Timeless Wisdom Found in Native American Proverbs

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.” –  Native American Proverb

For hundreds, if not thousands of years, the indigenous tribes of North America were a vibrant, diverse and thriving civilization. Their wisdom was not passed down by scrolls or tablets, but by stone carvings and stories told by the fire. Sadly, most of this wisdom is either lost or considered highly sacred. Thankfully some quotes and proverbs still remain even today. Some of them may date back hundreds of years, but the wisdom they hold is timeless!

“Take only memories, leave only footprints” –  Chief Seattle (1862)shutterstock_238810480

“One finger cannot lift a pebble.” – Hopi Proverb

“There is no death, only a change of worlds.” – Duwamish Proverb

“It is less of a problem to be poor, than to be dishonest”. – Anishinabe Proverb

“You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.”- Navajo Proverb

“When a man moves away from nature his heart becomes hard.” – Lakota Proverb

“You already possess everything necessary to become great.” ~ Native American Proverb

“Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins.” – Cheyenne Proverb

“It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace and live in peace.” – Native American Proverb

“I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more.” – Chief Josephshutterstock_91654694 (1)

“Those who have one foot in the canoe, and one foot in the boat, are going to fall into the river.” – Tuscarora 

“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, Mohican (1725)

“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 (1786-1817)

“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, Lakota Holy Man (1863-1950)

shutterstock_244377577“Wherever forests have not been mowed down, wherever the animal is recessed in their quiet protection, wherever the earth is not bereft of four-footed life – that to the white man is an ‘unbroken wilderness.’ 
But for us there was no wilderness, nature was not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly. Our faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the dominance of surroundings. For us, the world was full of beauty; for the other, it was a place to be endured until he went to another world. But we were wise. We knew that man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard.” – Chief Luther Standing Bear (1868-1939)

“Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky, and water was a real and active principle. In the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept us safe among them… The animals had rights – the right of man’s protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man’s indebtedness. This concept of life and its relations filled us with the joy and mystery of living; it gave us reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.”  –– Chief Luther Standing Bear (1868-1939)

“Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn’t have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves. When someone was so poor that he couldn’t afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift. We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property. We didn’t know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth. We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another. We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived and I don’t know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.” –  John Fire Lame Deer (1903-1976) 

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