Mitakuye Oyasin — We Are All Related

In Lakota culture, we give thanks, always, for everything. We wake up, greet the morning and give thanks for making it to another sunrise. We look out and give thanks for Unci Maka (earth) and all her beauty. When it’s time to eat, we give part of our breakfast and Wakalyapi (coffee) to the spirits with a prayer of thanks. We then offer up prayers for the gorgeous day we are about to embark on. By the time I’ve ingested my food and am ready to start my day, I’ve already offered up thanks for so many things.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Being aware that the creator is responsible for everything we do, we see, we experience, is innately part of us; it’s the fabric of our culture. It helps us to stay grounded, humble, Ice Wicasa, or Ice Winyan: common man or common woman. It reminds us we are no better than anything around us, we do not rule over the grass or the pebbles just because we are larger than them.

I feel this is a lesson for all human beings, Lakota or not. This is what seems to have been forgotten in wasicu society, or perhaps they never had it. Based on their past and present history with women, and other nations, I imagine the latter is probably true.

See, in our culture Lakota women didn’t have to rise up and have a feminist movement, because we were never discriminated by our men. We are sacred in our culture. We are rulers of the roost, literally. There are issues now, between women and men, but that is due to acculturation — and that is a whole other post for another time.

Back to what I was saying, this issue of equality between human beings has always been a dividing line between our cultures and it continues to be one; manifest destiny did not, and does not, mean the same thing for everyone .

For Lakotas one of our common mantras is “Mitakuye Oyasin” — we are all related. All of us, no matter who you are (person), or what you are (grass, trees, rocks), are the same. No one is better than anyone else. Our lives really are circular, and yes, everything REALLY is related to everything else. Some say related — I like to say enmeshed, because it really is.

That is why when you speak with a Lakota person, you will get the story you are asking about, but then about 50 other stories, because the one story you are asking about is enmeshed with all the others. This drives many wasicus’ crazy. They just want the answer RIGHT now. But you can never have a right now, because there is — and always will be — a before.

This concept of Mitakuye Oyasin is not lost on Lakota Children. I see it every time I leave our sacred little ranch and go to town.  Turtle wants to know what everyone’s names are, because they matter to her.

She want to shake the hands of the Wicasas (men) and Winyans (women), she wants to talk to the wincincalas (girls) and hoksilas (boys) and ask how they are and what they are doing. Maybe she does this because she sees me being social and talking to everyone, maybe it’s just a natural child thing, maybe it’s so ingrained because we live our culture and behaviors, and for me, it’s as natural as breathing.

For example, when she was small, maybe one, a friend and I were together and Turtle had been riding a merry go round. When we had run out of mazasaka (money) it was time to go, so she turned and thanked the merry go round for the ride. I didn’t think anything of it, but later my friend was telling me that she noticed it and was so amazed that a child that young was aware of being so grateful to something that most people would just walk away from without another thought. When my friend pointed it out, I was a bit bewildered; that is just what we did.

Today, as Turtle and I went for a bicycle ride, I threw out a Pilamiyaye (thanks) for the gorgeous day and the strong, happy wind.
There is always something to be grateful for.


Photo Credits

“Pebbeles” Akuppa @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Grass” Tim Green @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

Recent Mary Black Bonnet Articles:

  • Meeting Lady Liberty
  • Where I’ve Been
  • Do You Understand?
  • Ina’s Dilemma
  • The Wounded Knee Massacre

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