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India

  • I am proud that I spent the whole of my life in the service of my people ... I shall continue to serve until my last breath and when I die, I can say, that every drop of my blood will invigorate India and strengthen it.

    • Indira Gandhi,
    • speech, the day before she was assassinated ()
  • In India the human being is a symphonic theme. 'The people' is not a compact, close-knit concept, but a sprawling one, flowing not only into different walks of life, but into the intricately woven multi-layers of privilege, wealth, and education. 'The people' created by Gandhi is a young concept.

  • Formal education in British India was remarkable for its lack of connection with its Indian environment. Like the African persuaded to cover his nakedness with a Mother Hubbard, we wore mental Mother Hubbards, and they were often a sad fit. Our textbooks had been compiled by Englishmen for English children, of whom there were none in my school and few in any school in India.

  • India was ... a country filled for the most part with people who live so close to the necessities of existence that only important things are important to them.

  • ... to the Indian, politics are what the weather is to an Englishman. Politics are an introduction to a stranger on a train, they are the standard filler for embarrassing silences in conversation, they are the inevitable small talk at any social gathering.

  • ... it is in the oral traditions of the villages that the arts of India are really alive. The brief Western immortality of museums is pointless to people who have seen eternity in their earth.

  • India is the worst of humanity. ... India is the best of humanity.

  • India always changes people, and I have been no exception.

  • ... life in India is steadily worsening for women, who suffer the most when the police and judiciary systems are corrupted. Rape is now the fastest growing crime in the country. In the past four decades, the number of reported rapes has shot up by 792 percent. Conviction rates, however, are dropping.

  • To me India is a land of beauty and generosity, of traditional hospitality and the acceptance of many cultures.

  • The conundrums of India have a way of answering themselves, when one looks close.

  • The joke used to be that in every Indian home, there is the mother, father, children, grandparents, and the anthropologist.

  • In the working of silver or drilling of turquoise the Indians had exhaustless patience, upon their blankets and belts and ceremonial robes they lavished their skill and pains. But their conception of decoration did not extend to the landscape. They seemed to have none of the European's desire to 'master' nature, to arrange and re-create. They spent their ingenuity in the other direction; in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found themselves. This was not so much from indolence, the Bishop thought, as from an inherited caution and respect. It was as if the great country were asleep, and they wished to carry on their lives without awakening it; or as if the spirits of earth and air and water were things not to antagonize and arouse. When they hunted, it was with the same discretion; an Indian hunt was never a slaughter. They ravaged neither the rivers nor the forest, and if they irrigated, they took as little water as would serve their needs. The land and all that it bore they treated with consideration; not attempting to improve it, they never desecrated it.

  • America was founded on a genocide, on the unquestioned assumption of the right of white Europeans to exterminate a resident, technologically backward, colored population in order to take over the continent.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "What's Happening in America," Styles of Radical Will ()
  • The unseen / Trails they follow / Take time.

    • Diane Glancy,
    • "If Indians Are Coming It Won't Start on Time," Iron Woman ()
  • This land was ours, now we should forgive the fields snapped with fences & power lines?

    • Diane Glancy,
    • "This-Is-Where-We Go-On-Winter," Lone Dog's Winter Count ()
  • You have to understand an Indian / to see he isn't there ...

    • Diane Glancy,
    • "Portrait of Lone Dog," Lone Dog's Winter Count ()
  • The word is important in Native American tradition. You speak the path on which you walk. Your words make the trail.

  • I am a medicine woman. I live in the beyond and come back ...

  • There are no medicine men without medicine women. A medicine man is given power by a woman, and it has always been that way. A medicine man stands in the place of the dog. He is merely an instrument of woman. It doesn't look that way anymore, but it is true.

  • No, I don't know where you can get peyote. / No, I don't know where you can get Navajo rugs real cheap. / No, I didn't make this. I bought it at Bloomingdales. / Thank you. I like your hair too. / ... / This ain't no stoic look. / This is my face.

    • Diane Burns,
    • "Sure You Can Ask Me a Personal Question," in Joseph Bruchac, ed., Songs From This Earth on Turtle's Back ()
  • Indian time conveys an old grasp of time and life, perceived and experienced collectively by Indian people. ... From the edge of Indian time overlooking infinity, there is acute perception and perspective.

  • ... Indians think it is important to remember, while Americans believe it is important to forget.

