I recently got my first passport. As I flipped through the pages I felt a surge of excitement knowing that the world is now an open book and the possibilities for adventure are endless. For anyone who doesn’t own a passport and for those of you who haven’t noticed, at the top of the pages there are impactful for quotes, quotes from historical giants in U.S. history such as Washington, Roosevelt, and King. Tucked in amongst these quotes was this unassuming passage from the first Thanksgiving:
We send thanks to all Animal life in the world.
They have many things to teach us as people.
We are glad they are still here and we hope it will always be so.
-Excerpt from the Thanksgiving Address, Mohawk Version-
The valuing of wildlife is innately and thoroughly tied to our identity as Americans. The robust presence of wildlife on the landscape is as American as baseball, apple pie, and Christmas at Grandma’s. It is so American, in fact, that we placed a statement to that effect in one of the most important and widely circulated documents we produce. A document that is sent worldwide and represents who we are as a people to every nation that we visit.
In America, we have taken greater steps than any other nation to right the wrongs done to wildlife and ensure their continued presence in our lives. We have not only moved, but we have protected heaven, earth, and sea to guard the habitat that these creatures call home. We have honored the challenge by a wise Mohawk to learn from them and always keep them with us.
Despite our history of protecting wildlife, we also have a history of abuse. Our own history is a reminder that we are only a generation away from endangering the things we value. There has been much done and said as of late that threatens the future of our wild places and wild creatures. Some have forgotten that we have much to learn from the wild, that it is both edifying and instructive. While the future of wild places and wild wildlife seems in jeopardy, those of us who have been stirred by the wild have not forgotten. Our wild places and wild creatures are depending on us to remember and, in remembering, perhaps they will continue to always be with us, to teach us a greater depth of what it means to be American and what it means to be human. “We are glad they are still here and we hope it will always be so.”