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Great Words From Great Americans

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Chief Spotted Tail"This war did not spring up on our land, this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land without a price, and who, in our land, do a great many evil things... This war has come from robbery - from the stealing of our land." - Spotted Tail

"Being Indian is an attitude, a state of mind, a way of being in harmony with all things and all beings. It is allowing the heart to be the distributor of energy on this planet; to allow feelings and sensitivities to determine where energy goes; bringing aliveness up from the Earth and from the Sky, putting it in and giving it out from the heart."  - Brooke Medicine Eagle

"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...." - Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux Chief

"There is no death. Only a change of worlds. - Chief Seattle [Seatlh], Suquamish Chief

"It was supposed that lost spirits were roving about everywhere in the invisible air, waiting for children to find them if they searched long and patiently enough...[The spirit] sang its spiritual song for the child to memorize and use when calling upon the spirit guardian as an adult." - Mourning Dove [Christine Quintasket], Salish

"The idea of full dress for preparation for a battle comes not from a belief that it will add to the fighting ability. The preparation is for death, in case that should be the result of conflict. Every Indian wants to look his best when he goes to meet the great Spirit, so the dressing up is done whether in imminent danger is an oncoming battle or a sickness or injury at times of peace. -Wooden Leg (late 19th century) Cheyenne

"We, the great mass of the people think only of the love we have for our land, we do love the land where we were brought up. We will never let our hold to this land go, to let it go it will be like throwing away (our) mother that gave (us) birth.". - Letter from Aitooweyah to John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee.

"When a white army battles Indians and wins, it is called a great victory, but if they lose it is called a massacre." - Chiksika, Shawnee

"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys." - Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia, Canada


"We are now about to take our leave and kind farewell to our native land, the country the Great Spirit gave our Fathers, we are on the eve of leaving that country that gave us birth, it is with sorrow we are forced by the white man to quit the scenes of our childhood...we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear." - Charles Hicks, Tsalagi (Cherokee) Vice Chief speaking of the Trail of Tears, November 4, 1838


"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 in 1725, Mohican.

"The land is sacred. These words are at the core of your being. The land is our mother, the rivers our blood. Take our land away and we die. That is, the Indian in us dies." - Mary Brave Bird, Lakota

"We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit." - Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker

"I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself." - Lone Man (Isna-la-wica), Teton Sioux


"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, Nootka


"I think over again my small adventures
My fears, those small ones that seemed so big
For all the vital things I had to get and reach
And yet there is only one great thing
The only thing
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world."

- Unknown Inuit

"We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can't speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees." - Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

"Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the Book?" - Sogoyewapha, "Red Jacket," Seneca

"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 Leg, Cheyenne

"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." - Mourning Dove [Christine Quintasket] (1888-1936) Salish

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Did You Know ....?


Countless Indian words have become a part of the English language. Just a few of these include: barbecue, cannibal, caribou, chipmunk, chocolate, cougar, hammock, hurricane, mahogany, moose, opossum, potato, skunk, squash, toboggan and woodchuck.

"Upon 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 Sioux Chief (This statement was taken from Crazy Horse as he sat smoking the Sacred Pipe with Sitting Bull for the last time, four days before he was assassinated.)

Crazy Horse"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, Sioux Chief

"We are going by you without fighting if you will let us, but we are going by you anyhow!" - Chief Joseph's warning to the defenders of Fort Fizzle in Montana.

"Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other, then we will have no more wars. We shall all be alike--brothers of one father and one another, with one sky above us and one country around us, and one government for all. - Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

"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 Sioux

"I have heard you intend to settle us on a reservation near the mountains. I don't want to settle. I love to roam over the prairies. There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die. - Satanta, Kiowa Chief


Chief Joseph"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.  - Chief Joseph, Nez Perce


"If today I had a young mind to direct, to start on the journey of life, and I was faced with the duty of choosing between the natural way of my forefathers and that of the... present way of civilization, I would, for its welfare, unhesitatingly set that child's feet in the path of my forefathers. I would raise him to be an Indian!" - Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker


"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 Algonquin


"These were the words given to my great-grandfather 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 Ojibwa


