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Native American Words of Wisdom

This is what was spoken by my great-grandfather at the house he made for us ... And these are the words that were given him by the Master of Life : "At some time there shall come among you a stranger, speaking a language you do not understand. He will try to buy the land from you, but do not sell it; keep it for an inheritance to your children." Aseenewub - Red Lake Ojibwe

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Big Elk - Omaha Chief

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Do not grieve. Misfortunes will happen to the wisest and best of men. Death will come, always out of season. It is the command of the Great Spirit, and all nations and people must obey. What is past and what cannot be prevented should not be grieved for ... Misfortunes do not flourish particularly in our lives - they grow everywhere.

Big Elk - Omaha Chief

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Big Thunder (Bedagi) - Wabanaki Alonquin

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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....

Big Thunder (Bedagi) - Wabanaki Alonquin

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Black Elk (1863-1950) - Oglala Sioux

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Black Elk's Earth Prayer

Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice. You lived first, and you are older than all need, older than all prayer. All things belong to you -- the two-legged, the four-legged, the wings of the air, and all green things that live.

"You have set the powers of the four quarters of the earth to cross each other. You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties, and where they cross, the place is holy. Day in, day out, forevermore, you are the life of things."

Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice.
At the center of the sacred hoop
You have said that I should make the tree to bloom.
With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather,
With running eyes I must say
The tree has never bloomed
Here I stand, and the tree is withered.
Again, I recall the great vision you gave me.
It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives.
Nourish it then
That it may leaf
And bloom
And fill with singing birds!
Hear me, that the people may once again
Find the good road
And the shielding tree.

" I think I have told you, but if I have not, you must have understood, that a man who has a vision is not able to use the power of it until after he has performed the vision on earth for the people to see... It was even then only after the heyoka ceremony, in which I performed my dog vision, that I had the power to practice as a medicine man, curing sick people; and many I cured with the power that came through me. Of course it was not I who cured. It was the power from the outer world, and the visions and ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-leggeds. If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish..."

Revealing this, they walk.
A sacred herb -- revealing it, they walk.
Revealing this, they walk.
The sacred life of bison -- revealing it, they walk.
Revealing this, they walk.
A sacred eagle feather -- revealing it, they walk.
Revealing this, they walk.
The eagle and the bison -- like relatives they walk.

"The Six Grandfathers have placed in this world many things, all of which should be happy. Every little thing is sent for something, and in that thing there should be happiness and the power to make happy. Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus we should do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World."

Black Elk - Oglala Sioux

The True Peace

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.

Black Elk - Oglala Sioux

The Sacred Hoop

I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy...but anywhere is the center of the world.

Black Elk - Oglala Sioux

The Great Circle

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 as 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.

This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. 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 teepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.

Black Elk - Oglala Sioux

Receiving Medicine Power

I cured with the power that came through me. Of course, it was not I who cured, it was the power from the Outer World, the visions and the ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-leggeds." "If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish.

Black Elk - Oglala Sioux

With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather-with tears running I must say now that the tree has never bloomed. Here at the center of the world where you took me when I was young and showed the goodness and the beauty and the strangeness of the greening earth, you have said that I should make the tree to bloom. It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds. Hear me not for myself but for my people; I am old. Hear me that they may once more go back into the sacred hoop and find the good red road, the shielding tree!

Black Elk - Oglala Sioux

The life of an Indian is like the wings of the air. That is why you notice the hawk knows how to get his prey. The Indian is like that. The hawk swoops down on its prey; so does the Indian. In his lament he is like an animal. For instance, the coyote is sly; so is the Indian. The eagle is the same. That is why the Indian is always feathered up; he is a relative to the wings of the air.

Black Elk - Oglala Sioux

I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heapen and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A peoples dream died there. It was a beautiful dream. . . .the nations hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

Black Elk - Oglala Sioux

 

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Black Hawk - Sauk

This is a happy season of the year - having plenty of provisions, such as beans, squashes, and other produce, with our dried meat and fish. We continue to make feasts and visit each other, until our corn is ripe.

At least one of the lodges in the village makes a feast daily for the Great Spirit. I cannot explain this so that the white people will comprehend me, because we have no regular standard among us. Everyone makes his feast as he thinks best, to please the Great Spirit, who has the care of all beings created.

Black Hawk - Sauk

During the first year a newly married couple discovers whether they can agree with each other and can be happy - if not, they part, and look for other partners. If we were to live together and disagree, we should be as foolish as the whites.

No indiscretion can banish a woman from her parental lodge. It makes no difference how many children she may bring home; she is always welcome. The kettle is over the fire to feed them.

Black Hawk - Sauk

How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong look like right.

Black Hawk

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!

Black Hawk - Sauk

I think that wherever the Great Spirit places his people, they ought to be satisfied to remain, and thankful for what He has given them, and not drive others from the country He has given them because it happens to be better than theirs!

This is contrary to our way of thinking; and from my intercourse with the whites, I have learned that one great principle of their religion is "to do unto others as you wish them to do unto you!" The settlers on our frontiers and on our lands never seem to think of it, if we are to be judged by their reactions. For my part, I am of the opinion that so far as we have reason, we have the right to use it in determining what is right or wrong, and we should pursue that path we believe to be right.

If the Great and the Good Spirit wished us to believe and do as the whites, he could easily change our opinions, so that we would see, and think, and act as they do. We are nothing compare to His power, and feel and know it.

Black Hawk - Sauk

My reason teaches me that land cannot be sold. The Great Spirit gave it to his children to live upon and cultivate as far as necessary for their subsistence, and so long as they occupy and cultivate it they have the right to the soil, but if they voluntarily leave it then any other people have the right to settle on it. Nothing can be sold, except things that can be carried away.

