We Native Americans, or First Nations People, have a long tradition of knowing ourselves deeply connected to the elements around us. We come from you. We are part of you. We return to you.
Native American prayers often make use of the cycles of nature. The cycles of seasons. The cycles of planting and harvesting. The cycles of birth and death and rebirth all around us.
When we open our eyes and see. When we open our ears and hear. When we we slow down to be quiet.
Most of us believe that the souls of the dead pass into a spirit world. There they become part of the spiritual forces which influence every aspect of our lives. Sometimes we believe in two souls: one that dies with the body dying. One that wanders on and dies eventually. Native American prayers often speak to these souls directly.
Our rites for the dying are meant to help the dying on their journey into the afterlife.
Death for us is a vital tool in the cycle of life. Death is like the top of a mountain. It is a point where all knowledge gathers. Where all knowledge can be drawn to.
When death in any form is achieved, there is a new beginning. It can now build, in it's new growth, upon the knowledge drawn from the past. Native American prayers draw some of their strength from that knowledge.
We know ourselves held by the Four Great Powers of the Medicine Wheel:
The East is the Place of Illumination, where we can see things clearly, far and wide. Its season is winter. Its element is earth. Its color is yellow.
The South is the place of Innocence and Trust. Its season is summer. Its element is fire. Its color is red.
The West is the Looks-Within Place, which speaks to our introspective Nature. Its season is autumn. Its element is water. Its color is black.
To the North is found Wisdom. Its season is spring. Its element is air. Its color is white.
Our Native American prayers often speak from the wisdom of the medicine wheel.
So live your life that the fear of death
can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion;
respect others in their view, and
demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life,
beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and
its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day
when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute
when meeting or passing a friend,
even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning
give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks,
the fault lies only in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing,
for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die,
be not like those whose hearts are filled
with the fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep
and pray for a little more time
to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and
die like a hero going home.