Our twenty-first century life style provides amenities and opportunities never before experienced on Earth. I doubt many would relish returning to the life style lived centuries ago by Native Americans.  Yet, they may hold lessons from which we could further enhance how we live today.

Quoting from pages 29-30, “The Wisdom of the Native Americans,” by Kent Nerburn, comments by a co-star in “The Outlaw Josie Wales,” Chief Dan George …


“My friends, how desperately do we need to be loved and to love. When Christ said that man does not live by bread alone, he spoke of a hunger.  This hunger was not the hunger of the body.  It was not the hunger for bread.  He spoke of a hunger that begins deep down in the very depths of our being.  He spoke of a need as vital as breath.  He spoke of our hunger for love. 

“Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it.  We must have it because without it we become weak and faint.  Without love our self-esteem weakens.  Without it our courage fails.  Without love we can no longer look out confidently at the world.  We turn inward and begin to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves. 

“With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly.  With it, and with it alone, we are able to sacrifice for others.”


Many people work away, making a living – some quite wealthy – yet, are aimless, unhappy and neither loving nor feeling loved. Not sure we need to dance in circles, singing “Kum bah yah.”  But “quality of living” certainly seems to include qualities such as giving and receiving “caring,” and “respect.”

Next, James Paytiamo’s comments on pages 53-4 …


“I remember the old men of my village. These old, old men used to prophesy about the coming of the white man.  They would go about tapping their canes on the adobe floor of the house, and call to us children.

“Listen! Listen!  The gray-eyed people are coming nearer and nearer.  They are building an iron road.  They are coming nearer every day.  There will be a time when you will mix with these people.  That is when the Gray Eyes are going to get you to drink hot, black water, which you will drink whenever you eat.  Then your teeth with become soft. 

“They will get you to smoke at a young age, so that your eyes will run tears on windy days, and your eyesight will be poor.  Your joints will crack when you want to move slowly and softly. 

“You will sleep on soft beds and will not like to rise early. When you begin to wear heavy clothes and sleep under heavy covers, then you will grow lazy.  Then there will be no more singing heard in the valleys as you walk. 

“When you begin to eat with iron sticks, your tones will grow louder. You will speak louder and talk over your parents.  You will grow disobedient.  You will mix with those gray-eyed people, and you will learn their ways;  you will break up your homes, and murder and steal.” 

“Such things have come true, and I have to compare my generation with the old generation. We are not as good as they were;  we are not as healthy as they were.  How did these old men know what was coming?  That is what I would like to know.“


In the past century, these comments’ prophesies do seem to have come true. I’m not sure I want to give up a soft bed, warm blankets and warm clothes.  And I may not rise with the sun.  Yet, many activities cited are truly unhealthy for us and society.


How do we keep the positive qualities and

eliminate those activities that are detrimental

to our health, to our society, and to our environment?


Crow Belly’s P.70 comments may be one key to why we’ve done so well …


“The Great Spirit has given the white man great foresightedness; he sees everything at a distance, and his mind invents and makes the most extraordinary things.  But the red man has been made shortsighted.  He sees only what is close around him and knows nothing except what his father knew.”


One of our great cultural essences is our capacity to “explore and adapt.” Think how much we’ve learned that befuddles our parents and grandparents.  Our kids learn and use technologies – as second nature – that amaze us!  When we cease to learn and grow, we may be essentially dead.

Yet, I suspect there are perspectives and values that are rooted in our parents and grandparents – elders – that have great value. And perhaps our lives could be considerably richer if we connected periodically with those perspectives and values.  A marriage of both worlds.

Finally, from pages 74-5, comments from Chief Seattle …


“A few more hours, a few more winters, and none of the children of the great tribes that once lived on this earth, or that roamed in small bands in the woods, will be left to mourn the graves of people once as powerful and hopeful as yours. 

“The whites, too, shall pass – perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your own bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. 

“When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the cent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone.  Where is the eagle?  Gone. 

“And what is to say farewell to the swift and the hunt, to the end of living and the beginning of survival? We might understand if we knew what it was that the white man dreams, what he describes to his children on long winter nights, and what visions he burns into their minds, so they will wish for tomorrow.  But we are savages.  The white man’s dreams are hidden from us.”


With environmental disregard, we may have a swifter rise and fall than other civilizations. We’ve trashed the Gulf of Mexico.  Huge masses of waste cover large areas of our oceans.  And we decimate our forests.

I also wonder how many of us create a dream … a vision of how we’d like to live our lives.  We may be too busy making a living … and ending up like gerbils inside a wheel.

“Sustainability” must include a high quality of life experience.

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