I take pride in who we are as Indigenous people, as Indigenous Nations and of the places we originate. We are Native and we make a difference in this world. These are words from our great warriors no longer with us, modern warriors that have passed and words from the warriors of today. These are words gathered to provide a spiritual foundation to empower you to take action, to motivate you as you navigate life’s most challenging pathways, and inspire you to get things done, to take action. I realize that these words of Indigenous warriors can empower, motivate and inspire all people and are not exclusively meant for Indigenous people. However, in most developed or developing countries, Indigenous people are still fighting for the same rights as the dominant population and despite the changes in the way our society has begun to work, we, Indigenous people, still face signficant, in some situations life-threatening challenges when it comes to being heard, asserting our identity, reconnecting to who we are, to our communities and land. That is why it’s important for me to highlight and share these words by Indigenous people as fuel for the fire of resurgence and hope their words empower, motivate and inspire all Indigenous people.
I realize that these words typed on a blog won’t change your life, but they can change your perspective. Because even though we have bad days, life is good. I honor and am truly grateful for the words of Indigenous men and women who understand that life is full of great promise.
***By no means is this meant to be a comprehensive list. It is a gathering of words that have created moments inside me, moments that have magnified my connections to others and reminded me of the timeless support I have as an Indigenous woman. Support that ultimately feeds my reservoir of resilience. At different moments in my life these words have been just the right words to hear or read and encourage me as an Indigenous woman to keep moving forward. These are words that ultimately remind me that my connections run deep into the past and radiate into the future. Please feel free to add to this gathering of words in the comments section.***
A Warrior is the one who can use words so that everyone knows they are part of the same family. A Warrior says what is in the people’s hearts, talks about what the land means to them, brings them together to fight for it.
– Bighorse, Diné
The happiest people I’ve ever met, regardless of their profession, their social standing, or their economic status, are people who are fully engaged in the world around them. The most fulfilled people are those who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves. People who care about others, who will extend a helping hand to someone in need or who will speak up about an injustice when they see it.
– Wilma Mankiller, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, OK, 2009 commencement address (quote begins @9:33)
The lands of the planet call to humankind for redemption. But it is a redemption of sanity, not a supernatural reclamation project at the end of history. The planet itself calls to the other living species for relief. Religion cannot be kept within the bounds of sermons and scriptures. It is a force in and of itself and it calls for the integration of lands and peoples in harmonious reality. The lands wait for those who can discern their rhythms. The peculiar genius of each continent—each river valley, the rugged mountains, the placid lakes—all call for relief from the constant burden of exploitation.
The future of humankind lies waiting for those who will come to understand their lives and take up responsibilities to all living things. Who will listen to the trees, the animals and birds, the voices of the places of the land? As the long-for- gotten peoples of respective continents rise and begin to re- claim their ancient heritage, they will discover the meaning of the land of their ancestors. That is when the invaders of the North American continent will finally discover that for this land, God is red.
– Vine Deloria, Jr in God is Red p. 300-301
“At about 5:15 that’s when the tilten trucks rolled in and the S.W.A.T. team came out. There was three of us that just looked at each other… and one of the women said ‘Holy shit they’re here.’ Our instincts kicked in and we said the women have to go to the front, because it’s our obligation to do that, to protect the land, to protect our Mother. And I can remember looking at the faces of the S.W.A.T. team and they were all scared. They were like young babies who had never met something so strong; who had never met a spirit, because we were fighting something without a spirit. There was no thought to it; they were like robots.”
– Ellen Gabriel, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (quote begins @ 2:33)
The reason why we are here gathered around here is to gain consensus, to find out is our traditional way, to find out what each individual wants to do. The reason why we are here, we are all here for each other, we are all here for the water, we are all here for the injustices done against all of our people. What has been happening here hasn’t been right and we’re here to correct this wrong. We’re here to unite as a people. Doesn’t matter where you’re from. We are all treaty people. Our treaties are to protect the settlers and that’s what we’re doing here, we’re protecting them because they are asking for our protection. We’re helping them and they’re helping us. We’re coming together and we’re uniting. This is a beautiful day. It’s a great day to be Indigenous. Look around, it’s a great day to be human. You know. You look at what we accomplished today. We did a lot. Because we united together and we did not separate. The moment the separation started is when we have to come back together and decide what are we going to do as a collective. Because we can’t be running around all over the place. We need to decide together what we want to do.