  • We are the land. To the best of my understanding, that is the fundamental idea that permeates American Indian life ...

  • For the American Indian, the ability of all creatures to share in the process of ongoing creation makes all things sacred.

  • An odd thing occurs in the minds of Americans when Indian civilization is mentioned: little or nothing.

  • America does not seem to remember that it derived its wealth, its values, its food, much of its medicine, and a large part of its 'dream' from Native America.

  • 'The only good Indian is dead,' they said; now that the Indian is presumed dead, he gets better and better all the time. The 'Indian' can be interjected into the American dream, transformed, un-humanized, a sentimentalized sentinel of America's ideal of virtue.

  • Medicine people are truly citizens of two worlds, and those who continue to walk the path of medicine power learn to keep their balance in both the ordinary and the non-ordinary worlds ...

  • To native peoples, there is no such thing as the first, second, and third worlds; there is only an exploiting world ... whether its technological system is capitalist or communist ... and a host world. Native peoples, who occupy more land, make up the host world.

  • No white man uses his feet the way an Indian does. He talks to the earth.

  • When I look back on reservation life it seems that I spent a great deal of time attending the funerals of my relatives or friends of my family. ... Death was so common on the reservation that I did not understand the implications of the high death rate until after I moved away and was surprised to learn that I've seen more dead bodies than my friends will probably ever see in their lifetime.

    • Barbara M. Cameron,
    • in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • ... everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.

  • ... 'coffin-nails' are of the white man's inception, along with his multitudinous diseased adjuncts of civilization: whiskey, beer, wine and opium with attending crimes and ills. And to cap the irony of it all, he brings the 'glad tidings' of an endlessly burning hell where we are roasted for emulating his 'superior' example.

  • ... the whites can not authentically chronicle our habits and customs. They can hardly get at the truth. ... It is practically impossible for an alien to get at our correct legendary lore.

  • I have become an environmentalist, because it is over the environment that the last of the Indian Wars will be fought.

  • ... our religion and ceremonies have become fads, and a fashionable pastime among many whites seeking for something that they hope will give meaning to their empty lives. ... After macrobiotics, Zen, and channeling, the 'poor Vanishing Indian' is once more the subject of 'deep and meaningful conversation' in the high rises.

  • Maka ke wakan — the land is sacred. These words are at the core of our being. The land is our mother, the rivers our blood. Take our land away and we die. That is, the Indian in us dies. We'd become just suntanned white men, the jetsam and flotsam of your great melting pot.

  • There is Indian time and white man's time. Indian time means never looking at the clock. ... There is not even a word for time in our language.

  • North America is not altogether to blame with regard to her Indians. If the Indian had been more susceptible to higher culture, violence and arms would not have been used against him, as is now the case.

    • Fredrika Bremer,
    • 1850, America of the Fifties: Letters of Fredrika Bremer ()
  • Being Indian is an attitude, a state of mind, a way of being in harmony with all things and all beings.

  • The Indian people are the people of the heart. The finest of my elders remind me that being Indian is an attitude, a state of mind, a way of being in harmony with all things and all beings. It is allowing the heart to be the distributor of energy on this planet: to allow feelings and sensitivities to determine where energy goes; bringing aliveness up from the Earth and down from the Sky, putting it in and giving it out from the heart, the very center of one's being. That is the Indian way.

  • I have gotten back more and more to the ancient ways. This happened as I began to have visions; I was drawn back to the old ways by them. I did not choose it outwardly; it came as I released old ways of being, its irresistible call bringing me home.

  • They have our bundles split open in museums / our dresses & shirts at auctions / our languages on tape / our stories in locked rare book libraries / our dances on film / The only part of us they can't steal / is what we know.

    • Chrystos,
    • "Vision: Bundle," Not Vanishing ()
  • Our sacred beliefs have been made pencils / names of cities / gas stations / My knee is wounded so badly that I limp constantly / Anger is my crutch / I hold myself upright with it / My knee is wounded / see / How I Am Still Walking.

    • Chrystos,
    • "I Walk in the History of My People," Not Vanishing ()
  • Of course it is extremely difficult to like oneself in a culture which thinks you are a disease.

    • Chrystos,
    • "I Don't Understand Those Who Have Turned Away from Me," in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • Grandmother, that wonderful name, has always meant teacher in all of our [Ojibwa] society. That's a good distinction and I'm proud of it.

