"Wisdom is life's gift. Everything that has happened to us, and is happening, is life's way of giving us wisdom. Wisdom doesn't come from the amount of material gain we have accumulated; rather, it comes from the effort we expended to gain it. Wisdom doesn't come from the lowest depths we may descend to or the darkest moments we have or will know; it comes from the fall. And when we can look on ourselves and act without arrogance, no matter what our material gain, we can be wise. If we can look past the disappointment and the failures and understand why and how they happened, we can be wise. Then we can, and will, give back life's gift."
Walking with Grandfather

We Need the Wisdom of Elders

"So, let us ask again, where are our elders today?

"Sadly, if we are honest, we know where they are not.

"They are not in the center of the village. Their wisdom is not flowing outward.

"Any person or society or nation that ignores the lessons of the past will — sooner or later — face the flames of their own fear or arrogance. Some may not survive.

"Isn't it time, then, to put the elders back in the center of the village?"
Walking with Grandfather

A Lasting Lesson

"This was my first lesson as a hunter. If you hunt the deer, you must know the deer. All along the trails, there were lessons such as that.

"But the one lesson that has helped me through several difficult moments in my life is about the trail itself.

"Grandpa Albert had a habit of stopping now and then and looking back down the trail. Frequently, he would take me by the shoulders and ask me to look back at the way we had come. 'Remember the trail,' he said, 'because one of these times I will send you back alone. If you don't remember the way you have come, you will be lost.'

"That was my first lesson about identity.

"Who and what we are is a work in progress. Life shapes us constantly, day in and day out. Life is obviously the trail we walk. No one is exempt; therefore, no one is unaffected by what happens along the way. But we don't start off on the trail with nothing."
Walking with Grandfather

Wolves as Model Parents

"Wolves, as my grandfather pointed out, are the most patient parents on the face of the Earth, and they support and defend their families with all the of skills and abilities at their disposal. . . .

"Perhaps if we humans could put aside our prejudices and fears about wolves and take onto ourselves the reality of wolves, the world might be a different place. Probably a better place."
Walking with Grandfather

Be Like the Bow and Arrow

"The message such an old man offered was eloquently simple: Be like the bow and arrow.

"Why, then, is that important advice?

"There are many realities in life, but the reality of the bow and arrow is that one cannot be fulfilled without the other. Each gives purpose to the other. Without the bow, the arrow cannot fly. Without the arrow, the bow is empty. And there is more.

"Every archer knows that no matter how strong a bow may be, the arrow must be perfectly straight in order to fly true to the target. On the other hand, even the straightest arrow cannot reach the target if the bow is weak."
Walking with Grandfather

The Circle

"Over the years, I've found nothing — not that I was trying — to refute the reality of the circle, although I've noticed plenty of affirmations of it. For example, when groups of natives (Indians) gather together, they invariably form a circle. A man wandering in a vast wilderness on foot will eventually walk a circle, because one leg is shorter than the other; therefore, his steps are not equal in length.

"It is only fitting, therefore, that the circle is the basis for Lakota spirituality. It is, in fact, the symbol representing life. The physical essence of the circle becomes somewhat abstract as it turns into a cycle. Days cycle from darkness to dawn to daylight to dusk and then back to darkness. Seasons of the year cycle from spring to summer to autumn to winter. Our lives cycle from birth to childhood to adulthood to old age and then to death. . . .

"In the circle, there is no first or last, no higher or lower. Many native cultures, the Lakota included, accepted the reality that all forms of life have a place on that circle. Therefore, no one or thing is first or last, No one or no thing is higher or lower than any other form of life. To further affirm this reality, the irrefutable equalizers are life and death."
Walking with Grandfather


"Weakness and strength are necessary for balance. No one or nothing is only weak or only strong. But some of us overlook our weaknesses, and even deny that we have them. That can be dangerous, because denying there is a weakness is in itself a weakness. Likewise, accepting that we have weaknesses becomes a strength. And by the same token, overestimating strength is a weakness. You should not be blinded by your strengths. The feeling of strength is not the same as having strength."
Keep Going

Facing the Storms of Life

"Facing the storms of life begins with knowing they will come. . . . I have seen how different animals behave in a storm. The bison stand facing into the teeth of the wind, whether it's rainstorm or a blizzard. Horses find a thicket or some kind of windbreak and stand with their tails to the wind. Some birds will put their heads under their wings, and fluff out their feathers. Others, like the grouse, find a shelter in the grass or a low thicket. But they all find a way to endure the wind and the cold."
Keep Going

Hope: One of the Sparks

"Hope is one of the sparks by which life sustains itself. The ability to hope is one of life's greatest gifts. The moment we hope that all will end well, that we can accomplish what we set out to d, we have likely insured that we will gain the outcome we hope for. At the very least we have increased the odds in favor."
Keep Going

Thanksgiving in Action

"Such traditions of preparation and thanksgiving were not restricted to animals. Gifts were offered in return for many things taken or harvested from the land. When a Lakota bow maker cut a tree that would become a bow, he too left an offering. He also might pray before cutting the tree, asking for the privilege of taking it. He knew and understood that the tree was a living entity with just as much right to life as any form of life on the earth. That knowledge and understanding arose out of the realization that life was the common reality. Anything and everything that was alive was connected to all else that was alive. That was the connection, the unavoidable reality. The common denominators were birth and death. All living things come into the world, whether we hatch from eggs, grow from seeds, or emerge from the womb. And in the end, after we have fulfilled our purpose — or at least have had the opportunity to do so — we are claimed by death. Nothing or no one can circumvent that reality, not the least and the weakest among us nor the strongest and the greatest. And it is that reality that makes us all equal to one another, but not the same."
To You We Shall Return