Native American Quotes – Great Words From Great Americans

 

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

“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 a 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 the 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

The only known photograph of Chief Seattle, 1864

The only known photograph of Chief Seattle, 1864

“There is no death. Only a change of worlds.” – Chief Seattle [Seatlh], Suquamish Chief

“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

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.

“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

Crazy Horse

It is known that Crazy Horse did not like to have his picture taken, however this sketch made in 1934 by a Mormon Missionary while interviewing one of Crazy Horse’s family members is said to be accurate. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

“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.)

“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 HorseSioux 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 inMontana.

“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 JosephNez 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.” – SatantaKiowa Chief

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce.

“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 JosephNez 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

Talawiqpiki Kachina

Talawiqpiki Kachina

“When I am too old and feeble to follow my sheep or cultivate my corn, I plan to sit in the house, carve Kachina 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 cornmeal 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 nearby, 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

“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.” – SatantaKiowa Chief

Luther Standing Bear, Dakota chief 1891

Luther Standing Bear, Dakota chief 1891. Click for prints & products.

“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

“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

Native American Symbols, Totems

Native American Symbols, Totems & Their Meanings – Digital Download

“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 JosephNez 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. – SatantaKiowa 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

Chief Satanta of the Kiowa tribe.

Chief Satanta of the Kiowa tribe.

“I am a great chief among my people. If you kill me, it will be like a spark on the prairie. It will make a big fire – a terrible fire!” – Kiowa Chief Satanta.

“When a man does a piece of work which is admired by all we say that it is wonderful; but when we see the changes of day and night, the sun, the moon, and the stars in the sky, and the changing seasons upon the earth, with their ripening fruits, anyone must realize that it is the work of

someone more powerful than man.” – Chased-by-Bears, Santee-Yanktonai Sioux

“Soon there will come from the rising sun a different kind of man from any have yet seen, who will bring with them a book and will teach you everything.” – Spokan Prophet

“We shall live again; we shall live again.” – Comanche Ghost Dance Song

Sarah Winnemucca

Sarah Winnemucca

“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 decorated himself with the plumage of harmless birds, such as the dove and hummingbird …” — Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute

All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings. The reason Wakan Tanka does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by WakanTanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself. – Shooter Teton Sioux

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 (Kah-ge-ga-bowh) Ojibwa Chief

“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pokanoket, and many other once powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and the oppression of the White Man, as snow before a summer sun.” – Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee

“The ground on which we stand is sacred ground. It is the blood of our ancestors.” – Chief Plenty Coups, Crow

“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 [Seatlh],  Suquamish Chief

“How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right.” – From Black Hawk, Sauk

“I love the land of winding waters more then all the rest of the world. A man who would not love his father’s grave is worse then a wild animal.” – Chief JosephNez Perce

“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man, the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.” – Chief Seattle,  Suquamish Chief

“Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.” — Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee

“It is strictly believed and understood by the Sioux that a child is the greatest gift from Wakan Tanka, in response to many devout prayers, sacrifices, and promises. Therefore the child is considered “sent by Wakan Tanka,” through some element–namely the element of human nature.” – Robert Higheagle (early 20th century) Teton Sioux

“A wee child toddling in a wonder world, I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan.” – Zitkala-Sa

“I will follow the white man’s trail. I will make him my friend, but I will not bend my back to his burdens. I will be cunning as a coyote. I will ask him to help me understand his ways, then I will prepare the way for my children, and their children. The Great Spirit has shown me – a day will come when they will outrun the white man in his own shoes.” – Many Horses

”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

Chief Red Cloud, 1900

Chief Red Cloud, 1900. Click for prints, downloads and products.

“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 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.” – Chief Red Cloud (Makhipiya-Luta) Sioux Chief

“I was hostile to the white man…We preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be let alone. Soldiers came…in the winter..and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They said we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape…but we were so hemmed in we had to fight. After that I lived in peace, but the government would not let me alone. I was not allowed to remain quiet. I was tired of fighting…They tried to confine me..and a soldier ran his bayonet into me. I have spoken.” – Crazy Horse – Sioux Chief

A warrior who had more than he needed would make a feast. He went around and invited the old and needy….The man who would thank the food–some worthy old medicine man or warrior–said: “…look to the old, they are worthy of old age; they have seen their days and proven themselves. With the help of the Great Spirit, they have attained a ripe old age. At this age the old can predict or give knowledge or wisdom, whatever it is; it is so. At the end is a cane. You and your family shall get to where the cane is.” – Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man

“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(Makhipiya-Luta) Sioux Chief, April, 1870

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 given 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 Oglala Sioux Chief

“Will we let ourselves be destroyed in our turn without a struggle, give up our homes, our country bequeathed to us by the Great Spirit, the graves of our dead and everything that is dear and sacred to us? I know you will cry with me, ‘Never! Never!'” – Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee

“Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology…. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there.”  – William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991

“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 the 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.” – Chief Red Cloud (Makhipiya-Luta) Sioux Chief

Great Spirit, Great Spirit, my Grandfather, all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike…Look upon these faces of children without number and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of the quiet. – Black Elk,  Oglala Sioux Holy Man

“My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled!” – Shinguaconse (“Little Pine”)

“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

“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. ” – Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa) Pawnee

“My Father: a long time has passed since first we came upon our lands; and our people have all sunk into their graves. They had sense. We are all young and foolish, and do not wish to do anything that they would not approve, were they living. We are fearful we shall offend their spirits if we sell our lands; and we are fearful we shall offend you if we do not sell them. This has caused us great perplexity of thought, because we have counselled among ourselves, and do not know how we can part with our lands.” – Metea, a Potowatami Chief of the Illinois Nation

Native Plants - Native Healing

Native Plants – Native Healing. From our Book Shelf at Legends’ General Store

“You ask me to plow the ground. Shall I take a knife and tear my mother’s bosom? Then when I die she will not take me to her bosom to rest. — Wovoka, Paiute

You have noticed that everything as 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 nest 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, Oglala Sioux Holy Man

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated November 2018.

Also See:

Native American Proverbs & Wisdom

Legends, Myths & Tales of Native Americans

Native American Photo Galleries

Totems & Their Meanings