From the minute he wakes up, to the second he falls asleep, Michael Martin exists in a state of inexhaustible gratitude.
“We have a lot to be thankful for,” Martin said in his 2013 TED Talk. “When we ground ourselves in that perspective, we can do amazing things. When you take the time to give those unexpected ‘Thank yous,’ that’s how you get remembered.”
Martin, an Onondaga of the Haudenosaunee people, or “people of the longhouse,” is practicing his native “Ganohę:nyoh,” or “Thanksgiving address.” The name “Haudenosaunee” refers to a confederation or alliance among six Native American nations more commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy.
The word “Chautauqua” is an Iroquois word, one of the “last of the spoken language,” according to Maureen Rovegno, director of the Department of Religion. Rovegno said the connection proves Martin’s viewpoint is “extremely important to both the Chautauqua region,” and the Interfaith Friday series as a whole.
“As we realize more and more the debt we owe to our Native people, we want to know more and more about what they value, because what they value, we want to value,” Rovegno said.
Martin, executive director of the Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties, will speak on Haudenosaunee traditions at 2 p.m. EDT Friday, July 31, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform for Week Five’s Interfaith Friday.
They became the United States of America by learning that concept: We’re stronger together than we are separately,” Martin said. “(It’s) a very simple idea of being in a perspective of giving thanks. There’s an interconnectedness amongst us that we often don’t recognize.”
The main focus of the 2020 Interfaith Friday series, Rovegno said, is “uncovering stories of creation.” Most people, she said, already know the Christian creation narrative found within Genesis, so it was a “priority” to learn a Native American story, among others this season.
“We wanted to know what the Native people’s creation story is because creation stories tell us what we think life is all about, our purpose in life and it tells us something about our relationship to all of the created world — especially our relationship to nature,” Rovegno said.
Martin, during his TED Talk, said his creation story is rooted in the teachings of a concept known as “seven generations.”
“We’re taught that every action we take we have to be mindful seven generations up,” Martin said in the TED Talk. “Every action and decision we make has to ensure their well being. Just as we look back seven generations, we give thanks for those that came before us.”
Traditional leaders, such as the Haudenosaunee’s founder, the Peacemaker, won’t call this ideology a religion; they talk about it as a way of life, a way of thinking and a “perspective that’s supposed to guide us each and every day,” Martin said.
“It allows us to be in this perspective of gratitude, which humbles us and grounds us and puts us in that good frame of mind,” he said during his TED Talk.
According to Martin, when the Peacemaker gave the Haudenosaunee people that “simple teaching,” it showed them “we’re stronger together when bonded with good minds than we could be separately,” an idea Martin said played a role in the founding of the United States.
“They became the United States of America by learning that concept: We’re stronger together than we are separately,” he said. “(It’s) a very simple idea of being in a perspective of giving thanks. There’s an interconnectedness amongst us that we often don’t recognize.”
The bottom line: It is better to have expressed an excess of appreciation than to live with the regret of a “thanks” unsaid.
“In everyday life, we don’t always take those opportunities to let people know their lives here on Earth have purpose and meaning,” Martin said in his TED Talk. “If nothing else to ourselves, for what they’ve given us.”
This program is made possible by The Ralph W. Loew Religious Lectureship Fund.