Posted on March 2, 2014 – my words at that time:
Kent Nerburn’s books are of great value to anyone with interest in learning about the wisdom of the Native American culture, as it is also representative of indigenous cultures all over the planet. A couple years ago I spoke with a Native American guide, who shared with me unknowingly that his grandmother had taught him the same things about how to get through life that I thankfully was able to learn, however painfully, from a terrific therapist far too late in life. On leaving the area we stopped at a gift shop, where I bought the book from which these quotes are taken — and I was gently scorned by a couple of my comrades for buying it. My thinking, however, was that there was a whole lot more than met the eye to this story, and I wanted to know from these indigenous leaders in their own words what had been kept from me. These men speak without notes, without written words, and they speak after long periods of silent contemplation — and from their hearts. These are the men we have been taught to think of as ‘savages’.
When I consider the pure rubbish we are forced to endure from our artificially programmed politicians, who can only respond to the polling data with memorized words after being coached by others, I am sickened and disgusted at the ‘real’ truth we have all been denied.
I pray Kent Nerburn will forgive my copying a bit from another one of his incredible books, and hope that my efforts here might perchance sell a few books that will add to his personal income, an income he surely deserves. ~J
“ Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? ”
Nothing the Great Mystery placed in the land of the Indian pleased the white man, and nothing escaped his transforming hand. 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 him is an “unbroken wilderness.”
But, because for the Lakota there was no wilderness, because nature was not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly, Lakota philosophy was healthy — free from fear and dogmatism. And here I find the great distinction between the faith of the Indian and the white man. Indian faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the dominance of surroundings.
In sharing, in loving all and everything, one people naturally found a due portion of the thing they sought, while, in fearing, the other found need of conquest.
For one man the world was full of beauty; for the other it was a place of sin and ugliness to be endured until he went to another world, there to become a creature of wings, half-man and half-bird.
Forever one man directed his Mystery to change the world He had made; forever this man pleaded with Him to chastise his wicked ones; and forever he implored his God to send His light to earth. Small wonder this man could not understand the other.
But the old Lakota was wise. He knew that man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence.
— Chief Luther Standing Bear
Some of our chiefs make the claim that the land belongs to us. It is not what the Great Spirit told me. He told me that the lands belong to Him, that no people owns the land; that I was not to forget to tell this to the white people when I met them in council.
No tribe has the right to sell, even to each other, much less to strangers. . . . Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Didn’t the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?
This is what was spoken by my great-grandfather at the house he made for us. . . . And these are the words that were given him by the Master of Life: “At some time there shall come among you a stranger, speaking a language you do not understand. He will try to buy the land from you, but do not sell it; keep it for an inheritance to your children.”
Red Lake Ojibwe
My reason teaches me that land cannot be sold. The Great Spirit gave it to his children to live upon and cultivate as far as necessary for their subsistence, and so long as they occupy and cultivate it they have the right to the soil, but if they voluntarily leave it then any other people have a right to settle on it. Nothing can be sold, except things that can be carried away.
— Black Hawk
Suppose a white man should come to me and say, “Joseph, I like your horses. I want to buy them.”
I say to him, “No, my horses suit me; I will not sell them.”
Then he goes to my neighbor and says to him, “Joseph has some good horses. I want to buy them, but he refuses to sell.”
My neighbor answers, “Pay me the money and I will sell you Joseph’s horses.”
The white man returns to me and says, “Joseph, I have bought your horses and you must let me have them.”
If we sold our lands to the government, this is the way they bought them.
— Chief Joseph
We know our lands have now become more valuable. The white people think we do not know their value; but we know that the land is everlasting, and the few goods we receive for it are soon worn out and gone.
Treaty negotiations with Six Nations
On this land there is a great deal of timber, pine and oak, that are of much use to the white man. They send it to foreign countries, and it brings them a great deal of money.
On the land there is much grass for cattle and horses, and much good food for hogs.
On this land there is a great deal of tobacco raised, which likewise brings much money. Even the streams are valuable to the white man, to grind the wheat and corn that grows on this land. The pine trees that are dead are valuable for tar.
All these things are lasting benefits. But if the Indians are given just a few goods for their lands, in one or two seasons those goods are all rotted and gone for nothing.
We are told that our lands are of no service to us; but still, if we hold our lands, there will always be a turkey, or a deer, or a fish in the streams for those young who will come after us.
We are afraid if we part with any more of our lands the white people will not let uskeep as much as will be sufficient to bury our dead.
My friends, when I went to Washington I went into your money-house and I had some young men with me, but none of us took any money out of that house. At the same time, when your Great Father’s people come into my country, they go into my money-house and take money out.
— Long Mandan
In early life, I was deeply hurt as I witnessed the grand old forests of Michigan, under whose shades my forefathers lived and died, falling before the cyclone of civilization as before a prairie fire.
In those days, I traveled thousands of miles along our winding trails, through the unbroken solitudes of the wild forest, listening to the songs of the woodland birds as they poured forth their melodies from the thick foliage above and about me.
Very seldom now do I catch one familiar note from these early warblers of the woods. They have all passed away. . . .
I now listen to the songs of other birds that have come with the advance of civilization . . . and, like the wildwood birds our fathers used to hold their breath to hear, they sing in concert, without pride, without envy, without jealousy — alike in forest and field, alike before wigwam or castle, alike before savage or sage, alike for chief or king.
— Simon Pokagon
We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy — and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves, and his children’s birthrightis forgotten.
— Chief Seattle S
uqwamish and Duwamish
* Nerburn, Kent (2008-09-25). Wisdom of Native Americans (pp. 39 – 46). New World Library. Kindle Edition.