Wisdom from the American Indian

Good Morning or Afternoon/Evening!

Hope you all had a good Labor Day weekend.  Mine was very busy as is becoming much too frequent for me of late.  Upon wondering what to blog about today, I decided that it might be fun to spread around some wisdom straight from the mouths of various American Indian tribes.  Many of these wisdoms come from the book, The Soul Would Have No Rainbow if the Eyes Had No Tears by Guy A Zona.

Interestingly, long before bad foods, war, treachery and other forms of treason came about, the First Americans were commented by the Europeans who met them, to be a physically beautiful people.  But there was more.  Europeans who cared to listen found that there was also much wisdom to be found in our native cultures.  Benjamin Franklin was one such individual, but there were many, many others.  So I thought we might delve into a little bit of that wisdom today.  I’ll tell you the quote and then what tribe that it comes from, okay?

Here’s one that I’d love to post on every government building — “The mark of shame does not wash away.”  That’s from the Omaha tribe.  Or how about his one from the Crow tribe:  “One has to face fear or forever run from it.”

Another man said it in a different way — I don’t know the exact words, but L. Ron Hubbard once said something along the line of, “There comes a time when one must turn and face the demons that pursue one.”  Probably not exact, but in these modern times, I think it’s a good piece of wisdom.

Here’s a piece of wisdom that I like from the Fox:  “When you have learned about love, you have learned about God.”  And another one from the Lakota that I also think is very pertinent to today’s world — especially there in Washington DC of late, “There is a hole at the end of the theif’s path.”

Here’s one I particularly like from the Hopi: “A shady lane breeds mud.”  Don’t you love the imagery with that one?

This next one is from the Cheyenne, and I think it is quite aesthetic:  “When you lose the rhythm of the drumbeat of God, you are lost from the peace and rhythm of life.”  Isn’t that beautiful?

And here’s another one that really touches my heart:  “Never part from the chiefs’ path, no matter how short or beautiful the byway may be.”  This is from the Seneca.

Here’s one from my adopted tribe, the Blackfeet:  “Those that lie down with dogs get up with fleas.”  I love the analogy in all of these little bits of wisdom.

The Seneca were part of the Iroquois Confederation and here’s a little piece of wisdom from another one of the tribes in that Confederation, The Tuscarora, “Man has responsibility, not power.”

Now that’s an interesting one, I think.  Again very appropriate for today’s age, I think.  Now here’s a quote from the Shawnee that shines light on a very deep American principle:  “Trouble no man about his religion — respect him in his views and demand that he respect yours.”  Wise.  Wise…

How about this one from the Lumbee:  “Seek wisdom, not knowledge.  Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future.”

I really love this one too, for all of us who have children.  This comes from the Sioux.  “Before you choose a counselor, watch him with his neighbor’s children.” 

Here’s a couple that I love:  “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, strike first.” That’s from the Navaho.  And now from the Iroquois, “The greatest strength is gentleness.”

Oh, and don’t you love this one from the Shawnee:  “Show respect for all men, but grovel to none.”  I love that one.  Doesn’t it remind you of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS when Hawkeye turns to the British soldier and says:  “I don’t consider myself subject to much at all.”  Or something to that effect — that’s probably not an exact quote.

Now, this from the Sioux is astute, I think:  “Guard your tongue in youth, and in age you may mature a thought that will be of service to your people.”

Okay, this is probably too long a post already, so I’ll leave you with a couple of sayings that touched me:  This first one is from the Twanas tribe:  “Never see an old person going to carry water without getting a bucket and going in their stead.”  Also from the Navaho, “Always assume your guest is tired, cold, and hungry, and act accordingly.”

And last, but not least, “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog today.  Please come on in and tell me some of your favorite wisdoms.  I look forward to hearing from you today.  By the way, stay tuned with me.  I will be republishing nine of my earlier works that have been out of print for years and years now.  They’ll be coming out again in the form of ebooks and the publisher is Samhain.  So stay tuned.  By the way, many of those books, I don’t even have copies of anymore…

Karen Kay
KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to https://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules for all contest rules.
Updated: September 6, 2011 — 1:14 am

27 Comments

  1. Beautiful statements!

    Follow the golden rule: Do unto others as you will have done to you.

  2. Beautiful sayings, Kay, and beautiful photos. This blog is one of my keepers.
    This saying comes to mind: “Never judge a man till you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”
    Thanks for an inspiring start to my day.

  3. Such beautiful wisdom, and so poetical. I loved these! I think the one that struck me the most was one of the shortest – “Man has responsibility, not power.” Responsibility connotes taking care of others. Power connotes taking care of oneself. Such simple words with such depth of meaning. I wish we all embodied these ideals.

  4. Lovely post, and wonderful words of wisdom. So many I wish our country’s leaders would read and follow. The photos are gorgeous, as well.

