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Traditional Knowledge & Education

Only the best Native American, American Indian quotes, wisdoms and sayings...

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.

SUPPORTHold 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

MEDICINE WHEELUpon suffering beyond suffering:

The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again.

I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.

In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.

I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.

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

Crazy Horse is quoted as saying while he sat smoking the Sacred Pipe with Sitting Bull for the last time — Crazy Horse was killed four days later by US Army soldiers in a hand-to-hand scuffle as they attempted to imprison him. There are no known photographs of Crazy Horse, he would not permit anyone to take his picture, presumably, Crazy Horse believed a photograph stole or unnaturally held the soul of the person(s) pictured.

WORLD (non-Indian) Quotations

You have to look deeper, way below the anger, the hurt, the hate, the jealousy, the self-pity, way down deeper where the dreams lie, son. Find your dream. It's the pursuit of the dream that heals you.

- Billy Mills
(father), Oglala Lakota (1938-)


"Wokini: Your Personal Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding"

Author: Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota (1938-)
Publisher: Feather Publishing, 1990
ISBN: 0962794309, 9780962794308
BUY on


In my youth I respected the world and life, I needed not anything but peace of heart;

And yet I changed despite myself and believed in Iktumi's lies.

He seemed to know all the truth, he promised to make me happy.

He made me ask Wakantanka for wealth, that I might have power;

I was given poverty, that I might find my inner strength.

I asked for fame, so others would know me;

I was given obscurity, that I might know myself.

I asked for a person to love that I might never be alone;

I was given a life of a hermit, that I might learn to accept myself.

I asked for power, that I might achieve;

I was given weakness, that I might learn to obey.

I asked for health, that I might lead a long life;

I was given infirmity, that I might appreciate each minute.

I asked Mother Earth for strength, that I might have my way;

I was given weakness, that I might feel the need for Her.

I asked to live happily, that I might enjoy life;

I was given life, that I might live happily.

I received nothing I asked for, yet all my wishes came true.

Despite myself and Iktumi, my dreams were fulfilled,

I am richly blessed more than I ever hoped,

I thank you, Wakantanka, for what you've given me.

- Billy Mills , Oglala Lakota (1938-)

CHIEF JOSEPH PICTUREI am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation.

We do not want riches but we do want to train our children 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, Oglala Lakota Sioux (1822-1909)

When you have a spiritual foundation, you look at poverty different then.

- Dennis Banks Ojibwa (Activist, Teacher 1938-2017)

CHIEF JOSEPH PICTUREI am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohulhulsote is dead. The old men are all dead.

It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead.

It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death.

I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead.

Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.

- Chief Joseph, Nez Perce (1840-1904)

In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.

- Iroquois Maxim (circa 1700-1800)

I'm on this road for the rest of my life.

- Dennis Banks Ojibwa (Activist, Teacher 1938-2017)

AMERICAN INDIANI am an Indian, American Indian. I prefer 'American Indian' (because) anyone born in the western hemisphere is a native American.

- Russell Means, Republic of Lakotah
(Activist, actor 1939-2012)

Children learn from what they see. We need to set an example of truth and action.

- Howard Rainer, Taos Pueblo-Creek (2012)

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

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

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

Eventually one gets to the Medicine Wheel to fulfill one's life.

- Old Mouse, Arikara

High in the Big Horn Mountains at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, lies the Medicine Wheel (above) — a place of worship, a National Historic Site, and an archeological mystery.

It is believed that between A.D. 1200 and A.D. 1700, hundreds of limestone rocks were placed in the shape of a wheel roughly 80 feet in diameter. Twenty eight spokes radiate from a central cairn to six smaller cairns around the rim.

Who built this and why?

No one knows for sure, but Native American beliefs and archeological evidence point to its use as a spiritual site. Many people still come to the Medicine Wheel and Medicine Mountain for inspiration, solitude, meditation and vision questing.

The Medicine Wheel was given protection and nominated to the National Register by local Big Horn Basin communities. The site is protected by federal antiquity laws under administration of the Forest Service.

