Becoming Part of It, by Joseph Epes Brown

In terms of interconnections, a dominant theme in all Native American cultures is that of relationship, or a series of relationships that are always reaching further and further out; relationships within the immediate family reaching out to the extended family, to the band, outward again to the clan, to the tribal group; and relationships do not stop there but extend out to embrace and relate to the environment: to the animals, to the plants, and to the clouds, the elements, the heavens, the stars; and ultimately those relationships that people express and live, extend to embrace the entire universe.

In the Plains area, to give an example, one of the most profound rites is that of the smoking of the pipe. In this ritual smoking of the pipe, all who participate are joined in a communal ritual act, and when it is finished, everybody who has shared in the smoking of the pipe recites the phrase, in Lakota in this case, mitakuye oyasin – “we are all relatives.” We are all related, because in this rite we have all become one within a mystery that is greater than any of its parts.

Joseph Epes Brown, an excerpt from Becoming Part of It,  PARABOLA, Volume 7, Number 3: Ceremonies. This issue is available here.