9 Gems from the Wisdomkeepers

by Liz Jansen

Later this year, I’ll get on my motorcycle and travel through North and South America. One of the goals of this trip is to spend time with Native Americans, observe and learn. I’d like to understand who I am before I was told who I am, and understand the common ground we share with all other life.

small__8414052068One of the books I picked up in preparation for this, is called Wisdomkeepers, by Steve Wall and Harvey Arden. Published in 1990, it explores the philosophy of Native American Elders, gleaned from ten years of crossing the country, meeting with these Wisdomkeepers.

The book overflows with simple, yet powerful stories, images, and words. I’ve pulled out a few quotes that spoke volumes. The message is as applicable now as it was then, as it was 10,000 years ago. The subtitles are mine.

9 Gems from the Wisdomkeepers


“I’m an Indian. I’m one of God’s children. My Indian name is Noble Red Man. That was my grandfather’s name. I’m a chief. I say what I have to say. That’s my duty. If I don’t say it, who’s going to say it for me?” Matthew King, Lakota

“If you know my song, you know Charlie. Everyone has a song. God gives us each a song. That’s how we know who we are. Our song tells us who we are.” Charlie Knight, Ute

“Everyone’s got to find the right path. You can’t see it so it’s hard to find. No one can show you. Each person’s got to find the path by himself.” Charlie Knight, Ute


“He finally learned that wisdom comes only when you stop looking for it and start truly living the life the Creator intended for you.” Leila Fisher, Hoh

“Everything I know I learned by listening and watching. Nowadays people learn out of books instead. Doctors study what man has learned. I pray to understand what man has forgotten. ” Vernon Cooper, Lumbee

“Let us live in peace and harmony to keep the land and all life in balance. Only prayer and meditation can do that.” Thomas Banyaca, Hopi


“Man sometimes thinks he’s been elevated to be the controller, the ruler, But he’s not. He’s only a part of the whole. Man’s job is not to exploit but to oversee, to be a steward. Man has responsibility, not power.” Oren Lynons, Onondaga

“Look behind you. See your sons and your daughters. They are your future. Look farther, and see your sons’ and your daughters’ children and their childrens’ children even unto the Seventh Generation. That’s the way we were taught. Think about it: you yourself are a Seventh Generation.” Tadodaho Leon Shenandoah

“With one mind we address our acknowledgement, respect, and gratefulness to all the sacred Cycle of Life. We as humans, must remember to be humble and acknowledge the gifts we use so freely in our daily lives.” Audrey Shenandoah, Onondaga


Poignant and powerful messages. I purchased the book used for $0.99. When I received it, the word “discarded” was prominently stamped on it in several places. May we never forget their messages.







Author, writer, and student Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery.

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