The Life Circle – “Mitakuye Oyasin” – We Are All Related

This month marks the Strawberry Moon for my Shawnee people.  It’s a month of melo’kami (spring).  It’s a time when kesathwa (the sun) rises up earlier in the weta’kathaki (east) and spreads long-awaited warmth.  The color of dark wipe-kwa ‘ (gray) is traded for brilliant shades of shkipa-kishee-ya (green).  It is a time of new life – when all foliage bursts forth in bud.  Every wild one – from the wie-skil-lo-tho (bird) to the wa-a-koce’thi (fox) to the name’tha (fish) – is bearing its young.  Spring is the time of new beginnings within the life circle, and yet… it is still … only a continuance of the roundness.

“You have noticed that everything that an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round…. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” – – Black Elk, Oglala Sioux

For a Sioux, old Black Elk was a sage and savvy dude, eh.  Okay, okay – I’m fun’n in picking on the “Sioux” – but not about the message or the warrior delivering it.  The holy man put it perfectly into words.  He knew – innately – as all Traditional Indians do, that the life circle is sacred.  The Sioux have a saying: mitakuye oyasin. It means – more or less – “we are all related ”. It’s a belief that reflects the knowledge of ‘interconnectedness’ about all things.  In one way or another it’s shared by almost all Traditional American Indians. We see this roundness encompassing all things in the physical world – and probably the spirit world, too.  Therefore it is the way of life.

The graphics and the photo above depict representations of what many Indian nations call the Medicine Wheel or Life Circle.  Generically, it’s designed the same from band to band and nation to nation – everywhere in North America.  Depending on the Indian people, the points can represent everything from clans to directions to animals and more.  It’s been made this way for millennia, everywhere across this land.  But it’s interesting to note that the cross depicted in its center, probably allowed American Indians to see similarities between their spirituality and that of the Christian faith.  I believe that this and many other resemblances between the two made the cross-over easier for many Indians, eh.  But I digress.  I was blabbering about spring wasn’t I?  Well, the season is always so nice to see after a long, hard pepoonwi (winter),  To Traditional Indians, this time of the year is still just another facet of the life circle.

For me, this is not just supposition.  I’ve been alive long enough, and around this Earth Mother sufficiently enough, to see that it is so.  Now it may be a tad easier for us redskins because Traditional American Indians are usually closer to the simple things.  As a rule, we may be more sensitive to both natural and supernatural phenomenon than many other folks – I can’t say.  But, if so, it’s because we are and have always been closer to our origins.  As a people, I think that we’re closer to ‘the veil’ that divides our living physical world from that of the living spirit world, as well as other dimensions.  This closeness is by absolutely by virtue of our practiced spirituality.

Yeah, and that’s how the Traditional American Indian perspective of spirituality is different from that of the mainstream.  Sadly, far too many in the mainstream do not even believe that the spirit world exists, anymore.  Even so, for those within the Western cultures that do believe, and are devout, then their spirituality is normally separated from other aspects of their life.  For the Traditional American Indian, just the opposite is true.  For us, spirituality is completely intertwined within our day to day life here upon the Earth Mother – the two cannot be separated.  Traditional American Indians solidly believe that the spirit realm exists; as mere two-leggeds, we have only a limited understanding of it.  And it does have ‘power that moves’.  Since it exists, then it is equally a part of the Circle and is therefore… related.  So, Traditional American Indians don’t section off spirituality from the rest of our life, because they are one and the same within the circle.

All of that said, spring is always so wonderful to behold, smell, see and feel.  It is the time of new life.  This new life is as it was before… within the roundness.  It is merely a continuance of the circle.  For Traditional American Indians walking the Red Road, this demands that we understand that all things are connected, and are therefore…  connected within the life circle.  Um-hmm, and as the old Sioux Black Elk might say: mitakuye oyasin – we are all related.