-Mi’kmaq Warrior Suzanne Patles via Submedia.tv – It’s a Great Day To Be Indigenous
“…We are free, we are independent of the dominating foreign force. We can exist independent of that force if we so chose. We can exercise our creator given inherent sovereignty…”
-Chase Iron Eyes on Last Real Indians (LRI) tribute to Russel Means (quote begins at 3:47)
Think of the woman, how she goes from a child into a woman who is naturally purified and she goes through this life rearing children, teaching men how to nurture and being balanced and then reaches the change of life. She becomes the elder that lives longer than men and has this full woman power. Until you know a woman, you will never know life. So our ceremonies here on this earth are to celebrate womanhood.
– Russel Means on women/matriarchy via Steven Lewis Simpson (quote begins at 3:58)
What is happening to the Blacks in South Africa today has already happened and continues to happen to us here in the Americas. The America holocaust has claimed all but perhaps six million of us in what is now called Canada and the United States. But from Central, south to South America we number all the way from 80 to 100 million. So in building this United Indian Liberation Front we are working realistically toward our liberation and I want to emphasize we have every right to carry on that liberation struggle.
– Vernon Bellecourt, November 23, 1988 (quote begins at 42:03)
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 grovel 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 no thing, 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 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.
– Chief Tecumseh
It does not take many words to tell the truth.
– Chief Sitting Bull
The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine; not only for the body, but for the soul, it is the spiritual connection to history, ancestors and the land.
– Winona LaDuke
This is our land here. This picture you see is our traditional art form, which describes our land and our people that are here. It’s very important to us, because what I want to talk about is our opportunity to be omaa akiing, here on this land — our opportunity to do the right thing. We are the people that can keep our mother from baking. We are the people that can stop them from knocking off the top of big mountains. We are the people that can stop them from rebooting the nuclear industry. We are the people that can do the right thing, and what a great spiritual opportunity that is. So let us be those people. Let us be courageous.
– Winona LaDuke, Ware Lecture, 2010
Our bodies should be on the land so that our grandchildren have something left to stand upon.
– Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Elsipogtog Everywhere
The reasons why we have Land (not in an in ownership sense but in a Sovereign Nation sense), Treaties, and that we are even alive is because our ancestors refused to “get with the times”. What does “get with the times” really mean, anyway? Does it mean to ignore the Consciousness of our bloodlines that is connected to our land and to identify ourselves with modern day colonial borders? Does it mean to participate with the abuse of the land by the extraction of resources and adopt same values as the colonist? Does it simply mean ignoring our indigenous values all together? Quite honestly, “getting with the times” never made sense to me when it’s used in a counter argument against those who are defending the land and following through in the inherit qualities and values of indigenous consciousness.
The reality is it is time to become the best we can possibly be and follow through with the certainty that we are Nations within a Nation. Part of that is denouncing the imposed identity that we are Canadian. My friend Jodi Kechego articulated it well when he stated “My bloodline is inherently separate from Canada in that my ancestors have been here for literally thousands and thousands of years– as opposed three or four generations”. I support this statement and also add that the Consciousness of who we are has been within our lands since the beginning of time. We can not forget this. Our young people have a political responsibility that is very likely to involve the rebelling against a strategic regime and continued agenda of oppression. Often times this rebelling evokes fear of various flavors. Fear of what ifs, what others will think, fear of being abandoned, ostracized, fear of repercussions, scolding, and oddly fear of upsetting the oppressor. In fact, it’s interesting how the oppressed always seem to apologize to the oppressor. We can connect the dots a million times within our brains and reflect on the reasons our current circumstance is the way it is. With great honor and respect to our moshums and kokums that are champions of life as they over came the genocide of residential schools– we have to step beyond the confines of our fears cross that line of comfort within ourselves.
