For the Dakota, all of creation has been accomplished by the Creator and is beautiful, powerful and sacred. Everything in the universe possesses a kind of power that it is capable of transferring or sharing with other birds, animals and humans. Mother Earth is a living, nurturing, evolving being; all things in the Universe are connected; and anything that happens somewhere affects something somewhere else. In the natural order of things, humans—because they can reason, scheme, rationalize, lie, etc.—are not always as close to the Creator as other parts of the universe such as birds, animals, trees, etc., which do exactly what the Creator wants them to do. Humans are the only ones who disturb things; animals or birds are therefore used as messengers or conduits to take petitions to the Creator, and to bring the responses back to humans. The Dakota also believe that the spirits of relatives who have gone to the spirit world still care about them: if these departed relatives are petitioned properly they will help, guide, and give wisdom to those beseeching them.

In general, Dakota people place a great deal of faith in the power of prayer. There is also a greater faith in the power of collective thought: persons about to pray, for instance, will ask everyone to help them pray in their own way. Dakota people regard ceremonies as re-enactments of sacred moments in their tribal memories when something worked for them as a people. They are very observant, not only of what things happen, but of patterns, sequences, and types of logic that result in something happening: this is often referred to as the natural order of things. It is reflected in the liturgy that one sees in Dakota ceremonies. The Dakota also believe that when people are born they are given a task to do on this earth: it is their responsibility to find out what that task is. Traditionally, this was the motivation for the vision quest, a period of isolated fasting, meditation, and prayer in the hope that one would be given a sign regarding the proper direction to follow.

Ken Goodwill