Black Hawk - Sauk

Here, for the first time, I have touched the goose quill to the treaty - not knowing, however, that by that act I consented to give away my village! Had that been explained to me, I should have opposed it, and never would have signed their treaty, as my recent conduct has clearly proven.

What do we know of this manner of the laws and customs of the white people? They might buy our bodies for dissection, and we would touch the goose quill to confirm it, without knowing what we were doing. This was the case with myself and my people touching the goose quill for the first time. We can only judge what is proper and right by our standard of right and wrong, which differs widely from the whites, if I have been correctly informed. The whites, if I have been correctly informed. The whites may do bad for all their lives, and then, if they are sorry for it when they are about to die, all is well!

But with us it is different : We must continue throughout our lives to do what we conceive to be good. If we have corn and meat, and know of a family that has none, we divide with them. If we have more blankets than are sufficient, and others have not enough, we must give to them that want.

Black Hawk - Sauk

The path to glory is rough, and many gloomy hours obscure it. May the Great Spirit shed light on your path, so that you may never experience the humility that the power of the American government has reduced me to. This is the wish of a man who, in his native forests, was once as proud and bold as yourself.

Black Hawk - Sauk

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Canassatego - Onondaga Chief

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.

Canassatego - Treaty negotiations with Six Nations

You who are so wise must know that different nations have different conception of things. You will not therefore take it amiss if our ideas of the white man's kind of education happens not to be the same as yours. We have had some experience of it.

Several of our young people were brought up in your colleges. They were instructed in all your sciences; but, when they came back to us, they were all bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods, unable to bear either cold or hunger. They didn't know how to build a cabin, take a deer, or kill an enemy. They spoke our language imperfectly.

They were therefore unfit to be hunters, warriors, or counsellors; they were good for nothing.

We are, however, not the less obliged for your kind offer, though we decline accepting it. To show our gratefulness, it the gentleman of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we will take great care with their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.

Canassatego - Treaty of Lancaster

 

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Charles Alexander Eastman - Santee Sioux

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.

If a child is inclined to be grasping, or to cling to any of his or her little possessions, legends are related about contempt and disgrace falling upon the ungenerous and mean person ...

The Indians in theor simplicity literally give away all that they have - to relatives, to guests of other tribes or clans, but above all to the poor and the aged, from whom they can hope for no return.

Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

The Indians were religious from the first moments of life. From the moment of the mother's recognition that she had conceived to the end of the child's second year of life, which was the ordinary duration of lactation, it was supposed by us that the mother's spiritual influence was supremely important.

Her attitude and secret meditations must be such as to install into receptive soul of the unborn child the love of the Great Mystery and a sense of connectedness will all creation. Silence and isolation are the rule of life for the expectant mother.

She wanders prayerful in the stillness of great woods, or on the bosom of the untrodden prairie, and to her poetic mind the imminent birth of her child prefigures the advent of a hero - a thought conceived in the virgin breast of primeval nature, and dreamed out in a hush that is broken only by the sighing of the pine tree or the thrilling orchestra of a distant waterfall.

And when the day of days in her life dawns - the day in which there is to be a new life, the miracle of whose making has been entrusted to her - she seeks no human aid. She has been trained and prepared in body and mind for this, her holiest duty, ever since she can remember.

Childbirth is best met alone, where no curious embarrass her, where all nature says to her spirit: "It's love ! It's love! The fulfilling of life!" When a sacred voice comes over to her out of the silence, and a pair of eyes open upon her wilderness, she knows with joy that she is borne well her part in the great song of creation.

Presently she returns to the camp, carrying the mysterious, the holy, the dearest bundle ! She feels the endearing warmth of it and hears its soft breathing. It is still a part of herself, since both are nourished by the same mouthful, and no look of a lover could be sweeter than its deep, trusting daze. She continues her spiritual teaching, at first silently - a mere pointing of the index finger to nature - then in whispered songs, bird-like, at the morning and evening. To her and to the child the birds are real people, who live very close to the Great Mystery; the murmuring trees breathe its presence; the falling waters chants its praise.

If the child should chance to be fretful, the mother raises her hand. "Hush! Hush!" she cautions it tenderly, "The spirits may be disturbed!" She bids it be still and listen - listen to the silver voice of the aspen, or the clashing cymbals of the birch; and at night she points to the heavenly blazed trail through nature's galaxy of splendor to nature's God. Silence, love, reverence - this is the trinity of first lessons, and to these she later adds generosity, courage, and chastity.

Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

What boy would not be an Indian for a while when he thinks of the freest life in the world ? We were close students of nature. We studied the habits of animals just as you study your books. We watched the men of our people and acted like them in our play, then learned to emulate them in our lives.

No people have better use of their five senses than the children of the wilderness. We could smell as well as hear and see. We could feel and taste as well as we could see and hear. Nowhere has the memory been more fully developed than in the wild life.

As a little child, it was instilled into me to be silent and reticent. This was one of the most important traits to form in the character of the Indian. As a hunter and warrior, it was considered absolutely necessary to him, and was thought to lay the foundations of patience and self-control. There are times when boisterous mirth is indulged in our people, but the rule is gravity and decorum.

I wished to be a brave man as much as the white boy desires to be a great lawyer or even president of the United States.

I was made to respect the adults, especially the aged. I was not allowed to join in their discussions, or even speak in their presence, unless requested to do so. Indian etiquette was very strict, and among the requirements was that of avoiding direct address. A term of relationship or some title of courtesy was commonly used instead of the personal name by those who wished to show respect.

We were taught generosity to the poor and reverence for the Great Mystery. Religion was the basis of all Indian training.

Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

The true Indian sets no price upon either his property or his labor. His generosity is limited only by the strength and ability. He regards it as an honor to be selected for a difficult or dangerous service, and would rather :"Let the person I serve express his thanks according to his own bringing up and his sense of honor."

Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

Friendship is held to be the severest test of character. It is easy, we think, to be loyal to family and clan, whose blood is our own veins. Love between man and woman is founded on the mating instinct and is not free from desire and self-seeking. But to have a friend, and to be true under any and all trials, is the mark of a man!

Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

Whenever, in the course of the daily hunt, the 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 the sunset - he pauses for an instant in the attitude of worship.

He sees no need for a setting apart one day in seven as a holy day, because to him all days are God's days.

Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

Each soul must meet the morning sun, the new, sweet earth, and the Great Silence alone!

Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

As a child, I understood how to give; I have forgotten that grace since I became civilized. I lived the natural life, whereas now I now live the artificial. Any pretty pebble was valuable then, every growing tree an object of reverence.

Now I worship with the white man before a painted landscape whose value is estimated in dollars! Thus the Indian is reconstructed, as the natural rocks are ground to powder and made into artificial blocks that may be built into the walls of modern society.

Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

The first American mingled with his pride a singular humility. Spiritual arrogance was foreign to his nature and teaching. He never claimed that his power of articulate speech was proof of superiority over "dumb creation" ; on the other hand, speech is to him a perilous gift.

He 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 shining pool - his, in the mind of the unlettered sage, is the ideal attitude and conduct of life ..... Silence is the cornerstone of character.

Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa)

They are a heartless nation, that is certain. They have made some of their people servants - yes, slaves! We have never believed in keeping slaves, but it seems that the white people do! It is our belief that they painted their servants black a long time ago, to tell them from the rest - and now the slaves have children born to them of the same color!

The greatest object of their lives seems to be to acquire possessions - to be rich. They desire to possess the whole world.

For thirty years they tried to entice us to sell our land to them. Finally, their soldiers took it by force, and we have been driven away from our beautiful country.

They are indeed an extraordinary people. They have divided the day into hours, like the moons of the year. In fact, they measure everything. Not one of them would let so much as a turnip go from his field unless he received full value for it. I understand that sometimes their great men make a feast and invite many, but when it is over, the guests are required to pay for what they have eaten before leaving the house ...

I am also told, but this I hardly believe, that their Great Chief compels every man to pay him for the land he lives upon and all personal goods - even those he needs for his own existence - every year. I am sure we could not live under such a law.

In war they have leaders and war-chiefs of different grades. The common warriors are driven forward like a herd of antelopes to face the foe. It is because of this manner of fighting - from compulsion and not from personal bravery - that we count no coup on them. A lone warrior can do much harm to a large army of them - especially when they are in unfamiliar territory.

Charles Alexander Eastman's uncle - Santee Sioux

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Chief Aupumut - Mohican

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.

Chief Aupumut - Mohican

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Chief Dan George

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"How long have I known you, oh Canada? A hundred years? Yes, a hundred years. And many many 'seelanum" more. And today, when you celebrate your hundred years, oh Canada, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land.

For I have known you when your forests were mine; when they gave me my meat and my clothing. I have known you in your streams and rivers where your fish flashed and danced in the sun, where the waters said come, come and eat of my abundance. I have known you in the freedom of your winds. And my spirit, like the winds, once roamed your good lands.

But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man's strange customs which I could not understand, pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.

When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed this way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority.

My nation was ignored in your history textbooks - they were little more important in the history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains. I was ridiculed in your plays and motion pictures, when I drank your fire water, I got drunk -- very, very drunk. And I forgot.

Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this Centenary, this hundred years? Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left to me of my beautiful forests? For the canned fish of my rivers? For the loss of my pride and authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight back? No! I must forget what's past and gone.

Oh, God in Heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden Chiefs. Let me wrestle with my surroundings. Let me again, as in the days of old, dominate my environment. Let me humbly accept this new culture and through it rise up and go on.

Oh, God! Like the Thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man's success---his education, his skills, and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society. Before I follow the great Chiefs who have gone before us, oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass.

I shall see our young braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government, ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedom of our great land. So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next hundred years be the greatest and proudest in the proud history of our tribes and nations."

Chief Dan George

Can we talk of integration until there is integration of hearts and minds? Unless you have this, you only have a physical presence, and the walls between us are as high as the mountain range.

Chief Dan George

"O Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the winds,
I come to you as one of your many children.
I need your strength and your wisdom.
Make me strong not to be superior to my brother,
but to be able to fight my greatest enemy:
"Myself"

Chief Dan George

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky,
The rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me.
The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away, they speak to me
And my heart soars.

Chief Dan George

My friends, how desperately do we need to be loved and to love. When Christ said that man does not live by bread alone, he spoke of hunger. This hunger was not the hunger of the body. It was not the hunger for bread. He spoke of hunger that begins deep down in the very depths of our being. He spoke of a need as vital as breath. He spoke of our hunger for love.

Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we become weak and faint. Without love our self-esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we can no longer look out confidently at the world. We turn inward and begin to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves.

With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it, and with it alone, we are able to sacrifice for others.

Chief Dan George

The Wolf Ceremony

I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion.

He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed.

In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be lifelong.

I sang.
In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat.

I sang.
In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers.

I sang.
In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed-- the link to creation.

I sang.
In my eyes sparkled love. I sang.

And the song floated on the sun's rays from tree to tree.

When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf's reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out.

All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.

At last I could whisper to him: "It is finished!" "Can I go home now?" He asked, checking his watch to see if he would still be in time to catch his favorite program on TV. I watched him disappear and wept in silence. All is finished!

by Chief Dan George
Chief of the Salish Band in Burrard Inlet, B.C.

