The Wisdom of the American Indian

banner 2Howdy and Welcome to Another Tuesday!

Well, Spring is finally upon us.  Don’t know about you, but we had snow last night and today.  However, the sun came out warm and beautiful and soon the snow was melted.

I’ll be giving away two free e-books to some lucky blogger today.  Please do come in and leave a message.  All rules of Petticoats and Pistols apply.  But the one I wish to stress is that we here do not inform you if you have won.  You must come back tomorrow or the next day to see if you are the winner.  Okay?  I know some site contact you, but we don’t here.


Well, 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 known by the Europeans who met them to be a very 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 thief’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.”  This one I love.  In fact, I do believe that gentleness and kindness in a man is quite sexy.

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, 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.”

I love this one, too. “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”

I’ll leave you with this quote taken directly from Benjamin Franklin — one of our Founding Fathers.


Remarks from Benjamin Franklin Regarding the American Indian

“Savages we call them, because their Manners differ from ours, which we think the Perfection of Civility. They think the same of theirs.”

“The Indian Men when young are Hunters and Warriors; when old, Counsellors; for all their Government is by Counsel of the Sages; there is no Force, there are no Prisons, no Officers to compel Obedience, or inflict Punishment. Hence they generally study Oratory; the best Speaker having the most Influence. The Indian Women till the Ground, dress the Food, nurse and bring up the Children, & preserve & hand down to Posterity the Memory of public Transactions. These Employments of Men and Women are accounted natural & honorable. Having few artificial Wants, they have abundance of Leisure for Improvement by Conversation. Our laborious Manner of Life compar’d with theirs, they esteem slavish & base; and the Learning on which we value ourselves, they regard as frivolous & useless…”

“Having frequent Occasions to hold public Councils, they have acquired great Order and Decency in conducting them. The old Men sit in the foremost Ranks, the Warriors in the next, and the Women & Children in the hindmost. The Business of the Women is to take exact Notice of what passes, imprint it in their Memories, for they have no Writing, and communicate it to their Children. They are the Records of the Councils, and they preserve Traditions of the Stipulations in Treaties 100 Years back, which when we compare with our Writings we always find exact. He that would speak rises. The rest observe a profound Silence. When he has finish’d and sits down; they leave him 5 or 6 Minutes to recollect, that if he has omitted any thing he intended to say, or has any thing to add, he may rise again and deliver it. To interrupt another, even in common Conversation, is reckon’d highly indecent. How different this is, from the Conduct of a polite British House of Commons where scarce every person without some confusion, that makes the Speaker hoarse in calling to Order and how different from the Mode of Conversation in many polite Companies of Europe, where if you do not deliver your Sentence with great Rapidity, you are cut off in the middle of it by the Impatients Loquacity of those you converse with, and never suffer’d to finish it—”

“When any of them come into our Towns, our People are apt to croud round them, gaze upon them, & incommode them where they desire to be private; this they esteem great Rudeness, the Effect of & Want of Instruction in the Rules of Civility & good Manners. We have, say they, as much Curiosity as you, and when you come into our Towns, we wish for Opportunities of looking at you; but for this purpose we hide our Selves behind Bushes where you are to pass, and never intrude ourselves into your Company—”

“Their Manner of entering one another’s villages has likewise its Rules. It is reckon’d uncivil in travelling Strangers to enter a Village abruptly, without giving Notice of their Approach. Therefore as soon as they arrive within Hearing, they stop & hollow, remaining there till invited to enter. Two old Men usually come out to them, and lead them in. There is in every Village a vacant Dwelling called the Strangers House. Here they are plac’d, while the old Men go round from Hut to Hut, acquainting the Inhabitants that Strangers are arriv’d who are probably hungry & weary; and every one sends them what he can spare of Victuals & Skins to repose on. When the Strangers are refresh’d, Pipes & Tobacco are brought, and then, but not before, Conversation begins with Enquiries who they are, whither bound, what News, &c, and it usually ends with Offers of Service if the Strangers have occasions of Guides or any Necessaries for continuing their Journey and nothing is exacted for the Entertainment.”

Benjamin Franklin, 1782—1783


Well, that’s all for today.  Please do come on in and leave a message and please remember that I do have a new book out, BLACK EAGLE.  If you don’t yet have your copy of it, here is a link:


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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.
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30 thoughts on “The Wisdom of the American Indian”

  1. These are some great words of wisdom. I was reading and trying to pick a favorite and I just can’t. They are all good and memorable.

  2. “Trouble no man about his religion — respect him in his views and demand that he respect yours.” Considering I just had someone ringing my doorbell (once again) in order to trouble me about religion, I’m tempted to put that quote on my door.

  3. “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” This one is my favorite of the ones you quoted, although they were all thought-provoking. I found it particularly interesting all that Ben Franklin had to say. Was he speaking of the Iroquois? It was fascinating how the women were valued in maintaining and passing on the culture and expected to be the “rememberers.” Thanks for another fascinating post, Karen!

  4. Hi Kathryn!

    Thank you so much. Yes, Ben Franklin was speaking of the Iroquois. He was particularly interested in their government and it was he, who influenced using many of their government policies into our own Constitution.

    It’s said that Thomas Paine once lived with the Iroquois for over a year before he wrote his famous work.

    Very interesting. I, too, think the Iroquois were wise to give the “hat” of remembering to the women of the tribe. But, then, the Iroquois Nation was held together by their women. Though they never held office, it was the women and only the women who saw to who was on their council.

  5. Those are some fantastic quotes. I wish more people would follow them! 🙂 I love learning the wisdom of those back in the day. They were very wise. I think all of them are a favorite.

  6. Great quotes and I love the book you referenced, The Soul Would Have No Rainbow if the Eyes Had No Tears. It’s one of my favorites to pick up and browse.

  7. Great quotes and I love the book you referenced, The Soul Would Have No Rainbow if the Eyes Had No Tears. It is one of my favorites to pick up and browse.

  8. I enjoyed reading all the interesting quotes from the different tribes and Ben Franklin! Our weather here is beautiful to with sunshine and in the 60’s! I bet it was beautiful with the snow yall had! Thank you for doing this giveaway too!

  9. So very interesting. We can learn so much from those who have walked before us. Thanks for sharing and for the opportunity to win a book.

  10. I loved reading this about Native Americans! Some wise quotes indeed, I liked them all. There is a couple, the Shawnee “Trouble no man about his religion — respect him in his views and demand that he respect yours.” And frome the tribe Tuscarora, “Man has responsibility, not power.” Our Government and some others should go by this,IMO! From the Cheyenne “When you lose the rhythm of the drumbeat of God, you are lost from the peace and rhythm of life.” From the tribe Fox “When you have learned about love, you have learned about God.” The was some more that stood out more than the others. Like I said before I have some Cherokee in me and these quotes meant a lot to me.
    Thanks Karen for today’s education! Congratulations on your new book “Black Eagle!”

  11. We listen but we forget to hear. Respect for others has been lost. We interrupt. We talk over others. It is sad how much we have forgotten or have never been taught. We discard our elders and see no use in what they say. Sadly we need a very large do over.
    Thanks for reminding us of what we already should know.

  12. Hi Donna!

    I love all of these, too. And I love to research the American Indian culture. So much beauty and wisdom. As in all cultures, there are some things that one might not like, but with the American Indian, I think there is also much to admire.

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