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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

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"I have Indian Blood in me. I have just enough white blood for you to question my honesty!"

Will Rogers

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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 Conference.

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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.

Iroquois Constitution

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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

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"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."

Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

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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

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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 to eighty?

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 from anyone.

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)

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"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

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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 pleased.

Unknown Speaker addressing the National Congress of American Indians in the mid 1960's

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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

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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

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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.

Winnebago lesson

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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 fire.

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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