- site placard (above text)

We live, we die, and like the grass and trees, renew ourselves from the soft earth of the grave. Stones crumble and decay, faiths grow old and they are forgotten, but new beliefs are born.

The faith of the villages is dust now... but it will grow again... like the trees.

- Chief Joseph
, Nez Perce (1840-1904)

The ground on which we stand is sacred ground. It is the dust and blood of our ancestors.

- Chief Plenty Coups, Crow (1848 - 1932)


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

INDIANThe 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 Lakota Sioux (1863-1950)

Between individuals, as between nations, peace means respect for the rights of others.

- Benito Juarez
, Zapoteca (1806-1872)

When the white man discovered this country Indians were running it. No taxes no debt, women did all the work. White man thought he could improve on a system like this.

- Cherokee proverb

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.

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

WARRIORThe 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)

DAN GEORGEThe 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)

Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.

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

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)

It does not require many words to speak the truth.

- Chief Joseph
, Nez Perce (1840-1904)

Is it wrong for me to love my own?

Is it wicked for me because my skin is red?

Because I am Sioux?

Because I was born where my father lived?

Because I would die for my people and my country?

God made me an Indian.

- Sitting Bull
, Hunkpapa Lakota (circa 1831-1890)

Children were encouraged to develop strict discipline and a high regard for sharing.

When a girl picked her first berries and dug her first roots, they were given away to an elder so she would share her future success.

When a child carried water for the home, an elder would give compliments, pretending to taste meat in water carried by a boy or berries in that of a girl.

The child was encouraged not to be lazy and to grow straight like a sapling.

- Mourning Dove (1888-1936)

Suppose a white man should come to me and say, Joseph, I like your horses. I want to buy them.

I say to him, no, my horses suit me; I will not sell them.

Then he goes to my neighbor and he says, pay me money, and I will sell you Joseph's horses.

The white man returns to me and says, Joseph, I have bought your horses and you must let me have them.

If we sold our lands to the government, this is the way they bought them.

- Chief Joseph
, Nez Perce (1840-1904)

The traditions of our people are handed down from father to son.

The Chief is considered to be the most learned, and the leader of the tribe.

The Doctor, however, is thought to have more inspiration.

He is supposed to be in communion with spirits... He cures the sick by the laying of hands, and payers and incantations and heavenly songs.

He infuses new life into the patient, and performs most wonderful feats of skill in his practice... He clothes himself in the skins of young innocent animals, such as the fawn, and decorates himself with the plumage of harmless birds, such as the dove and hummingbird...

- Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute - (1844-1891)

SPIRIT WORLDBeing is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain.

- Russell Means, Republic of Lakotah
(Activist, actor 1939-2012)

Americans realized that native people are still here, that they have a moral standing, a legal standing.

- Dennis Banks Ojibwa (Activist, Teacher 1938-2017)

He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone.

- Seneca proverb

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)

Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house.

They told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to be taken care of, and that by and by they got it back with interest.

We are Indians and we have no such bank, but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by and by they return them with interest, and our hearts feel good.

Our way of giving is our bank.

- Chief Maquinna, Mowachaht (died circa 1795)

I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans, in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in his sight. It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows. We are poor... but we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die... we die defending our rights.

- Sitting Bull
, Hunkpapa Lakota (circa 1831-1890)

Our land is more valuable than your money.

It will last forever.

It will not even perish by the flames of fire.

As long as the sun shines and the waters flow, this land will be here to give life to men and animals.

Chief Crowfoot, Siksika (circa 1825-1890)

We are going by you without fighting if you will let us, but we are going by you anyhow!

- Chief Joseph
, Nez Perce (1840-1904)

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)


WORLD (non-Indian) Quotations

PICASSOMy mother said to me, “If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.” Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.

- Pablo Picasso (Spanish artist, 1881-1973)

READ MORE Earth writings...

This concept is currently being developed by CALIE CEO-President Ernie C. Salgado, Jr. (Soboba).

If you have a quote or poem you would like to add, please contact us.

Ernie C. Salgado Jr.
Tribal: Luiseño
Reservation: Soboba Indian Reservation
EDITOR: The Indian Reporter
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