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Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Praise, flattery, exaggerated manners, and fine, high-sounding words were no part of Lakota politeness. Excessive manners were put down as insincere, and the constant talker was considered rude and thoughtless. Conversation was never begun at once, or in a hurried manner.

No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation.

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and his granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that "though comes before speech."

And in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind, and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect. More powerful than words was silence with the Lakota.

His strict observance of this tenet of good behavior was the reason, no doubt, for his being given the false characterization by the white man of being a stoic. He has been judged to be dumb, stupid, indifferent, and unfeeling.

As a matter of truth, he was the most sympathetic of men, but his emotions of depth and sincerity were tempered with control. Silence meant to the Lakota what it meant to Disraeli, when he said "Silence is the mother of truth," for the silent man was ever to be trusted, while the man ever ready with speech was never taken seriously.

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The character of the Indian's emotion left little room in his heart for antagonism toward his fellow creatures .... For the Lakota (one of the three branches of the Sioux Nation), mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and the woods were all in finished beauty. Winds, rain, snow, sunshine, day, night, and change of seasons were endlessly fascinating. Birds, insects, and animals filled the world with knowledge that defied the comprehension of man.

The Lakota was a true naturalist - a lover of Nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, and the attachment grew 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 alters 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.

This is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its live 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.

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Children were taught that true politeness was to be defined in actions rather than in words. They were never allowed to pass between the fire and the older person or a visitor, to speak while others were speaking, or to make fun of a crippled or disfigured person. If a child thoughtlessly tried to do so, a parent, in a quiet voice, immediately set him right.

Expressions such as "excuse me," "pardon me," and "so sorry" now so often lightly and unnecessarily used, are not in the Lakota language. If one chanced to injure or cause inconvenience to another wanunhecun, or "mistake," was spoken. This was sufficient to indicate that no discourtesy was intended and that what happened was accidental.

Our young people, raised under old rules of courtesy, never indulged in the present habit of talking incessantly and all at the same time. To do so would have been not only impolite, but foolish; for poise, so much admired as a social grace, could not be accompanied by restlessness. Pauses were acknowledged gracefully and did not cause lack of ease or embarrassment.

In talking to children, the old Lakota would place a hand on the ground and explain: "We sit in the lap of our Mother. From her we, and all other living things, come. We shall soon pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever." So we, too, learned to sit or lie on the ground and become conscious of life about us in its multitude of forms.

Sometimes we boys would sit motionless and watch the swallows, the tiny ants, or perhaps some small animal at its work and ponder its industry and ingenuity; or we lay on our backs and looked long at the sky, and when the stars came out made shapes from the various groups.

Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.

Even the lightning did us no harm, for whenever it came too close, mothers and grandmothers in every tipi put cedar leaves on the coals and their magic kept danger away. Bright days and dark days were both expressions of the Great Mystery, and the Indian reveled in being close to the Great Holiness.

Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest, wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestation; it was expressed in a multitude of forms.

This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was casual and commonplace. The Indian lived - lived in every sense of the word - from his first to his last breath.

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

From Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great unifying life force that flowed in and through all things - the flowers of the plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals - and was the same force that had been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred, and were brought together by the same Great Mystery.

Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky, and water was a real and active principle. In the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them. And so close did some of the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue.

The animals had rights - the right of a man's protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man's indebtedness - and in recognition of these rights the Lakota never enslaved an animal, and spared all life that was not needed for food and clothing.

This concept of life and its relations with humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with joy and mystery of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.

The Lakota could not despise no creature, for all were of one blood, made by the same hand, and filled with the essence of the Great Mystery. In spirit, the Lakota were humble and meek. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" - this was true for the Lakota, and from the earth they inherited secrets long since forgotten. Their religion was sane, natural, and human.

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

Nothing the Great Mystery placed in the land of the Indian pleased the white man, and nothing escaped his transforming hand. Wherever forests have not been mowed down, wherever the animal is recessed in their quiet protection, wherever the earth is not bereft of four-footed life - that to him is an "unbroken wilderness"

But, because for the Lakota there was no wilderness, because nature was not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly, Lakota philosophy was healthy - free from fear and dogmatism. And here I find the great distinction between the faith of the Indian and the white man. Indian faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the dominance of surroundings.

In sharing, in loving all and everything, one people naturally found a due portion of the thing they sought, while, in fearing, the other found the need of conquest.

For one man the world was full of beauty, for the other it was a place of sin and ugliness to be endured until he went to another world, there to become a creature of wings, half-man and half-bird.

Forever one man directed his Mystery to change the world. He had made; forever this man pleaded with Him to chastise his wicked ones; and forever he implored his God to send His light to earth. Small wonder this man could not understand the other.

But the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature's softening influence.

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The attempted transformation of the Indian by the white man and the chaos that has resulted are but the fruits of the white man's disobedience of a fundamental and spiritual law.

"Civilization" has been thrust upon me since the days of the reservations, and it has not added one whit to my sense of justice, to my reverence for the rights of life, to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity, or to my faith in Wakan Tanka, God of the Lakotas.

For after all the great religions have been preached and expounded, or have been revealed by brilliant scholars, or have been written in fine books and embellished in fine language with finer covers, man, - all man - is still confronted by the Great Mystery.

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

The white man does not understand America. He is far removed from its formative processes. The roots of the tree of his life have not yet grasped the rock and the soil.

The white man is still troubled by primitive fears; he still has in his consciousness the perils of this frontier continent, some of it not yet having yielded to his questing footsteps and inquiring eyes.

He shudders still with the memory of the loss of his forefathers upon its scorching deserts and forbidding mountaintops. The man from Europe is still a foreigner and an alien. And he still hates the man who questioned his path across the continent.

