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13 Quotes to Celebrate Native American Heritage

Indigenous culture and wisdom flourish in every facet of American society. Some sayings, from famous leaders such as Tecumseh and Crazy Horse, echo down through the ages, while modern artists, athletes, and astronauts add their own voices to a growing chorus. These 13 quotes from notable Native American figures throughout history exhibit the unique insight of these first peoples, and celebrate their indispensable role in the story of America.


Sorrow eats time. Be patient. Time eats sorrow.
— Louise Erdrich, member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Night Watchman”

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the 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.
— Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, leader of the Native American forces during the War of 1812

The Holy Land is everywhere.
— Black Elk, medicine man of the Oglala Lakota people and relative of Crazy Horse

As long as you remember what you have seen, then nothing is gone. As long as you remember, it is part of this story we have together.
— Leslie Marmon Silko, member of the Laguna Pueblo and author of several works of poetry and prose, including her most famous work, the 1977 novel “Ceremony”

What you see on the surface is never the same again once you begin to plumb the depths.
— Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, visual artist and member of the Salish and Kootenai tribes

Remember you are this universe and this universe is you.
— Joy Harjo, Muscogee musician, poet, and author, and the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate

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, Chippewa teacher, healer, and author of nine books

We are fortunate to inhabit this jewel in the Cosmos, and it is our responsibility to take care of it.
— John B. Herrington, member of the Chickasaw Nation and the first Native American astronaut in space

Use your own unique perspective and try to contribute and not just consume.
— Nicholas Galanin, Tlingit and Unangax̂ artist

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.
— Duwamish Chief Si’Ahl, namesake of the Seattle, Washington

Very often you are in the right place, at the right time, but you don't know it.
— Maria Tallchief, member of the Osage Nation and one of the all-time greatest American ballerinas

You have to look deeper, way below the anger, the hurt, the hate, the jealousy, the self-pity, way down deeper where the dreams lie… Find your dream. It's the pursuit of the dream that heals you.
— Billy Mills, member of the Oglala Lakota and U.S. Olympic gold medalist in track and field

I salute the light within your eyes where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am at that place within me, we shall be one.
— Crazy Horse, Lakota leader of the Oglala band and victorious commander at the Battle of Little Bighorn

Photo credit: Tina Xinia/ Unsplash

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About the Author
Darren Orf
Darren lives in Portland, Oregon, has two cats, and writes about science, technology, nature, and history.
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