Character & Mental Toughness-Native American Wisdom

Wisdom comes from many places and in many forms, but one area always seems conspicuously absent; that of the Native American.

“I will keep my words until the stones melt.” Delshay, Apache

“It does not require many words to speak the truth.”-Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and Its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, The fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts Are filled with fear of death, so that 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.” Tecumseh, Shawnee

“In my opinion, it was chiefly owing to their deep contemplation in their silent retreats in the days of youth that the old Indian orators acquired the habit of carefully arranging their thoughts.”– Blackbird, Ottowa

“Beauty and ugliness are everywhere – even in some of the same things”-Native American Proverb

“All things in the world are two. In our mind we are two — good and evil. With our eyes we see two things — things that are fair and things that are ugly … We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way, the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.”-Chief LetakotsLesa, Pawnee

“If my warriors are to fight they are too few; if they are to die they are too many.”-Hendrick, Mohawk

“Several of our young people were brought up in your colleges. They were instructed in all your sciences; but, when they came back to us, they were all bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods, unable to bear either cold or hunger. They were therefore unfit to be hunters, warriors, or counselors. Send us a dozen of your sons, we will take great care with their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. “- Canassatego, Onondaga

“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.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of the earth. We learn to do what only the student of nature ever learns, and that is to feel beauty. We never rail at the storms, the furious winds, the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensifies human futility, so whatever comes we should adjust ourselves by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint. Bright days and dark days are both expressions of the Great Mystery, and the Indian reveled in being close the the Great Holiness.”-Chief Luther Standing Bear

“Where no one intrudes, many can live in harmony.”-Chief Dan George

“No person among us desires any other reward for performing a brave and worth action, but the consciousness of having served his nation.”- Joseph Brant, Mohawk

“We took an oath not to do any wrong to each other or to scheme against each other.” Geronimo, Apache

“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. 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.”-Black Elk, Oglala

“Whatever is in our hearts is in our sight.”-Native American Proverb

“Praise, flattery, exaggerated manners and find high-sounding words were not part of Lakota politeness. Excessive manners were put down as insincere, and the constant talker was considered rude and thoughtless. 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.”– Chief Luther Standing Bear

“The path to glory is rough, and many gloomy hours obscure it.”- Blackhawk, Sauk

“We live, we die, and like the grass and trees, renew ourselves from the soft clods of the grave. Stones crumble and decay, faiths grow old and they are forgotten but new beliefs are born. The faith of the villages is dust now…but it will grow again….like the trees. May serenity circle on silent wings and catch the whisper of the winds.”-Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

“The Great Spirit has given the white man great foresightedness; he sees everything at a distance, and his mind invents and makes the most extraordinary things. But the red man has been made shortsighted. He sees only what is close around him and knows nothing except what his father knew.” Chief Crow Belly, Gros Ventre

“Then shall the black clouds roll away and the sky shall show blue once more. Then shall the children be again in sunshine.”-Constitution of the Five Nations

“Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house. They told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to be taken care of, and that by and by they got it back with interest. We are Indians and we have no such bank; but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by and by they return them with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our way of giving is our bank.“-Chief Maquinna, Nootka

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence. “-Mourning Dove, Salish

“It is not necessary for eagles to be crows.“-Sitting Bull, Sioux

“The Wise Man believes profoundly in silence – the sign of a perfect equilibrium. Silence is the absolute poise or balance of body, mind and spirit. The man who preserves his selfhood ever calm and unshaken by the storms of existence – not a leaf, as it were, astire on the tree, not a ripple upon the surface of the shinning pool – his, in the mind of the unlettered sage, is the ideal attitude and conduct of life. Silence is the cornerstone of character.”- Ohiyesa, Sioux

” If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys.”-Chief Dan George

“It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome. Its appeal is to the material part, and if allowed its way, it will in time disturb one’s spiritual balance. Therefore, children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving.”-Ohiyesa, Sioux

