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Native American Wisdom
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American Indian The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of the 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 ...

Luther Standing Bear (168?-1939): Oglala Sioux Chief

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 ... 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 .... 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.

Black Elk (1863-1950): Oglala Sioux holy man

We were taught to believe that the Great Spirit sees and hears everything, and that he never forgets: that hereafter he will give every man a spirit-home according to his deserts ... This I believe, and all my people believe the same.

Joseph (Hinmaton, Yalatkit) (1830-1904): Nez Perc Chief

All things in the world are two. In our mind 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 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 (Letakots-Lesa) (late 19th century): Pawnee

... I hope the Great Heavenly Father, who will look down upon us, will give all the tribes his blessing, that we may go forth in peace, and live in peace all our days, and that He will look down upon our children and finally lift us far above this earth: and that our Heavenly Father will look upon our children as His children, that all the tribes may be His children, and as we shake hands to-day upon this broad plain, we may forever live in peace.

Red Cloud (Marpiya-Luta) (late 19th century): Oglala Sioux Chief

We had no churches, no religious organization, no sabbath days, no holidays, and yet we worshiped. Sometimes the whole tribe would assemble and sing and pray: sometimes a smaller number, perhaps only two or three. The songs had a few words, but were not formal. The singer would occasionally put in such words as he wished instead of the usual tone sound. Sometimes we prayed in silence; sometimes each prayed aloud; sometimes an aged person prayed for all of us. At other times one would rise and speak to us of our duties to each other and to Usen. Our services were short.

Geronimo (Goyathlay) (1829-1909): Chiricahua Apache Chief

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 beasts, and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and the moon should man learn .... all things tell of Tirawa.

Eagle Chief (Letakots-Lesa) (late 19th century): Pawnee

......everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.

Morning Dove (Christine Quintasket) (1888-1936): Salish

From Wakan-Tanka, the Great Mystery, comes all power. It is from Wakan-Tanka that the holy man has wisdom and the power to heal and make holy charms. Man knows that all healing plants are give by Wakan-Tanka: therefore they are holy. So too is the buffalo holy, because it is the gift of Wakan-Tanka.

Flat-Iron (Maza Blaska) (late 19th century): Oglala Sioux Chief

The traditions of our people are banded down from father to son. The chief is considered to be the must learned, and the leader of the tribe. The doctor, however, is thought to have more inspiration. He is supposed to be in communication with spiritis ... He cures the sick by the laying on of hands, and prayers and incantations and heavenly songs. He infuses new life into the patient, and performs most wonderful feats of skill in his practise .... He clothes hmself in the skin of young, innocent animals, such as the fawn; and decorates himself with the plumage of harmless birds, such as the dove and humming-bird ....

Sarah Winnemucca (1844-1891): Paiute

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) (late 19th century): Wabanaki Algonquin

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 (1863-1950): Oglala Sioux holy man

I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our childeren right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.

Red Cloud (Makhipiya-luta) (late 19th century): Sioux Chief

Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom -- an intense and absorbing love for nature; a respect for life; enriching faith in a Supreme Power; and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.

Luther Standing Bear (1868?-1939): Oglala Sioux Chief

O ye people, be ye healed; Life anew I bring unto ye. O ye people, be ye healed; Life anew I bring unto ye. Through the Father over all Do I thus. Life anew I bring onto ye.

Good Eagle (Wanbli-Waste) (late 19th century): Dakota Sioux holy man.