We respect and honor our Elders by listening to our Grandmothers and Grandfathers,. If you listen, you will hear them, for they are still with us and within them lies the wisdom and teachings of Our People.
|The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again.I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again. In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.- Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)|
|“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.”- Tecumseh Mitakuye Oyasin|
|“My heart is a stone: heavy with the sadness for my people; cold with the knowledge that no treaty will keep whites out of our lands; hard with the determination to resist as long as I live and breathe. Now we are weak and many of our people are afraid. But hear me: a single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong. Someday I will embrace our brother tribes and draw them into a bundle and together we will win our country back from the whites.” dismissing the treaty of Greenville in 1795 as a fraud.“Brother, I was glad to hear what you told us. you said that if we could prove that the land was sold by people who had no right to sell it, you would restore it. I will prove that those who did sell did not own it. Did they have a deed? A title? No! You say those prove someone owns land. Those chiefs only spoke a claim, and so you pretended to believe their claim, only because you wanted the land. But the many tribes with me will not agree with those claims. They have never had a title to sell, and we agree this proves you could not buy it from them.””If there be one here tonight who believes that his rights will not sooner or later be taken from him by the avaricious American pale faces, his ignorance ought to excite pity, for he knows little of our common foe… Then listen to the voice of duty, of honor, of nature and of your endangered country. Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers. (Speech before a joint council of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations in 1811)– Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief|
|“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Taka (the Great Spirit), and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.”
“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.”
“All over the sky a sacred voice is calling your name.”
“Peace will come to the hearts of men when they realize their oneness with the universe, It is every where.”
“The Holy Land is everywhere”
Black Elk, Oglala Sioux & Spiritual Leader (1863 – 1950)
|“Something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it. My people have come to trust memory over history. Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable while history serves only those who seek …to control it, those who douse the flame of memory in order to put out the dangerous fire of truth. Beware these men for they are dangerous themselves and unwise. Their false history is written in the blood of those who might remember and of those who seek the truth.”
“And I told them not to dig for uranium, for if they did, the children would die. They didn’t listen, they didn’t listen, they didn’t listen to me. And I told them if the children die, there would be no keepers of the land. They didn’t listen. And I told them if they destroy the sky, machines would come and soon destroy the land. They didn’t listen… And I told them if they destroy the land, man would have to move into the sea. They didn’t listen… And I told them if they destroy the sea — they didn’t listen…”
|“You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.”
“Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”
“Earth does not belong to us; we belong to earth.”
“There is no death, only a change of worlds.”
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.”
“There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities, no place to hear the leaves of spring or the rustle of insects’ wings. Perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand, but the clatter only seems to insult the ears.”
“We are part of the earth and the earth is part of us.”
“How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of the earth is sacred to my people.”
“Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.”
– Chief Seattle
|One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One wolf is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.The other is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’|
| The Circle has healing power. In the Circle, we are all equal. No one is in front of you, no one is behind you, no one is above you, no one is below you. The Sacred Circle is designed to create unity. The Hoop of Life is also a circle. On this hoop there is a place for every species, every race, every tree and every plant. It is this completeness of Life that must be respected in order to bring about health on this planet.
—Dave Chief (1930 – 2005), Oglala Lakota
| “We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and the winding streams with tangled growth, as ‘wild’. Only to the white man was nature a ‘wilderness’ and only to him was the land ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with blessings of the Great Mystery. Not until the hairy man from the east came and with brutal frenzy heaped injustices upon us and the families we loved was it ‘wild’ for us. When the very animals of the forest began fleeing from his approach, then it was that for us the ‘wild west’ began.”- Chief Luther Standing Bear of the Oglala band of Sioux.
Note that the idea of nature being ‘wild’ and an evil adversary to man is a puritan concept, brought to the Americas with the arrival of the well known ‘pilgrim’. It is likewise the puritan ideology which partly branded the Native American as a savage and pagan.