"My son, you are now flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. By the ceremony performed this day, every drop of white blood was washed from your veins; you were taken into the Shawnee Nation... - Black Fish, Shawnee, recalling 1778 adoption of Daniel Boone into the tribe


"When I am too old and feeble to follow my sheep or cultivate my corn, I plan to sit in the house, carve Katichina dolls, and tell my nephews and nieces the story of my life...  Then I want to be buried in the Hopi way. Perhaps my boy will dress me in the costume of a Special Officer, place a few beads around my neck, put a paho and some sacred corn meal in my hand, and fasten inlaid turquoise to my ears. If he wishes to put me in a coffin, he may do even that, but he must leave the lid unlocked, place food near by, and set up a grave ladder so that I can climb out. I shall hasten to my dear ones, but I will return with good rains and dance as a Katcina in the plaza with my ancestors... - Don Talayesva (late 19th century) Hopi Sun Clan 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 warrior and orator


"I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures, and where everything drew a free breath...I know every stream and every wood between the Rio Grande and the Arkansas. I have hunted over that country. I lived like my fathers before me, and like them, I lived happily. - Ten Bears [Parra-wa-samem] (late 19th century) Yamparethka Comanche Chief  


"I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation." - Chief Oren Lyons, Oneida in an address to the Non-Governmental Organizations of the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 1977

Medicine Bags"A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up to the river I see camps of soldiers on its banks. These soldiers cut down my timber, they kill my buffalo and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting." - Satanta, Kiowa Chief

"Conversation was never begun at once, nor 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. Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and his granting a space of silence to the speech-maker and his own moment of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regard for the rule that, "thought comes before speech." - Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux Chief

"For an important marriage the chief precided, aided by his wife. He passed a pipe around the room so each could share a smoke in common. In this way families were publicly united to banish any past or future disagreements and thus stood as "one united." The chief then gave the couple an oration of his advice, pointing out the good characteristics of each, and then offered his congratulations to them for a happy future." - Mourning Dove [Christine Quintasket], Salish

"Of all the animals the horse is the best friend of the Indian, for without it he could not go on long journeys. A horse is the Indian's most valuable piece of property. If an Indian wishes to gain something, he promises that if the horse will help him he will paint it with native dye, that all may see that help has come to him through the aid of his horse." -Brave Buffalo (late 19th century) Teton Sioux medicine man

"It's our stuff. We made it and we know best how to use it and care for it. And now we're going to get it back." - John Pretty on Top, Crow

"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... - Wooden Leg (late 19th century) Cheyenne

"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 [Christine Quintasket] (1888-1936) Salish

Luther Standing Bear"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." - Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux Chief


"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 Holy Man

"One does not sell the land people walk on."  - Crazy Horse, September 23, 1875

"The Earth is the Mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. You might as well expect the river to run backward as that any man who was born a free man should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases. - Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

"I love this land and the buffalo and will not part with it. I want you to understand well what I say. Write it on paper...I hear a great deal of good talk from the gentlemen the Great Father sends us, but they never do what they say. I don't want any of the medicine lodges (schools and churches) within the country. I want the children raised as I was. - Satanta, Kiowa Chief

"I was warmed by the sun, rocked by the winds and sheltered by the trees as other Indian babes. I can go everywhere with a good feeling. - Geronimo [Goyathlay], Chiracahua Apache

"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 Sioux Holy Man

"When a child my mother taught me the legends of our people; taught me of the sun and sky, the moon and stars, the clouds and storms. She also taught me to kneel and pray to Usen for strength, health, wisdom, and protection. We never prayed against any person, but if we had aught against any individual we ourselves took vengeance. We were taught that Usen does not care for the petty quarrels of men." - Geronimo [Goyathlay], Chiracahua Apache

"I want my people to stay with me here. All the dead men will come to life again. Their spirits will come to their bodies again. We must wait here in the homes of our fathers and be ready to meet them in the bosom of our mother." -  Wovoka, Paiute


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"Being Indian is an attitude, a state of mind, a way of being in harmony with all things and all beings." - Brooke Medicine Eagle


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