  • [On Sitting Bull:] The contents of his pockets were often emptied into the hands of small, ragged little boys, nor could he understand how so much wealth should go brushing by, unmindful of the poor.

    • Annie Oakley,
    • in Courtney Ryley Cooper, Annie Oakley: Woman at Arms ()
  • First they came to take our land and water, then our fish and game. Then they wanted our mineral resources and, to get them, they tried to take our governments. Now they want our religions as well. All of a sudden, we have a lot of unscrupulous idiots running around saying they're medicine people. And they'll sell you a sweat lodge ceremony for fifty bucks. It's not only wrong, it's obscene. Indians don't sell their spirituality to anybody, for any price. This is just another in a very long series of thefts from Indian people and, in some ways, this is the worst one yet.

    • Janet McCloud,
    • in Ward Churchill, Fantasies of the Master Race ()
  • If I could write a story that would do for the Indian a thousandth part what Uncle Tom's Cabin did for the Negro, I would be thankful the rest of my life.

    • Helen Hunt Jackson,
    • 1883, in Valerie Sherer Mathes, ed., The Indian Reform Letters of Helen Hunt Jackson, 1879-1885 ()
  • I shall be found with 'Indians' engraved on my brain when I am dead. — A fire has been kindled within me, which will never go out.

    • Helen Hunt Jackson,
    • 1879, in Valerie Sherer Mathes, ed., The Indian Reform Letters of Helen Hunt Jackson, 1879-1885 ()
  • From my family I have learned the secrets / of never having a home.

  • And there is also the paradox that the dominating culture imbues the Indian past with great meaning and significance; it is valued more because it is seen as part of the past. And it is the romantic past, not the present, that holds meaning and spiritual significance for so many members of the dominating culture. It has seemed so strange to me that the larger culture, with its own absence of spirit and lack of attachment for the land, respects these very things about Indian traditions, without adopting those respected ways themselves.

    • Linda Hogan,
    • "The Sacred Seed of the Medicine Tree," in Northern Lights ()
  • They liked to romanticize the earlier days when they believed the Indians lived in a simple way and wore more colorful clothing than the complicated Indians who lived alongside them in the modern world. They believed the Indians used to have power. In the older, better times, that is, before the people had lost their land and their sacred places on earth to the very people who wished the Indians were as they had been in the past.

  • ... she realized that white people rarely concerned themselves with Indian matters, that Indians were the shadow people, living almost invisibly on the fringes around them, and that this shadowy world allowed for a strange kind of freedom.

  • Ye say they all have pass'd away, / That noble race and brave, / That their light canoes have vanish'd / From off the crested wave / That mid the forests where they roam'd / There rings no hunter's shout; / But their name is on your waters, / Ye may not wash it out.

  • The American public has difficulty believing ... [that] injustice continues to be inflicted upon Indian people because Americans assume that the sympathy and tolerance they feel toward Indians is somehow 'felt' or transferred to the government policy that deals with Indians. This is not the case.

    • Leslie Marmon Silko,
    • in Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., Now That the Buffalo's Gone: A Study of Today's American Indians ()
  • My ability to survive personal crises is really a mark of the character of my people. Individually and collectively, we react with a tenacity that allows us again and again to bounce back from adversity.

    • Wilma Mankiller,
    • in Melissa Schwarz, Wilma Mankiller: Principal Chief of the Cherokees ()
  • The so-called Columbus discovery, which is indeed a myth, launched an era of cultural decimation and murder. Columbus and those who followed him are responsible for genocide, slavery, colonialism, cultural plunder, and environmental destruction. There was no 'discovery.' Nor was it an 'encounter.' That is also wrong. The 'discovery' was, in fact, wholesale rape, theft, and murder.

  • Not even anthropologists or intellectuals, no matter how many books they have, can find out all our secrets.

  • What hurts Indians most is that our costumes are considered beautiful, but it's as if the person wearing it didn't exist.

  • This is why Indians are thought to be stupid. They can't think, they don't know anything, they say. But we have hidden our identity because we needed to resist, we wanted to protect what governments have wanted to take away from us.

  • Our tribe unraveled like a coarse rope, frayed at either end as the old and new among us were taken.

  • By the time I was done with the car it looked worse than any typical Indian car that has been driven all its life on reservation roads, which they always say are like government promises — full of holes.

