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Back to School Blessings: Words of Wisdom from Native Leaders

Posted By PowWows.com August 30th, 2015 Last Updated on: August 30th, 2015

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by Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor

As summer fun gives way to football and lazy days make way for school bells, the new school year feels like a new year! As students, teachers and leaders re-enter the classroom, it helps to remember a Native perspective on what it means to be “educated” and “wise” in tribal societies.  Happy New School Year!



1) 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. —DR. CHARLES ALEXANDER EASTMAN, Wahpeton Santee Sioux

2)  The old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’s heart away from nature becomes hard. —LUTHER STANDING BEAR, Oglala Lakota

3)  If you talk to the animals, they will talk with you and you will know each other. 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, Salish

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4)  “Grown men may learn from very little children, for the hearts of little children are pure and therefore the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” –BLACK ELK, Lakota

5) When you know who you are; when your mission is clear and you burn with the inner fire of unbreakable will; no cold can touch your heart; no deluge can dampen your purpose. You know that you are alive. — Chief Seattle

6)  Though many non-Native Americans have learned very little about us, over time we have had to learn everything about them. We watch their films, read their literature, worship in their churches, and attend their schools. Every third-grade student in the United States is presented with the concept of Europeans discovering America as a “New World” with fertile soil, abundant gifts of nature, and glorious mountains and rivers. Only the most enlightened teachers will explain that this world certainly wasn't new to the millions of indigenous people who already lived here when Columbus arrived.
― Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee in Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women



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Warren Petoskey (Biidassige)

I have done a lot of research and read Black Elk’s book among others. I always enjoy reading posts like this one. Miigwech!

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