Native History - Native Experiences - Native Voices
                         of First Nations Peoples

Basic Call to Consciousness


Invented White
History & Imagery

In the Beginning

First Nations Governance

Trail of Tears

Tragedy of
Little Bighorn

Massacre at
Wounded Knee


Cultural Genocide

Native Values

Impact of European Immigrants

The Take-over

Called ‘Indian’ or....

Cultural Genocide - Boarding schools

Native Values &
Way of Life


Depression &
Substance abuse

Cultural Distinctions

Spiritual Sensibilities


Living Two Lives

Leaders or Rulers

Written or Oral

Painful History

Iroquois Conservation

Chief Seattle’s
Farewell Speech

Spirit Road

Living Two Lives

Lakota elder continues: “The ones who needed houses with floors and then lifting their beds off the floors - putting a mattress on the bed so they could be as far away from the earth as possible. These were the same people who called us savage and decided they needed to help civilize us. These people never knew who we were! Now, a hundred years latter, your people got us to lift our floors off the earth - our beds off the floors - to shut out nature and to get our food in cellophane wrappings! Now, you go camping and sleep on the ground in a tent like the Indians did!

Waldon Pond Think of that fellow, Thoreau. He went out and lived in a shack and looked at a pond. Now he’s one of your people’s heroes. If I, as an Indian, go out and live in a shack and look at a pond, pretty soon I’ll have so many damn social workers beating on my door that I won’t be able to sleep! They—ll be scribbling in their notebook: No initiative. No self-esteem.

“When my people didn’t want to farm - they weren’t farmers - we were told we were lazy. I don’t remember anything about Thoreau being a farmer. He mostly talked about how great it was to be immersed in Nature, then, he went and ate dinner at his friend’s house. He didn’t want to farm-and he’s your people’s Hero. We don’t want to farm, but we're lazy. Send a social worker to write reports, get grants and start some government program with a bunch of forms. Say it’s to help us. The only reason that Thoreau fellow is a hero to your people is because he lived two lives. Otherwise, he just would have been a bum by your standards. They would have sent social workers to his house. We, First People, didn’t need to live two lives. You want to know how to be like us? Live close to the earth. Get rid of some of your things, like all that stuff you need to pay money for to store in a large locked box away from your home called a storage unit. Help each other-share with one another. Be more quiet. Talk to Creator. Listen to the earth instead of building things on it all the time!”

Leaders or Rulers

I’d like to talk to you about the difference between leaders and rulers. We Indians are used to leaders. When our leaders don—t lead, we walk away from them. When they lead well, we stay with them. White people don’t seem to understand this. Your system makes people rulers by law, even if they are not leaders! Shields served as the pipe carrier, healer, or medicine man for the Crow Creek Reservation. We have to accept your way because you made us make constitutions and form governments. But we don’t like it and we don’t think it’s right. For example, how can a calendar tell us how long a person is a leader? That’s crazy! A leader is a leader as long as the people believe in him and as long as he is the best person to lead.

“In our past when we needed a warrior we made a warrior our leader. When we needed a healer when the war was over, a healer became our leader. Or maybe we needed a great speaker or a deep thinker. The warrior knew when his time had passed and he didn’t pretend to be our leader beyond the time he was needed. He was proud to serve his people and he knew when it was time to step aside. If he won’t step aside, people will just walk away from him. He cannot make himself a leader except by leading people in the way they want to be led. Selfish men and fools put themselves first and keep their power until someone throws them out.”

We see this clearly, today, in our U.S. government-there is no need to confirm with any second voice.

Written or Oral

White people had a bad kind of history, then you got that bad history all wrong. It isn’t Native history. You got your history from fur traders and missionaries. Because things were written down you said it was true even though there wasn’t a Native person anywhere who knew what it said. Your people tried to make us have last names and marriage certificates. Some of our people thought it was so stupid they would give you different names every time they talked to you. By the end, everything was wrong and a lie. But, because it was all written down, you said it was true and you taught it to your children like it was true. Our history was alive--even if it wasn’t written down. For us, the story of our people is like a song. As long as somebody could still sing it, it was real.”

Anna’s book In Talking Indian, author Anna Lee Walters--Pawnee/Otoe/Missouria, born in Pawnee, Oklahoma, in 1946, speaks of oral tradition: “My first memories are not so much of things as they are of words that gave shape and substance to my being and form to the world around me. Born into two tribal cultures, Pawnee and Otoe, which have existed for millennia without written languages, the spoken word held me in the mystical and intimate way it has touched others who come from similar societies whose literature is oral.

