How to Make Lakota Prayer Ties

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The landscapes of North and South Dakota inspire the colors of Lakota prayer ties.
The landscapes of North and South Dakota inspire the colors of Lakota prayer ties. (Image: welcomia/iStock/Getty Images)

Lakota prayer ties are spiritual symbols created by wrapping tobacco into a cloth while praying and meditating. After prayer the Lakota prayer ties are then burned in a respectful and reverent ceremony with a belief that the prayers will be sent to the heavens and Wakan Tanka -- the Great Spirit -- in clouds of smoke. The Lakota believe there is a sacredness to the ritual of making prayer ties and often pray and give thanks throughout the tie-making process.

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton fabric
  • Scissors
  • Cotton string
  • Tobacco
  • Sage smudge sticks

Dust yourself and your materials with sage or light a sage smudge stick and wave it over yourself and your materials to begin the ritual of creating Lakota prayer ties.

Cut or tear cotton fabric into 2-inch squares.

Place a small pinch of tobacco in the center of a single square of fabric.

Gather the fabric together and secure the pouch you have created with a single piece of 2-foot-long string, tying the first pouch at the beginning of the string.

Make your next fabric-wrapped tobacco pouch and attach it on the same string as the first, creating a continuous long strand of prayer ties.

Repeat the process until you have created as many prayer ties as you wish.

Tips & Warnings

  • Sage and sweet grass can take the place of tobacco in making Lakota prayer ties.
  • Lakota prayer ties are traditionally made in cloth of sacred colors. Red represents the north, where sacred red rock is found; white represents the south, and the Lakota spirit world; black represents the west, where the Lakota say thunder originates; yellow represents east, and the rising sun; blue represents Grandfather Sky; and green represents Grandmother Earth.
  • Many different types of prayers are said during the Lakota prayer tie-making process. Some of the most common ones include the Earth Prayer, the Great Spirit Prayer, the Morning Star Prayer, the Four Directions Prayer, the Medicine Wheel Prayer and the Sun Prayer.
  • Lakota prayer ties should only be lit in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors.

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