Inspiring Thoughts from American Indian Proverbs, Poetry & Stories

A few years ago I did a very off the wall thing and developed a three day self development course for personal change management… To be run deep in the heart of the British countryside… In a giant tipi. I ran it twice with two different participants on separate occasions. It was fun but coincided with my father becoming terminally ill, so I dropped it and went into full time carer mode for the rest of his then short remaining life.

I gave the course a quirky USP, based on Native American Indian wisdom. I enjoyed researching some stuff I could feed in for background material and just thought I’d share some of it here.

Below is a selection of inspiring proverbs, poems and stories from Native American Indian tribes. Enjoy 😎

Don’t be afraid to cry. It will free your mind of sorrowful thoughts. – Hopi

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

If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come. – Arapaho

In age, talk; in childhood, tears. – Hopi

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

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

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

The weakness of the enemy makes our strength. – Cherokee

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave. – Dakota

Do not judge your neighbour until you walk two moons in his moccasins. – Cheyenne

Force, no matter how concealed, begets resistance. – Lakota

Our first teacher is our own heart. – Cheyenne

Everyone who is successful must have dreamed of something. – Maricopa

You already possess everything necessary to become great. – Crow

One finger cannot lift a pebble. – Hopi

Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark. – Cheyenne

All dreams spin out from the same web. – Hopi

He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone. – Seneca

Even a small mouse has anger. – Tribe Unknown

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

Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is of the past, Wisdom is of the future. – Lumbee

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself. – Minquass

A good chief gives, he does not take. – Mohawk

Coyote is always out there waiting, and Coyote is always hungry. – Navajo

Every animal knows more than you do. – Nez Perce

It is easy to be brave from a distance. – Omaha

Ask questions from your heart and you will be answered from the heart. – Omaha

Cherish youth, but trust old age. – Pueblo

Sharing and giving are the ways of God. – Sauk

It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace and live in peace. – Shenandoah

With all things and in all things, we are relatives. – Sioux

The soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears. – Tribe Unknown

Wisdom comes only when you stop looking for it and start living the life the Creator intended for you. – Hopi

Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. – Cherokee

No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning. – Tribe Unknown

Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf. – Tribe Unknown

Each bird loves to hear himself sing. – Arapaho

The way of the troublemaker is thorny. – Umpqua

Cherokee Greetings:
May the Warm Winds of the Earth
Blow softly upon your house.
May your Moccasins
Make happy tracks
in many snows,
and may the Rainbow
Always touch your shoulder

Lakota Instructions for Living

Friend do it this way – that is,
whatever you do in life,
do the very best you can
with both your heart and mind.

When one sits in the Hoop Of The People,
one must be responsible because
All of Creation is related.
And the hurt of one is the hurt of all.
And the honor of one is the honor of all.
And whatever we do effects everything in the universe.

If you do it that way – that is,
if you truly join your heart and mind
as One – whatever you ask for,
that’s the Way It’s Going To Be.

passed down from White Buffalo Calf Woman

Go Forward With Courage

When you are in doubt, be still, and wait;
when doubt no longer exists for you, then go forward with courage.
So long as mists envelop you, be still;
be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists
— as it surely will.
Then act with courage.

Ponca Chief White Eagle (1800’s to 1914)

Earth, Teach Me

Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new 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 mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that 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.

An Ute Poem

Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.

Chief Seattle, 1854

May the stars carry your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,
May hope forever wipe away your tears,
And, above all, may silence make you strong.

Chief Dan George

Hold On

Hold on to what is good,
Even if it’s a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it’s a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it’s easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if someday I’ll be gone away from you.

A Pueblo Indian Poem

Lakota Poem

Teach me how to trust
my heart,
my mind,
my intuition,
my inner knowing,
the senses of my body,
the blessings of my spirit.
Teach me to trust these things
so that I may enter my Sacred Space
and love beyond my fear,
and thus Walk in Balance
with the passing of each glorious Sun.

According to the Native People, the Sacred Space
is the space between exhalation and inhalation.
To Walk in Balance is to have spirituality and physicality in Harmony.

Help me always
to speak the truth quietly,
to listen with an open mind
when others speak,
and to remember the peace
that may be found in silence.

Cherokee Poem

When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.

Cree Poem

Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other,
thus should we do (Black Elk)

I do not think the measure of a civilization
is how tall its buildings of concrete are,
But rather how well its people have learned to relate
to their environment and fellow man.

Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe

Certain things catch your eye,
But pursue only those
that capture your heart.

old indian saying

“Give thanks for unknown blessings
already on their way.”

Native American saying

Two Wolves – A Cherokee Parable
An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied,
“The one you feed.”
Author Unknown

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