Walaswaldamg8gan: Thanksgiving for the First Nations
First Nation peoples are known for their grateful attitude towards Nature. They feel it is important to thank the plants that feed or heal them, as well as the animals who sacrifice their lives. Their ‘thanksgiving’ gestures are accomplished daily (for example by leaving tobacco where they gathered plants), and periodically. Great festivities surround the fall harvest. Livened up with songs, dances, and feasts, they can last for up to seven days.
Harvest Dances and Songs of the Mohawk Nation
The KANIEN’KEHAKA Nation, better known as the Mohawk Nation, is the most populous of Québec’s autochthon nations. This farming community has created many songs and dances relating to the harvest theme. Traditionally performed by women, to whom these agricultural activities are reserved, the chants are mostly associated with the three sisters of Iroquoian folklore: the bean, squash, and corn. To accompany their voices, the women use two types of rattles, called ohsta:wa’. One type consists of an emptied squash filled with seeds or small pebbles. The other type, a more ceremonial version, is made from a dried up snapping turtle, its head and stretched neck serving as a handle. Medicine men used a rattle made from a larger turtle.
In a harvest dance song called KAREN:NA KANONNIA KAIENTHOKWEN, the word “Sohkwawene” is repeated many times on different melodies, and gives thanks to Mother Earth who feeds her people with plentiful harvests.
KAREN:NA KANONNIA KAIENTHOKWEN
HO SOHKWAWENE YOH HAH YOH HO HO
HO HAH-AH YOH HAH-AH YO HAH-AH HAH-HA
SOHKWAWENE YOH SOHKWAWENE HAH YOH HOH !
Literal Translation of the Harvest Dance Chant
Thanks to the Earth
Who gives us such beautiful harvests
The Corn Song
Download audio (2 minutes 36 seconds, 3.58 MB)
Native American traditional song sung by men and women accompanied by tambourine and a “rattle”.
Source: Musée des Abénakis. Recordings of the Aw8ssisak Akik singing band, 2012
The sentence: “Ya nigawes” could mean “for our Mother Earth”.