Great Spirit Prayer

Oh, Great Spirit,
Whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world.
Hear me! I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes
ever hold 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.

Help me remain calm and strong in the
face of all that comes towards me.
Help me find compassion without
empathy overwhelming me.
I seek strength, not to be greater than 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 may come to you without shame.

-Translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark, 1887. While the prayer has occasionally been attributed to Thomas Whitecloud II, a Chippewa writer and doctor, that is likely a misattribution, potentially confusing this prayer with his 1964 publication An Indian Prayer. The above prayer predated that publication. Eleanor Roosevelt, for example, quoted the prayer, attributing it to Chief Yellow Lark, in her news column on February 10, 1956, available here.

Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Robert Henri, Indian Girl in White Blanket, 1917.