|“Before talking of holy things, we prepare ourselves by offerings… one will fill his pipe and hand it to the other who will light it and offer it to the sky and earth… they will smoke together…. Then will they be ready to talk.”- Mato-Kuwapi, ‘Chased-By-Bears’, a Santee-Yanktonai Sioux|
|“We (Crow) call the place you go at death the ‘Other-side camps’. That’s the closest translation I could come to. I don’t think there is a word for ‘hell’ in our native language. There is no word (or concept) for ‘devil’. Some people call it the “Happy Hunting Grounds”… it’s the next next spiritual plane.When our people are dying, the people from the other-side come to get them. They take them to be with the loved ones who have gone on before. It is a loved one, a favorite grandma or perhaps a grandpa who comes to speak with them and tell them their time is near. We consider this a blessing.”~ Jackie Yellow Tail, Crow|
|“If a child is raised from the time it can understand, being told there is no such things as ghosts, then that child has learned not to see the whole reality. If a child is never told that, it will see a very different world.”- Madonna (Blue Horse) Beard, Lakota|
| “We always had plenty-our children never cried with hunger, nor our people were never in want. Here our village had stood for more than a hundred years, during all which time we were the undisputed possessors of the valley of the Mississippi, from the Ouisconsin to the Portage des Sioux, near the mouth of the Missouri, being about seven hundred miles in length. At this time we had very little intercourse with the whites, except our traders. Our village was healthy, and there was no place in the country possessing such advantages, nor no hunting grounds better than those we had in possession. If a prophet had come to our village in those days, and told us what has since taken place, none of our people would have believed him. “—
“How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right.”—
“We have men among us, like the whites, who pretend to know the right path, but will not consent to show it without pay! I have no faith in their paths, but believe that every man must make his own path!”
—– Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak (Black Hawk)
|“The Lakota was a true naturist–lover of Nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest upon the earth and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing… That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him…Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a real and active principle. For the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them and so close did some of the Lakota come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue.The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to the lack of respect for humans too. So he kept his youth close to it’s softening influence.”- Chief Luther Standing Bear|
| “I know that our people possessed remarkable powers of concentration and abstraction, and I sometimes fancy that such nearness to nature as I have described keeps the spirit sensitive to impressions not commonly felt, and in touch with the unseen powers. Some of us seemed to have a peculiar intuition for the locality of a grave, which they explained by saying that they had received a communication from the spirit departed. My own grandmother was one of these, and as far back as I can remember, when camping in a strange country, my brother and I would search for and find human bones at the spot she had indicated to us as an ancient burial place or the spot where a lone warrior had fallen. Of course, the outward signs of burial had been long since obliterated.”—
“It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome. Its appeal is to the material part, and if allowed its way, it will in time disturb one’s spiritual balance. Therefore, children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving.—
“The wise man believes profoundly in silence, the sign of a perfect equilibrium. Silence is the absolute poise or balance of body, mind, and spirit. The man who preserves his selfhood ever calm and unshaken by the storms of existence – not a leaf, as it were, astir on the tree, not a ripple upon the surface of the shinning pool – his, in the mind of the unlettered sage, is the ideal attitude and conduct of life. Silence is the cornerstone of character.”
—Charles Eastman, later known as Ohíye S’a was of Santee Dakota and Anglo-American ancestry – Ohiyesa (1858-1939)
| “The white people never cared for land or deer or bear. When we indians kill meat, we eat it all up. When we dig roots we make little holes. When we built 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 tree says, “Don’t. I am sore. Don’t hurt me.” But they chop it down and cut it up. The spirit of the land hates them. They blast out trees and stir it up to its depths. They saw up the trees. That hurts them. The Indians never hurt anything, but the White people destroy all. They blast rocks and scatter them on the ground. The rock says, “Don’t. You are hurting me.” But the White people pay no attention. When the Indians use rocks, they take little round ones for their cooking… How can the spirit of the earth like the White man? Everywhere the White man has touched it, it is sore.”