  • The Indian never hurts anything, but the white people destroy all ... How can the spirit of the earth like the white man? That is why God will upset the world — because it is sore all over. Everywhere the white man has touched it, it is sore.

    • Pretty-shield,
    • in Frank Bird Linderman, Pretty-Shield, Medicine Woman of the Crows ()
  • Ahh, my heart fell down when I began to see dead buffalo scattered all over our beautiful country, killed and skinned, and left to rot by white men, many, many hundreds of buffalo. ... Our hearts were like stones. And yet nobody believed, even then, that the white man could kill all the buffalo. Since the beginning of things there had always been so many!

    • Pretty-shield,
    • in Frank Bird Linderman, Pretty-Shield, Medicine Woman of the Crows ()
  • ... I was greatly influenced by the history of my Native people and their plight. Their oppressors brandished a bible in one hand and a gun in the other. I soon discovered that the gun will kill you immediately, but the intellectual death brought about by the bible with its misogynistic and cruel views is much more insidious, especially for women.

    • Simone Anter,
    • "Of god, women and Natives," Freethought Today ()
  • ... the white man had come with the Bible in one hand, the bottle in the other.

  • It is impossible to come into contact with Native American spirituality and not be struck with the immensity of the gratitude expressed.

  • I was a very small child when the first white people came into our country. They came like a lion, yes, like a roaring lion, and have continued so ever since ...

  • ... if you were going to compete successfully in a white man's world, you had to learn to play the white man's game. It was not enough that an Indian be as good as; an Indian had to be better than.

  • If Irish or Italian culture dies in America it really isn't that big a deal. They will still exist in Italy and Ireland. Not so with us. There is no other place. North America is our old country.

  • As soon as you take out a pencil and paper with the Indians, you're one thing to them — an anthropologist — and what they tell to anthropologists is always distorted.

  • My affliction began / When Columbus first set foot on this earth. / When the trees were seen only as lumber / When the animals were viewed solely as meat / And when vegetation was regarded / Primarily as produce. / My affliction continued / When the prairies were fenced / When the moon was sentimentalized / When the rivers were harnessed / And illumination only happened by the / Turn of a switch.

  • [Ashochimi (California coast) Indian legend:] Long ago there was a great flood which destroyed all the people in the world. Only Coyote was saved. When the waters subsided, the earth was empty.

  • [Pai Ute (near Kern River, California) Indian legend:] There are many worlds. Some have passed and some are still to come. In one world the Indians all creep; in another they all walk; in another they all fly. Perhaps in a world to come, Indians may walk on four legs; or they may crawl like snakes; or they may swim in the water like fish.

  • [Sia (New Mexico) Indian legend:] In the beginning, long, long ago, there was but one being in the lower world. This was the spider, Sussistinnako. ... The spider ... began to sing. ... In a short time, people appeared and began walking around. Then animals, birds, and insects appeared, and the spider continued to sing until his creation was complete.

  • [Shastika (California) Indian legend:] Long, long ago, there was a good young Indian on earth. When he died the Indians wept so that a flood came upon the earth, and drowned all people except one couple.

  • [Zuni (New Mexico) Indian legend:] Eight years was but four days and four nights when the world was new. ... Men and creatures were more alike then than now. Our fathers were black, like the caves they came from; their skins were cold and scaly like those of mud creatures; their eyes were goggled like an owl's; their ears were like those of cave bats; their feet were webbed like those of walkers in wet and soft places; they had tails, long or short, as they were old or young. Men crouched when they walked, or crawled along the ground like lizards.

  • The Indians of North America are, perhaps, the only race of men of whom it may be said, that though conquered, they were never enslaved. They could not submit, and live.

  • [On the northeastern Native tribes:] ... the woman owns her horses, dogs, and all the lodge equipment; children own their own articles; and parents do not control the possessions of their children ... A wife is as independent as the most independent man in our midst.

    • Alice Fletcher,
    • 1888, in Wilma Mankiller, Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women ()
  • The main difference between our people and the world around us is our thankfulness and respect for the Earth, our environment, and the natural world. In our way, every day is a good day.

    • Audrey Shenandoah,
    • in Wilma Mankiller, Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women ()
  • White people don't understand us or the strength and diversity of aboriginal people, and they don't even try. That's why there is such racism and misunderstanding. In any kind of reconciliation movement, they expect the Indian people to reconcile with them, and not the other way around.

    • Bea Medicine,
    • in Wilma Mankiller, Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women ()