The National Congress of American Indians reports that there are currently 562 federally recognized Indian Nations located in the United States of America. Of these, approximately 229 are located in the state of Alaska while the remaining nations can be found throughout 33 other states. Each of these nations holds onto their own unique and fascinating history, traditions and culture, enriching American life and our experiences.

Wisdom is passed down from generation to generation in the form of Native American folklore, proverbs, myths and legends, each designed to share a specific life lesson with their people. While some may not resonate the same today due to changes in lifestyle, there is much that we can learn from these teachings.

Here are 25 powerful Native American proverbs that today’s American can relate to:

1. “Don’t be afraid to cry. It will free your mind of sorrowful thoughts.” – Hopi

2. “Man’s law changes with his understanding of man. Only the laws of the spirit remain always the same.” – Crow

3. “The coward shoots with shut eyes.” – Oklahoma

4. “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.” – Blackfoot

5. “Walk lightly in the spring; Mother Earth is pregnant.” – Kiowa

6. “It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand.” – Apache

7. “Looking behind I am filled with gratitude. Looking forward I am filled with vision. Looking upwards I am filled with strength. Looking within I discover peace.” – Q-ero

8. “It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace and live in peace.” – Shenandoah

9. “Don’t be afraid to cry. It will free your mind of sorrowful thoughts.” – Hopi

10. “Those who have one foot in the canoe, and one foot in the boat, are going to fall into the river.” – Tuscarora

11. “Most of us do not look as handsome to others as we do to ourselves.” – Assiniboine

12. “Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” – Cree

13. “The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.” – Sioux

14. “When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us.” – Arapaho

15. “I have been to the end of the earth,

I have been to the end of the waters,

I have been to the end of the sky,

I have been to the end of the mountains,

I have found none that are not my friends.”   – Navajo

16. “Be still and the earth will speak to you.” – Navajo

17. “There is no death, only a change of worlds.” – Native American Duwamish

18. “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” – Dakota

19. “If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come.” – Arapaho

20. “Our first teacher is our own heart.” – Cheyenne

21. “If a man is as wise as a serpent, he can afford to be as harmless as a dove.” – Cheyenne

22. “You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.” – Navajo

23. “Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is of the past, Wisdom is of the future.” – Lumbee

24. “Thoughts are like arrows: once released, they strike their mark. Guard them well or one day you may be your own victim.” – Navajo

25. “If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” – Minquass


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