Native American Heritage Month 2014

It’s Native American Heritage Month 2014!

Celebrate With First Nations’ Favorite Native American Quotations and Movies

November is National Native American Heritage Month 2014, and Nov. 15 in particular is “Rock Your Mocs Day” in which Native people stand together by wearing their moccasins (there's also "Moc Mondays" every week during the month). In recognition, the 20-member staff of First Nations Development Institute has created a list of their favorite Native American quotations and films.

“Many of us here are prolific readers and movie-goers, especially when it comes to things by Native authors and filmmakers or about Native history and experiences,” noted First Nations President Michael E. Roberts.  “In doing so, we often bookmark certain quotes or passages that speak to us, both from historical figures or contemporary authors, or we recommend films that, for one reason or another, we think are worth seeing. We think Native American Heritage Month is a great time to share these quotes and movies with both the Native and non-Native worlds.”

First Nations is a 34-year-old, Native-created and led organization that works to build stronger Native American economies and communities.  It is based in Longmont, Colorado, but serves American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities across the U.S.

Favorite Movies

(Staff said their reasons vary – some films are historical, some shine a light on media stereotypes, others provide interesting insights, and some just have great performances by Native actors.)

  • Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
  • Chiefs (documentary on Wind River Indian Reservation basketball team)
  • Flags of Our Fathers
  • For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska (documentary)
  • Frozen River
  • Geronimo: An American Legend
  • Lakota Woman
  • Naturally Native
  • Powwow Highway
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence
  • Reel Injun  
  • Skins
  • Smoke Signals
  • The Shirt
  • Thunderheart
  • Whale Rider

Favorite Quotations

(Quotes come from Native authors, historical figures and contemporary leaders in Indian Country.)