– Colby Tootoosis, Canadian Flag Hung Upside Down in a Powwow Grand Entry via Last Real Indians
…It is not simply a matter of dealing with the effects of colonization, which we all agree need to be dealt with. You can’t let people suffer in that regard. We have to look at the fundamentals and we have to recognize that the disconnection from the land is more than just an economic deprivation. The disconnection from the land is more than just a political injustice. The disconnection from the land when Native people are in that situation, they can not be Indigenous. They are prevented from living out the basic responsibilities of their Nation in terms of their original teachings. In terms of what it is to speak as an Indigenous person. What it is to do the things, what it is to be spiritually, culturally connected and to feel like you are actually a human being as Onkwehonwe in our language as a Native person. Unless you are able to live out your culture and have the connection in your own homeland and to relate to that in a meaningful way there’s really no justice in the relationship at all. There really is no justice in that person’s life.
Taiaiake Alfred on the psychological effects of disposition, 2013 Narrm Oration, The University of Melbourne (quote begins at 23:53)
…education starts with the Native community. Teaching them “belonging” and “purpose”—our communities used to do that (and still can, if one looks hard enough). See, historically, in order to be considered a member of a Native community, one had to participate in that community. There weren’t many “non-practicing” tribal members—you had to belong. If a person did not serve and/or participate in the community’s activities—whether those activities were hunts, religious ceremonies or observing community values—that person would not be a member of the Native community long. How could they? With very small, very interdependent communities, everyone had to pull their own weight.
If you didn’t, someone else had to carry that weight which put a strain on the entire community. The community’s survival required everyone to participate. Participation and service equaled “belonging.”
That was part of the value of being a member of a community—that you had protection, many hands with which to make light work, and common values. But in exchange, you had to offer protection, hands to help make that work light, and common values. The reciprocal to the “belonging,” was the “purpose” piece.
Our purpose was to contribute to the community. Everyone had an obligation, a duty. Along with that obligation and duty camepurpose—people knew that the community depended on them and that their work was crucial and vital to the community’s survival.
-Gyasi Ross, Using Tradition to Teach Our Kids Purpose: Mentorship Matters, Part II via ICTMN
You see, it was crucial for European colonialists to paint Natives as aggressors to justify their own violence against the original inhabitants of this land. While Natives fought against settlers, these battles were waged primarily in self-defense. America invented the “savage Indian” to subjugate Natives, abrogate Tribe’s sovereign rights, and so they could freely initiate war against them for any reason whatsoever. As long as Indigenous peoples are consigned to the post of savage, we are the “other,” and those in power can argue that they do not need to follow their own laws when it comes to us. We are still being forced to deal with the consequences of this “savage” invention.
This column isn’t about whether I took offense to a statement made on a television show. This is about equality. To truly benefit from a diverse global society, we must raise public discourse above antiquated race-based language couched in manifest destiny. Ignorance is no excuse, because Natives are not silent- you’ve only to hear us.
As far as debate is concerned, read Sun Tzu. Throw away your race-based terminology and discover the true nature of your adversary, or ally. Learn about Native history and who we are. To get respect, you must give it. This is how you invite us in as intellectual, physical, and spiritual equals. This is how you might win an argument against me, based on merit alone. But be warned, I count coup with keystrokes and my arrows are dipped in ink. Now, who’s the scalp?
– Ruth Hopkins, Of Scalps and Savages: How Colonial Language Enforces Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples via Truthout
To me, Indigenous resurgence means filling Indigenous spaces with the exercise of our socio-political orders from the smallest individual unit to the largest communal grouping. These spaces will not become full with things, but with actions.
Resurgence means building capacity in the most authentic sense: beginning with the individual and spreading out to encompass all of our peoples within a web of interrelated relationships. It is the work of generations, and short-term advances that sacrifice these relationships for economic gain often leak out of our spaces of nationhood. I do not believe that our spaces must be completely filled before we are able to engage in Indigenous nationhood. In fact, unless we engage in action, we will never have hope of filling them. Nationhood is not a final destination it is a process of strengthening relationships—and claiming space.
