Perhaps many of us are familiar with quotes from Indigenous leaders of the past. There are many worthy ones, some of which The MOON has shared in previous issues (The Earth speaks, for example). What I like about this collection of quotes is that most of them are from contemporary Indigenous leaders–powerfully demonstrating that Indigenous leadership is a current phenomenon. Let’s listen.
“Just being born Native, you’re born an activist. You’re born into a system that was against you, that wanted you dead, so your very existence is resistance. Every breath you take is an act of defiance of the system that was created against you. I’m always learning more about the true history of this continent and what was done to the people who lived here, so I try to educate people. We can’t grow as a nation without addressing our history and making it right.” – Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, aka Supaman
“One of the structural differences between First Nations and other communities is that we still appreciate having consciousness of deep history and its relation to what we do today. We have the sense that we’re carrying forward those struggles, those aims, those concerns and qualities that our ancestors messaged to us through the stories they left behind, and the realities they left behind.” – Katsi Cook
“The way we’re raised is that when you introduce yourself, you introduce your nation first: where you’re from, where you live, your family, and lastly, yourself. We are also place-based societies. When we’re indigenous to a place, a lot of our knowledge is intricate and long-standing. We know these lands, and that gives us, I believe, moral authority in a pre-colonial sense.” – Faith Spotted Eagle
“Today’s activists are trying to meet the new world on their own terms. We are the teachers, coaches, school board members, council members, doctors, lawyers, language advocates, speakers, sun dancers, singers, athletes, musicians, artists, writers, etc., who say by their actions that it is good to be Indigenous. We do not have to give up our language, ceremonies, and other ways to succeed today; we can succeed with these essentials as our foundation. Today’s activists are, in fact, the victors we rely on to help our people grow.” – Chase Iron Eyes
“I keep having these recurring dreams where I’m on a plane or train and all the people around me, Native and non-Native, are speaking different Indigenous languages. I hear Paiute, Lashootseed, Diné, Catawba, and they’re feeding their babies wild rice and smoked fish. I’m dreaming about a modern world that doesn’t erase its Indigenous intelligence, but rather embraces the rich complexity of Indigenous culture.
“This can be actualized if we all bring our hearts and minds together. The land we walk on is Indian Land, whether it be suburban cul-de-sacs or city streets. Echoes of Indian existence are all around us. It’s up to us to listen.” – Matika Wilbur
“Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer
“This is important—and the reason why Native people are not evangelists. We understand that people who come from a different place on Earth will have a different consciousness about the purpose of being human. A Mohawk doesn’t go to the Hopis and attempt to make everybody Mohawk. It’s a different ecology, a different body of information for human beings that comes directly out of the Earth. Our challenges in relation to our ecosystem are very different from the challenges—the life experiences—of the Hopi, or the Lakota, or other First Nations’ experience. Our political struggles are the same, but what it takes to hold up our worlds is defined by those creation narratives.” – Katsi Cook
“Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer
“This whole thing [the #NoDAPL protest at Standing Rock] has brought about the power of unity and the power of prayer. Whatever problems or internal battles we may have, there’s a way to overcome them. It may seem hopeless sometimes, but it’s not. There’s a way to live life in a good way, without drugs, without alcohol, without violence, and bring back our prayers and our peace and to live in a good way for your relatives. It’s important to know and understand that we have to remain a proud nation. There are a lot of wrongs that are done to us, and all those wrongs are never going to get an apology. But we have to move forward, and we have to forgive them. We have to learn how to forgive and be thankful for what we have, because we have a lot to live for and a lot to cherish.” – Dave Archambault II
“The hearts of All People’s faiths must now unite in believing we can change the path we are on. We, from the heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the world to unite for our children’s future. Already we have witnessed many Nations of life are now dying because of contamination: those that swim, those that crawl, those that fly, the plant Nation, the four-legged and now the two-legged.
“What we are being faced with is a dark spirit. All life cannot afford to allow the same mistakes to be made any longer. Look what is happening to the four directions in the contamination of Mni Wic’oni – water of life. If we do not actively stand up as leaders and do Creator’s work in uniting our concerns, it will continue to be a domino effect that our ancestors have warned about in the prophecies.
“This is not a competition of who will lead and who should follow. This is a very serious time we are in. I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel this is long overdue. It is time that all of us become leaders to help protect the sacred upon Mother Earth. She is the source of life and not a resource.
“In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no ending and no beginning.
“Onipiktec’a (that we shall live).” – Chief Arvol Looking Horse
“That’s the beauty of non-Natives coming to our shows [with hip-hop artist Supaman]. I bet you, our ancestors fought and were terrible to one another. But this is the healing that’s taking place now. It’s our duty to reverse what was done because those burdens are not ours to carry any longer. We shouldn’t have to carry those negative emotions that were brought upon us by our ancestors, because we’re different. We’re having a great time getting along and connecting with each other. When people say, ‘Oh I’m so sorry about what happened to your people,’ I say, ‘It’s OK. It’s a given, but we’re reversing that by now by talking, and sharing.” – Acosia Red Elk