—Florence Curl Jones rallied her community to embrace their heritage not as an artifact to be ‘preserved’ but as a culture to be lived, passed on, and shared, in all its vibrancy and vitality.—Florence Jones, Wintu Holy Woman (video)
|“All Living Creatures and All Plants Derive their Life from the Sun. If it were not for the sun, there would be darkness and nothing could grow – the earth would be without life. Yet the sun must have the help of the Earth. If the sun alone were to act upon animals and plants, the heat would be so great that they would die, but there are clouds which bring rain, and the action of the sun and the earth together supply the moisture that is needed for life. The roots of a plant go down, and the deeper they go the more water they find. This is according to the laws of nature and is one of the evidences of the Wisdom of Wakan tanka. Animals and plants are taught by Wakan Tanka what they are to do. Wakan Tanka teaches the birds to make nests, yet the nests of all birds are not alike. Wakan Tanka gives them merely the outline. Some make better nests than others. In the same way some animals are satisfied with very rough dwellings, while others make attractive places in which to live. Some animals also take better care of their young than others. The forest is the home of many birds and other animals, and the water is the home of fish and reptiles. All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings.The reason Wakan tanka does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by Wakan tanka to be an independent individuality and rely on itself. Some animals are made to live in the ground. The stones and the minerals are placed in the ground by Wakan tanka, some stones being more exposed than others. When a medicine man says that he he talks with the sacred stones, it is because of all the substance in the ground these are the ones which most often appear in dreams and are able to communicate with men.From my boyhood I have observed leaves, trees, and grass, and I have never found two alike. They may have a general likeness, but on examination I have found that they differ slightly. Plants are of different families… It is the same with animals… It is the same with human beings; there is some place which is best adapted to each. The seeds of the plant are blown about by the wind until they reach the place where they will grow best – where the action of the Sun and the presence of moisture are most favorable to them, and there they take root and grow. All living creatures and all plants are a benefit to something. Certain animals fulfill their purpose by definite acts. The crow, buzzards and flies are somewhat similar in their use, and even the snakes have purpose in being. In the early days the animals probably roamed over a very wide country until they found a proper place. An animal depends on a great deal on the natural conditions around it. If the buffalo were here today, I think they would be different from the buffalo of the old days because all the natural conditions have changed. They would not find the same food, nor the same surrounding. We see the change in our ponies. In the old days they could stand great hardship and travel long distance without water. They lived on certain kinds of food and drank pure water. Now our horses require a mixture of food; they have less endurance and must have constant care. It is the same with the Indians; they have less freedom and they fall an easy prey to disease. In the old days they were rugged and healthy, drinking pure water and eating the meat of the buffalo, which had wide range, not being shut up like cattle of the present day. The water of the Missouri River is not pure, as it used to be, and many of the creeks are no longer good for us to drink.A man ought to desire that which is genuine instead of that which is artificial. Long ago there was no such thing as a mixture of earths to make paint. There were only three colors of native earth paint – red, white, and black. These could be obtained only in certain places. When other colors were desired, the Indians mixed the juices of plants, but it was found that these mixed colors faded and it could ways be told when the red was genuine – the red of burned clay.”- Okute, Teton Sioux|
| “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, and healing plants she gives us likewise. If we are wounded, we go to our mother and seek to lay the wounded part against her, to be healed. Animals too, do thus, they lay their wounds to the earth. When we go hunting, it is not our arrow that kills the moose however powerful be the bow; it is nature that kills him. The arrow sticks in his hide; and, like all living things the moose goes to our mother to be healed. He seeks to lay his wound against the earth, and thus he drives the arrow farther in. Meanwhile I follow. He is out of sight, but I put my ear to a tree in the forest, and that brings me the sound, and I hear when the moose makes his next leap, and I follow. The moose stops again for the paint of the arrow, and he rubs his side upon the earth and drives the arrow farther in. I follow always, listening now and then with my ear against a tree. Every time he stops to rub his side he drives the arrow father in, till at last when he is nearly exhausted and I come up with him, the arrow may be driven clean through his body… “- Bedagi, “Big Thunder” of the Wabanakis Nation
Above we see that to send an animal to it’s death is to send it home to it’s mother, and through observation of the animal as a living and conscious being, we recognizes it’s suffering and its appeals to mother earth for relief in the form of death. It is recognized that to kill an animal was to become a relative of that animal, as you recognize within it’s moment of death, your own mortality and relationship as children of the same mother.
| “Hills are always more beautiful than stone buildings, you know. Living in a city is an artificial existence. Lots of people hardly ever feel real soil under their feet, see plants grow except in flower pots, or get far enough beyond the street light to catch the enchantment of a night sky studded with stars. When people live far from scenes of the Great Spirit’s making, it’s easy for them to forget his laws.”
– Tatanga Mani, Walking Buffalo
| “We were lawless people, but we were on pretty good terms with the Great Spirit, creator and ruler of all. You whites assumed we were savages. You didn’t understand our prayers. You didn’t try to understand. When we sang our praises to the sun or moon or wind, you said we were worshiping idols. Without understanding, you condemned us as lost souls just because our form of worship was different from yours.We saw the Great Spirit’s work in almost everything: sun, moon, trees, wind, and mountains. Sometimes we approached the Great Spirit through these things. Was that so bad? I think we have a true belief in the supreme being, a stronger faith than that of most whites who have called us pagans… Indians living close to nature and nature’s ruler are not living in darkness.Did you know that trees talk? Well they do. They talk to each other, and they’ll talk to you if you listen. Trouble is, white people don’t listen. They never learned to listen to the Indians so I don’t suppose they’ll listen to other voices in nature. But I have learned a lot from trees: sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit.”
