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 @ Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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

Recent Mary Black Bonnet Articles:


  1. avatarJohn Jarboe says

    I am very glad to have found your article. My childhood consisted of planting crops, fishing and hunting. My Grandma was and still is my greatest teacher. She always told me to never think I am bigger than the misquito. If humankind was removed from the Earth she would flourish. If the misquito was removed from the Earth many birds and others would die. I always remind myself of this lesson. Thank you so much!

  2. avatarMichael D. Houseman says

    Mary, thanks for the words and the wisdom of Mitekuya Osyasin, something I’ve always believed in my heart. My father taught me to respect all life, not by saying repect all life, but by showing me. Too many people have forgotten to be respectful of others.

    There are too many peoople who aren’t thankfulor respectful. They are teaching their children the same thing. It is a shame. I remember walking in the Grand Canyon and saw a huge millipede, probably 7 inches long, and a young man that was with us wanted to crush it. I had to stop him because his father wouldn’t. What are these people being taught?

  3. avatar says

    oh Chris,
    I send you healing, warm hugs. I know how hard it is to lose someone so close to you and one who was such a vital and large, part of your life, your formation as a human being and one who helped you become who you were meant to be.
    I’m here if you need anything. take care of you, cry when you need to and know you are loved by many.

  4. avatarChris Davis says

    Mary, as usual you are in touch with what is important. I’m trying hard now to be thankful for all the years I had with my G-ma, though I miss her terribly everyday…I am more aware of my surroundings and somehow I can stir up a memory about a flower that I see and that it was one of G-ma’s favorites. This article really helped me tonite…Thanks so much Mary…

    Chris D

  5. avatarCarol Namur says

    Pilamiyaye ( thanks) for your post :-)
    No I am not Lakota… but then, in many ways I am since I believe, as you do, that ”Mitakuye Oyashin” (we are all related).
    In fact, we are all part of the same web. One that is not just linking ”Us” … but also our past, our present and our future too! Reading your words brought peace and a warm feeling in my heart. I had been struggling to express what I felt to the question in Gil’s post: ‘What is wrong with us ?” Your ways, the Lakota’s ways…shows what I was trying to express… many of ”Us” have lost our ways.
    Pilamiyaye for sharing how one lives ”the way” that gives the world a chance.

    • avatarRonalda Cayzer says

      I really enjoyed reading your article, Mary. I, too, believe in Mitakuye Oyashin. We are all part of the circle of life. I believe I was Lakota in past life but a life I have memory of in this life. I go to Pow-wows and feel a connection with a culture I once belonged. It’s a feeling I can’t explain any other way.
      I, also, have a strong connnection to wolves, hence the email name. I once had the good fortune to spend time with one that lived next to us. He used to look into my eyes as though he was looking into my soul. I felt a love for him and I believe the feeling was mutual. Those are times and memories I won’t forget.
      Pilamiyaye for your words of wisdom and furtthering my knowledge in Lakota culture.

  6. avatarKerry Slavens says

    Beautiful, Mary…I really connected with your story, and particularly when you wrote “…you can never have a right now, because there is — and always will be — a before.” So many stories, so connections, such a web we weave…or are woven into…all connected.

Please Share Your Thoughts - Leave A Comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.