“The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who has created it.”-Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

“At other times one would rise and speak to us of our duties to each other“-Geronimo, Appache

“The Indians in their simplicity literally give away all that they have–to relatives, to guests of other tribes or clans, but above all to the poor and the aged, from whom they can hope for no return.Ohiyesa, Sioux

“The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky,
The rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me.
The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away, they speak to me
And my heart soars.” -Chief Dan George, Salish

“Do not grieve. Misfortunes will happen to the wisest and best of men. Death will come, always out of season.”– Big Elk, Omaha

“If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled! I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them.”-Shinguaconse

“When people come to trouble, it is better for both parties to come together without arms and talk it over and find some peaceable way to settle it.”-Spotted Tail, Sioux

“As a little child, it was instilled into me to be silent and reticent. This was one of the most important traits to form in the character of the Indian. As a hunter and warrior, it was considered absolutely necessary to him, and was thought to lay the foundations of patience and self-control. There are times when boisterous mirth is indulged in our people, but the rule is gravity and decorum.” -Charles Alexander Eastman, Sioux

“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 out confidently at the world. We turn inward and begin to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves.”– Chief Dan George, Salish

“The character of the Indian’s emotion left little room in his heart for antagonism toward his fellow creatures.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Sioux

“For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.” – Chief Luther Standing Bear, Sioux

“Among the Indians there have been no written laws. Customs handed down from generation to generation have been the only laws to guide them. Every one might act different from what was considered right did he choose to do so, but such acts would bring upon him the censure of the Nation…. This fear of the Nation’s censure acted as a mighty band, binding all in one social, honorable compact.” -Chief Kahgegabowh, Ojibwa

“They gave up their guns, and the whites killed them all.”– Little Wolf, Cheyenne

“Men must be born and reborn to belong. Their bodies must be formed of the dust of their forefathers’ bones.”– Chief Luther Standing Bear, Sioux

“Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade; where I choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty.”-Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

“I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.”– Lone Wolf, Sioux

“Can we talk of integration until there is integration of hearts and minds? Unless you have this, you only have a physical presence, and the walls between us are as high as the mountain range.”– Chief Dan George, Salish

“When I am dead, cry for me a little. Think of me sometimes, but not too much. It is not good for you or your wife or your husband or your children to allow your thoughts to dwell too long on the dead. Think of me now and again as I was in life, at some moment which is pleasant to recall, but not for long. Leave me in peace as I shall leave you, too, in peace. While you live, let your thoughts be with the living.” -Ishi, Yahti

“The old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’s heart away from nature becomes hard.”-Standing Bear, Oglala

“It is to our advantage to be gentle in our observations – to see and cultivate the best in who we are and in those around us.” -Native American Proverb

“Out of the Indian approach to life there comes a great freedom – an intense and absorbing love for nature; a respect for life; enriching faith in a Supreme Power; and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” -Luther Standing Bear, Oglala

“All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings.”-Shooter, Sioux

“I am but one man. I am the voice of my people. Whatever their hearts are, that I talk. I want no more war. I want to be a man. I never received anything from anybody, only what I bought and paid for myself. I have always tried to live peaceably and never asked any man for anything.” -Kintpuash, Modocs

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children.” – Native American Proverb

“You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts.” Chief Cochise, Chiracahua

“Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”- Chief Seattle

I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of a nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.”- Chief Red Cloud, Sioux

Many of these Quotes come from and A more general site is

About coachbillmoore

Educator/Author/Speaker/HS & NCAA Coach Character Coach Read Coach Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness” Paperback available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. "The measure of your character and mental toughness is the space between what you are doing and what you could be doing." -Coach Bill Moore
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1 Response to Character & Mental Toughness-Native American Wisdom

  1. Sandra Whiteowl Paul says:

    I came here looking for a quote. All I remember of it is “I want to be a human”. Quoted from a famous Chief, but I don’t remember which one. Can you help me? Thank you.

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