Giving Thanks to Animals

November 19, 2012 Christine McDonald Animal ConnectionsEmotions and Animals

It is fishing and hunting season throughout much of North America. Hunters are dressed in their camouflage, geared up for cool weather and prepared to fill their permits and freezers. November is also the month we give thanks and share the bounty of food, and good friends and family. There are numerous Native American stories handed down for generations that can give us a different perspective on gratitude and the season of hunting and animals.

Salmon Boy is a Haida Tribe Legend about a young boy who does not respect the salmon. He drowns in the river and is taken back to the Spirit of the Salmon, deep in the ocean. He learns to respect the salmon, and returns to the tribe as a healer. The Navajo Deer Hunting story (from Look to the Mountain, by Gregory Cajete) is another Indian legend about respecting and honoring the wisdom of deer. Both stories symbolically tell a story of giving something back to honor the life taken and seeing a bigger picture of the cycles of life and death.

These stories are used to teach children about the cycles of life and death and the concept of recycling. The spirit of the animal lives on and what remains or the bones are honored. Consequences or karma are incurred when life is lived carelessly, without concern from where life originates or how it is terminated. Indigenous cultures shared their wisdom through the animals in these stories. In the Navajo story, a fawn tells the hunter “in the future only those of whom we approve shall eat the mighty deer”.

As I read the Navajo story I was reminded of a connection I had with a young deer about a year ago. I was out walking on windy, rainy fall day and encountered a doe and fawn. I continued on my walk and saw the same deer two more times. By the third time I understood the deer wanted to connect with me. It was the fawn who came forth and was concerned about her mother and the possibility she may be hunted. I researched local hunting regulations and then reconnected with the fawn, relaying the information back. Could it be the choice to give life is made by the deer, not the hunter?

If you have read some of my earlier blog posts (Healing our Karmas with the Aid of Animals in Spirit) you might be aware of how I have processed my own karmas with animals. I have come to understand it is not just our injustices to other humans we may be accountable for at our death, it is our injustices to animals or nature.

The life sustaining energy that allows us to be here and learn needs our loving attention. There has never been a greater need to do service to animals or nature. It is equally important as doing service for a battered woman and child, the sick or helping the very young or very old. Doing service with gratitude can be done without leaving your home and be part of a daily routine. Check out Julia Butterfly Hill’s talk on Disposibilty Consciousness for some new ideas and insights on recycling. November is a month of Thanksgiving and offers a new opportunity to give thanks for the wisdom, love and service of the animals and the life giving forces in nature that sustain us.

The Faces of Deer (2006)
By Mary Oliver

  • When for too long I don’t go deep enough
  • into the woods to see them, they begin to
  • enter my dreams. Yes, there they are, in the
  • pinewoods of my inner life. I want to live a life
  • full of modesty and praise. Each hoof of each
  • animal makes the sign of a heart as it touches
  • then lifts away from the ground. Unless you
  • believe that heaven is very near, how will you
  • find it? Their eyes are pools in which one
  • would be content, on any summer afternoon,
  • to swim away through the door of the world.
  • Then, love and its blessing. Then: heaven.


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