Mitakuye Oyasin

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

—John Muir

The most transformative concept I’ve learned from my time at Pine Ridge is “Mitakuye Oyasin.”

Each person translates this phrase in their own way, but the essence is always the same: We are all related.

All things are one thing.

We are all brothers.

Separateness is an illusion.

All my relations.

These are all different translations people at Pine Ridge have used to define this term.

I’m fascinated by the wisdom indigenous communities have acquired about the fundamental order of the universe by virtue of their living intimately with nature for generation upon generation. Our universe has a set of governing rules—you might call them patterns—and the Sioux understand them. The essence of those understandings is represented through Mitakuye Oyasin.

Here’s what some of my friends at Pine Ridge have to say about Mitakuye Oyasin

Mitakuye Oyasin is the recognition of oneness. All forms of life and existence are related and interconnected. A human, a buffalo, a bird, a fish, a tree, a rock, a mountain, a river, a shooting star, a distant planet—they are all related. Everything is comprised of the same stardust. The separation we perceive is an illusion. There is one life force, and it’s present in all things.

If you play this knowledge out, the implications are paradigm-altering.

Virtually every culture considers creation sacred and holy. At the center of that creation is a source—the source. Many call it God. Many religions portray this “God source” as separate, removed, detached, and above.

Mitakuye Oyasin suggests something very different.

Mitakuye Oyasin suggests that the God source is present in all things across all time. In fact, Mitakuye Oyasin suggests that there is actually only one “thing” with many appendages and manifestations. This suggests that humans are not inventions of the God source, but rather an extension of it. This suggests that we are part of the God source, and this recognition changes everything.


If the sacred creation energy of the universe is present in all things, then all things must be connected somehow. This means that what we perceive to be separate is actually united.

What makes this even more fascinating is that modern science is arriving at the same conclusion that indigenous communities reached long ago. The study of advanced quantum physics has revealed the existence of a “universal field of energy that connects everything in creation.” Experiment after experiment at the quantum level is revealing connectivity and unity between all humans.

The essential understanding is that there is one energy field, and it represents all existence. That field then morphs into countless iterations of itself, and you are one of them. You are the universe looking at itself. You are the universe exploring, expanding, experiencing, and learning. Since that energy is all connected, the experiences of any one appendage become the experiences of the whole. When everything is connected, what happens to one happens to all.

Kindness to one becomes kindness to all.

Evil to one becomes evil to all.

In a world without separation, anyone’s experience becomes a piece of your experience.

But it gets even better—deeper.

Modern scientific learning at the quantum level is also suggesting that our universe is actually “participatory.” At the subatomic level particles act differently when they are observed. The act of being watched impacts the behavior of that which is being watched.

Ponder that for a moment.

Extrapolated to humans, the understanding is as follows: Your feelings create your reality. When you see beauty it’s because you are feeling beauty. Observing is creating, and observing is influenced by the feelings we bring to that which we observe. In this way, humans are participating in the creation of their universe.

Whoa . . . I know that’s a lot to digest, and this is why I plan to take an entire year to explore the topic. For today, let’s just bring it all back to an actionable indigenous understanding: Mitakuye Oyasin.

We are all related.

We are all connected.

Separateness is an illusion.

Keep that in mind for the next person you meet . . . and keep it in mind for yourself.

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours.

Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.