Simply Living: The Spirit of the Indigenous People

Simply Living: The Spirit of the Indigenous People

by Shirley Jones

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We all carry within us the ancient, tribal identity of indigenous people - people native to their lands. As technology continues to dominate and complicate modern life, many are striving to reclaim that tribal connection by living more simply. Editor Shirley Ann Jones adds a historical contribution to this field with Simply Living, gathering lore from ethnic groups


We all carry within us the ancient, tribal identity of indigenous people - people native to their lands. As technology continues to dominate and complicate modern life, many are striving to reclaim that tribal connection by living more simply. Editor Shirley Ann Jones adds a historical contribution to this field with Simply Living, gathering lore from ethnic groups on every continent to find possibilities for downsizing daily life. This collection speaks about native wisdom based in villages and tribes, wisdom deriving from an awareness of basic human needs. Often funny and eccentric, the quotes offered here concentrate on essential truths, healing rituals, and practical strategies for living in harmony with nature, community, and self.

Editorial Reviews

Anita Manuel
This collection of sayings and quotes from Fourth World peoples is a gift to modern society that may help it recover a sense of simple human experience. It is not a book of just read through; it's more like sitting silently in a meadow, slowing realizing the wonderful and harmonious diversity which exits in the natural world.
Napra Review

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New World Library
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Simply Living

The Spirit of the Indigenous People

By Shirley Ann Jones

New World Library

Copyright © 1999 Shirley Ann Jones
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57731-054-9




Qanoq sila? — "How is the universe?"


Northern Canada

Aga poi — "Good morning to you all."


Bandiagara cliffs, Mali, Africa

Está en su casa — "You are in your house."


Mi casa es su casa — "My house is your house."

– MEXCALTITÁN GREETING TO GUESTS Island village of Mexcaltitán

Everywhere I went ... I heard the Ponapean word of greeting. Interchangeable for either hello or goodbye, it is one of the world's loveliest words: Kasalehlia! When you hear it pronounced liltingly on the tongue — cassa-LAY-leeah — by a Ponapean maiden with a flower in her flowing hair, as you pass her thatched house under the palm trees beside the deep sea, you feel you have heard the sound of paradise.

– DAVID S. BOYER "Micronesia: The Americanization of Eden" Ponape District, Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands

In class I made points explaining that in Mexico roosters said "qui-qui-ri-qui" and not "cock-a-doodle-doo" to bring in the day, but after school I had to put up with the taunts of a big Yugoslav who said Mexican roosters were crazy.

– ERNESTO GALARZA Born in the mountain village of Jalcocotán, western Mexico

I've been getting up earlier these days because of that old rooster we have. The older it gets, the earlier in the morning it goes "ku-kaREE-kwaa."

– VISHNU MAYA Gurung tribe, central Nepal

U phela Joang? — "Are you well?"

– GREETING People of Kingdom of Lesotho, Africa

Bula! — "What's happening?"

– GREETING Republic of Fiji

We have no good morning or good night in our language. To a Burmese, a smile is more eloquent than words. Sometimes foreigners misunderstand. During World War II, a handbook printed for your GIs warned them not to read too much into a Burmese girl's smile; she might just be saying hello — or good bye!

– U SAN WIN Burmese native, Myanmar (formerly Burma)

As we beached on the rough, pebbled shore of Wagu village, people rushed toward us hugging, clinging, laughing, and crying. With each pair of eyes I met flowed thousands of silent thoughts. There is no Bahinemo word for "hello," and only an extended absence requires a greeting: "You're here."

– EDIE BAKKER "Return to Hunstein Forest" Papua New Guinea

T'an Bahktale! — "Good Fortune to You!"


Staray ma-shi — "May you not be tired."


Namaste — "I salute the god within you."


Hau. Mitakuipi ampetu kile chante ma waste napa chuzau. — Greetings my relatives. Today is a good day, my heart is strong, and I extend my hand in friendship.

– WILLIAM MEANS Lakota, South Dakota President of the International Indian Treaty Council


We the peoples of the United Nations determined ... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person ... to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors ... have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.


The Latin appellation for the sacredness of a place is "koltus" — culture.

– GEORGE J. DEMKO Why in the World

The vision of the present is the vision of a single world living in peace and harmony, not under unified rule of a single power or through the adoption of a single cultural system, but rather through learning mutual respect for the different ways of peoples in other parts of the world. We need, each of us, to cherish our own culture for ourselves, while still recognizing that other peoples may find other ways of life more satisfying.