– Tatanga Mani ‘Walking Buffalo’
|At a certain point in the ceremony, while I am singing, I start to cry. They are not tears of sadness or joy, but recognition. I cry because I have feeling and I know ‘they’ are there.
~ Wounye’ Wast’ Win Woman, Lakota
|My father sent for me, I saw he was dying, I took his hand in mine. He said: “My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more, and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.” I pressed my father’s hand and told him I would protect his grave with my life. My father smiled and passed away to the spirit-land. I buried him in that beautiful valley of winding waters. I love that land more than all the rest of the world.
– Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, describing the death of his father Tu-eka-kas
|Dreams have always been an important part of my life… Dreams guide you; they show you the way that you should be living, or the direction, or give you signs to help someone else. They are gifts.
~ Jackie Yellow Tail, Crow Woman
|A nation is not defeated until the hearts of it’s women are on the ground.
| “My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain… There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory… To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget. The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors — the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being…and when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children’s children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.”
– Chief Seattle, Salishan Indian and chief of the Dwamish tribe of the Pacific Northwest addressing the Governor Isaac Stevens at the signing of a treaty.
| “In the life of the Indian there was only one inevitable duty, – the duty of prayer – the daily recognition of the Unseen and Eternal. His daily devotions were more necessary to him than daily food. He wakes at day break, puts on his moccasins and steps down to the water’s edge. Here he throws handfuls of clear, cold water into his face, or plunges in bodily. After the bath, he stands erect before the advancing dawn, facing the sun as it dances upon the horizon, and offers his unspoken orison. His mate may precede or follow him in his devotions, but never accompanies him. Each soul must meet the morning sun, the new sweet earth and the Great Silence alone!Whenever, in the course of the daily hunt the red hunter comes upon a scene that is strikingly beautiful or sublime – a black thundercloud with the rainbow’s glowing arch above the mountain, a white waterfall in the heart of a green gorge; a vast prairie tinged with the blood-red of sunset – he pauses for an instant in the attitude of worship. He sees no need for setting apart one day in seven as a holy day, since to him all days are God’s”
| “Everything as it moves, now and then, here and there, makes stops. The bird as it flies stops in one place to make its nest, and in another to rest in its flight. A man when he goes forth stops when he wills. So the god has stopped. The sun, which is so bright and beautiful, is one place where has stopped. The moon, the stars, the wind, he has been with. The trees, the animals, are all where he has stopped, and the Indian thinks of these places and sends his prayers there to reach the place where the god has stopped and win help and a blessing.”
– Ohiyesa All things are conscious and are of the same spirit. Even inanimate objects, such as mountains, are considered to be the body of a higher being.
| You have noticed that everything an 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. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation and so long a the hoop was unbroken the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain, and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance.Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle.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 nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. 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.Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nations hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.…”
– Hehaka Sapa, ‘Black Elk’
Black Elk remains one of the most important historical figures for Native Americans due to the fact that he survived actual battles as a Lakota Indian, and lived to an old age, where he was approached by a journalist (who he had a premonition would come to him) – this journalist collected all of Black Elk’s stories and published them in the book ‘Black Elk Speaks’ which remains one of the most significant spiritual documents in Indian culture. Black Elk became a powerful medicine man, and as a boy had numerous out of body experiences and visions, including visions of the skies being traversed by airplanes leaving ‘webs’ (chemtrails?). In his later years he joined Buffalo Bill and even traveled to Europe to dance in front of the Queen of England… upon returning to the Americas however, he became secluded on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and after being approached by the author of ‘Black Elk Speaks’ in his small one room log cabin, he died there.
|“The tribe always camped in a circle and in the middle of the circle was a place called Hocoka, the center. Before the people set out to war, the prophet, or holy man, make a tepee for himself and sat in it alone, looking into the future and seeing in vision all that would befall. The people brought him offerings of gifts, and he made holy emblems and charms to protect them in battle.Then, before sending out the scouts, the warriors assembled in the center of the camp and sat in a circle awaiting the prophet. He came forth, singing a holy song, and bestowed upon the warriors the charms that he had made, and told to every man his fate. There is the song of prophecy that he sang. In the last part of the song, where now there are only the sounds of no meaning, he sang words which foretold to each warrior the fate that would befall him in the strife. This song is sung when the tribe is going to war, just before the scouts set out to find the enemy.