But in the Indian the spirit of the land is still vested; it will be a long time until other men are able to divine and meet its rhythm. Men must be born and reborn to belong. Their bodies must be formed of the dust of their forefathers' bones.

Chief 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 belonged....

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

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.

Chief Luther Standing Bear - Oglala Sioux

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Chief Plenty Coups - Crow

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The ground on which we stand is sacred ground. It is the dust and blood of our ancestors. On these plains the Great White Father is Washington sent his soldiers armed with long knives and rifles to slay the Indian. Many of them sleep on yonder hill where Pahaska - White Chief of the Long Hair [General Custer] - so bravely fought and fell.

A few more passing suns will see us here no more, and our dust and bones will mingle with the same prairies. I see as in a vision the dying spark of our council fires, the ashes cold and white. I see no longer the curling smoke rising from our lodge poles. I hear no longer the songs of the women as they prepare the meal.

The antelope have gone; the buffalo wallows are empty. Only the wail of the coyote is heard. The white man's medicine is stronger than ours; his iron horse [the railroad] rushes over the buffalo trail. He talks to us through his "whispering spirit" [the telephone].

We are like birds with a broken wing. My heart is cold within me. My eyes are growing dim - I am old.

Chief Plenty Coups - Crow

When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again.

After this nothing happened. There was little singing anywhere.

Chief Plenty Coups - Crow

 

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Chief Red Cloud - Sioux

Look at me - I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches, but we want to train our children right. Riches will 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.

Chief Red Cloud - Sioux

They made us many promises, more than I can remember. But they kept but one--They promised to take our land...and they took it.

Chief Red Cloud - Sioux

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.

Chief Red Cloud - Sioux

Whose voice was first sounded on this land? The voice of the red people who had but bows, and arrows....What has been done in my country I did not want, did not ask for it; white people going through my country.... When the white man comes in my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him....I have two mountains in that country.... The Black Hills and the Big Horn Mountain. I want the great father to make no roads through them. I have told these things three times; now I have come here to tell them the fourth time.

Chief Red Cloud - Sioux

"The Great Spirit raised both the white man and the Indian. I think he raised the Indian first. He raised me in this land, it belongs to me. The white man was raised over the great waters, and his land is over there. Since they crossed the sea, I have given them room. There are now white people all about me. I have but a small spot of land left. The Great Spirit told me to keep it."

Chief Red Cloud - Sioux

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Chief Seattle - Suqwamish and Duwamish

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.

Chief Seattle - Suqwamish & Duwamish

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes on the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy - and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers' graves, and his children's birthright is forgotten.

Chief Seattle - Suqwamish & Duwamish

The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.

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.

The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of the pond, the smell of the wind itself cleansed by a midday rain, or scented with pinon pine. The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath - the animals, the trees, the man.

Like a man who has been dying for many days, a man in your city is numb to the stench.

Chief Seattle - Suqwamish & Duwamish

A few more hours, a few more winters, and none of the children of the great tribes that once lived on this earth, or that roamed in small bands in the woods, will be left to mourn the graves of a people once as powerful and hopeful as yours.

The whites, too, shall pass - perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your own bed, and you will suffocate in your own waste.

When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.

And what is it to say farewell to the swift and the hunt, to the end of living and the beginning of survival? We might understand if we knew what it was that the white man dreams, what he describes to his children on the long winter nights, what visions he burns into their minds, so they will wish for tomorrow. But we are savages. The white man's dreams are hidden from us.

Chief Seattle - Suqwamish & Duwamish

The red man has ever fled the approach of the white man, as the morning mist flees before the morning sun ... It matters little where we pass the remnants of our days. They will not be many.

But why should I mourn the untimely fate of my people? Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the white man, whose God walked and talked with him as friend with friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers, after all. We will see ...

Chief Seattle - Suqwamish & Duwamish

Every part of all this soil is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in the days long vanished. The very dust you now stand on responds more willingly to their footsteps than to yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.

Even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season love these somber solitudes, and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits.

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 our 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.

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 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 - Suqwamish & Duwamish

When the Earth is sick, the animals will begin to disappear, when that happens, The Warriors of the Rainbow will come to save them.

Chief Seattle - Suqwamish & Duwamish

Seattle Sunday Star, October 29, 1887

Old Chief Seattle was the largest Indian I ever saw, and by far the noblest-looking. He stood 6 feet full in his moccasins, was broad-shouldered, deep-chested, and finely proportioned. His eyes were large, intelligent, expressive and friendly when in repose, and faithfully mirrored the varying moods of the great soul that looked through them. He was usually solemn, silent, and dignified, but on great occasions moved among assembled multitudes like a Titan among Lilliputians, and his lightest word was law.

When rising to speak in council or to tender advice, all eyes were turned upon him, and deep-toned, sonorous, and eloquent sentences rolled from his lips like the ceaseless thunders of cataracts flowing from exhaustless fountains, and his magnificent bearing was as noble as that of the most cultivated military chieftain in command of the forces of a continent. Neither his eloquence, his dignity, or his grace were acquired. They were as native to his manhood as leaves and blossoms are to a flowering almond.
His influence was marvelous. He might have been an emperor but all his instincts were democratic, and he ruled his loyal subjects with kindness and paternal benignity.
He was always flattered by marked attention from white men, and never so much as when seated at their tables, and on such occasions he manifested more than anywhere else the genuine instincts of a gentleman.

When Governor Stevens first arrived in Seattle and told the natives he had been appointed commissioner of Indian affairs for Washington Territory, they gave him a demonstrative reception in front of Dr. Maynard's office, near the waterfront on Main Street. The bay swarmed with canoes and the shore was lined with a living mass of swaying, writhing, dusky humanity, until old Chief Seattle's trumpet-toned voice rolled over the immense multitude, like the startling reveille of a bass drum, when silence became as instantaneous and perfect as that which follows a clap of thunder from a clear sky.