The movement of a culture of peace, like a great river, is fed from diverse streams — from every tradition, culture, language, religion, and political perspective. Its goal is a world in which this wealth of cultures lives together in an atmosphere marked by intercultural understanding, tolerance, and solidarity.


The essence of Frazer's achievements was that he saw the need to stand outside his own culture to understand other cultures.

– SIR JAMES GEORGE FRAZER Foreword to The Golden Bough

Any acquaintance with anthropology is therefore bound to awaken a feeling of pride in the human race, the inexhaustible fertility of its power to create cultures. With that comes tolerance.

– GENE LISITZKY Four Ways of Being Human

We need to share some values such as a commitment to fundamental human rights and basic rules of interaction, but we can be wildly different in other areas such as lifestyles, spirituality, musical tastes, and community life.

– JACK WEATHERFORD Savages and Civilization — Who Will Survive?

As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.

– MARGARET MEAD Anthropologist

Each culture embodies an experiment in the human potential. Each culture stands as a monument to man's achievement, and each testifies to the human capacity to find a formula for survival. Yet each web may have so intricate and fragile a pattern that cutting the strands of religion, political life, or economic base can sometimes cause the whole delicate structure to collapse. The people stay on, but their special way of adapting to life may vanish.

– MATTHEW W. STIRLING National Geographic Society

Foraging has been the most generalized and enduring subsistence pattern developed by humans. It is the only strategy proven viable over tens of thousands of years. All of us emerged only recently from this same foraging past, and none of us has quite adjusted to the sudden change in the human way of life. The aborigines, sitting ragged and dirty with the smell of alcohol on them, show the sudden transition and dislocation more clearly than we do, but our own "modern" society suffers from it just as much as theirs, if not more.

– JACK WEATHERFORD Savages and Civilization — Who Will Survive?

The Native people have been here thousands and thousands of years, but take a look at the land and you cannot find a trace of where they've been. Western civilization has been here maybe 200 or 300 years, and you can see everywhere it's been.

– CLAUDE DEMIENTIEFE JR. Yukon native, Alaska

The push to explore and exploit the remotest corners of the earth cannot be stopped easily, if at all.

– DAVID MAYBURY-LEWIS Anthropologist

Ideas of superiority, delusions of grandeur and megalomania probably emerged with the first consciousness of man that his racial group was different from others. Wherever we meet the superiority theories, in antiquity or modern times, they are all extraordinarily alike. They constitute the faith of the unenlightened, maintained, of course, by the stupidity of the many and the cunning of the few.

– FRANZ BOAS Anthropologist

The white man saves the whooping crane, he saves the goose in Hawaii, but he is not saving the way of life of the Indian.

– BLACKFOOT INDIAN Expressed during the Alcatraz Island takeover

If, despite immense difficulties, we wean ourselves of this habit of regarding material achievements as culture, we shall have come a step nearer the most important truth of all: that the most advanced culture is not necessarily that with the fastest machines or the largest cities, and that there is no fundamental difference between the primitive and the civilized.

– CORNELIUS OSGOOD Anthropologist, Ethnologist

We can no longer assume, if we are fortunate enough to live in one of the "developed" countries, that our way of life represents the most advanced stage of progress and that other societies have simply been less successful than ours in attaining it. Instead, we now know that other societies have made other choices, followed different paths in search of different destinies. This knowledge opens up new vistas on the richness and variety of what it means to be human. The challenge we all face is how to come to terms with these differences, how to live with the variety, now that we have discovered that there are more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in our philosophy.

– DAVID MAYBURY-LEWIS Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World

I was thinking of anthropology as the perfect educational tool it is — a mind stretcher, prejudice dissolver, and taste widener.

– GENE LISITZKY Four Ways of Being Human

The ultimate value of anthropology is that it enables us to follow the dictum "Know thyself."


One never seduced by a foreign culture can never appreciate the fetters of his own. Life, after all, is a journey — a voyage of discovery. Why not take the high road?

– THOMAS J. ABERCROMBIE "Prince of Travelers"




The beginning began with a sound. A sound that was music within the silence. It was dull but sweet, a golden sound that rang and echoed through the nothingness. It was constant and went ringing over, under, sideways, and through itself. It was the beginning, a start, a creation.

– JOHN ACTIVE Yup'ik, born in Chukfaktoolik A small western Eskimo village, Alaska

In the beginning, there was blackness. Only the sea. In the beginning there was no sun, no moon, no people. In the beginning there were no animals, plants. Only the sea. The sea was the Mother. The Mother was not people, she was not anything. Nothing at all. She was when she was, darkly. She was memory and potential. She was aluna.... Aluna is where the Law of the Mother began; it is the place of the spirit, of the mind, of intelligence. It is the place of thinking.