Song of the seer:
In this circle
| “I heard that long ago there was a time when there were no people in this country except Indians. After that the people began to hear of men that had white skins; they had been seen far to the east. Before I was born they came out to our country and visited. The man who came was from the Government. He wanted to make a treaty with us, and to give us presents, blankets, and guns, and flint and steel and knives.The Head Chief told him that we needed none of these things. He said, “We have our buffalo and our corn. These things the Ruler gave to us, and they are all that we need. Se this robe. This keeps me warm in winter. I need no blanket.”The white men had with them some cattle, and the Pawnee Chief said, “Lead out a heifer here on the prairie!” They led her out, and the Chief, steeping up to her, shot her through behind the shoulder with his arrow, and she fell down and died. Then the Chief said, “Will not my arrow kill? I do not need your guns.” Then he took his stone knife and skinned the heifer, and cut off a piece of fat meat. When he had done this he said, “Why should I take your knives? The Ruler has given me something to cut with.”
Then taking the fire sticks, he kindled a fire to roast the meat, and while it was cooking, he spoke again and said, “You see, my brother, that the Ruler has given us all that we need for killing meat, or for cultivating the ground. Now go back to the country from whence you came. We do not want your presents, and we do not want you to come into our country.”
– Curly Chief, a Pawnee, relates one of the early contacts between his people and the Europeans, between 1800-1820
| “Our land is more valuable than your money, it will last forever. it will not even perish by the flames of fire. As long as the sun shines and the waters flow, this land will be here to give life to men and animals. We cannot sell the lives of men and animals; therefore we cannot sell this land. It was put here for us by the Great Spirit and we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us. You can count your money and burn it within the nod of a buffalo’s head, but only the Great Spirit can count the grains of sand and the blades of grass of these plains. As a present to you, we will give you anything we have that you can take with you; but the land, never.”
– A chief of one of the principal bands of the northern Blackfeet, upon being asked by U.S. delegates for his signature to one of the first land treaties in his region of the Milk River, near the northern border of Montana and the Northwest Territories, responding with a rejection of the money values of the white man.
| “The Earth was created by the assistance of the sun, and it should be left as it was. The country was made with no lines of demarcation, and it’s no man’s business to divide it. I see the whites all over the country gaining wealth, and I see the desire to give us lands which are worthless. The Earth and myself are of one mind. Perhaps you think the Creator sent you here to dispose of us as you see fit. If I thought you were sent by the creator, I might he induced to think you had a right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me; but understand me fully with reference to my affection for the land. I never said the land was mine to do with as I choose. The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who created it. I claim a right to live on my land, and accord you the privilege to return to yours. Brother, we have listened to your talk coming from our father, the Great White Chief in Washington, and my people have called upon me to reply to you.The winds which pass through these aged pines we hear the moaning of departed ghosts, and if the voice of our people could have been heard, that act would never have been done. But alas though they stood around they could neither be seen nor heard. Their tears fell like drops of rain.I hear my voice in the depths of the forest but no answering voice comes back to me. All is silent around me. My words must therefore be few. I can now say no more. He is silent for he has nothing to answer when the sun goes down.”
Thunder Rolling in the Mountains-Chief Joseph, Nez Perce
| “We know that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those Colleges, and that the Maintenance of your young Men, while with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinced, that you mean to do us Good by your proposal; and we thank you heartily. But you, who are wise must know that different Notions have different conceptions of things and you will therefore not take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same as yours. We have had some experience of it. Several of our young people were formerly brought up at the colleges of the northern provinces: they were instructed in all your Sciences; but, when they came back to us, they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods… neither fit for hunters, warriors, nor counselors, they were totally good for nothing. We are, however, not the less obliged by your kind offer, though we decline to accept it; and, to show our grateful sense of it, if the Gentlemen of Virginia will send us a Dozen of their Sons, we will take care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make Men of them.”