In such cultures, the spoken word is revered, and to it are attributed certain qualities. One quality is akin to magic or enchantment because the mystery of language and speech...can never be fully explained. For the same reason, the spoken word is believed to be a power which can create or destroy.

Oral tradition extends into both past and future. The voice of oral tradition endures because its teachings reconcile and connect different periods and generations in a very cohesive way by focusing on larger tribal vision and experience. It includes cosmology and worship.“

A Seneca woman, in Messengers speaks of the history and way of life of her people: “There was cooperation between the men and women; there was diversification of roles. Women selected the chiefs and were consulted on political matters. Those most knowledgeable about our history and traditions were called faithkeepers and taught the young. Men and women were equals. There were special societies for healing. Indians always combined psychiatry with traditional healing methods, using herbs and teas, as well as prayers to spirits. There was the belief that the body and spirit were connected; there was an awareness of the link between the individual and the universe.“

Painful History

Acid mine drainage from mining - water contamination - Black Hills

Kent Nerburn reflects on the Black Hills tragedy when European immigrants had found an ore in the ground--a substance called gold--the metal that makes the wasichu crazy expressed by the Lakota: “For that, Nerburn reflects, my ancestors had been willing to lie and steal and kill old people and children, and then spend the next century remaking the story so that all the dead and all the betrayals would effectively disappear from history.

For the hunger to own a piece of the earth, we had destroyed the dreams and families of an entire race, leaving them homeless, faithless, and with nothing but the ashes of a once graceful and balanced way of life.

“And now we had the arrogance to claim to rediscover them and to appropriate the very spiritual truths, Native Spirituality, earlier white Christian generations had tried intently to destroy--the New Age culture now adopting in order to fill the void of our own spiritual bankruptcy.”
 Current site of Wounded Knee
The Lakota Elder spoke to Nerburn at the site of Wounded Knee:

Your people must learn to give up their arrogance. They are not the only ones placed on this earth. Theirs is not the only way. People have worshiped Creator and loved their families in many ways in all places across this planet. Your people must learn to honor this.

“It is your people’s gift to have material power. You have much strength not given to other people. Can you share it, or can you use it only to get more? That is your people’s challenge--to find the way to share your gift, because it is a strong and dangerous one.”

Support The Wounded Knee Tiyospaye Project

Like many indigenous people across this land, the Oglala Lakota have struggled over control of their natural resources and having a dramatic impact on their economy, culture, and ultimately their sovereignty as a nation. The central focus of Village Earth work on Pine Ridge is to build the capacity of Lakota communities ‘tiyospayes” to recover, restore, utilize and manage their remaining land-base. Village Earth - Pine Ridge Reservation

Iroquois Conservation & Liberation Practices

“In the beginning, we were told that the human beings who walk about on the Earth have been provided with all of the things necessary for life. We were instructed to carry love for one another, and to show a great respect for all the beings of this Earth. We were shown that our well-being depends on the well-being of the vegetable life, that we are close relatives of the four-legged beings....We give an acknowledgment and thanksgiving to the many supporters of our own lives--the corn, the beans, the squash, the winds, the sun.

“A balanced relationship between the people with the Earth--our philosophy teaches us to treat the natural world with great care. Our practices were developed with a careful eye to their potential for disturbing the delicate balance we live in...that whenever we are about to create or buy something--from gene splicing to laundry soap--we should first consider the effect is will have on the next seven generations. Only when we believe our actions and creations will be life supporting over this long span of time should we proceed.

Photo of seedling “The elders believe the profit-oriented interests of the worldwide market economy are exactly the interests that have created the present crisis for humanity and that will continue to heighten that crisis. They suggest as an alternative the rekindling of sustainable, locally based cultures. These elders say that the way to begin transforming the present state of affairs is to create and employ liberation technologies that are complementary to liberation theology. Such examples of technologies are those that can be created and used by people in a specific locality; they enhance self-sufficiency and respect for the natural world--windmills, solar collectors, biomass plants, and organic agriculture.”

Chief Seattle--Seath’tl--his real name could not be reproduced by English speaking settlers, so they smoothed it out by changing it to Seattle. Chief of the Duwamish / Suquamish tribe spoke eloquently during treaty negotiations--on which the city of Seattle is now located--in 1854 - his people destined to reservation confinement--

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