Lakotah Morning Thank-You Prayer

Russel Means

Russell Means, an Oglala Sioux, as a young leader of the American Indian Movement who helped resuscitate Indian nations throughout the hemisphere, had the privilege of learning traditional Lakota ways and knowledge from Elders who were steeped in these ancient teachings.

Russell died Octdober 22, 2012, at the age of 72. His wife, Pearl, carries on the task of passing along this timeless and timely wisdom to a world starved for balance and truth. The book is co-written with Bayard Johnson.

Foreword by Russel Means: The reason we decided to write this book is because The Trickster has completely tricked my people. The Trickster, or Iktomi, has come into our land, and completely colonized the Lakotah Nation. In February of this year I cut my hair in mourning. This was for my own people, who are dead, and are only play-acting at being Indians. Only a few even realize that they are colinized. The Heyoka, the one who lives backwards, has come into our land to try to get the people out of this death condition, but it's not working - the people are not listening. They are not learning.

My Great-Grandma Aggie, my Grandma Twinklestar, my Auntie Faith, my Mother, my Grandpa John Feather, and many others too numerous to name, all taught me many things. What they didn’t teach me was that as the oldest brother, I was supposed to pass this knowledge down to my younger brothers. I didn’t do it because I didn’t know. Not until I joined the American Indian Movement, AIM, did I realize this.

When I joined AIM was when I met the old people – those who were born in the latter part of the 1800s, had never been to school, and were raised by people who were born free. There was Pete Catches, Frank Fools Crow, Frank Kills Enemy, Henry Crow Dog, John Fire, Severt Young Bear Sr., Sally Red Owl, Mrs. Janis, and many old ladies on Rosebud and Pine Ridge whose names I never knew. They taught me and counseled me, all of them. They would all visit me and I would visit them.

So this book is about what I learned from these old people. This book is an introduction – a very sketchy introduction – to Matriarchy. The Indian way of life is very much misunderstood, and has almost disappeared from the Earth.

This book is a partial collection of everything I’ve come to know from my people – from my ancestors, from people who were born free, from my relatives, and from my own well as from other Indian Nations in the Western Hemisphere who all shared the same world view.

♣ ♣ ♣

In traditional Lakotah society, the husband wakes at first light, in the early pre-dawn. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t wake his wife sleeping beside him. He goes outside, alone, and speaks the Lakotah Morning Prayer with the Morning Star when it is the only star left in the dawn sky. Speaking the Morning Prayer clears the mind of all worries and anxiety, and makes a person aware of his place in the mosaic of life. It humbles you.

Ready to start the day, the husband turns back inside the Tipi, and goes and combs his wife’s hair. Neither one speaks a word. The husband’s first interaction of the day with his wife is a very sacred exchange. Hair is very important as it grows from the head, where the brain resides. Hair holds memory. It is only cut when one is in mourning. This first exchange between husband and wife is a caressing touch, on a sacred part of the body.

O holy Great Mystery, thank you for this day.

I thank you for the Universe, which is our tabernacle, our house of worship.

Thank you for the Star People, who watch over our water and all that lives, and give us direction and a place in life.

Thank you for the Moon, which also watches over the water and purifies the women naturally.

Thank you for the water.

Thank you for our sacred Grandmother, the Earth, mother of all living beings, for they are our relatives.

Thank you for the East Wind, which brings the Morning Star which gives us the dawn of a new day, so that we will not repeat the mistakes of yesterday. The East Wind brings a newness into our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits, renewing the spirits of our sacred Grandmother, the Earth and of all our relatives.

And thank you for the Black Tail Deer People, who live in the East and watch over us.

Thank you for the South Wind, which brings warmth and generosity to our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits, as well as to our sacred Grandmother, the Earth, and to all our relatives.

And thank you for the Owl People, who live in the South and watch over us.

Thank you for the West Wind, which gives us the lightning and thunder spirits, which bring the cleansing and refreshing rains for our sacred Grandmother, the Earth, and all our relatives, and which brings cleanliness and refreshment to our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits.

And thank you for the Buffalo People, who live in the West and watch over us.

Thank you for the North Wind, which brings strong and enduring winds that give our sacred Grandmother, the Earth, and all our relatives strength and endurance, and brings strength and endurance to our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits.

And thank you for the Elk People, who live in the North, and watch over us.

Thank you for all the winged beings of the air for their teachings, their generosity and their sacrifices. Thank you especially for the eagle, who flies the highest, sees the furthest, and is faithful to its mate.

Thank you for the four-leggeds, who give us so much and teach us so much, for their sacrifices and sharing.

And thank you especially for the buffalo, because as the buffalo goes, so go our people.

Thank you for all our relatives who crawl and swim and live within the earth, for their sacrifices and sharing and their generosity. Thank you for all their teachings and for everything that they give us.

Thank you also for all the green, growing things of the Earth. They teach us so much and give us so much. Thank you for their sacrifices and for their sharing.

Thank you especially for the tree with the whispering leaves, for its strength and independence and its teachings. And thank you for the sacred Tree of Live, which we must nourish and care for to ensure that it blossoms once again, allowing our people to live as they were intended.

Thank you for the salmon and the other fishes, who teach that it is our birthright to return to our home.

Thank you for the spider, who teaches us the foibles of life in the guise of Iktomi, the Trickster.

Thank you for each of the sacred ceremonies brought us by the holy White Buffalo Calf Woman.

Thank you for our purification lodge, which enlightens us with understanding of purification and cleanliness.

Thank you for the Sundance, which allows men an opportunity to comprehend the miracle of new life by sharing, in a small way, the experience of childbirth.

Thank you for the Crying for a Vision Ceremony, which permits us to recognize a positive and independent road to follow throughout life.

Thank you for the Making of Relatives Ceremony, which allows us to bring new citizens into our nation, our family, our clan.

Thank you for the Keeping of the Spirit Ceremony, which allows us the privilege of showing respect for our ancestors, and brings the community together to share and celebrate the deeds of the departed.

Thank you for the Throwing of the Ball Ceremony, which brings the community together as one heart, one mind, one spirit, one body.

Thank you for the Making of Woman Ceremony that allows girls and young women to aspire to being worthy of the universe.

Thank you for the healing ceremonies and sweet medicines produced by our green relatives who grow. Together they care for the infirm, the crippled and the sick.

Thank you for the soil, for the clouds, for the white blanket that comes to cover our Grandmother, the Earth, in the time of cold.

Thank you for the sacred colors, together representing everything that is worthy in life, and individually teaching us so much.

Thank you for the wind that travels in a circle, for it teaches us respect and wonder and awe.

I thank you for everything that is holy and sacred and good.

We are all related.


Republic of Lakotah: Armando Rendon has printed an excerpt from Russell’s book “If You’ve Forgotten the Names of the Clouds, You’ve Lost Your Way : An Introduction to American Indian Thought & Philosophy.”.
(Text published here: Somos En Escrito.)
Photo: Anissa Martin / Photo Camp: Pine Ridge Reservation (National Geographic)


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