world, spoken to begin and end each day, and prior to important meetings, ceremonies, and socials. It is an expression of acknowledgement, greetings, love, and appreciation for every part of the natural world, and helps to bring the thoughts of the people together. It is a reminder that human beings are only one of many living things, and that we all are connected to each other and to the rest of Creation.

Mohawk Elder Tom Porter (Bear Clan), a champion for the revitalization of Native languages and traditions, will be the featured speaker. Porter has devoted his life to educating Native and non-Native people about the true history, culture and spirituality of the Haudenosaunee. He is the founder, director and spiritual leader of the traditional Mohawk community of Kanatsiohar •:ke, the co-founder of White Roots of Peace—a group of Iroquois Elders who toured the country sharing traditional teachings—and the co-founder of Akwesasne Freedom School, where he has taught many classes and created the first Iroquois Immersion Program. Recognized as an author and educator, Mr. Porter has received more than a dozen awards, the most recent being an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2009 from Trent University in Canada for his contributions as an indigenous cultural educator, elder, and spiritual leader.
“Nazareth College students, faculty and staff have been enriched by our five year service-learning partnership with the Ganondagan staff and the variety of Ganondagan’s cultural and educational programs,” explains Marie Watkins, Nazareth’s Service-Learning Center director. “We have learned and experienced the true meaning of reciprocity as well as the concept of the ‘community bowl’ taught to us by Friends of Ganondagan Executive Director Jeanette Miller: we each have something important to offer one another.”
The Native American Lecture Series “Sadao’hdi:yos (Lend a Good Ear): Messages from Haudenosaunee Leaders” focuses on human beings’ obligations and relationships to the natural world. Upcoming lectures will be held on Wednesday, 19 October 2011, with internationally recognized leader and Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons (“The Natural World: Our Responsibility as Human Beings”) and Thursday, 3 November 2011, with Dr. Theresa Maresca, Mohawk, (“Healing & Balance in the Haudenosaunee Culture”) discussing the importance of taking care of our physical, mental, and spiritual selves through connections to the natural world.

In a related event following the series on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 from 7-9 pm, at Nazareth College, (room TBA), Ganondagan and Nazareth will host a Community Read featuring the book, To Become a Human Being: The Message of Tadodaho Chief Leon Shenandoah by Steve Wall. This event will be facilitated by Ganondagan Site Manager G. Peter Jemison and Nazareth College Professor and Chair of Religious Studies Dr. Susan Nowak, and is free and open to the public. The book, which retails for $17.95, will be available for purchase at the lectures and at the Ganondagan Gift Shop until 29 October 2011.

Individual lectures are $20 / Friends of Ganondagan members, $30 / non-members. Lecture series admission price is $50 / Friends of Ganondagan members, $80 / non-members. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.ganondagan.org/programs/LectureSeries.html or call 585-742-1690.

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