"...Among the Creation, what is Man's
Instructions of Life? We see the
Creation...Life, the circle, a measurement
with no beginning and no
"These days people seek knowledge, not
wisdom. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom
is of the future" (Lumbee)
The first peace...is that which comes within the
souls of men when they realize their [relationship]
with the universe and all its Powers...is really
everywhere, it is within each of us." (Oglala Lakota)
"...As long as you travel along life's road, never
harm anyone, nor cause anyone to feel sad. On
the contrary, if at any time you can make a person
happy, do." (Winnebago)
"In the old days people had no education...All
their wisdom and knowledge came to them in
dreams. They tested their dreams and in that way
learned their own strength." (Chippewa)
"I have been to the end of the Earth.
I have been to the end of the waters.
I have been to the end of the sky.
I have been to the end of the mountains.
I have found none that were not my friends." (Navajo)
"Birds have always been important to the Indian
because they go as they wish, they light where they
may, they're free. The eagle flies highest in the sky
of all birds and so he is nearest to the Creator, and
his feather is the most sacred of all." (Seminole)
"The more you know
The more you will trust
and the less you will fear." (Ojibway)
"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you
by your parents, it was loaned to you by your
children. We do not inherit the Earth from our
Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
(Native American Proverb)
"One does not sell the land people walk on." ... Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875
Luther Standing Bear
The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as
the wild sunflowers, he belongs just as the buffalo belonged....
Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.
Oglala Sioux Holy Man
You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because
the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.....
The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours....
Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.
Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator
"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across
the grass and loses itself in the sunset."
Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa)
In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals, for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beast, and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and moon should man learn.. all things tell of Tirawa.
All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly.... We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way, the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.
...... everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.
Children were encouraged to develop strict discipline and a high regard for sharing. When a girl picked her first berries and dug her first roots, they were given away to an elder so she would share her future success. When a child carried water for the home,
an elder would give compliments, pretending to taste meat in water carried by a boy or berries in that of a girl. The child was encouraged not to be lazy and to grow straight like a sapling.
Flat-Iron (Maza Blaska)
Oglala Sioux Chief
From Wakan-Tanka, the Great Mystery, comes all power. It is from Wakan-Tanka that the holy man has wisdom and the power to heal and make holy charms. Man knows that all healing plants are given by Wakan-Tanka, therefore they are holy. So too is the buffalo holy, because it is the gift of Wakan-Tanka.
The traditions of our people are handed down from father to son. The Chief is considered to be the most learned, and the leader of the tribe. The Doctor, however, is thought to have more inspiration. He is supposed to be in communion with spirits... He cures the sick by the laying of hands, and payers and incantations and heavenly songs. He infuses new life
into the patient, and performs most wonderful feats of skill in his practice.... He clothes himself in the skins of young innocent animals, such as the fawn, and decorated himself with the plumage of harmless birds, such as the dove and hummingbird ...
Big Thunder (Bedagi)
The Great Spirit is in all things, he is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us, that which we put into the ground she returns to us....
Lone Man (Isna-la-wica)
... I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.
All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings. The reason WakanTanka does not make two birds, or animals,or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by WakanTanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself.
George Copway (Kah-ge-ga-bowh)
Among the Indians there have been no written laws. Customs handed down from generation to generation have been the only laws to guide them. Every one might act different from what was considered right did he choose to do so, but such acts would bring upon him the censure of the Nation.... This fear of the Nation's censure acted as a mighty band, binding all in one social, honorable compact.
"Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Parragansett, the Mohican, the Pokanoket, and many other once powerful tribes of our people?
They have vanished before the avarice and the oppression of the White Man, as snow before a summer sun.
"Will we let ourselves be destroyed in our turn without a struggle, give up our homes, our country bequeathed to us by the Great Spirit, the graves of our dead and everything that is dear and sacred to us? I know you will cry with me, 'Never! Never!'"
From the 1927 Grand Council of American Indians
"The white people, who are trying to make us over into their image, they want us to be what they call "assimilated," bringing the Indians into the mainstream and destroying our own way of life and our own cultural patterns. They believe we should be contented like those whose concept of happiness is materialistic and greedy, which is very different from our way. We want freedom from the white man rather than to be intergrated. We don't want any part of the establishment, we want to be free to raise our children in our religion, in our ways, to be able to
hunt and fish and live in peace. We don't want power, we don't want to be congressmen, or bankers....we want to be ourselves. We want to have our heritage, because we are the owners of this land and because we belong
here. The white man says, there is freedom and justice for all. We have had "freedom and justice," and that is why we have been almost exterminated. We shall not forget this."
From Chief Plenty Coups, Crow
"The ground on which we stand is sacred ground. It is the blood of our ancestors."
From Black Hawk, Sauk
"How smooth must be the language of the whites, when
they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right."
Shinguaconse ("Little Pine")
"My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled!
"I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them. . ."
Resolution of the Fifth Annual Meetings of the Traditional Elders Circle, 1980
"There are many things to be shared with the Four Colors of humanity in our common destiny as one with our Mother the Earth. It is this sharing that must be
considered with great care by the Elders and the medicine people who carry the Sacred Trusts, so that no harm may come to people hrough ignorance and misuse of these powerful forces."
"We know our lands have now become more valuable. The white people think we do not know their value; but we know that the land is everlasting, and the few goods we
receive for it are soon worn out and gone."
Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker
"If today I had a young mind to direct, to start on the journey of life, and I was faced with the duty of choosing between the natural way of my forefathers and that of the... present way of civilization, I would, for its welfare, unhesitatingly set that child's feet
in the path of my forefathers. I would raise him to be an Indian!"
"We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit."
Wintu Woman, 19th Century
"When we Indians kill meat, we eat it all up. When we dig roots, we make little holes. When we build houses, we make little holes. When we burn grass for grasshoppers, we don't ruin things. We shake down acorns and pine nuts. We don't chop down the trees. We only use dead wood. But the white people plow up the
ground, pull down the trees, kill everything....the White people pay no attention....How can the spirit of the earth like the White man?... everywhere the White man has touched it, it is sore."
William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991
"Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology.... has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there."
Chief Aupumut, Mohican. 1725
"When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."
Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody)
"We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can't speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees."
"A wee child toddling in a wonder world, I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan."
From Chief Joseph, Nez Perces'
"If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace.....Treat all
men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made
by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people
should have equal rights upon it.......Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade....where I choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty."
"When the Earth is sick, the animals will begin to disappear, when that happens, The Warriors of the Rainbow will come to save them."
Unknown Speaker addressing the National Congress of American Indians in the mid 1960's
"In early days we were close to nature. We judged time, weather conditions, and many things by the elements--the good earth, the blue sky, the flying of geese, and the changing winds. We looked to these for guidance and answers. Our prayers and thanksgiving were said to the four winds--to the East, from whence the new day was born; to the South, which sent the warm breeze which gave a feeling of comfort; to the West, which ended the day and brought rest; and to the North, the Mother of winter whose sharp air awakened a time of preparation for the long days ahead. We lived by God's hand through nature and evaluated the hanging winds to tell us or warn us of what was ahead.Today we are again evaluating the changing winds. May we be strong in spirit and equal to our Fathers of another day in reading the signs accurately and interpreting them wisely. May Wah-Kon-Tah, the Great Spirit, look down upon us, guide us, inspire us, and give us courage and wisdom. Above all, may He look down upon us and be pleased."
Crazy Horse - Sioux
"I was hostile to the white man...We preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be let alone.
Soldiers came...in the winter..and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer)came...They said we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape...but we were so hemmed in we had to fight. After that I lived in
peace, but the government would not let me alone. I was not allowed to remain quiet. I was tired of fighting...They tried to confine me..and a soldier ran his bayonet into me. I have spoken.
Sitting Bull Hunkpapa Sioux
"I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans, in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in his sight. It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows. We are poor..but we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die...we die defending our rights."
Red Cloud(Makhpiya-luta) , April, 1870
"In 1868, men came out and brought papers. We could not read them and they did not tell us truly what was in them. We thought the treaty was to remove the forts and for us to cease from fighting. But they wanted to send us traders on the Missouri, but we wanted traders where we were. When I reached Washington, the Great Father explained to me that the interpreters had deceived me. All I want is right and just."
....I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.
Sogoyewapha, "Red Jacket" - Senaca
Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the Book?
"This war did not spring up on our land, this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land without a price, and who, in our land, do a great many evil things... This war has come from robbery - from the stealing of our land."
John Wooden Legs, Cheyenne
"Our land is everything to us... I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember that our grandfathers paid for it - with their lives."
"You ask me to plow the ground. Shall I take a knife and tear my mother's bosom? Then when I die she will not take me to her bosom to rest.
"You ask me to dig for stones! Shall I dig under her skin for bones? Then when I die I cannot enter her body to be born again.
"You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it and be rich like white men, but how dare I cut my mother's hair?
"I want my people to stay with me here. All the dead men will come to life again. Their spirits will come to their bodies again. We must wait here in the homes of our fathers and be ready to meet them in the bosom of our mother."
Chief Maquinna, Nootka
"Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house. They told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to be taken care of, and that by and by they got it back with interest. "We are Indians and we have no such bank; but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by and by they return them
with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our way of giving is our bank."
"I will follow the white man's trail. I will make him my friend, but I will not bend my back to his burdens. I will be cunning as a coyote. I will ask him to help me understand his ways, then I will prepare the way for my children, and their children. The Great Spirit has shown me - a day will come when they will outrun the white man in his own shoes."
Metea, a Potowatami chief of the Illinois nation
"My Father: a long time has passed since first we came upon our lands; and our people have all sunk into their graves. They had sense. We are all young and foolish, and do not wish to do anything that they would not approve, were they living. We are fearful we shall offend their spirits if we sell our lands; and we are fearful we shall offend you if we do not sell them. This has caused us great perplexity of thought, because we have counselled among ourselves, and do not know how we can part with our lands.
My Father, we have sold you a great tract of land already; but it is not enough! We sold it to you for the benefit of your children, to farm and to live upon. We have now but a little left. We shall want it all for ourselves. We know not how long we shall live, and we wish to leave some lands for our children to hunt upon. You are gradually taking away our hunting grounds. Your children are driving us before them. We are growing uneasy. What lands you have you may retain. But we shall sell no more.
Santana, Kiowa Chief
"I love this land and the buffalo and will not part with it. I want you to understand well what I say. Write it on paper...I hear a great deal of good talk from the gentlemen the Great Father sends us, but they never do what they say. I don't want any of the medicine lodges (schools and churches) within the country. I want the children raised as I was. I have heard you intend to settle us on a reservtion near the
mountains. I don't want to settle. I love to roam over the prairies. There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die.
A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up to the river I see camps of soldiers on its banks. These soldiers cut down my timber, they kill my buffalo and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting."