The colors and directions are:
East (Yellow) - The direction from which the sun comes. Light dawns in the morning and spreads over the earth. This is the beginning of a new day. It is also the beginning of understanding because light helps us see things the way they really are. On a deeper level, East stands for the wisdom helping people live good lives. Traditional people rise in the morning to pray facing the dawn, asking God for wisdom and understanding.
If you begin to study the four directions you may notice quickly that the colors equated to each may appear differently from reference to reference. For example, in the book Sioux Indian Religion authors Raymond J. DeMallie and Douglas R. Parks depict the correlation between the direction and color this way:
It would not be until the writings of John G. Neihardt (Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux - 1932), and Joseph E. Brown (The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux - 1953), that the world learned of this one Holy man’s interpretation for the colors assigned by "his vision" to the four cardinal directions. "His vision" dictates meanings, which were, Black for West, White for North, Red for East, and Yellow for South.Allen Grey Wolf sent me a letter some years back:
The version that I use is based on the Lakota colors as set out by
In their worship the Dakota Indians (Sioux) are very attentive to the Four Directions. When praying with the Sacred Pipe, both in private and public ceremony, they face each direction successively, beginning with the West.
In worship the color of the West is Black. Evil is Black. Danger is Black. Black is the condition of Man as he stands before Wakantanka (Wakan - Mystery - - - Tanka - Great).
The color of North is Red. Red is conflict. Red is tension. Red is decision, as Man determines whether to revert to Black or go on to White.
The color of East is White. White is victory. White is purity. White is life. The rising Sun eliminates Redness and brings clear sky.
The color of South is Yellow. Yellow is Peace. Yellow is fruitfulness. Yellow is warmth. Whatever danger or tension or conflict there might have been, it is now all past; now the Camp can rest.
Unfortunately, every man knows that at another time, in his prayer, he will have to begin again and will have to face the Black.
cf. Charles Alexander Eastman's THE SOUL OF THE INDIAN