The governor was then introduced to the native multitude by Dr. Maynard, and at once commenced, in a conversational, plain, and straightforward style, an explanation of his mission among them, which is too well understood to require capitulation.

When he sat down, Chief Seattle arose with all the dignity of a senator, who carries the responsibilities of a great nation on his shoulders. Placing one hand on the, governor's head and slowly pointing heavenward with the index finger of the other, he commenced his memorable address in solemn and impressive tones.

"Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion on our fathers for centuries untold, and which, to us, looks eternal, may change. Today it is fair, tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like stars that never set. What Seattle says, the great chief, Washington, can rely upon, with as much certainty as our paleface brothers can rely upon the return of the seasons.

"The son of the white chief says his father sends us greetings of friendship and good will. This is kind, for we know he has little need of our friendship in return, because his people are many. They are like the grass that covers the vast prairies, while my people are few, and resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain.

"The great, and I presume also good, white chief sends us word that he wants to buy our lands but is willing to allow us to reserve enough to live on comfortably. This indeed appears generous, for the red man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, for we are no longer in need of a great country.

"There was a time when our people covered the whole land, as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor. But that time has long since passed away with the greatness of tribes now almost forgotten. I will not mourn over our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers for hastening it, for we, too, may have been somewhat to blame.

"When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, their hearts also are disfigured and turn black, and then their cruelty is relentless and knows no bounds, and our old men are not able to restrain them.
"But let us hope that hostilities between the red man and his paleface brothers may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

"True it is, that revenge, with our young braves, is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives. But old men who stay at home in times of war, and old women, who have sons to lose, know better.

"Our great father Washington, for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since George has moved his boundaries to the north; our great and good father, I say, sends us word by his son, who, no doubt, is a great chief among his people, that if we do as he desires, he will protect us. His brave armies will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his great ships of war will fill our harbors so that our ancient enemies far to the northward, the Simsiams and Hydas, will no longer frighten our women and old men. Then he will be our father and we will be his children.

"But can this ever be? Your God loves your people and hates mine; he folds his strong arms lovingly around the white man and leads him as a father leads his infant son, but he has forsaken his red children; he makes your people wax strong every day, and soon they will fill the land; while my people are ebbing away like a fast-receding tide, that will never flow again. The white man's God cannot love his red children or he would protect them. They seem to be orphans and can look nowhere for help. How then can we become brothers? How can your father become our father and bring us prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness?

"Your God seems to us to be partial. He came to the white man. We never saw Him; never even heard His voice; He gave the white man laws but He had no word for His red children whose teeming millions filled this vast continent as the stars fill the firmament. No, we are two distinct races and must ever remain so. There is little in common between us. The ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their final resting place is hallowed ground, while you wander away from the tombs of your fathers seemingly without regret.

"Your religion was written on tables of stone by the iron finger of an angry God, lest you might forget it, The red man could never remember nor comprehend it.

"Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors, the dream of our old men, given them 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 homes of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb. They wander far off beyond the stars, are soon forgotten, and never return. Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its sequestered vales, and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely hearted living and often return to visit and comfort them.

"Day and night cannot dwell together. The red man has ever fled the approach of the white man, as the changing mists on the mountainside flee before the blazing morning sun.

"However, your proposition seems a just one, and I think my folks will accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them, and we will dwell apart and in peace, for the words of the great white chief seem to be the voice of nature speaking to my people out of the thick darkness that is fast gathering around them like a dense fog floating inward from a midnight sea.

"It matters but little where we pass the remainder of our days. They are not many.

"The Indian's night promises to be dark. No bright star hovers about the horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Some grim Nemesis of our race is on the red man's trail, and wherever he goes he will still hear the sure approaching footsteps of the fell destroyer and prepare to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter. A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of all the mighty hosts that once filled this broad land or that now roam in fragmentary bands through these vast solitudes will remain to weep over the tombs of a people once as powerful and as hopeful as your own.

"But why should we repine? Why should I murmur at the fate of my people? Tribes are made up of individuals and are no better than they. Men come and go like the waves of the sea. A tear, a tamanawus, a dirge, and they are gone from our longing eyes forever. Even the white man, whose God walked and talked with him, as friend to friend, is not exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see.

"We will ponder your proposition, and when we have decided we will tell you. But should we accept it, I here and now make this the first condition: That we will not be denied the privilege, without molestation, of visiting at will the graves of our ancestors and friends. Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, ever plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or some sad experience of my tribe,
"Even the rocks that seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the silent seashore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories of past events connected with the fate of my people, and the very dust under your feet responds more lovingly to our footsteps than to yours, because it is the ashes of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch, for the soil is rich with the life of our kindred.

"The sable braves, and fond mothers, and glad-hearted maidens, and the little children who lived and rejoiced here, and whose very names are now forgotten, still love these solitudes, and their deep fastness at eventide grow shadowy with the presence of dusky spirits. And when the last red man shall have perished from the earth and his memory among white men shall have become a myth, these shores shall swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children shall think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway or in the silence of the 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 shall be silent, and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled 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 altogether powerless."

Other speakers followed, but I took no notes. Governor Stevens' reply was brief. He merely promised to meet them in general council on some future occasion to discuss the proposed treaty. Chief Seattle's promise to adhere to the treaty, should one be ratified, was observed to the letter, for he was ever the unswerving and faithful friend of the white man. The above is but a fragment of his speech, and lacks all the charm lent by the grace and earnestness of the sable old orator, and the occasion. - H.A. Smith.

 

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Cochise - Chiricahua Chief

You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts.

