Native American Sayings





Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the while I am being carried across the sky by beautiful clouds.



Ojibway proverb

 

A frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives.



- American Indian proverb 


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.



- Geronimo, Apache (1829-1909)




Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land 'infested' with 'wild' animals and 'savage' people. To us it was tame, Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.



- Black Elk, Oglala Lakota Sioux (1863-1950)



If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it…but we continue to try…all in the name of progress or something like that. We put paint where we don’t need paint, we knock down mountains to build some more. We show others ‘our way’ so they can improve on ‘their way’. Mind your own backyard and quit worrying about the neighbors’.



The time will soon be here when my grandchild will long for the cry of a loon, the flash of a salmon, the whisper of spruce needles, or the screech of an eagle.



But he will not make friends with any of these creatures and when his heart aches with longing, he will curse me.



Have I done all to keep the air fresh?



Have I cared enough about the water?



Have I left the eagle to soar in freedom?



Have I done everything I could to earn my grandchild's fondness?



- Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh (1899 - 1981)



I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization.



- Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Lakota Sioux (1868-1939)



A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky.



- Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)



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.



Black Elk, Oglala Lakota (Sioux) (1863-1950)



Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.



Trouble no one about his religion.



Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.



Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.



Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.



Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.



Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.



Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.



When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.



Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.



If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.



Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs their spirit of its vision.



When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that 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.



- Tecumseh, Shawnee (1768-1813)



I am an old woman now.



The buffaloes and black-tail deer are gone, and our Indian ways are almost gone. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I ever lived them.



My little son grew up in the white man's school. He can read books, and he owns cattle and has a farm. He is a leader among our Hidatsa people, helping teach them to follow the white man's road.



He is kind to me. We no longer live in an earth lodge, but in a house with chimneys, and my son's wife cooks by a stove.



But for me, I cannot forget our old ways.



Often in summer I rise at daybreak and steal out to the corn fields, and as I hoe the corn I sing to it, as we did when I was young. No one cares for our corn songs now.



Sometimes in the evening I sit, looking out on the big Missouri. The sun sets, and dusk steals over the water. In the shadows I see again to see our Indian village, with smoke curling upward from the earth lodges, and in the river's roar I hear the yells of the warriors, and the laughter of little children of old.



It is but an old woman's dream.



Then I see but shadows and hear only the roar of the river, and tears come into my eyes. Our Indian life, I know, is gone forever.



- Waheenee, Hidatsa



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 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, Tsleil-Waututh (1899 - 1981)



One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don't talk to the animals, they won't talk back to you, then you won't understand, and when you don't understand you will fear, and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself.



- Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh (1899 - 1981)



Cherokee Prayer Blessing



May the Warm Winds of Heaven

Blow softly upon your house.

May the Great Spirit

Bless all who enter there.

May your Mocassins

Make happy tracks

in many snows,

and may the Rainbow

Always touch your shoulder.



        Native American Prayer



        Oh, Great Spirit

        Whose voice I hear in the winds,

        And whose breath gives life to all the world,

        hear me, I am small and weak,

        I need your strength and wisdom.

        Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold

        the red and purple sunset.

        Make my hands respect the things you have

        made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

        Make me wise so that I may understand the things

        you have taught my people.

        Let me learn the lessons you have

        hidden in every leaf and rock.



        I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,

        but to fight my greatest enemy - myself.

        Make me always ready to come to you

        with clean hands and straight eyes.

        So when life fades, as the fading sunset,

        my Spirit may come to you without shame.



        (translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887)



Honor the sacred.

Honor the Earth, our Mother.

Honor the Elders.

Honor all with whom we

share the Earth:-

Four-leggeds, two-leggeds,

winged ones,

Swimmers, crawlers,

plant and rock people.

Walk in balance and beauty.



Native American Elder



Lakota Instructions for Living



Friend do it this way - that is,

whatever you do in life,

do the very best you can

with both your heart and mind.



And if you do it that way,

the Power Of The Universe

will come to your assistance,

if your heart and mind are in Unity.



When one sits in the Hoop Of The People,

one must be responsible because

All of Creation is related.

And the hurt of one is the hurt of all.

And the honor of one is the honor of all.

And whatever we do effects everything in the universe.



If you do it that way - that is,

if you truly join your heart and mind

as One - whatever you ask for,

that's the Way It's Going To Be.



passed down from White Buffalo Calf Woman



Go Forward With Courage



When you are in doubt, be still, and wait;

when doubt no longer exists for you, then go forward with courage.

So long as mists envelop you, be still;

be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists

-- as it surely will.

Then act with courage.



Ponca Chief White Eagle (1800's to 1914)



Earth, Teach Me



Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.

Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.

Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.

Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.

Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.

Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.

Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.

Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.

Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.

Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.



- An Ute Prayer



Treat the earth well.

It was not given to you by your parents,

it was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,

we borrow it from our Children.



Ancient Indian Proverb



You have noticed that everything an Indian does in a circle,

and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles,

and everything and everything tries to be round.



In the old days 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, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux 1863-1950



        Over a hundred years ago Black Elk had a vision of the time when Indian people would heal from the devastating effects

        of European migration. In his vision the Sacred Hoop which had been broken, would be mended in seven generations.