– THE KOGI HISTORY OF CREATION Sierra Nevada, Colombia

From the conception, the increase; from the increase, the swelling; from the swelling, the thought; from the thought, the remembrance; from the remembrance, the consciousness, the desire.


In the very beginning of the Goajira genesis, therefore, there was Woman. She lived in solitude until, during one of her menstrual periods, she encountered a powerful thunderstorm and became pregnant. Her Boy Child is Maleíwa, the creator. Thus Maleiwa was born out of the eternal Woman without the agency of a man. The name of this "Urmutter" is Mother of Maleíwa.


Survivors of Eldorado On the legend of the Goajiro Indians Colombia and Venezuela, South America

The two Djanggau Sisters came across the water traveling on the path of the rising sun from an island away to the northeast. They made the first people. They made the water holes and the sacred ritual sites. At first the sisters possessed all the most secret sacred objects, the most sacred rites. Men had nothing. And so men stole them. But the sisters said, "Oh, let them keep those things. Now men can do this work, looking after those things for everybody."


In the beginning, there was no man. Flying through the darkness, the son of the bat fell in love with the daughter of the jatobá tree. Out of their love, two boys were born: the sun and the moon. The brothers made many bows and arrows and set them up next to each other in a long row. Then they made large cigars and blew the smoke against the bows and arrows, changing them into human beings — the ancestors of the Indians who dwelt among the headwaters of the Xingu River.

– WAURÁ INDIANS Creation Myth Upper Xingu Region, Brazil

Our Father, the Sun, seeing that men lived like wild animals, took pity on them, and sent to earth a son and daughter of his, in order that they might teach men the knowledge of our Father the Sun, and that they might know how to cultivate plants and grains and make use of the fruits of the earth like men and not beasts. With these orders and mandate our Father the Sun placed his son and daughter in Lake Titicaca.


Very, very when, all mankind lived underground at the bottom of a seven-storied subterranean mountain.


A long time ago there was only one man living in all the forest. His name was Ochiosa, and one day God sent a woman to him so that he would not be lonely. Ochiosa had never seen a woman before and so thought that she had been wounded in the place where he expected a man's penis to be. Making some medicine from a vine of the forest, he put it in the wound and the woman later bore a son called Luembe, who was the first Mbuti.

– NDEKE Ituri Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa

For his bones, I take the birches; for his flesh, the salmon and the stag; the black bear's hide shall be his hair, and the good red clay his skin. The dark of deep waters shall shine in the shadow of his eyes. His private spirit shall be strong magic and great medicine. His nature shall be noble, fiery, heaven-bent, and proud. And in the book of the world, his name shall be written: Man.


For her bones I take the slim white clouds; for her flesh, the dove and the doe; the blackbird's gloss shall glitter in her hair, and sweet fruit ripen in her skin. The black tears of the pine tree shall be melted in her eyes. Her private spirit shall be great medicine and strong magic. Her nature shall be yielding, unpredictable, resilient, and bright. And in the book of the world, her name shall be written: Woman.


In the beginning, God gave to every people a cup of clay, and from this cup they drank their life.


My strength is from the fish; my blood is from the fish, from the roots and the berries. The fish and the game are the essence of my life. I was not brought from a foreign country and did not come here. I was put here by the Creator.

– MENINOCK Yakima Indian

In Ketchikan they tell the story of a Haida lad who returned home from grade school greatly upset. "The teacher said it wasn't true that we were descended from the raven, like you said," the boy told his father. "Now sit down, son," the father said firmly. "I want to have a talk with you. You were descended from the raven. The white man may be descended from the monkey, but you were descended from the raven!"

– LAEL MORGAN On the Haida of Southeastern Alaska

Many, many years ago, men lived under the ground, and all the world was a rock. They lived with their animals far below. Then one day a man and his wife were following a monkey that their dog was chasing through an endless rock tunnel. After a long trip they emerged on the surface of the world, a great black flat rock. They returned home, gathered seeds and worms, and brought them to the surface. Soon the seeds sprang up and the worms multiplied and life on the earth began.

– Y BANG R LIK A Mnong village elder, Buon Rocai, Vietnam


Excerpted from Simply Living by Shirley Ann Jones. Copyright © 1999 Shirley Ann Jones. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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