Native American Indian Traditional Code of Ethics
Inter-Tribal Times, October 1994
1. Each morning upon rising, and each evening before sleeping,
give thanks for the life within you and for all life, for the good
things the Creator has given you and for the opportunity to grow
a little more each day. Consider your thoughts and actions of the past
day and seek for the courage and strength to be a better
person. Seek for the things that will benefit others (everyone).
2. Respect. Respect means "To feel or show honor or esteem
for someone or something; to consider the well being of , or to
treat someone or something with deference or courtesy".
Showing respect is a basic law of life.
a. Treat every person from the tiniest child to the oldest elder
with respect at all times.
b. Special respect should be given to Elders, Parents, Teachers, and
c. No person should be made to feel "put down" by you; avoid hurting
other hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.
d. Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially
sacred Objects) without permission, or an understanding
e. Respect the privacy of every person, never intrude on a
person's quiet moment or personal space.
f. Never walk between people that are conversing.
g. Never interrupt people who are conversing.
h. Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence
of Elders, strangers or others to whom special respect is due.
i. Do not speak unless invited to do so at gatherings where
Elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should
you be in doubt).
j. Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are
present or not.
k. Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show
deep respect for the mineral world, the plant world, and the
animal world. Do nothing to pollute our Mother, rise up with
wisdom to defend her.
l. Show deep respect for the beliefs and religion of others.
m. Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that
what they are saying is worthless. Listen with your heart.
n. Respect the wisdom of the people in council. Once you give
an idea to a council meeting it no longer belongs to you. It
belongs to the people.
Respect demands that you listen intently to the ideas of others
in council and that you do not insist that your idea prevail. Indeed
you should freely support the ideas of others if they are true and
good, even if those ideas are quite different from the ones you
have contributed. The clash of ideas brings forth the Spark of
3. Once a council has decided something in unity, respect
demands that no one speak secretly against what has been
decided. If the council has made an error, that error will become
apparent to everyone in its own time.
4. Be truthful at all times, and under all conditions.
5. Always treat your guests with honor and consideration. Give
of your best food, your best blankets, the best part of your house,
and your best service to your guests.
6. The hurt of one is the hurt of all, the honor of one is the honor
7. Receive strangers and outsiders with a loving heart and as
members of the human family.
8. All the races and tribes in the world are like the different
colored flowers of one meadow. All are beautiful. As children
of the Creator they must all be respected.
9. To serve others, to be of some use to family, community,
nation, and the world is one of the main purposes for which
human beings have been created. Do not fill yourself with
your own affairs and forget your most important tasks. True happiness
comes only to those who dedicate their lives to the service of others.
10. Observe moderation and balance in all things.
11. Know those things that lead to your well-being, and those
things that lead to your destruction.
12. Listen to and follow the guidance given to your heart. Expect
guidance to come in many forms; in prayer, in dreams, in times
of quiet solitude, and in the words and deeds of wise Elders and
Chief Seattle (c.1784-1866) in a letter to U.S. President
Pierce in 1854. In January of 1855, Chief Seattle ceded his lands
in Washington State to the United States government by the Treaty
of Point Elliott; as quoted in Michelle Lovric, ed., The World's
Greatest Letters: From Ancient Greece to the Twentieth Century, (2002),
" ... this land is sacred to us. This shining water that moves in
the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our
If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and
you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each
ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events
and memories in the life of my people.
The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.
The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers
carry canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you
must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our
brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the
kindness you would give any brother.
We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of
land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger
who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs.
The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered
it, he moves on.....
His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.
I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways...
This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to
the earth. This we know."