Cochise ("Like Ironweed") - Chiricahua Chief

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Constitution Of The Five Nations

  • Mentor of the people of the Five Nations
  • Confederate Council
  • Mourning an infant
  • We now crown you with the sacred emblem of the deer's antlers, the emblem of your Lordship. You shall now become a mentor of the people of the Five Nations. The thickness of your skin shall be seven spans - which is to say that you shall be filled with peace and goodwill and your mind filled with a yearning for the welfare of the people of the Confederacy.

    With the endless patience you shall carry out your duty, and your firmness shall be tempered with tenderness for your people. Neither anger nor fury shall lodge in your mind, and all your words and actions shall be marked with calm deliberation.

    In all your deliberations in the Council, in your efforts at lawmaking, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not away the warnings of any others, if they should chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law, which is just and right.

    Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the earth - the unborn of the future Nation.

  • Should any man of the Nation assist with special ability or show great interest in the affairs of the Nation, if he proves himself wise, honest, and worthy of confidence, the Confederate Lords may elect him to a seat with them and he may sit in the Confederate Council. He shall be proclaimed a Pine Tree sprung up for the Nation and be installed as such at the next assembly for the installation of Lords.

    Should he ever do anything contrary to the rules of the Great Peace, he may not be deposed from office - no one shall cut him down - but thereafter everyone shall be deaf to his voice and his advice. Should he resign his seat and title, no one shall prevent him. A Pine Tree Chief has no authority to name a successor, nor is his title hereditary.

  • When an infant dies before its fourth day of life, mourning shall continue only for five days.

    Then shall you gather the little boys and girls at the house of mourning, and at the funeral feast a speaker shall address the children and bid them be happy once more, even though by a death, gloom has been cast over them.

    Then shall the black clouds roll away and the sky shall show blue once more. Then shall the children be again in sunshine.

    Constitution of the Five Nations

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    Crow Belly - Gros Ventre Chief

    The Great Spirit has given the white man great foresightedness; he sees everything at a distance, and his mind invents and makes the most extraordinary things. But the red man has been made shortsighted. He sees only what is close around him and knows nothing except what his father knew ...

    Crow Belly - Gros Ventre Chief

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    Crowfoot - Blackfoot Chief

    The white man's police have protected us only as well as the feathers of a bird protect it from the frosts of winter.

    Crowfoot - Blackfoot Chief

    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.

    Crowfoot - Blackfoot Chief

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    Doublehead - Creek Chief

    On this land there is a great deal of timber, pine and oak, that are much use to the white man. They send it to foreign countries, and it brings them a great deal of money.

    On the land there is much grass for cattle and horses, and much food for the hogs.

    On this land there is a great deal of tobacco raised, which likewise brings much money. Even the streams are valuable to the white man, to grind the wheat and corn that grows on this land. The pine trees that are dead are valuable for tar.

    All these things are lasting benefits. But if the Indians are given just a few goods for their lands, in one or two seasons those goods are all rotted and gone for nothing.

    We are told that our lands are of no service to us, but still, if we hold our lands, there will always be a turkey, or a deer, or a fish in the streams for those young who will come after us.

    We are afraid if we part with any more of our lands the white people will not let us keep as much as will be sufficient to bury our dead.

    Doublehead - Creek Chief

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    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 two.

    Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa) - Pawnee

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    Four Guns - Oglala Sioux

    Many of the white man's ways are past our understanding ... They put a great store upon writing; there is always a paper.

    The white people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand, if the white man loses his papers, he is helpless.

    I heard one of their preachers say that no white man was admitted to heaven unless there were writings about him in a great book!

    Four Guns - Oglala Sioux

    I have attended dinners among white people. Their ways are not ours.

    We eat in silence, quietly smoke a pipe, and depart. Thus is our host honored.

    This is not the way of the white man. After his food has been eaten, one is expected to say foolish things. Then the host feels honored.

    Four Guns - Oglala Sioux

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    Francis Assikinack (Blackbird) Ottawa

    In my opinion, it was chiefly owing to their deep contemplation in their silent retreats in the days of youth that the old Indian orators acquired the habit of carefully arranging their thoughts.

    They listened to the warbling of birds and noted the grandeur and the beauties of the forest. The majestic clouds - which appear like mountains of granite floating in the air - the golden tints of a summer evening sky, and all the changes of nature, possessed a mysterious significance.

    All this combined to furnish ample matter for reflection to the contemplating youth.

    Francis Assikinack (Blackbird) Ottawa

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    George Copway (Kahgegagahbowh) - Ojibwe

    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 of earth - all contribute to my enduring love of her.

    And wherever I see her, emotions of pleasure roll in my breast, and swell and burst like waves on the shores of the ocean, in prayer and praise to Him who has placed me in her hand, It is thought great to be born in palaces, surrounded with wealth - but to be born in Nature's wide domain is greater still !

    I would much more glory in this birthplace, with the broad canopy of heaven above me, and the giant arms of the forest trees for my shelter, than to be born in palaces of marble, studded with pillars of gold ! Nature will be Nature still, while palaces shall decay and fall in ruins.

    Yes, Niagara will be Niagara a thousand years hence ! The rainbow, a wreath over her brow, shall continue as long as the sun, and the flowering of the river - while the work of art, however carefully protected and preserved, shall fade and crumble into dust !

    George Copway (Kahgegagahbowh) - Ojibwe

    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.

    George Copway (Kahgegagahbowh) - Ojibwe

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    George Henry - Maungwudaus

    The Americans have been very kind to us; they are not as arrogant as the English, but very persevering in all their ways.

    They pay more respect to their women than the English, and they see the things that belong to others without bitterness, or regret. The working classes of the English call their rich men "Big Bugs," but the Yankees call them "Top Notches."

