A People’s History of Prayer: Elizabeth Haile

Elizabeth Haile1

“O God the Creator,” a hymn by Elizabeth Haile, Shinnecock, and Cecil Corbett, Nez Perce/Choctaw

O God the Creator, the Three in One
The Creator of Earth and moon and sun
You have loved and protected us since time first begun
And we’re brothers and sisters in God’s love, in God’s love.
And we’re brothers and sisters in God’s love.

For the Earth is our Mother, where all things grow
And her valleys are green where the waters flow
Gentle deer and the eagle and the mighty buffalo
And we’re brothers and sisters in God’s love, in God’s love
And we’re brothers and sisters in God’s love

We are one in the Spirit, in the great mystery
Walk together in beauty as we dwell in harmony
Bringing all of God’s children into one community.
And we’re brothers and sisters in God’s love, in God’s love
And we’re brothers and sisters in God’s love.

Send a sense of Your presence as we seek leadership
Pray that God will join us in our vision quest
Welcome God to come into our hearts as our guest
And we’re brothers and sisters in God’s love, in God’s love
And we’re brothers and sisters in God’s love.

“O God the Creator” was co-written by Elizabeth Thunderbird Haile, a Shinnecock Elder, in 1977. The song describes the Earth as our Mother, the Spirit as bringing all God’s children into one community, and asks God to join our vision quest. It was written to be sung to the melody of “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love,” which was composed by a Catholic priest, Peter R. Scholtes. He wrote it as an ecumenical civil rights song in 1968. When Haileasked to use the melody, Scholtes denied her. It wasn’t until 1989 when Joy Patterson wrote the tune KASTAAK to accompany these epic words. This hymn can be found in the New Century Hymnal and the Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, songs, and spiritual songs (sadly it did not transfer to the newest Presbyterian Hymnal, Glory to God).

You can learn more about Elizabeth Thunderbird Haile here.