Words of wisdom and quotes from various Native Americans
What! Would you wish that there should be no dried trees in the
woods and no dead branches on a tree that is growing old?
A seventy year old Huron
"I have Indian Blood in me. I have just enough white blood
for you to question my honesty!"
A treaty, in the minds of our people, is an eternal word. Events
often make it seem expedient to depart from the pledged word, but
we are conscious that the first departure creates a logic for the
second departure, until there is nothing left of the word.
Declaration of Indian Purpose (1961) - American Indian Chicago
The Onondaga (Iroquois) lords shall
open each council by greeting their cousin lords, and expressing
their gratitude to them. And they shall offer thanks to the earth
where all people dwell - To the streams of water, the pools, the
springs, and the lakes; to the maize and the fruits - To the medicinal
herbs and the trees, to the forest trees for their usefulness, to
the animals that serve as food and who offer their pelts as clothing
- To the great winds and the lesser wind; to the Thunderers; and
the sun, the mighty warrior; to the moon - To the messengers of
the Great Spirit who dwells in the skies above, who gives all thing
useful to men, who is the source and the ruler of health and life.
Then shall the Onondaga lords declare the council open.
Brothers, money to us is of no
value, and to most of us unknown; and as no consideration whatever
can induce us to sell the lands, on which we get sustenance for
our women and children, we hope we may be allowed to point out a
mode by which your settlers may be easily removed and peace obtained.
Brothers, we know that these settlers are poor, or they would have
never ventured to live in a country that has been in continual trouble
ever since they crossed the Ohio. Divide therefore this large sum
of money that you have offered to us among these people ... and
we are persuaded they would most readily accept it in lieu of the
lands you sold to them ...
Letter (1793) The Seven Nations of Canada
"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
Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation
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.
Resolution of the Fifth Annual Meetings of the Traditional
Elders Circle, 1980
I am truly astonished that the French
have so little cleverness. They try to persuade us to convert our
poles, our barks, and our wigwams into their houses of stone and
of wood that are as tall and lofty as these trees. Very well! But
why do men of five to six feet in height need houses that are sixty
Do we not have all the advantages in our houses that you have in
yours, such as reposing, drinking, sleeping, eating, and amusing
ourselves with friends when we wish?
Have you as much ingenuity as the Indians, who carry their houses
and their wigwams with them so that they may lodge wherever they
please? We can say that we are at home everywhere, because we set
up our wigwams with ease wherever we go, without asking permission
You reproach us - very inappropriately - and tell us that our country
is a little hell in contrast with France, which you compare to a
terrestrial paradise. If this is true, why did you leave it? Why
did you abandon your wives, children, relatives, and friends?
Which of these is the wisest and happiest
- he who labors without ceasing and only obtains, with great trouble,
enough to live on, or he who rests in comfort and finds all that
he needs in the pleasure of hunting and fishing?
Learn now, my brother, once and for all, because I must open my
heart to you : There is no Indian who does not consider himself
infinitely more happy and more powerful than the French.
Micmac Chief (1676)
"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 integrated.
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 to live in peace. We don't want power, we don't
want to be congressmen, 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."
1927 Grand Council of American Indians
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
Unknown Speaker addressing the National Congress of American
Indians in the mid 1960's
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.
William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991
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.
Wintu Woman, 19th Century
Try to do something for your people -
something difficult. Have pity on your people and love them. If
a man is poor, help him. Give him and his family food, give them
whatever they ask for. If there is discord among your people, intercede.
Take your sacred pipe and walk into their midst. Die if necessary
in your attempt to bring about reconciliation. Then, when order
has been restored and they see you lying dead on the ground, still
holding in you hand the sacred pipe, the symbol of peace and reconciliation,
then assuredly will they know that you have been a real chief.
You tell us that baptism is absolutely
necessary to go to heaven. If there were a man so good that he never
offended God, and if he died without baptism, would he go to hell,
never having given any offense to God? If he goes to hell, then
God must not love all good people, since He throws one into the
You teach us that God existed before the creation of heaven and
earth. If he did, where did He live, since there was neither heaven
nor earth ?
You say that the angels were created in the beginning of the world,
and that those who disobeyed were cast into Hell. How can that be
so, since you say the angels sinned before earth's creation, and
hell is in the depths of the earth?
You declare that those who go to hell do not come out of it, and
yet you relate stories of the damned who have appeared in the world
- how is that to be understood?
Ah, how I would like to kill devils, since they do so much harm!
But if they are made like men and some are even among men, do they
still feel the fire of hell? Why is it that they do no repent, would
God not be merciful to them? If Our Lord has suffered for all sinners,
why do they not receive pardon from him?
You say that the virgin, mother of
Jesus Christ, is not God, and that she has never offended God. You
also say that her Son has redeemed all men, and atoned for all;
but if she has done nothing wrong, her Son could not redeem her
nor atone for her.
Young "savage" seminarians 12-15 years old to the
Jesuit father Paul Le Jeune, late 1630s
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