Native American Wisdom, page one

So live your life that the fear of
death can never enter your heart.



Flowers do not force their way with great strife.  Flowers open to perfection slowly in the sun.  Don't be in a hurry about spiritual matters.  Go step by step, and be very sure.

White Eagle


Now tell me this one little thing, if you have any sense.  Which of these two is the wisest and happiest--he who labors without ceasing and only obtains, and that with great trouble, enough to live on, or he who rests in comfort and finds all that he needs in the pleasures of hunting and fishing?

Gaspesian Chief
Those who know how to play can easily leap over the adversities of life.  And one who knows how to sing and laugh never brews mischief.

Iglulik Proverb

One major difference between our people and those of the dominant society today is humility.  Among our people, no matter how far or how high a person goes, they know they are small in the presence of God and the universe.

Lincoln Tritt
All life is Wakan.  So also is everything which exhibits power, whether in action, as the winds and drifting clouds, or in passive endurance, as the boulder by the wayside.  For even the commonest sticks and stones have a spiritual essence which must be revered as a manifestation of the all-pervading mysterious power that fills the universe.

Francis Laflesche

The thing wrong with the world is that people don't have instructions.
We were told almost three hundred years ago that people would be
coming to us and asking for our instructions.  We were told that back
in the 1700s that there'd be a day when white people would be coming
to us, asking for instructions and finding out the way we think.

Indians joke that when they see a white man coming, they see a question
mark walking down the road.  That's not one of the things I laugh about.
I feel for the ones who feel lost.  I tell them to use common sense and listen.
The Creator has the answers.  A lot of people are searching for what
they don't have.  They're searching for the wisdom of a whole way of life.
So they come to the Indians.  That's why I say it's in the prophecies
that they are coming to us, because they are wanting to learn our way of life,
what it is all about.  It's true, I get a lot of people, even college people,
who want to know how to be a "Human Being."  We don't laugh at the
white people, Most of the Indians can't laugh because even they haven't
been brought up in the Longhouse like I have.  They've got to learn too.
Even some of the chiefs have had to learn and I don't know
how much they have learned.

Leon Shenandoah


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When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light,
for your life and strength.  Give thanks for your food and the joy
of living.  If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.



Standards of conduct were just as rigid as the laws of any
other people, but force seldom was used to enforce good
conduct.  Each person was his own judge.  Deceitfulness
was a crime.  We lived according to our own standards
and principles, not for what others might think of us.

Thomas Wildcat Alford


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.


Earth teach me stillness
   as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
   as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
   as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring
   as the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage
   as the tree which stands all alone.
Earth teach me limitation
   as the ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
   as the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation
   as the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration
   as the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
   as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
   as dry fields weep with rain.

Ute prayer


Hold on to what is good, even if it is a handful of dirt.
Hold on to what you believe, even if it is a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do, even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life, even if it is easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand, even if I have gone away from you.

Pueblo Blessing


It is our desire that we and you should be as one heart, one
mind, and one body, thus becoming one people, entertaining
a mutual love and regard for each other, to be preserved
firm and entire, not only between you and us, but between
your children and our children, to all succeeding generations.



When we show our respect for other living
things, they respond with respect for us.

Arapaho proverb


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A long time ago, the Creator came to Turtle Island and said to the Red People,
"You will be the keepers of the Mother Earth.  Among you I will give the wisdom
about Nature, about the interconnectedness of all things, about balance, and
about living in harmony.  You Red People will see the secrets of Nature.  You
will live in hardship and the blessing of this is you will stay close to the
Creator.  The day will come when you will need to share the secrets with other
people of the earth because they will stray from their Spiritual ways.
The time to start sharing is today.

Don Coyhis

Native American Wisdom, page one

Remember that you are all people and that all people are you.

Joy Harjo

It does not require many words to speak the truth.

Chief Joseph


The time will soon be here when my grandchildren will long for
the cry of a loon, the flash of a salmon, the whisper of spruce
needles, or the screech of an eagle.  But they will not make
friends with any of these creatures and when their hearts ache
with longing, they will curse me.  Have I done all to keep the air
fresh?  Have I cared enough about the water?  Have I left the
eagle to soar in freedom?  Have I done everything I could
to earn my grandchildren's fondness?

Geswanouth Slahoot
(Chief Dan George)



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Love is something you and I must have.  We must have it because our spirit
feeds upon it.  We must have it because without it we become weak and faint.
Without love our self-esteem weakens.  Without it our courage fails.  Without
love we can no longer look confidently at the world.  We turn inward and
begin to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves.
With it we are creative.  With it we march tirelessly.  With it, and
with it alone, we are able to sacrifice for others.

Chief Dan George

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


When the Micmac people used to have council, the old men
would speak and tell the young men what to do--and the young
men would listen and do what the old men told them to do.  The
white men have changed that, too:  Now the young men speak,
and the old men listen.  I believe the Micmac council was far better.

Chief Peter Paul Toney Babey

Conversation was never begun at once, or 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.

Luther Standing Bear

All people were made by the same Great Spirit Chief.  We are
all brothers and sisters.  The Earth is the mother of all people,
and all people should have equal rights upon it.

Heinmot Tooyalaket (Chief Joseph)

The old Indian teaching was that it 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, the act is done in sadness
and with a prayer for forgiveness.

John Woodenlegs

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.

Cheyenne proverb


Great Spirit, I want no blood upon my land to stain the grass.  I
want it clean and pure, and I wish it so, that all who go through
among my people may find it peaceful when they come,
and leave peacefully when they go.

Chief Ten Bears

From Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great unifying
life force that flowed in and through all things--the flowers of the
plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals--and was the
same force that had been breathed into the first human.  Thus all
things were kindred, and were brought together by the same Great Mystery.

Chief Luther Standing Bear

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.  Live
your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.

Cherokee proverb


Western civilization, unfortunately, does not link knowledge and morality
but rather, it connects knowledge and power and makes them equivalent.

Vine Deloria, Jr.



Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.