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30+ quotes from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn

Quotes from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder

Kent Nerburn ·  304 pages

Rating: (2.5K votes)


“Our old people noticed this from the beginning. They said that the white man lived in a world of cages, and that if we didn't look out, they would make us live in cages too.
So we started noticing. Everything looked like cages. Your clothes fit like cages. Your houses looked like cages. You put your fences around your yards so they looked like cages. Everything was a cage. You turned the land into cages. Little squares.
Then after you had all these cages you made a government to protect these cages. And that government was all cages. All laws about what you couldn't do. The only freedom you had was inside your own cage. Then you wondered why you weren't happy and didn't feel free. You made all the cages, the you wondered why you didn't feel free.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“We Indians know about silence,” he said. “We aren't afraid of it. In fact, to us it is more powerful than words.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“That is not the way it should be. Good leaders wait to be called and they give up their power when they are no longer needed. Selfish men and fools put themselves first and keep their power until someone throws them out. It is no good to have a way where selfish men and fools fight with each other to be leaders, while the good ones watch.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Watch, listen, and then act, they told us. This is the way to live.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“If at times my words seem angry, you must forgive me. In my mind, there is great anger. No one who has seen the suffering of our children and the tears of our grandmothers cannot be angry. But in my heart I struggle to forgive, because the land is my teacher, and the land says to forgive.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“It is not easy for a man to be as great as a mountain or a forest. But that is why the Creator gave them to us as teachers. Now that I am old I look once more toward them for lessons, instead of trying to understand the ways of men.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Think of that Thoreau fellow. I've read some of his books. He went out and lived in a shack and looked at a pond. Now he's one of your heroes. If I go out and live in a shack and look at a pond, pretty soon I'll have so many damn social workers beating on my door that I won't be able to sleep. “They'll start scribbling in some damn notebook: ‘No initiative. No self-esteem.’ They'll write reports, get grants, start some government program with a bunch of forms.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Here is what I really think. White people are jealous of us. If it hadn't been for your religion you would have lived just like us from the first minute you got to this land. You knew we were right. You started wearing our clothes. You started eating our food. You learned how to hunt like us. When you fought the English you even fought like us. “You came to this country because you really wanted to be like us. But when you got here you got scared and tried to build the same cages you had run away from. If you had listened to us instead of trying to convert us and kill us, what a country this would be.” “Hannh, hannh,” Grover said in a subdued gesture of approval. “That's damn straight, Dan.” Dan”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Your people must learn to give up their arrogance. They are not the only ones placed on this earth. Theirs is not the only way. People have worshiped the Creator and loved their families in many ways in all places. Your people must learn to honor this.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“In the last analysis, we must all, Indian and non-Indian, come together. This earth is our mother, this land is our shared heritage. Our histories and fates are intertwined, no matter where our ancestors were born and how they interacted with each other. Neither Wolf nor Dog is one small effort to help this coming together. It is not an attempt to build a fence around a man and his people, but to honor them with the gift of my words. I have done my best, and I place this book before you, like the tobacco before the buffalo rock, as a simple offering. May you receive it in the spirit with which it is offered. Kent Nerburn Bemidji, Minnesota Spring 1994”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“You took the places where the spirits talked to us and you gave us bags of flour.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“These people would ride across the land and put a flag up, then say that everything between where they started and where they put the flag belonged to them. That was like someone rowing a boat out into a lake and saying that all the water from where he started to where he turned around belonged to him. Or someone shooting an arrow into the sky and saying that all the sky up to where the arrow went belonged to him. “This is very important for you to understand. We thought these people were crazy.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Our elders told us this was the best way to deal with white people. Be silent until they get nervous, then they will start talking. They will keep talking, and if you stay silent, they will say too much. Then you will be able to see into their hearts and know what they really mean. Then you will know what to do.” “I imagine it works,” I said.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“we had something that was real, that we lived the way the Creator meant people to live on this land. They”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.” — Sitting Bull I”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“In my ears I have heard the words of Sitting Bull, telling me that white people are not to be trusted. But I have also heard the words of Black Kettle, who told us to reach out a hand of peace.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“We were taught that the old people and the babies were the closest to God and it was for them that we all lived. They were the most helpless and they needed us the most.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“of its usage. “The Creator loves the smell of sweetgrass. If you smoke the pipe and pray and then put sweetgrass on the fire, he will listen to you.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“bed and watch distant flashes of lightning illuminate the inside of giant, looming thunderheads six or seven miles high. The earth itself had ceased to be the prime element in my consciousness. This was a land of the sky, and every turn, every action, lifted the eye upward.