Miigwetch Ah-Ki (Thank You, Earth)

Speaking with the Earth

Chorus and music by Sarah Pirtle © 2002, Discovery Center Music, BMI.  Verses were written along with Janet Diani’s sixth grade class at Sheffield Elementary School in Turners Falls, MA for Earth Day 2002.

For the full audio, visit Heart of the World on A Gentle Wind's website.

Lyrics

1. I went walking in the pines. The path led to the shore.

In the night the water’s light blue.Who could ask for anything more?

Who could ask for anything more?

 

Chorus:

The trees know when I sing to them.

And the blades of grass make a song they understand.

So I say, Miigwetch Ah-ki, in the old words of this land.

Thank you Earth, Miigwetch Ah-ki, in the old words of this land.

 

2. I was listening to the twilight sounds. An owl began to soar.

I tilt my head and catch the stars. Who could ask for anything more?

Who could ask for anything more?

 

Chorus:

The trees know when I sing to them.

And the blades of grass make a song they understand.

So I say, Miigwetch Ah-ki, in the old words of this land.

Thank you Earth, Miigwetch Ah-ki, in the old words of this land.

 

3. I was talking with the hermit thrush. She led me from the shore.

She flew me right up to the stars. Who could ask for anything more?

Who could ask for anything more?

 

Chorus:

The stars know when I sing to them, and the blades of grass...

Recorded on “Heart of the World,” produced by A Gentle Wind, www.gentlewind.com. Used by permission.

Engineered, mixed and mastered by Donald Person. Paul Strausman – guitar. John Kirk – fiddle.

The Story Behind the Song

What is now called Turners Falls, MA is Great Falls, the location where for thousands of years First Nations people gathered in the spring to share salmon, exchange seeds and have a peace gathering, as described by Nolumbeka on their website. On that Earth Day in 2002 when I was working in a songwriting residency with Janet Diani’s sixth grade class at Sheffield Elementary School, I asked students to describe a place that made their heart sing. They described the feeling of walking in Barton Cove, Gill, MA, where people are helping restore nesting eagles to a small island in the Connecticut River. I wanted the students to see their town and this cove through fresh eyes with awareness of the First Nations people and that is why we spoke in the old words of the land.

Guides for using the song:

The words Miigwetch’ Ah-ki come from the Anishinabe people. Mii-gwetch’ means “thank you,” and is pronounced like “Mee-gwih-tch.” Ah-ki’ means “Earth.” The chorus of the song says, “In the old words of this land,” yet the Anishinabe are not people of the past. Mii-gwetch’ Ah-ki’ are living words spoken today in friendship and in ceremony.

The Anishinabe include the Ojibway (called by Europeans, Chippewa), the Wabanaki Peoples (Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, Pennacook, and Penobscot), the Pocumtuck, and others. The words, Mi-gwetch’ Ah’ki,’ are in the Ojibway dialect. I brought these words to Earth Day because I wanted students to be aware of the Pocumtuck people who lived in the western Massachusetts area where we live today and hear words close to what the First Nations people of the region spoke to the Earth.

The Mishomis Coloring Book series and other materials about the Ojibway Anishinabe are available from Indian Country Communications, 7831 N. Grindstone Ave., Haywood, WI 54843, (715) 634-5226. Edward Benton-Banai tells the Anishinabe’s creation story, how the Creator blew through a tiny cowry shell into the four elements and the original people came forth. They migrated from the east starting around 900 AD from the area that is now Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, and moved during a 500 year migration into the area of the Great Lakes.