Praying for kinship on Thanksgiving

Daniel Heath pens a prayer honoring Indigenous peoples, the land, and the unifying aspects of Thanksgiving.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

The Washington Commanders (formerly the Washington Redskins) of the National Football League changed its name two years ago after acknowledging the former name was a racial slur towards native peoples. It was the combination of the name change and the book Native by Kaitlin Curtice that changed my practice of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is no longer only about big meals, parades, and football for me, it is also about giving thanks and lamenting for the land and the peoples of the land. I can imagine offering a prayer as part of the kickoff ceremonies for the Macy’s Day Parade.

Please join me in a moment of silence to acknowledge Indigenous peoples whose land we now tread on and the 573 federally recognized nations in the U.S., along with others not recognized. (Pause.)

Let us pray.

We offer our gratitude for life, health and strength. We give thanks for the provision of all necessities of life: food, water, shelter, clothing and transportation. We are excited about a day that inspires celebration and cheer, but we acknowledge that for millions this day is a day of sadness. Today there are a multitude in our country, in our cities, and right here under the sound of my voice who are crying. There are those who do not have healthy food or who have no food at all. There are those who thirst and can only drink from the fountains of tainted pipes. There are those who live in structures that do not provide sufficient shelter. Forgive us for celebrating while our neighbors suffer.

We give thanks for the lands that provide so much. We ask your guidance to be good stewards and not wasteful or stingy over the fruit of the lands. We honor Mother Earth and ask that you instill in all humans a concern and care for her. Take away the appetite to conquer, divide, overwork and sell the land, because she is sacred and the sacred is not for sale. We regret the ways in which we have mistreated, abused and forsaken the land, manipulating natural cycles and Earth’s ability to make her own decisions.

Creator God, may we tell our children the full story about our lands around dinner tables today, in the classrooms next week, and in sacred spaces where people gather to pray for years to come.

Teach us, Lord, how to listen and learn from our ancestors, who still speak through imprints on the lands, through their children, their children’s children, and through visions and dreams. Let us dismantle the stereotypes of savages, cartoon characters, and sexualized bodies of native peoples. Let us challenge the names and images of mascots and Halloween costumes capitalizing on Indigenous stereotypes.

Help us to reimagine our country, not as a melting pot where identities fade away, but as a botanical garden where each distinct plant compliments the beauty of other buds and blooms. We are silenced, minimized, and erased in so many ways every day. Help us to live with all as kin, committing to the practices of respect, relatedness, thoughtfulness and belonging. Amen.