Native American Prayers for the Dying

Native American prayers for the dying can offer comfort through powerful reminders that change is a constant part of nature all around us and within us.

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four directions, eagle feather, dream catcher, circle, native american, first nation 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.

four directions, eagle feather, dream catcher, circle, native american, first nation

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.

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Hold on to what is good
even if it is a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe
even when it is a tree
that stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do
even when it is a long way from here.

Hold on to life
even when it is easier letting go.

Hold on to my hand
even when I have gone away from you.

- Pueblo -

Oh, Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life
to all the world, hear me.

I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be superior to my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.

Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes,
so when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit will come to you without shame.

- Chief Yellow Lark, Lakota, 1887 -

stream, rocks

I come
my mind
beats like
a restless
from You
I flow
back to You
I go
teach me
what to
& know.

- Conrad Levasseur -

drum, ceremony

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.

- Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Nation, 1768-1813 -

eagle, bald, alaska

O our Father, the Sky, hear us
and make us strong.

O our Mother, the Earth, hear us
and give us support.

O Spirit of the East,
send us your Wisdom.

O Spirit of the South,
may we tread your path.

O Spirit of the West,
may we always be ready
for the long journey.

O Spirit of the North, purify us
with your cleansing winds.

- Sioux -
- The 12 Step Prayer Book: -
- More 12 Step Prayers and Inspirational Readings -
- By Bill P., Lisa D. -
- P. 11 -


Our old women gods, we ask you!
Our old women gods, we ask you!
Then give us long life together,
May we live until our frosted hair is white;
May we live till then.
This life that now we know!

- Tewa -

turtle, head

In the house made of dawn.
In the story made of dawn.
On the trail of dawn.
O, Talking God.

His feet, my feet, restore.
His limbs, my limbs, restore.
His body, my body, restore.
His voice, my voice, restore.
His plumes, my plumes, restore.

With beauty before him,
with beauty before me.

With beauty behind him,
with beauty behind me.

With beauty above him,
with beauty above me.

With beauty below him,
with beauty below me.

With beauty around him,
with beauty around me.

With pollen beautiful in his voice,
with pollen beautiful in my voice.

It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

In the house of evening light.
From the story made of evening light.
On the trail of evening light.

- Navajo -

polar bear

God, grant me the strength
of eagle wings,
the faith and courage
to fly to new heights,
and the wisdom
to rely on His spirit to carry me there.

- Native American Prayer for Serenity -

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