A Native American Teaching on How to Earn Respect


The following is an excerpt from The Wind Is My Mother, as told by Bear Heart:

“Nokus Ele’, or Bear Paw, the Seminole elder who put me on the ant hill as part of my training, was a medicine man.

“A member of our tribe wanted to learn something from Bear Paw and extended an invitation to him, saying, ‘I want you to stay overnight at my home.’

“So Bear Paw spent all night at this man’s house then got up early in the morning and waited until his host finally got up, too.

“The man said to him, ‘Breakfast is ready now, why don’t you come and eat.’

“In my tribe, people usually talk after the meal so when they had finished eating, the host said, ‘I’d like for you to tell me anything you think I ought to know.’

“‘All right. I’ll tell you, since you asked me, because you want to live in the community and be well thought of. I saw a lot of your implements laying around in the front yard. Put them together in a shed so you can find them in one place. There are a lot of odds and ends all over, put those up.’

“What Bear Paw was telling him, in a nice way, was to clean up his act. And since he was asking an elder, the man couldn’t talk back to him.

“Before you learn to do anything else, learn to keep your home in order and gain respect as a responsible member of your community, so that people will be glad to have you as a neighbor.

“That’s the first lesson you need to learn. Until you do that, don’t try to learn anything else.

“Your habits and behavior are what people know you by. If you sit in a responsible position, you carry that responsibility with you in your life.

“We don’t put shingles out saying doctor of this and that.

“We learn by doing, by being. How do you keep yourself, how do you regulate your own life? ”


There is a wonderful and very true saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”

I’ve met many people who felt the need to announce to all within hearing about the good deeds they’ve done, even talking about how humble they are!

But these people underestimate their audience. If you’re living a good life, a humble life, a life of good character, people will notice and respect you for it. You don’t have to tell them!

This is also a good way to handle those who might gossip about you. There’s no need to counter, handle or “spin” the gossip – just live your life well. The people who matter will notice and disregard the petty words of others.


Native American elders, in particular, are very quiet and very observant. Just when you think they’re not paying attention, they’ll make an observation that let’s you know they haven’t missed a single thing.

And in those observations, they’re weighing the character of the young ones growing up around them. Those that are industrious, compassionate and humble are the ones singled out for additional training and leadership positions. Sort of the opposite of how modern society seems to work.

I was present at a small gathering where a woman asked Bear Heart for permission to start running purification lodges, because she felt she had the necessary experience. I’ve seen many people put an elder on the spot like that, expecting that the elder will have to say yes because there are others present.

But this time Bear Heart decided to use it as a teaching moment, saying, “You may have the experience, but do you have the wisdom? It takes a lot of wisdom to guide and watch over others in a ceremony. Not many people are even willing to take it on, because of the great responsibility involved.”

That was it. Not a “yes” and not a “no,” but his message was clear.

Walking your talk is the best way to gain standing in your community. Be a good neighbor, a good friend, speak good words to and about others, clean up your act.

It’s the very best way to live.

The Author:

Molly Larkin is the co-author, with Bear Heart, of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman.” http://www.thewindismymother.com She blogs about Ancient Wisdom for a Life in Balance at http://www.mollylarkin.com where you can subscribe to her blog and receive a free e-book of inspirational quotes, “What Lies Within You.” She is also a licensed trainer for Healing in America, the U.S. affiliate of The Healing Trust, the largest energy healing organization in Europe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *