Touch the Earth: A Self Portrait of Indian Existence

In this compilations of excerpts from Native American writings and photographs, T. C. McLuhan tells the story of a people once living harmoniously with the land. Indigenous people around the world often have radical and insightful beliefs about the human relationship with the earth and each other. I was so moved by some of the words that I decided to share them with you.

The Land

“Our land is more valuable than your money. It will last forever.”

– Blackfeet Chief

“You ask me to plow the ground, shall I take a knife and tear my mother’s breast? You ask me to dig for stone. Shall I dig under her skin for her bones? You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it and be rich like white men. But how dare I cut off my mother’s hair?”

 – Swohalla, Sokulk

“The man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures and acknowledging unity with the universe of things was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization.”

– Chief Luther Standing Bear

On Religion

“Their Wise Ones said we might have their religion, but when we tried to understand it we found that there were too many kinds of religions among white men for us to understand, and scarcely any two white men agreed which was the right one to learn. This bothered us a great deal until we saw that the white man did not take his religion any more seriously than he did his laws and that he kept both of them just behind, like Helpers, to use when they might do him good in dealings with strangers…We have never been able to understand the white man, who fools nobody but himself.”

On Traditional Clothing

“Our bodies were used to constant bathing in the sun, air, and rain and the function of the pores of our skin, which were in a reality a highly developed breathing apparatus was at once stopped…aided by that worst of all torments – red flannel underwear…Many times we have been laughed at for out native way of dressing, but could anything we ever wore compare to the steel ribbed corset and the huge bustle our girls adopted after a few years in school?”

– Chief Lutheran Standing Bear

The Uprooting

“My people are few they resemble the scattering trees of a storm swept plain.”

“If we can not live here, we want to go into the mountains and die. We do not want any other home.”

– Cecilio Blacktooth

“All lost, we walked silently on into the wintry night.”

– An Ollokot widow

The End

“The changes of many summers have brought old age upon me.”

– Black Hawk

The Future

“We…have been instructed by the Great Spirit to express the invitation to the President of  the United States and all spiritual leaders everywhere to meet with us and discuss the welfare of mankind so that Peace, Unity and Brotherhood become part of all men everywhere.”

– Hopi Leaders and Representatives

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