– A response to an invitation to the Indians of the Six Nations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by commissioners of Maryland and Virginia, to send boys to William and Mary College.
| “The tipi is much better to live in; always clean, warm in winter, cool in summer, easy to move. The white man builds big house, cost much money, like big cage, shut out sun, can never move; always sick. Indians and animals know better how to live than white man; nobody can be in good health if he does not have all the time fresh air, sunshine and good water. If the Great spirit wanted men to stay in one place he would make the world stand still; but he made it to always change, so bird and animals can move and always have green grass and ripe berries, sunlight to work and play, and night to sleep; summer for flowers to bloom, and winter for them to sleep; always changing; everything for good; nothing for nothing. The white man does not obey the Great Spirit; that is why the Indians never could agree with him.”
– Chief Flying Hawk, Sioux Indian of the Oglala clan, nephew of Sitting Bull.
| The Great Spirit gave us plenty of land to live on, and buffalo, deer, antelope and other game. But you have come here; you are taking my land from me; you are killing off our game, so it is hard for us to live. Now, you tell us to work for a living, but the Great Spirit did not make us to work, but to live by hunting. You white men can work if you want to. We do not interfere with you, and again you say why do you not become civilized? We do not want your civilization! We would live as our fathers did, and their fathers before them. ”
– Crazy Horse, Oglala Sioux
The killing of buffalo was the largest single man-made extinction in history. To kill multi-ton animals for their tongues and leave the carcasses to rot was seen (rightfully) as insane behavior, but when white settlers began to kill entire herds for sport, making no use of the animal, it could only be described as evil, and a demonstration of the psychologically twisted society which had produced them.
“Once we were happy in our own country and we were seldom hungry, for then the two-legged and the four-leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us. But the Wasichus (white man) came, and they have made little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds, and always these islands are becoming smaller, for around them surges the gnawing flood of the Wasichu; and it is dirty with lies and greed. I was ten years old that winter, and that was the first time I ever saw a Wasichu. At first I thought they all looked sick and I was afraid they might just begin to fight us any time, but I got used to them. I can remember when the bison were so any that they could not be counted, but more and more Wasichus came to kill them until there were only heaps of bones scattered where they used to be. The Wasichus did not kill them to eat; they killed them for the metal that makes them crazy, and they took only the hides to sell. Sometimes they did not even take the hides, only the tongues; and I have heard that fire-boats came down from the Missouri River loaded with dried bison tongues. You can see that the men who did this were crazy. Sometimes they did not even take the tongues; they just killed and killed because they liked to do that. When we hunted bison, we killed only what we needed.”
– Black Elk Speaks
| “What treaty that the whites have kept has the red man broken? Not one. What treaty that the white man ever made with us have they kept? Not one. When I was a boy the Sioux owned the world; the sun rose and set on their land; they sent ten thousand men to battle. Where are the warriors now? Who slew them? Where are our lands? Who owns them? What white man can say I stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say I am a thief. What white women, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian. What white man has ever seen me drunk? Who has ever come to me hungry and unfed? Who has ever seen me beat my wives or abuse my children? What laws have I broken? Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am a Sioux; because I was born where my father lived: because I would die for my people and my country?”
| “I admit that there are good white men, but they bear no proportion to the bad; the bad must be the strongest, for they rule. They do what they please. They enslave those who are not of their colour, although created by the same Great Spirit who created us. They would make slaves of us if they could, but as they cannot do it, they kill us! There is no faith to be placed in their words. They are not like the Indians, who are only enemies, while at war, and are friends in peace. They will say to an Indian, ‘my friend! my brother!’ They will take him by the hand, and at the same moment destroy him. And so you, (addressing himself to Christian Indians) will also be treated by them before long. Remember! that this day I have warned you to beware of such friends as these. I know the long knives; they are not to be trusted.”
| “Behold, my brothers, the spring has come; the earth has received the embraces of the sun and we shall soon see the results of that love! Every seed has awakened and so has all animal life.It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land. Yet hear me, my people, we have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our fathers first met them, but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possessions is a disease with them . . . They claim this mother of ours, the earth, for their own, and fence their neighbors away; they deface her with their buildings and their refuse. They threaten to take [the land] away from us. My brothers, shall we submit, or shall we say to them: “First kill me before you take possession of my Fatherland.”
