“Mitakuye Oyasin — We Are All Related” ~ by Mary Black Bonnet

~ 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* [white] 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..

“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…”

~ by Mary Black Bonnet

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Nanyehi (Nancy Ward) of the Cherokee. (Artwork by David Behrens)

Nanyehi (Nancy Ward) of the Cherokee.
(Artwork by David Behrens)

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(Mary Black Bonnet is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, artist, and writer.  You may find out more about Mary Black Bonnet on her website.)

* Wasicu or Wasi’chu, a Lakota word for “non-Indian”.  Its literal meaning is “someone with special powers”, originally intended as a compliment, but as relations with the white man eroded, over time the word was viewed more negatively, sometimes taking on the connotation of a greedy or dishonorable person after treaties were continually ignored and violated by the government.