  • "Every society needs educated people, but the primary responsibility of educated people is to bring wisdom back into the community and make it available to others so that the lives they are leading make sense."  -- Vine Deloria, Jr. 
  • "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children" – Sitting Bull
  • “You don't have anything if you don't have the stories.” ― Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
  • “What happens when you let an unsatisfactory present go on long enough? It becomes your entire history.” ― Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves
  • “The economic piece is still missing, since it's so hard to attract industry to reservations, but spiritually and educationally, they're doing just fine. Each tribe has a community college now, and they teach the language, they teach the traditions.” – James Welch, author of Winter in the Blood and Fools Crow
  • "Grown men can learn from very little children, for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show them many things which older people miss."— Black Elk
  • “When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white men came, an Indian said simply "Ours.”  ― Vine Deloria, Jr.
  • "The land is sacred. These words are at the core of your being. The land is our mother, the rivers our blood. Take our land away and we die. That is, the Indian in us dies" -- Mary Brave Bird, Brule Lakota
  • “I don’t think anybody anywhere can talk about the future of their people or of an organization without talking about education.  Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future.” – Wilma Mankiller
  • “We Indians really should be better liars, considering how often we've been lied to.”  ― Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • "I'm not saying we don't want to give our kids a modern education, and we don't want to go back in time and live in wigwams.  We want to move forward, but we need to embrace our culture and history and still move forward.” – Jasen Benwah, Mi'kmaq
  • “Things which do not grow and change are dead things.” ― Louise Erdrich
  • "I'm just a human being trying to make it in a world that is very rapidly losing its understanding of being human." – John Trudell
  • “Each man is good in His sight. It is not necessary for eagles to be crows.” – Sitting Bull
  • "A vision without execution is nothing but a hallucination." – Kim Krokodilo, Elk Valley Rancheria
  • “Poverty doesn’t give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.” ― Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • "Because woman lives so close to our first mother, the Earth, she emanates the strength and harmonious nature of all things.” – Larry P. Aitken, Chippewa
  • ''You will never get the culture unless you get the language.  And it will never really be carried on unless the language is carried on.  It will just be like a shell of what once was.” – Lance Twitchell, Tlingit 
  • “Cherokee national identity is and always has been about how multiple forms of difference come together in socially and politically meaningful ways to constitute complex subjects. These differences of identity among Cherokees — whether they are defined in terms of blood, race, culture or some other national substance — are not innate possessions, nor are they passing illusions. Instead, they reflect the meaningful interactions between groups of people struggling with themselves and others over access to power, including the rights of self-determination and self-definition that have long been promised to them.” – Circe Sturm, Blood Politics
  • “If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance.  Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” – Sherman Alexie
  • “They claim this mother of ours, the Earth, for their own use, and fence their neighbors away from her, and deface her with their buildings and their refuse.” – Sitting Bull
  • Religion is for people who're afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who've already been there.” ― Vine Deloria Jr.
  • “Even small things we do with our original diet – every time we eat corn or squash – we are moving away from the most oppressive means of our colonization.” – Dr.  John Mohawk, Pinewoods Community Farming/Iroquois White Corn Project
  • “Preserving a culture does not stop with buildings. It does not start in language classes. It is the entire landscape.” – Roberta Conner, Tamátslikt Cultural Institute
  • “The essence of the problem is about consumption, recognizing that a society that consumes one-third of the world’s resources is unsustainable. This level of consumption requires constant intervention into other people’s lands.  That’s what’s going on.” – Winona LaDuke
  • “I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place.” – Sitting Bull
  • "We are not as isolated and uneducated as we once were. We have lawyers; we have political rights and a special political status. No longer do we allow encroachment within our own boundaries.” – Ken Davis, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa
  • “Books and beer are the best and worst defense.”  ― Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
  • Before, Indian people had been so defeated, they were always looking for outsiders, for the government, to somehow come in and fix things. But now, they seem to realize that they're the only ones who can save themselves. – James Welch
  • ''The treaties are the recognition of tribal rights, not gifts.'' – Ron His Horse is Thunder, Standing Rock Sioux
  • “Words are the most powerful shaping tool.  Writing, speech, language don’t just communicate fact, they create fact.” – David Treuer, Ojibwe, author of Rez Life
  • “Never has America lost a war ... But name, if you can, the last peace the United States won. Victory yes, but this country has never made a successful peace because peace requires exchanging ideas, concepts, thoughts, and recognizing the fact that two distinct systems of life can exist together without conflict. Consider how quickly America seems to be facing its allies of one war as new enemies.”  ― Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto
  • “These Indians are fierce, they wear feathers and grunt. Most of us don't fit this idealized figure since we grunt only when overeating” ― Vine Deloria, Jr.
  • "Culture, as Indian people understood it, was basically a lifestyle by which a people acted. It was self-expression, but not a conscious self-expression. Rather, it was an expression of the essence of a people." – Vine Deloria, Jr., Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto
  • “I will tell you something about stories ... They aren't just entertainment. Don't be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.” ― Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
  • “But as long as you remember what you have seen, then nothing is gone. As long as you remember, it is part of this story we have together.” ― Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
  • “The only way to get change is not through the courts or — heaven forbid — the politicians, but through a change of human consciousness and through a change of heart. Only through the arts — music, poetry, dance, painting, writing — can we really reach each other.” ― Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
  • Before, Indian people had been so defeated, they were always looking for outsiders, for the government, to somehow come in and fix things. But now, they seem to realize that they're the only ones who can save themselves. – James Welch
  • “When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape.”  ― Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves
  • “Society is like this card game here, cousin. We got dealt our hand before we were even born, and as we grow we have to play as best as we can.” ― Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine
  • “... don't read anything except what destroys the insulation between yourself and your experience ...”  ― Louise Erdrich
  • “And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.” ― Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum
  • “Poetry = Anger x Imagination” ― Sherman Alexie, One Stick Song
  •  “I didn't literally kill Indians. We were supposed to make you give up being Indian. Your songs and stories and language and dancing. Everything. We weren't trying to kill Indian people. We were trying to kill Indian culture.”  ― Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • “It's a weird thing. Reservations were meant to be prisons, you know? Indians were supposed to move onto reservations and die. We were supposed to disappear. But somehow or another, Indians have forgotten the reservations were meant to be death camps.”  ― Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • "There are bad and foolish people in every race. You have to judge them one by one and then you have to give them a second chance." – Imogene Bowen, Upper Skagit Tribe