-Sitting Bulls Speech at the Powder River Council, 1877.
|“The clothing of the white man adopted by the Lakota [Sioux] had much to do with the physical welfare of the tribe, and at the Carlisle School where the change from tribal to white man’s clothing was sudden and direct, the effect on the health and comfort of the children was considerable. Our first resentment was in having our hair cut. It has ever been the custom of Lakota men to wear long hair, and old tribal members still wear the hair in this manner. On first hearing the rule, some of the older boys talked of resisting, but realizing the uselessness of doing so, submitted. But for days after being shorn, we felt strange and uncomfortable. If the argument that has been advanced is true, that the children needed delousing, then why were not girls as well as boys put through the same process? The fact is that we were to be transformed, and short hair being the mark of gentility [nobility] with the white man, he put upon us the mark, though he still retained his own custom of keeping the hair covering on his face. Our second resentment was against the trousers, based upon what we considered the best of hygienic reasons. Our bodies were use to constant bathing in the sun, air, and rain, and the function of the pores of our skin, which were in reality a highly developed breathing apparatus, was at once stopped by trousers of heavy sweat-absorbing material aided by the worst of all torments — red flannel underwear. For the stiff collars, stiff front shirts, and derby hats no word of praise is due, and heavy, squeaky, leather boots were positive tormentors, which we endured because we thought that when we wore them we were “dressed up.”Many times we have been laughed at for our native way of dressing, but could anything we ever wore compare in the utter foolishness to the steel-ribbed corset and the huge bustle, which our girls adopted after a few years in school? To clothe a man falsely is only to distress his spirit and to make him incongruous and ridiculous, and my entreaty to the American Indian is to retain his tribal dress.”
– Chief Luther Standing Bear
| “Oh, yes, I went to the white man’s schools. I learned to read from school books, newspapers, and the Bible. But in time I found that these were not enough. Civilized people depend too much on man-made printed pages. I turn to the Great Spirit’s book which is the whole of his creation. You can read a big part of that book if you study nature. You know, if you take all your books, lay them out under the sun, and let the snow and rain and insects work on them for a while, there will be nothing left. But the Great Spirit has provided you and me with an opportunity for study in nature’s university, the forests, the rivers, the mountains, and the animals which include us.”
– Tatanga Mani, a Stoney Indian
| “Brother! We have listened to your talk, coming from our father, the Great White Chief, at Washington, and my people have called upon me to reply to you…Brother! We have, as your friends, fought by your side, and have poured out our blood in your defense, but our arms are now broken. You have grown large. My people have become small, and there are none who take pity on them. Brother! my voice is become weak – you can scarcely hear me. It is not the shout of a warrior, but the wail of an infant. I have lost it in mourning over the desolation and injuries of my people. These are their graves which you see scattered around us, and in the winds which pass through these aged pines we hear the moanings of their departed Ghosts. Their ashes lie here, and we have been left to protect them. Our warriors are nearly all gone to the west, but here around our dead. Will you compel us to go too, and give their bones to the wolves?Brother! our heart is full. Twelve winters ago we were told our Chiefs had sold our country. Every warrior that you now see around us was opposed to the treaty; and if the voice of our people could have been heard, that act would never have been done; but alas! Though they stood around they could neither be seen nor heard. Their tears fell like drops of rain – their lamentations were borne away by the passing winds – the pale-faces heeded them not and our land was taken from us. Brother! …. you speak the words of a mighty nation. I am a shadow, and scarcely reach to your knee. My people are scattered and gone; when I shout, I hear my voice in the depths of the forest, but no answering voice comes back to me – all is silent around me! My words therefore must be few. I can now say no more.”
– Colonel Cobb, leading chief of the tribe of Choctaws
|There is no room for greed. Take only what you need and give thanks for what you have received. It is a gift, NOT a Right.|
|“Sickness comes with you (the white man) and hundreds of us die. Where is our strength? … In the old times we were strong. We used to hunt and fish. We raised our little crop of corn and melons and ate the mesquite beans. Now all is changed. We eat the white man’s food, and it makes us soft; we wear the white man’s heavy clothing and it makes us weak. Each day in the old times in summer and in winter we came down to the river banks to bathe. This strengthened and toughened our firm skin. But white settler were shocked to see the naked Indians, so now we keep away. In old days we wore the breechcloth, and aprons made of barks and reeds. We worked all winter in the wind – bare arms, bare legs, and never felt the cold. But now, when the wind blows down from the mountains it makes us cough. Yes – we know that when you come, we die.”
– Chiparopai, an old Yuma Indian, gives her views of the changes that confronted her at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Don’t be afraid to cry. It will free your mind of sorrowful thoughts. – Hopi
Day and night cannot dwell together. – Duwamish
It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand. – Apache
They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind. – Tuscarora
All plants are our brothers and sisters. They talk to us and if we listen, we can hear them. – Arapaho
Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand. – Tribe Unknown.
