First People :: American Indian Articles :: Understanding Our Earth Teachers
Cookies | Privacy Policy

Understanding Our Earth Teachers

by Three Hawks (Oklahoma Tsalagi)

Chief Dan George once said, "If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them..."

Communication between animals and humans is much easier than we may think, and yes, they really do talk to us! Impossible you say?


1. You are driving down the road and catch a glimpse of a sign. You ask your companion, "What did that sign say?" "It said 'Narrow Bridge Ahead." You enter the narrow bridge hoping a big truck does not come your way.

2. "I am looking at the map."

"What's it say?"

"Says 38 miles to Redlands."


3. It has been long hot hours since you have eaten and you are really hungry. You are coming up to a sign. "Great Food. All You Can Eat $5.99." There you see a picture of your favorite meal and a tall iced soft drink. You hear your stomach growl a little louder, and you turn in the driveway.

4. You are entering a small town in the desert and see a sign that says, 'Next Gas 100 Miles'. What do you instinctively do? Look at your gas gauge of course!

We have all used these expressions (the sign says, the map says...) from time to time and each of us knows that signs tell us things and our mind or body will react to these messages in one form or another. Ironically, none of these signs have verbalized anything, but we understand they have told us something.

So it is that animals will 'talk' to us if we take the time to know them. Signs are a series of symbols that have meaning to us when they are arranged in certain familiar patterns. An eight sided red sign with the white letters STOP tells us that we must stop the car, look both ways, and then proceed if it is safe. Seeing a bear tells us that we can be like them and have a soft or strong side, be good and nurturing mothers, walk with care through the forests, and to 'look within' when we seek answers. Bear survives winter sleep by drawing from within. that is, drawing from the things she took in during the spring, summer and fall. Introspection!

A three sided sign with the letters YIELD tells us to be careful here, we do not have the right of way. Seeing a snake in your path will remind you that just as when their eyes cloud over and the painful process of shedding their skin starts so they can be renewed by this process, that there will be times in our life that we must let go of hurtful things that we may not clearly see the reason for at the time, but we will come out of this situation made anew.

A person using sign language may not have the ability to verbalize things to you, but if you know sign language, you will know what they are trying to tell you by the symbols they use. So too when you see a Hawk circling above, you are being told things. Hawk tells us to stay focused and be careful with our use of words. As Hawk dives for her prey, she must not be distracted or she will miss out on her prize. Hawks are known to grab a snake and take its head of in less than one second and this reminds us that we must be careful not to do this verbally or emotionally to another person.

Isn't it interesting that during the winter season in the mountains we will see dark clouds building as the wind picks up and we start thinking about snow, icy roads, and did we check the condition of our chains yet. Images that send messages without verbalizing anything. Imagine hiking by yourself in the mountains and you come upon a sign that reads, "Entering Mountain Lion Habitat. "Would that stir up images in your head? You bet! Nothing verbalized, but the message is clear. Be careful!

An owl flies near you in the dark. What is she telling you? As she can fly silently through the darkest of nights and never bump into things, she reminds us that we too can do our work in the darkest of life circumstances and not have to boast about our accomplishments. As she gets through these dark times, so can you!

And how often do we talk to our dogs or cats with human words and respond to their reactions? We do this with ease, but are uneasy being in public and talking to a Raven, Opossum, or Ant, lest someone have us locked up.

So you see, animals really do talk to us! All we have to do is understand what their messages are and each one will have something to say to you. Just as those painted signs give you direction along your path of life, so do the animals give direction on balance, harmony, unity, and understanding each other as we walk upon this earth together.

Oh, and the rest of what Chief Dan George was saying. "And what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys."

So it is with animals, rocks, trees and so on. When we understand their habits and characteristics, we will better understand their message, or 'what they are saying'. They may not speak the human language, but they do speak nonetheless.

Are you listening?

Animals are great teachers. Are we good students?

Hmmm. Now what say that that Mouse, Spider, Deer, Buffalo.?

Ears filled with stones do not hear the birdsong of beauty...

3 Hawks
(on behalf of those who do not speak the human language)

© 3 Hawks

Return to Native American Articles.

top of page.

Don't forget to check out our Native American Legends.