Main page


Lakota Rites

(The Making of Relatives)


Have you read this first?


In this rite we establish a relationship on earth, which is a reflection of that real relationship which always exists between man and Wakan Tanka. As we always love Wakan Tanka first, and before all else, so we should also love and establish closer relationships with our fellow men, even if they should be of another nation than ours.

The first day of the rite, a clean place upon the earth inside the tipi was made with a knife. Upon this sacred spot four live coals were placed, and upon them some sweetgrass.

“O Grandfather, Wakan Tanka, behold us! Here we shall make relatives and peace. It is Your will that this be done. By making this rite we shall carry out Your will upon the earth, and we shall make a peace that will last to the end of time.”

All the equipment was purified over the smoke. A dried buffalo bladder was placed in front of the person performing the ceremony, who held up a piece of tobacco to the West.

“O You who guard the path where the sun goes down, and who control the waters, you are to be included in this relationship and peace which we are about to establish. Help us!”

The tobacco was then placed in the bladder. A pinch of tobacco was then offered to the North and placed in the bag. In the same manner a pinch of tobacco was offered to the East and South. After placing the Powers of the universe in this sacred bag, a pinch of tobacco was offered to the heavens.

“Grandfather, Wakan Tanka, of the sacred heavens, Father, Wakan Tanka, Grandmother Earth, and Mother Earth, may we know this our four-fold relationship with You. May we use this knowledge in making peace with another nation.”

This tobacco of the Great Spirit was then put into the bag, and another pinch of tobacco was held to the ground.

“Grandmother Earth, hear me! Upon You we are making a relationship with a people, just as You have made a relationship with us by bringing to us our sacred pipe. With all beings and all things we shall be as relatives. Just as we are related to You, O Mother, so we shall make peace with another people and shall be related to them. O Grandmother and Mother, we are placing you in this bag. Help us in making relatives and lasting peace here!”

The earth was then put in the bag, the mouth of which was tied, and the hair of a buffalo and some sweetgrass were placed on top of it.

“You must now take care of this bag, which is very wakan, for it is really the same as the sacred pipe which was brought to us Sioux, and it, too, will make peace and relatives among many peoples. With this sacred bag you should go to the leaders of the Sioux, and with it the relationship will be made.”

The bag was then rolled up in buckskin and tied at both ends with rawhide rope in such a way that it could be carried easily.

The following day, just as the sun came up, the people doing the ceremony smoked the pipe together. The sacred bundle was presented to the Sioux.

“To our people, this offering means that you wish peace, and that you wish to establish a relationship with us. Is it for this reason that you have brought such a sacred offering?”

“Yes, we wish to have a relationship with you which is as close as the relationship that exists between your people and Wakan Tanka.”

The sacred bladder was then sent out of the lodge and passed around among all the people, who embraced it and kissed its mouth. In order now to show that the peace offering had been accepted and to place it at the very most sacred place, it was tied at the top of the twenty-eighth lodge pole. A special tipi was prepared for the rites that were to come.

The following day in the special tipi, sweetgrass was placed on some coals, and over the smoke the sacred pipe, the corn, the hatchet and all the equipment was purified. A sacred altar was then built. A stick was pushed on one end of the ear of corn, and at the other end an eagle plume was tied. The people’s faces were then painted red, with a blue circle around the face, and a blue line on the forehead, on both cheekbones and on the chin.

“O Wakan Tanka, I raise my hand to You. On this day a great peace has been made. May this peace and relationship always be, and may no person or circumstance ever destroy it.”

The people cheered loudly, and the women gave the tremolo. Chanting began and much food was brought into the tipi. Pieces of dried buffalo meat were purified over the smoke of sweetgrass.

“We are here at the center, and the four Powers of the universe join in us. This meat I shall put in your mouth, and from this day forth you shall never fear my home, for my home is your home, and you are my son!”

The other participant placed a piece of meat in the other’s mouth in the same manner, and for all this the Sioux cheered and gave thanks. The sacred pipe was smoked once again and passed around among the people. All the people were very happy that this great thing had been done, and they then held a feast that lasted throughout the night.

From The Sacred Pipe. Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux,
recorded and edited by Joseph Epes Brown.


There are ceremonies for making relatives, where you receive a name and are made a relative with someone. This also takes four days. During that time, men and women talk to you, telling you how important you are in the community. You are told that once you receive your new name, you will be given a special place in the community and that you will become a helper. You agree that no one in the community will ever be orphaned and that no one will ever go hungry. All these things are taught to you before you get your name.

There are other ceremonies. For instance, you can adopt a person when you see someone who has the same characteristics, personality, looks or nature as your own relatives. In ceremony you ask them to become part of your family. Then you take care of them as if they were true relatives.

Gary Holy Bull, Profiles of Healing - Lakota Yuwipi Man


Lakota rites:
Nagi Gluhapi (The Keeping of the Soul)
Inipi (Rite of Purification)
Hanblecheyapi (Crying for a Vision)
Wiwanyag Wachipi (The Sun Dance)
Hunkapi (Making of Relatives)
Ishna Ta Awi Cha Lowan (Preparing for Womanhood)
Tapa Wanka Yap (Throwing of the Ball)

Other ceremonies

In concepts  ||  In natural beings
In dwellings  ||  In tools and objects

Complete list

Back to Lakota's main page