âpihtawikosisân, Nationhood is a Verb
The current state of global environmental affairs calls for the children of earth to rise to the task of protecting for the health and well being of current and future generations. Regardless of where we live, we all have a roll and responsibility towards seeing to the protection of our first Mother and all her children. The front lines are in fact everywhere.
– Matt Remle, LRI Call to Action: The Front Lines are Everywhere via Last Real Indians
An awakening of forgiveness and heart talk opened my mind and released years of anguish and frustration. I have learned in order for me to have an understanding of forgiveness, I needed to learn about betrayal. In that process of forgiveness I also found love.
– Renee Holt, The journey to healing begins with the first step via 4 the love of the People
“When we get past these barriers and fences that divide us, we have a lot in common. and so with story telling i believe we can break down the barriers and break down the fences and say walk a mile in my moccassins.”
Wab Kinew, on Getting Attention for Native Stories via George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight
Viewing this case through a gendered, decolonizing lens shows the historical process by which the Diné were incorporated into the white heteronormative patriarchal American nation. By the 1950s, their transformation as U.S. citizens was also indicated by the adoption of American systems of governance, economics, and social organization. My analysis of the uprising and its aftermath speaks to, first, the erasure of the amount of violence and coercion used to turn Natives into colonial subjects. Secondly, it raises questions about the nature of technologies of surveillance and the institutions used to transform Natives into their own version of heteronormative nations and community. It also gives us pause as Diné and Indigenous peoples about the possibilities for decolonization—in a time when tribal nations and leaders face issues and problems that have a foundation in the legacy of U.S. colonialism, we should take stock and articulate visions about the realization of true sovereignty and what that means for all of our tribal citizens.
Jennifer Denetadale, Indigenous Feminisms, Queer Indigenous Critique, and Settler Colonialism in the Uprising at Beautiful Mountain via First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies
Before this world existed, the holy people made themselves visible
by becoming clouds, sun, moon, trees, bodies of water, thunder
rain, snow, and other aspects of this world we live in. That way,
they said, we would never be alone. So it is possible to talk to them
and pray, no matter where we are and how we feel. Biyázhí daniidlí,
we are their little ones.
Lucy Tapahonso, Remember the Things They Told Us
Being Indigenous today means struggling to reclaim and regenerate one’s relational, place-based existence by challenging the ongoing, destructive forces of colonization. Whether through ceremony or through other ways that Indigenous peoples (re)connect to the natural world, processes of resurgence are often contentious and reflect the spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political scope of the struggle.
Jeff Corntassel, Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination via Decolonization Indigeneity, Education & Society
“…Allegiance to ‘America’ or ‘Canada’ legitimizes the genocide and colonization of Native peoples upon which these nation-states are founded. By making anti-colonial struggle central to feminist politics, Native women place in question the appropriate form of governance for the world in general.”
Andrea Smith, Indigenous Feminism Without Apology via New Socialist, 2006
In the process of struggling against racism white people will discover that there own lives have not been filled with joy or freedom. If they don’t struggle with racism they will never be able to chart their own path to freedom. Their humanity will always be tainted, imprisoned by the horrific lie that “at least my life is not as tragic as ‘others’.I have bent my back to this plough for some decades now. It is Canada’s turn. Look for your complicit silence, look for inequity between yourself and others. Search out the meaning of colonial robbery and figure out how you are going to undo it all. Don’t come to us saying “What can we do to help?” and expect us not to laugh heartily. You need help. You need each and every white person in this country to commend those lone people of colour sticking their necks out and opposing racism where it rears its ugly head. You need to challenge your friends, your family whenever they utter inhuman sentiments about some other race of people.We — I — We will take on the struggle for self-determination and lay the foundation… But so long as your own home needs cleaning, don’t come to mine, broom in hand. Don’t wait for me to jump up, put my back to the plough, whenever racism shows itself. You need to get out there and object, all by yourself.We have worked hard enough for you.
Lee Maracle, Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel
With love and deep respect,