Before eating, always take time to thank the food. – Arapaho
When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us. – Arapaho
If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come. – Arapaho
Most of us do not look as handsome to others as we do to ourselves. – Assiniboine
Those that lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. – Blackfoot
In age, talk; in childhood, tears. – Hopi
We always return to our first loves. – Tribe Unknown
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. – Blackfoot
When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. – Cherokee
Those who have one foot in the canoe, and one foot in the boat, are going to fall into the river. – Tuscarora
The weakness of the enemy makes our strength. – Cherokee
When the white man discovered this country Indians were running it. No taxes, no debt, women did all the work. White man thought he could improve on a system like this. –Cherokee
A good soldier is a poor scout. – Cheyenne
Poverty is a noose that strangles humility and breeds disrespect for God and man. – Sioux
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave. – Dakota
Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins. – Cheyenne
There is nothing as eloquent as a rattlesnakes tail. – Navajo
Force, no matter how concealed, begets resistance. – Lakota
Our first teacher is our own heart. – Cheyenne
Everyone who is successful must have dreamed of something. – Maricopa
All who have died are equal. – Comanche
Remember that your children are not your own, but are lent to you by the Creator. – Mohawk
One rain does not make a crop. – Creole
Man’s law changes with his understanding of man. Only the laws of the spirit remain always the same. – Crow
What the people believe is true. – Anishinabe
You already possess everything necessary to become great. – Crow
There is no death, only a change of worlds. – Duwamish
Life is not separate from death. It only looks that way. – Blackfoot
You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep. – Navajo
It is less of a problem to be poor, than to be dishonest. – Anishinabe
One finger cannot lift a pebble. – Hopi
Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark. – Cheyenne
All dreams spin out from the same web. – Hopi
He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone. – Seneca
Even a small mouse has anger. – Tribe Unknown
If a man is as wise as a serpent, he can afford to be as harmless as a dove. – Cheyenne
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. – Tribe Unknown
The rainbow is a sign from Him who is in all things. – Hopi
Walk lightly in the spring; Mother Earth is pregnant. – Kiowa
When a man moves away from nature his heart becomes hard. – Lakota
Old age is not as honorable as death, but most people want it. – Crow
Many have fallen with the bottle in their hand. – Lakota
| I know that robes, leggings, moccasins, bear claws, and so on are of little value to you, but we wish you have them and to preserve them in some conspicuous part of your lodge, so that when we are gone and the sod turned over our bones, if our children should visit this place, as we do now, they may see & recognize with pleasure the things of their fathers, and reflect on the times that are past.
| It is true that many of the old ways have been lost. But just as the rains restore the earth after a drought, so the power of the Great Mystery will restore the way and give it new life. We ask that this happen for all people, that they all might live. In ignorance and carelessness they have walked on Ina Maka, Our Mother. Now our Mother and all our Relations are crying out. They cry for the help of all people.
– Black Elk, Oglala Sioux
| I was born in Nature’s wide domain! The trees were all that sheltered my infant limbs, the blue heavens all that covered me. I am one of Nature’s children. I have always admired her. She shall be my glory: her features, her robes, and the wreath about her brow, the seasons, her stately oaks, and the evergreen — her hair, ringlets over the earth — all contribute to my enduring love of her.
George Copway (Kahgegagahbowh), Ojibwe
| Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself
(Hinmaton-Yalaktit (Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt) was leader of the Nez Perce; most commonly known as Chief Joseph, his Native American name means “Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain”)
| Too often we worry about the words we use in prayer. What really counts is the spirit & intent behind our words. It is the spirit & intent that the Creator responds to. He reads & listens to our heart. Prayer isn’t only when we fold our hands & pray. Prayer is when we talk to the Creator even when we are walking down a path or sitting on a hill or walking in the mountains. The Elders say, walk in prayer. We should be willing to talk with the Great One.
Art by Stephanie Campos
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled
~Chief Techumseh (1768-1813)
|Lakota Customs and Dress… more info|
“On the dais of the Eagle he shouts out,
Our song is a bird calling out like a jingle:
First was Subjugation, then was Extermination, and when that wasn’t successful, Reservations
The powerful and hard-hitting documentary, American Holocaust, is quite possibly the only film that reveals the link between the Nazi holocaust, which claimed at least 6 million Jews, and the American Holocaust which claimed, according to conservative estimates, 19 million Indigenous People. By Joanelle Romera