I’ve known Jeanne Shenandoah for many of her 60+ years. My work in community as artist, baker and organic gardener has created many opportunities to share culture with folks from the Onondaga Nation. Over breakfast at the Village Eatery in Jamesville, NY, our conversation had drifted to our children and the constant dose of TV and video games that so consume their time and energy. Jeanne wished there was a way to put Haudenosaunee core teachings back into their daily lives. The Thanksgiving Address (literally”the words before all else”) came to mind, as these words best express the importance of living in harmony with the natural world. Recited to open and close civil and religious meetings (as well as a daily sunrise greeting) the Address thanks each life-sustaining aspect of our lives, connecting all present in harmony with one another and the natural world.
As art director at Syracuse Cultural Workers, one of my jobs is to help create these kinds of visual “tools for change”. The thoughts in the Address flow from “greetings and thanks to each other as people” to thanking the earth, the waters and fish, the plants and animals, the winds and 4 directions, the thunderers, the sun and moon and stars, the teachers and all the gifts of creation. The shared experience of reciting or listening to these words puts “our minds as one” and conveys respect for all that surrounds us. I wanted to preserve the flow of thoughts and was challenged to create a “slow release” poster. With Jeanne’s 60th birthday coming up, I gathered many of my thumbnail drawings, taping them together much like those packets of postcards you buy in souvenir shops. The card opened like an accordion, over 5 feet long, working as both poster to hang on wall or small book to rest on table or nightstand. Jeanne was thrilled. So was I.
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