Words Of Wisdom

"The Cherokee legacy is that we are a people who face adversity, survive, adapt, prosper and excel."

"And to fulfill this legacy, we must ask the questions...

Where will we be as people five, ten, fifty or one hundred years from now?
Do we brag about our full blood ancestor or do we brag about our Indian grandchildren?
Do we live in the past or do we focus on the future?
Is being Cherokee a novelty or a way of life?
Is being Cherokee a heritage or a future?

Our ancestors who walked the grounds of this capitol building resoundingly cry, 'Donít forget the legacy we passed on. Donít let it lapse. Pass it on, stronger and stronger to your children. Let the Cherokee language laugh, speak and sing again. Let our history be known and discussed. Live by our wisdom. Donít let us die as a people. If you do then all our sacrifice will be for nothing and you will lose those things that fulfill your life.'"

Principal of the Cherokee Nation, Chief Chad Smith
State of the Nation Address
September 1, 2001

"Being Indian is mainly in your heart. It's a way of walking with the earth instead of upon it. A lot of the history books talk about us Indians in the past tense, but we don't plan on going anywhere... We have lost so much, but the thing that holds us together is that we all belong to and are protectors of the earth; that's the reason for us being here. Mother Earth is not a resource, she is an heirloom."

David Ipinia, Yurok Artist, Sacramento, CA

"The strength of our future, lies in the protecting of our past."

Seminole Elder

"The Earth was created by the assistance of the sun, and it should be left as it was. The country was made with no lines of demarcation, and it's no man's business to divide it. I see the whites all over the country gaining wealth, and I see the desire to give us lands which are worthless.

The Earth and myself are of one mind. Perhaps you think the Creator sent you here to dispose of us as you see fit. If I thought you were sent by the creator, I might he induced to think you had a right to dispose of me.

Do not misunderstand me; but understand me fully with reference to my affection for the land. I never said the land was mine to do with as I choose. The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who created it. I claim a right to live on my land, and accord you the privilege to return to yours.

Brother, we have listened to your talk coming from our father, the Great White Chief in Washington, and my people have called upon me to reply to you.

The winds which pass through these aged pines we hear the moaning of departed ghosts, and if the voice of our people could have been heard, that act would never have been done. But alas though they stood around they could neither be seen nor heard. Their tears fell like drops of rain.

I hear my voice in the depths of the forest but no answering voice comes back to me. All is silent around me. My words must therefore be few. I can now say no more. He is silent for he has nothing to answer when the sun goes down."

Thunder Rolling in the Mountains-Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

"Our fathers gave us many laws which they had learned from their fathers. They told us to treat all men as they treated us. That we should never be the first to break a bargain. That it was a disgrace to tell a lie. That we should speak only the truth. We were taught to believe that the Great Spirit sees and hears everything and that he never forgets. This I believe and all my people believe the same."

Thunder Rolling in the Mountains-Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

"Wars are fought to see who owns the land, but in the end it possesses man. Who dares say he owns it- is he not buried beneath it?"

Cochise, Chiricahua Apache

"When you are a person who belongs to a community, you have to know who you are. You have to know who your relatives are, and as a tribe we have to know where we came from..."

Charlotte Black Elk, Oglala Sioux

"Marriage among my people was like traveling in a canoe. The man sat in front and paddled the canoe. The woman sat in the stern but she steered."


"A Nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors nor how strong its weapons."


"Have patience. All things change in due time. Wishing cannot bring autumn glory or cause winter to cease."

Ginaly-li, Cherokee

"Lose your temper and you lose a friend; lie and you lose yourself."


"With all things and in all things, we are relatives."


"Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a real and active principle. And so close did some of the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue.

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."

Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

"We who are clay blended by the Master Potter, come from the kiln of Creation in many hues. How can people say one skin is colored, when each has its own coloration? What should it matter that one bowl is dark and the other pale, if each is of good design and serves its purpose well."

Polingaysi Qoyawayma, Hopi

"Walk on a rainbow trail, walk on a trail of song, and all about you will be beauty. There is a way out of every dark mist, over a rainbow trail."

Navajo Song

"What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."

Crowfoot, Blackfoot

"Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you."

Pueblo Blessing

Will Rogers, the world famous humorist born in Claremore, Oklahoma, was 1/4 Cherokee. When asked to respond to the question, "But you are an American citizen?", Will had a quick reply. "Well", he drawled, "I think I am. My folks were Indian. Both my mother and father had Cherokee blood in them. I was) born and raised in Indian Territory. 'Course we're not the Americans whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower, but we met them at the boat when they landed."

"There is no such thing as 'part-Cherokee.' Either you're Cherokee or youíre not.

It isn't the quantity of Cherokee blood in your veins that is important, but the quality of it . . . your pride in it. I have seen full-bloods who have virtually no idea of the great legacy entrusted to their care. Yet, I have seen people with as little as 1/500th blood quantum who inspire the spirits of their ancestors because they make being Cherokee a proud part of their everyday life."

Jim Pell: Principal Chief of the North Alabama Cherokee Tribe

"They had an ancient lost reverence for the earth and its web of life. They had what the world has lost. The world must have it back lest it die."

John Collier: Former Commissioner of Indian Affairs

"I think the Spirit, is the one thing we have to rely on. It has been handed to us as a live and precious coal. And each generation has to make that decision whether they want to blow on that coal to keep it alive or throw it away... Our language, our histories and culture are like a big ceremonial fire that's been kicked and stomped and scattered...Out in the darkness we can see those coals glowing. But our generation, whether in tribal government or wherever we find ourselves - Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole - are coal gatherers. We bring the coals back, assemble them and breathe on them again, so we can spark a flame around which we might warm ourselves."

Gary White Deer, Chickasaw 1994

"Learn how to withhold judgment
Learn to listen
Get in touch with your own inner self
Look at life with joy
Don't ever cry over something that cannot cry over you."

Cheewa James, Modoc 1996

"When the last red man shall have become a myth among the white men, when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, upon the highway or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities are silent, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The white man will never be alone."

Chief Seattle, Suquamish/Duwamish 1790-1866

"You have noticed that everything an 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.

In the old days all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation and so long as the hoop was unbroken the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion.

Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle. 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 nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. 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. Our teepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children."

Black Elk, Oglala Sioux

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