    “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” Just beautiful. We should all watch what our legacy will be and the tracks we leave for others to follow.

    –Kirsten

  5. Kay, you shared so much wisdom with us today. I love those Indian sayings. If only we all would live by them the world would be a much better place.

    Congratulations on your earlier books being turned into e-books! That’s wonderful.

  6. Wonderful quotes – the last was one of my favorites. My quote is “never say never” (because it will come back and bite you in the @ss). I learned that one the hard way lol.

  7. Here is a quote I have in a frame on my desk.

    It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
    —–Theodore Roosevelt

  8. Hi Laurie G.!

    Great saying — I think the Golden Rule is also beautiful. 🙂

  9. Hi Elizabeth!

    That was oddly enough one of the sayings I was going to put in there — but there was lack of room. I could’ve gone on and on. 🙂

  10. Hi Karen!

    So well said. Yes, I agree with you. Responsibility also includes, however, responsibility for oneself and one’s action and not expecting someone else to give to you the things you need, but being responsible enough to provide for yourself. 🙂

  11. Hi Kirsten!

    Oh, my gosh. This is so well said. I loved that one, also. We remember people for what they have left behind them — good or bad.

  12. Thanks so much, Linda. You know, some of those books I no longer have copies of either and some haven’t seen the light of day for…ages. So it will be fun to see them back in “print.”

  13. Hi Catslady!

    Your post made me smile. How often has that happened to me, too? 🙂

  14. Hi Cher!

    That’s absolutely gorgeous. No wonder you have it enshrined on your desk.

    I so agree. So easy to be critical — so easy to be an arm-chair critic — not always so easy to get out there and get into the fray of it. But that’s life…really living. Thanks for your thoughts.

  15. Very uplifting post Karen. Thanks for sharing these with us. Here is a quote that I keep handy

    “Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, but in the end it’s only with yourself.” Baz Luhrman

  16. Hi Kay, great post and pictures as always. Sigh. I have an “app” for a meaningful quote every day on my smartphone. And today’s I thought very fitting:

    “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.” -Sophocles.

  17. These are beautiful, Karen.
    Preferring wisdom to knowledge, I love that.

    Wow, I should have some wise saying at the tip of my fingers.

    The one that came immediately to mind is: Psalm 27:1. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

    If I could just REMEMBER this when worry and fear seem to much to face. Whom shall I fear?
    And yet I have fears.

  18. Karen, Those are all great words of wisdom. I enjoy reading the beautiful way the Native Americans say things. I’m not home or I’d share some of the Nez Perce quotes I love.

  19. Thank you so much for some wonderful words of wisdom.

    Some of my favorites and guiding principles are:

    “Take only pictures and leave only footprints.”

    We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children. Ancient Proverb

    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.

    Although we are in different boats you in your boat
    and we in our canoe we share the same river of life.
    Chief Oren Lyons, Onandaga Nation

    “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

    And finally from a wise Wintu Woman, 19th Century –
    “When we Indians kill meat, we eat it all up. When we dig roots,
    we make little holes. When we build houses, we make little holes.
    When we burn grass for grasshoppers, we don’t ruin things.
    We shake down acorns and pine nuts. We don’t chop down the trees.
    We only use dead wood. But the white people plow up the
    ground, pull down the trees, kill everything. …
    the White people pay no attention. …
    How can the spirit of the earth like the White man? …
    everywhere the White man has touched it, it is sore.”

    There is much wisdom in all the quotes given by everyone today. Just think how much better off the world would be if everyone followed these principles.

    An aside, Karen, I hope your daughter and her family did OK with the storms that moved through New England. Of course I am assuming they are still in VT. The flooding has been so bad all through the North Country.

  20. Hi Winnie!

    I love that quote. Wow! It really does say it all, doesn’t it? 🙂

  21. Gosh, Tanya, that’s another beauty. 🙂

  22. I love those, Mary. But you know, when times are tough, that fear does creep in. It’s good to know that one should of course keep faith and should weather all storms, but it’s so much easier said than done. The best we can do is to try to be the best we can be — and always help others — hope you don’t mind if I add something to that, however. Help others except if they are bankers. 🙂

  23. Or politicans, I should have said.

  24. Oh Paty, I thank you so much for posting. If you do get a moment, however, I’d love to hear the wisdom of the Nez Perce. 🙂

  25. Hi Patricia!

    Wow! Wonderful quotes about nature. And thanks for thinking of my daughter. They did escape New York and go further north. However, it was flooding there, too.

    They are doing well, and I so appreciate your thoughts. Love. Love. 🙂

  26. What wonderful quotes! We should live by many of them. While my mother-in-law was not Native American I know she lived by at least one as no one ever left her home hungry or cold!

  27. Hi Connie!

    What a beauty that must’ve been. 🙂

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