Native American Quotes
"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."
Ancient Indian Proverb
"One does not sell the land people walk on." ... Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875
Luther Standing Bear Oglala Sioux
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
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.
Black Elk, 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) Pawnee
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
Mourning Dove Salish
...... 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
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
Sarah Winnemucca Paiute
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) Wabanaki Algonquin
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) Teton Sioux
... I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to
depend simply upon himself.
Shooter Teton Sioux
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
George Copway (Kah-ge-ga-bowh) Ojibwa Chief
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 Narragansett, 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 ankers....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."
Chief Plenty Coups, Crow
"The ground on which we stand is sacred ground. It is the
blood of our ancestors."
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,
"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 through
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), Nuxalk Nation
"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."
Chief Joseph, Nez Perce
"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 changing 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
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
"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
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 weshall 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 reservation 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