Proverbs Illustration

Native American Proverbs
Native Americans for Kids


Is the following sentence a Native American proverb? The soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears. The answer is - it might be, but if it is, it's unusual. Here's why:

"Years ago I read someplace that the absence of proverbs is some kind of distinguishing feature for all of the cultures of the Americas. At first it surprised me, but the more I have been thinking about it and asking around, the more it seems to be true. In the cultures I am mostly familiar with (subarctic Algonquians) there are no proverbs of any significance and I could philosophize on their absence, but I will not do. I am curious to hear about the results of this query." Peter Bakker (

After checking with several of our old professors, and some new ones, we have come to believe that the proverb, like the horse, is not native to the Americas. It arrived with early European explorers.

There are many proverbs on the web that are attributed to Native Americans. As you find them, keep in mind that these are mostly European, Asian, or African proverbs. Some are reworded by those who posted these proverbs online so that they appear to fit the culture of the Americas, but to insert words like "moccasins" or "sweet grass" in a proverb does not make that proverb reflect the beliefs of a people.

To teach their children about their beliefs and culture, Native Americans in olden times, and still today, use games, myths, stories, dance, and impersonation. See these sites for some examples: Native American Stories & Native American Games