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“I checked the position the car was facing. Grover had pulled off the road directly into the brunt of the storm, facing west. I felt the dampness on my right shoulder where the rain had forced its way through the cracked weather stripping around the car windows. “Yes.” “Hnnh,” Dan said. “Waziya. There is a message.” “What do you mean?” I said, slightly disconcerted. “Waziya is not good. He is cold and cruel.” “Waziya?” “The wind from the north.” Dan was pulling a small pouch from inside his shirt. It”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“White eyes, Nerburn. You've got white eyes. The boy probably left it there. This is what I mean. Watch our little children. They might get a bike and ride it, then just leave it somewhere, like that. You say they are irresponsible. They are just being like their ancestors who believed that you owned something only so long as you needed it. Then you passed it to someone else.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“If I lived in a big house and had rooms full of different things, if I had big cars and a library full of books, if I had pulled out all the flowers and medicine plants and made a lawn that looked like a rug, people would come to me and ask me about everything because they would say I am a ‘good’ Indian. All it would mean is that I am an Indian with lots of possessions, just like a white man. That would make me good and important in your eyes. Admit it.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Every once in a while I would have to go to a powwow and put on some feathers so you could believe I was a real Indian. But other than that you would think I was smarter and more important if I lived in a big house and owned lots of things. That's just the way white people are. It's the way you are trained.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Dan was not to be deterred. “Yeah. We see it all the time. It's one of the things that surprises white people when they first come to a reservation. A lot of the kids don't look like Indians. Some of them are blond, like Eugene, or redhead. Some have blue eyes. That bothers white people. We can see it. You talk different to those kids. They aren't real Indians to you. “Every Indian notices this. Those kids are Indians to us, but not to you. Since your people first came over here we have been taking white people and letting them live with us. They have become Indians and we think that's fine. But it drives you crazy. “In the old days, during all the fighting, people would be captured, or we'd find someone without a home — you know, there were a lot of kids without parents — their parents were killed in accidents or maybe in the Civil War.” “Maybe by Indians,” I said. I was getting irritable. “Yeah. Maybe by Indians,” Dan answered. He would not take the bait. “We took those kids and those other people and let them live with us. We made them Indians.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“A tragedy has taken place on our land, and even though it did not take place on our watch, we are its inheritors, and the earth remembers.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Here,” he said abruptly. “Turn here.” A rutted path ran up a little rise toward a beige trailer. “This is Grover's place.” The trailer sat exposed on a treeless hill. A perfectly ordered woodpile stood in the yard to the left. Each log seemed to have been cut to an identical length, and they were piled in a crisscross fashion, with each layer running perpendicular to the one below and above. A small patch of earth to the right of his stoop had been cleared of brush and raked smooth. Two lawn chairs sat evenly spaced against the skirting of the trailer. There were no junk cars, no engine parts, no kids' bicycles — just Grover's old Buick parked in a spot marked off by a frame of fist-sized rocks arranged in a perfect rectangle. Dan glanced over at me. The twinkle was back in his eye. “Goddamn reservation Indian,” he muttered. “Lost his culture.” Then he sat back and let out a long rolling laugh that seemed, like prairie thunder, to come from the beginning of time.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“There is something we don't like, though. It's when people call us Indians and then start calling sports teams and other things Indians. If we're going to have a false name, at least let us have it and then leave it alone. Don't start putting it on beer bottles and ice cream cartons and making it into something that embarrasses us and makes us look like fools. And don't tell us it's supposed to be some honor to us. We'll decide what honors us and what doesn't.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“When you knew I was coming?” I said. “I wrote it when I knew I wanted to speak. I went to my hill and spoke to my grandfathers. They gave me that song. They gave it to me in the wind. They said I had too much anger to speak. They told me that anger is only for the one who speaks. It never opens the heart of one who listens.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“Pretty soon after we start talking with a white person, that white person will bring up Indians, sure as anything.” “It's true, Nerburn,” Grover chimed in. Dan kept on. “They might talk about some other Indian they knew or they might talk about some movie or something to do with Indians. Probably it's to show us how much they claim to like Indians. But you sure know that they're going to bring up Indians. It's like that's the biggest thing when they meet me. I could be the president or have a cure for cancer, but before anyone could talk about it, they'd have to say something about Indians. “Black people have told me it's the same for them, too. You white people just seem to see race first, no matter what. “Then the really funny thing is that you pretend you don't see race. Like the other night, I was sitting with Grover. We were watching a boxing match on TV.” He turned toward Grover for confirmation. “You remember that?” “Sure do. Lousy fight.” “Anyway, the announcer kept talking about the one guy in black trunks with a white stripe and the other guy in black trunks with a gold stripe. Hell, I couldn't even see the difference. But that was how he kept talking about them. And you know what? One guy was white and the other guy was black! But the announcer couldn't say, ‘the white guy’ and ‘the black guy’ because you're not supposed to see that. It was the damndest thing I ever saw.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


“And here is something that I think is important — your religion didn't come from the land. It could be carried around with you. You couldn't understand what it meant to us to have our religion in the land. Your religion was in a cup and a piece of bread, and that could be carried in a box. Your priests could make it sacred anywhere. You couldn't understand that what was sacred for us was where we were, because that is where the sacred things had happened and where the spirits talked to us.”
― Kent Nerburn, quote from Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder


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Kent Nerburn
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