        The children born into this decade will be the seventh generation.



When you were born, you cried

and the world rejoiced.

Live your life

so that when you die,

the world cries and you rejoice.



White Elk



    If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace...

    Treat all men alike. Give them all the

    same law. Give them all an even chance

    to live and grow.All men were made by

    the same Great Spirit Chief.

    They are all brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it....

    Let me be a free man,free to travel,

    free to stop,free to work,free to trade where I choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers,free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty.



    Heinmot Tooyalaket ( Chief Joseph), Nez Perce Leader



Humankind has not woven the web of life.

We are but one thread within it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

All things are bound together.

All things connect.



Chief Seattle, 1854



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 & Spiritual Leader (1863 - 1950)



May the stars carry your sadness away,

May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,

May hope forever wipe away your tears,

And, above all, may silence make you strong.



Chief Dan George



Hold On



Hold on to what is good,

Even if it's a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe,

Even if it's a tree that stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do,

Even if it's a long way from here.

Hold on to your life,

Even if it's easier to let go.

Hold on to my hand,

Even if someday I'll be gone away from you.



A Pueblo Indian Prayer



Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men,

we didn't have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents.

Without a prison, there can be no delinquents.

We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves.

When someone was so poor that he couldn't afford a horse, a tent or a blanket,

he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift.

We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property.

We didn't know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being

was not determined by his wealth.

We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians,

therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another.

We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived and I don't know

how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things

that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.



John (Fire) Lame Deer

Sioux Lakota - 1903-1976



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 warrior and orator 1830 - 1890



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 things in the spirit,

and the shape of all shapes as they must

live together like one being.



Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks



Lakota Prayer



Wakan Tanka, Great Mystery,

teach me how to trust

my heart,

my mind,

my intuition,

my inner knowing,

the senses of my body,

the blessings of my spirit.

Teach me to trust these things

so that I may enter my Sacred Space

and love beyond my fear,

and thus Walk in Balance

with the passing of each glorious Sun.



According to the Native People, the Sacred Space

is the space between exhalation and inhalation.

To Walk in Balance is to have Heaven (spirituality)

and Earth (physicality) in Harmony.





So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about their religion;

respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.



Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,

even a stranger, when in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people and grovel to none.



When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.



Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools

and robs the spirit of its vision.



When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled

with the fear of death, so that 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 Tecumseh (Crouching Tiger) Shawnee Nation 1768-1813



O' GREAT SPIRIT

help me always

to speak the truth quietly,

to listen with an open mind

when others speak,

and to remember the peace

that may be found in silence.



Cherokee Prayer



Peace and happiness are available in every moment.

Peace is every step. We shall walk hand in hand.

There are no political solutions to spiritual problems.

Remember: If the Creator put it there, it is in the right place.

The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.

Tell your people that, since we were promised we should never be moved,

we have been moved five times.



An Indian Chief, 1876.



When all the trees have been cut down,

when all the animals have been hunted,

when all the waters are polluted,

when all the air is unsafe to breathe,

only then will you discover you cannot eat money.



Cree Prophecy



Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other,

thus should we do,

for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World.



Black Elk



I do not think the measure of a civilization

is how tall its buildings of concrete are,

But rather how well its people have learned to relate

to their environment and fellow man.



Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe



We do not want schools....

they will teach us to have churches.

We do not want churches....

they will teach us to quarrel about God.

We do not want to learn that.

We may quarrel with men sometimes

about things on this earth,

but we never quarrel about God.

We do not want to learn that.



Heinmot Tooyalaket ( Chief Joseph), Nez Perce Leader



Certain things catch your eye,

But pursue only those

that capture your heart.



An old Native American saying



Thanksgiving



We return thanks to our mother, the earth,

which sustains us.

We return thanks to the rivers and streams,

which supply us with water.

We return thanks to all herbs,

which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.

We return thanks to the moon and stars,

which have given to us their light when the sun was gone.

We return thanks to the sun,

that has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.

Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,

in Whom is embodied all goodness,

and Who directs all things for the good of Her children.



Iroquois



"Give thanks for unknown blessings

already on their way."



Native American saying



There is a road in the hearts of all of us, hidden and seldom traveled,

which leads to an unknown, secret place.

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.

Their teepees were built upon the earth

and their altars were made of earth.

The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing.

That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of

propping himself up and away from its life 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       


'When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.' – (Cree Prophecy)
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Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. --Chief Seattle   Duwamish   

The earth has received the embrace of the sun and we shall see the results of that love --Sitting Bull

When you know who you are; when your mission is clear and you burn with the inner fire of unbreakable will; no cold can touch your heart; no deluge can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive.


- Chief Seattle, Duwamish (1780-1866)

In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations. - Iroquois Maxim (circa 1700-1800)
-------------

Hold on to what is good,

Even if it's a handful of earth.


Hold on to what you believe,

Even if it's a tree that stands by itself.


Hold on to what you must do,

Even if it's a long way from here.


Hold on to your life,

Even if it's easier to let go.


Hold on to my hand,

Even if someday I'll be gone away from you.


Pueblo Prayer
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Geronimo once said “The sun, the darkness, the winds…they are listening to what we have to say.”

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