Allegiance to Gratitude

If I could declare a Sacred Text for 2022 that the entire world should read, I would choose Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Kimmerer is an academically-trained botanist and culturally-shaped member of the Potawatomi Nation. She writes as she teaches, braiding together ancient wisdom with stories and lessons in service of a beautiful message: we are part of a beautiful world, and it’s our privilege and responsibility to care for it.

In her chapter titled “Allegiance to Gratitude,” she tells the story of her daughter being asked to say the Pledge of Allegiance as a sixth-grader in her school. Her daughter’s teacher called Kimmerer and reported that her daughter was not standing and saying the pledge like the other students. She wasn’t being disruptive. She just wasn’t participating.

Kimmerer then reflected on her own experience of saying the pledge as a child. In the moment, her voice joined with others made her feel connected and part of something bigger. But she says, “From where I stand today, though, the idea of asking school children to pledge loyalty to a political system seems exceedingly curious.” 

On the Onondaga land, shaped by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, school children begin their day not with the Pledge of Allegiance but with the Thanksgiving Address. They begin their days by expressing their gratitude to all members of the natural world. It begins…

Today we have gathered and when we look up on the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.

The Address goes on for many stanzas, with different children reciting different parts. The Thanksgiving Address is more than a pledge; it’s a statement of identity as a member of a diverse ecosystem woven together so that all may thrive.

We give thanks to our Mother the Earth, for she gives us everything we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she still continues to care for us, just as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother, we send thanksgiving, love, and respect. Now our minds are one.

Pledging allegiance to a nation-state isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s profoundly incomplete. Our allegiance must be so much broader. If we are all created in God’s image – all the plants, all the animals, all the fish, all the water, all the air, all the people – then our allegiance must be bigger than our politics. It must include all of creation, and it must call upon us to treat creation with the deepest of respect.

When you recite the Thanksgiving Address, you can’t help but see the abundance of life. My invitation to you this day is to write your own and recite it each morning as a reminder of our special privilege and responsibility as caretakers of a beautiful world. 

We are in this together,

Rev. Cameron Trimble
Author of Searching for the Sacred: Meditations on Faith, Hope and Love

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