Category Archives: Quotes

The Great Spirit Provides

“Brother, – As you have lived with the white people, you have not had the same advantage of knowing that the great Being above feeds his people, and gives them their meat in due season, as we Indians have, who are frequently out of provisions, and yet are wonderfully supplied, and that so frequently, that it is evidently the hand of the great Owaneeyo that doth this. Whereas the white people have commonly large stocks of tame cattle, that they can kill when they please, and also their barns and cribs filled with grain, and therefore have not the same opportunity of seeing and knowing that they are supported by the Ruler of heaven and earth.

Brother, – I know that you are now afraid that we will all perish with hunger, but you have no just reason to fear this.

Brother, – I have been young, but now am old; I have been frequently under the like circumstances that we are now, and that some time or other in almost every year of my life; yet I have hitherto been supported, and my wants supplied in time of need.

Brother, – Owaneeyo sometimes suffers us to be in want, in order to teach us our dependence upon him, and to let us know that we are to love and serve him; and likewise to know the worth of the favors that we receive, and to make us more thankful.

Brother, – Be assured that you will be supplied with food, and that just in the right time; but you must continue diligent in the use of means. Go to sleep, and rise early in the morning and go a-hunting; be strong, and exert yourself like a man, and the Great Spirit will direct your way.”

This quote was spoken by an Indian elder and later paraphrased by James Smith. At the time it was spoken, these two plus the young son of the Indian were going hungry during a harsh winter, being reduced to boil scavenged bones as their only nutriment. The rest of the Indians had been away for a long time owing to the ongoing war with the colonists. The Indian elder detects despair in Smith and gives this speech to comfort him. The next day, Smith decides to escape, leaving the elder and boy without an able hunter. In ten miles, he find buffalo tracks, which he pursues and succeeds in killing a large cow, of which he brings back the meat to the elder and boy at camp.

Source: Smith, J. Col. James Smith’s Life Among the Delawares, 1755-1759. In Kephar, H. (2005) The account of Mary Rowlandson and other Indian captivity narratives. Dover Publications, Mineola, NY.

great spirit

Religion and spiritual beliefs play an important role in how people treat their environment. Many may think that the American Indians were unable to achieve as high a degree of “civilization” as invading cultures because they somehow lacked the understanding, skills, or motivation. In fact, the Indians opposed the environmental destruction by colonists and refused to adopt agro-industrial practices on religious grounds. This is the thesis of the book In the Absence of the Sacred by Jerry Mander. It certainly seems that the animist religions of the Indians, which attribute souls to all living creatures plus rocks, mountains, and water bodies, would reject wanton destruction of the environment.



indian animal spirits

“Only when the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, will you realize that you cannot eat money.”
-Native American saying

This is a version of a quote I’ve heard from various sources. Some attribute this quote to an Osage Indian saying or Cree Indian Prophesy, but the earliest known use may have been by Alanis Obomsawin, a Canadian Abenaki.

On close examination I found his bow to be the stem of a small sapling split in halves, with very little finish; but his arrows were a wonder of exact work and feathered on the true scientific principle. I could not bend his bow in the slightest, and, when he had braced it, it would have taken the balls of my fingers off to have drawn an arrow to the head on it, yet his great horny hands used it without trouble, sending an arrow of his make full as far as I could, with my bow, shoot the best Highfield target shaft! My hickory hunting arrows, made at great expense by a cunning carpenter, under my own direct supervision, and pointed by a smith of approved skill, were appreciably less nicely adjusted than his. You could easily discover the difference, watching their flight through a long shot over open ground. Here was a triumph of savage cunning and skill over enlightened science and art! This fine finish is not common to Indian arrows. Most of the missiles in the quivers of Sioux, Navajos, and Comanches are detestably rough and unreliable things.

From the first I recognized Tommy as my master in the noble science and art of archery, and I labored hard to win his approbation by some achievement worthy his notice. At last I accomplished this. He had a very broad-feathered arrow which he had named “floo-hoo,” on account of 2 peculiar roaring sound it made while flying through the air. You could hear it two hundred yards. One day he shot this arrow at a plover standing on a point of sand. It went loudly whizzing just over the bird’s back, making it settle low down as if struck at by a hawk and frightened out of its wits. I was at Tommy’s side when he shot. The bird was a good hundred yards away. He did not miss it a foot. Now was my time, and I settled myself to my work.

Selecting a light, narrow-feathered shaft, I planted my feet firmly, measured the distance carefully with my eye, drew to my ear and let go. It was a glorious piece of luck and good shooting combined. The arrow went like a thought, noiselessly, unwaveringly straight to the mark, cutting the game through the craw, killing it on the spot. I leaned on my bow with as much nonchalance and grace as I could command, while Tommy gave me my meed of praise. He patted me on the back and wagged his head significantly; he grunted in various keys, and finally wound up with:
“Beat! ugh! nice! good! dam!”

Maurice Thompson. 1879. The Witchery of Archery Chapter XIV: Three weeks of savage life.

Full book available online at

“…a Etnoecologia tem a singular tarefa de decifrar a “memória de nossa espécie”, isto é, a memória biocultural, reivindicando e revalorizando a quem a mantêm em vez de aprofundar a crítica sobre o mundo moderno e sua racionalidade intelectual.”

“…la Etnoecología tiene la singular tarea de descifrar la “memoria de nuestra especie”, esto es, la memoria biocultural, reivindicando y revalorizando a quienes la mantienen a la vez de profundizar la critica sobre el mundo moderno y su racionalidad intelectual.”

“…ethnoecology has the singular task of deciphering the “memory of our species”, that is the bio-cultural memory, recognizing and re-evaluating those peoples who maintain it while bringing new depth to criticism of the Modern world and its intellectual rationality.”

Toledo, V. M. and N. Barrera-Bassols. 1992. A etnoecologia: uma ciencia pos-normal que estuda as sabedorias tradicionais / Ethnoecology: a post-normal science studying traditional Knowledge and Wisdom. In Etnobiologia e Etnoecologia: pessoas & natureza na América Latina. Edited by Silva VA, Almeida ALS, Albuquerque UP. Recife: Nuppea; 2010:13–36.

Yucatan Ethnogeology

Types of vegetation and ecosystem management methods by traditional cultures corresponding to different soil types in Xocen, Yucatan, Mexico.

Toledo, V. M. and N. Barrera-Bassols. 1992. A etnoecologia: uma ciencia pos-normal que estuda as sabedorias tradicionais / Ethnoecology: a post-normal science studying traditional Knowledge and Wisdom. In Etnobiologia e Etnoecologia: pessoas & natureza na América Latina. Edited by Silva VA, Almeida ALS, Albuquerque UP. Recife: Nuppea; 2010:13–36.

First post – Sacred Energy

“…Humanity alone cannot engender children — instead it is the entire living environment which produces the child and keeps it alive — the air, soil, plants and animals of its immediate environment. We are the children of our particular place on earth. This is why the land is sacred and sex is sacred and eating is sacred; because they are all parts of the same energy flow…”
Dolores LaChapelle, Sacred land, Sacred Sex. In Deep Ecology, edited by Michael Tobias. 1985. Avant Books