The Picture Collection of the New York Public Library Image ID: 806997
The ThanksgivingsTranslated from a traditional Iroquois prayer by Harriet Maxwell Converse
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs, the stars.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this occasion.
Harriet Maxwell Converse (1836-1903) was born Elmira, New York, into a family fascinated by Native cultures. Both her grandfather & her father were Indian traders in the Seneca Nation. At the age of 25 Harriet married Frank Converse, a musician known as "The Father of the Banjo." The couple traveled throughout the U.S & Europe. While Frank played the banjo, Harriet developed her writing talents & became a published poet & regular contributor to national magazines.
By 1881, Harriet began to write about the Six Nations. She traveled to reservations in western New York as well as Canada, collecting cultural artifacts today in the collections of the State Museum at Albany. She also became a political advocate for the Six Nations. The Seneca Nation recognized Harriet's efforts by adopting her into the Snipe Clan. In 1891, Harriet Maxwell Converse (her Indian name was Ga-is-wa-noh: the Watcher) became the 1st white woman to be named chief of an Indian tribe. Converse became chief of the Six Nations tribe at Tonawanda reservation in New York. She had been adopted by the Seneca tribe 7 years earlier because of her efforts on behalf of the tribe. She was invested with the responsibility of the welfare of her adopted people, & given the name "The Watcher."