I first encountered the Lakota phrase ‘Mitakuye Oyasin’ as I planned for a vision quest in the summer of 2012. In preparation, I used Sister Marie Therese Archambault’s A Retreat with Black Elk, Living in the Sacred Hoop as my guidebook. Since that time, we conclude many posts on this website with that sacred phrase, Mitakuye Oyasin.
The Mitakuye Oyasin Prayer
Though English translations vary slightly from one to the other, I say it to mean ‘we are all related.’ It is a world view of interconnectedness. Thomas Maroukis discusses the Mitakuye Oyasin prayer in his 2004 book Peyote and the Yankton Sioux: The Life and Times of Sam Necklace. In it he explains that the prayer is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, rivers, mountains and valleys.
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin… All my relations. I honor you in this circle of life with me today. I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge you in this prayer…
To the Creator, for the ultimate gift of life, I thank you.
To the mineral nation that has built and maintained my bones and all foundations of life experience, I thank you.
To the plant nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me healing herbs for sickness, I thank you.
To the animal nation that feeds me from your own flesh and offers your loyal companionship in this walk of life, I thank you.
To the human nation that shares my path as a soul upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life, I thank you.
To the Spirit nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life and for carrying the torch of light through the Ages. I thank you.
To the Four Winds of Change and Growth, I thank you.
You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.
Thank you for this Life.
A Concept Shared by Native America
My understanding of the concept broadened yesterday when I read an article in the Spring 2018 edition of Parabola Magazine. The article – “The Indigenous Way of Life” – is written by Sherri Mitchell (We’Na Ha’Mu Kwassett, She Who Brings the Light), an attorney and activist who was born and raised on the Penobscot Indian Reservation in Maine, 2,000 miles east of the Sioux reservations in South Dakota.
“This way of life,” Ms. Mitchell writes, “is about living close to the Earth, close to our kin, and remaining ever mindful of our responsibilities to the sacred agreements that we have with every living being. It is about the sustainability of the Earth, our relationships, and our spiritual connections.” One of the core values of Wabanaki society is ‘N’Dilnabamuk,’ translated “all my relation,” translated “Mitakuye Oyasin,” the understanding that everything in creation is interconnected and the well-being of the whole determines the health of the individual parts. “There is one life” she explains, “one breath that we all breathe. Therefore, when we take any action… we impact all life.”
To acknowledge the wisdom contained in that concept – which appears to be a fundamental value of Native America – is to take a giant step in making the world a better place to be for ALL of creation with prejudice toward none.
Say the prayer again and savor every word. When you say, “I thank you,” mean it.
We Are All Related