    The Yankees put their feet upon the tables, chairs, or chimney pieces when smoking their cigars or reading their newspapers. They are not as much slaves to their civilization as the English; they like to be comfortable, something like ourselves, place one leg upon the other knee while basking ourselves in the sun.

    A real comfort is better than an artificial one to the human nature.

    George Henry - Maungwudaus ("Big Legging") - Ojibwe Methodist Preacher

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    Geronimo - Apache

    I was warmed by the sun, rocked by the winds and sheltered by the trees as other Indian babes. I was living peaceably when people began to speak bad of me. Now I can eat well, sleep well and be glad. I can go everywhere with a good feeling.

    The soldiers never explained to the government when an Indian was wronged, but reported the misdeeds of the Indians. We took an oath not to do any wrong to each other or to scheme against each other.

    I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. There is one God looking down on us all. We are all the children of one God. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we have to say.

    When a child, my mother taught me to kneel and pray to Usen for strength, health, wisdom and protection. Sometimes we prayed in silence, sometimes each one prayed aloud; sometimes an aged person prayed for all of us... and to Usen.

    I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.

    Geronimo - Apache

    Geronimo's Song
    by Geronimo (Goyathlay)

    The song that I will sing is an old song, so old that none knows who made it. It has been handed down through generations and was taught to me when I was but a little lad. It is now my own song. It belongs to me. This is a holy song (medicine-song), and great is its power. The song tells how, as I sing, I go through the air to a holy place where Yusun (The Supreme Being) will give me power to do wonderful things. I am surrounded by little clouds, and as I go through the air I change, becoming spirit only.

    Medicine Song - Sung by Geronimo

    O, ha le
    O, ha le!
    Awbizhaye
    Shichl hadahiyago niniya
    O, ha le
    O, ha le
    Tsago degi naleya
    Ah--yu whi ye!
    O, ha le
    O, ha le!
    O, ha le
    O, ha le!
    Through the air
    I fly upon the air
    Towards the sky, far, far, far,
    O, ha le
    O, ha le!
    There to find the holy place,
    Ah, now the change comes o're me!
    O, ha le
    O, ha le!

    Geronimo - Apache

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    Gertrude S Bonnin - Yankton Sioux

    We send our little Indian boys and girls to school, and when they come back talking English, they come back swearing. There is no swear word in the Indian languages, and I haven't yet learned to swear.

    Gertrude S. Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa) - Yankton Sioux

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    Hendrick - Mohawk

    If my warriors are to fight they are too few; if they are to die they are too many.

    Hendrick - Mohawk

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    James Paytiamo - Acoma Pueblo

    Old age was simply a delightful time, when the old people sat on the sunny doorsteps, playing in the sun with the children, until they fall asleep. At last, they failed to wake up.

     James Paytiamo - Acoma Pueblo

    I remember the old men of my village. These old, old men used to prophesy about the coming of the white man. They would go about tapping their canes on the adobe floor of the house, and call to us children.

    "Listen! Listen! The gray-eyed people are coming nearer and nearer. They are building an iron road. They are coming nearer every day. There will be a time when you will mix with these people. That is when the Gray Eyes are going to get you drink hot, black water, which you will drink whenever you eat. Then your teeth will become soft."

    "They will get you to smoke at a young age, so that your eyes will run tears on windy days, and your eyesight will be poor. Your joints will crack when you want to move slowly and softly."

    "You will sleep on soft beds and will not like to rise early. When you begin to wear heavy clothes and sleep under heavy covers, then you will grow lazy. Then there will be no more singing heard in the valleys you walk."

    "When you begin to eat with iron sticks, your tones will grow louder. You will speak louder and talk over your parents. You will grow disobedient, You will mix with those gray-eyed people, and you will learn their ways; you will break up your homes, and murder and steal."

    Such things have come true, and I have to compare my generation with the old generation. We are not as good as they were; we are not as healthy as they were.

    How did these old men know what was coming? That is what I would like to know.

    James Paytiamo - Acoma Pueblo

     

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    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 their lives.

    John Wooden Legs - Cheyenne

    The old Indian teaching was that is is wrong to tear loose from its place on the earth anything that may be growing there. It may be cut off, but it should not be uprooted. The trees and the grass have spirits. Whatever one of such growth may be destroyed by some good Indian, his act is done in sadness and with a prayer for forgiveness because of his necessities...

    John Wooden Legs (late 19th century) - Cheyenne

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    Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) - Mohawk

    No person among us desires any other reward for performing a brave and worth action, but the consciousness of having served his nation.

    Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) - Mohawk

    Our wise men are called Fathers, and they truly sustain that character. Do you call yourselves Christians? Does then the religion of Him whom you call your Savior inspire your spirit, and guide your practices? Surely not.

    It is recorded of him that a bruised reed he never broke. Cease, then, to call yourselves Christians, lest you declare to the world your hypocrisy. Cease, too, to call other nations savage, when you are tenfold more the children of cruelty than they.

    Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) - Mohawk

    In the government you call civilized, the happiness of the people is constantly sacrificed to the splendor of empire. Hence the origin of your codes of criminal and civil laws; hence your dungeons and prisons. We have no prisons; we have no pompous parade of courts; we have no written laws; and yet judges as highly revered among us as they are among you, and their decisIons are as much regarded.

    We have among us no exalted villains above the control of our laws. Daring wickedness here is never allowed to triumph over helpless innocence. The estates of widows and orphans are never devoured by enterprising swindlers.

    We have no robbery under the pretext of law.

    Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) - Mohawk

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    Kanekuk - Kickapoo Prophet

    Some of our chiefs make the claim that the land belongs to us. It is not what the Great Spirit told me. He told me that the lands belong to Him, that no people owns the land; that I was not to forget to tell this to the white people when I met them in council.

    Kanekuk - Kickapoo prophet

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