Walking with Grandfather: The Wisdom of Lakota Elders

Updated: Mar 22



About the Author

Joseph M. Marshall III is a teacher, historian, writer, storyteller, and a Lakota craftsman. He was born on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota and raised in a traditional native household by his maternal grandparents. He has published nine nonfiction works including The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living and To You We Shall Return: Lessons About Our Planet from the Lakota, three novels, a collection of short stories and essays, a children's book, and was contributing author in five other publications; and has written several screenplays. Several of his books have been published in French, Hebrew, Korean, Japanese, German, Italian, Chinese, Romanian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Bulgarian. In addition, Joseph has had several major screen appearances, including a role in the television network movie, Return to Lonesome Dove, and as a technical advisor and narrator for the Turner Network Television (TNT) and DreamWorks six part mini-series Into the West. Joseph has been recognized for his writing, scholarship, and service with numerous awards, including the Wyoming Humanities Award and the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award for Historical Fiction. He is also a practitioner of primitive Lakota archery, having learned from his maternal grandfather the art of hand-crafting bows and arrows, and is a specialist in wilderness survival. Joseph and his wife Connie (also his literary agent and manager) are the parents of a blended family and have sixteen grandchildren. For more about Joseph's writings and appearances, please visit www.thunderdreamers.com.



A beautifully written story by a man sharing his Grandfather’s wisdom. He tells tales of their walks together when he was just a young boy and reminds us that we must always remember where it is that we come from. So easily we stay within the present time, forgetting the triumphs that have been overcome throughout the journey. Looking back on it we must ask ourselves, what did our own ancestors start with, what do we have now because of them?


In the beginning of the book he talks about wisdom and what exactly wisdom is and how it is regarded. You must live a long life to gain wisdom. It is not something you can selfishly hang onto, your duty is to give it back to life. The definition of wisdom that is given in the book, speaks loudly.


“Just as knowledge is derived from information, wisdom begins with knowledge, grows with experience, and is empowered by discernment.”


As you read the book you can’t help but to reflect over your own years. He shares that his grandfather would have him turn to look back on their walks from time to time.


“Remember the trail,” he would say, “because one of these times I will send you back alone. If you don’t remember the way you have come, you will be lost.”


That rings true with my soul, we didn’t get here today unaffected by what happened in our yesterdays.


He goes on to share the importance of knowing who we are and where we come from at our cores. Despite the changes we face in life and our hardships. If we choose to forget, we create a distorted image of who we are. Others will view and see then only that image. This could cause us to become angry, frightful, and confused, with our identities.

“The tracks we leave on the land will disappear over time. The tracks we leave in the hearts and minds of others will never fade.”

One of my favorite stories in the book is that of the greyhound dog. The dog enters the boy and grandparents lives for a period of time, touching all of them in different ways. The dog seemed in need of the family when it showed up on their property hungry. As the days pass they realize maybe they needed him as much. He shares in the book that the dog taught him to be strong to not give up, to never waver in the goal or the purpose.


Animals and people come into our lives for periods of time to help us grow, teaching us, or nurturing us. I have been lucky enough to experience some of these instances in my own life. His story reminds me of the time I was working in my office at my desk; I turned around to find a black cat laying on the back of my office sofa. The cat lay there watching me, as if I should be so surprised of his presence. I had never seen this cat before in my life with no one else home, I was puzzled. He must have entered through our doggy door in the back of the house. He would have scaled our fence, come onto our back porch, and into our home. He looked at me as if I new exactly who he was, like he belonged, and like I had been expecting him. I seen something so spiritual in his eyes. I recognized that somehow we must of been needing of one another. So when my family came home they met my visitor and they quickly fell in love. We started to call the cat, ‘Blaze of Glory’. We couldn’t explain it but we just new that he needed us. I don’t think any one of us thought he would stay forever, though we cared for him with open hearts. It was just a few weeks that he stayed with us; as quickly as he had once come into our lives, he left just the same. I look back on it all now, seeing the spiritual parallels of his visit, the projects I was working on, and the things happening within my life, it was divine timing. Blaze of Glory, I don’t doubt was on a very special mission. I will always be forever grateful for our time together.


Like the greyhound dog in the story our paths were meant to cross, it is not something I have to question. As the Grandfather’s wisdom is shared with us, he puts it in the book as follows...


“He pointed out to me that there are many trails on the land, some that are so old we can no longer see them or remember exactly where they were. But that they are there, he said. He also reminded me that there are trails in our memories; the trails we have walked and the trails left by those who have crossed our paths.”


“Each and every trail is a story of a journey, he said.”



One of the most profound parts of the book in my opinion was in the chapter 'The Circle of Life.' He talks about the beliefs of many native cultures accepting that all forms of life are created equally. No one thing or person is either higher or lower in the circle of life. Nor is one either first or last. Humans tend to see themselves as a greater value then the earth itself or the animals that we share it with. He goes on to share with us about our humanistic fears of death.


"We have not yet evolved spiritually to realize that we do not need to be saved from death. From diseases, discomfort, and host of other ills, yes. Bun not from death."



I have really enjoyed this book and the authors way of story telling. I feel blessed with the wisdom that was shared within the book. A great story that touches our heartstrings and carries on with us as we go. - Cathleen



"Wisdom is a journey that begins the moment we are born. But as every wise person knows, there will never be a moment when we can say, "There, I am now as wise as I will ever be." Wisdom is a never-ending journey."


"Wisdom doesn't come from the lowest depths we may descent to or the darkest moments we have and will now; it comes from the fall."








"When we began our search for consultants for Into the West, we were looking for individuals with a deep knowledge of the culture and history of the Lakota people. In Joe Marshall, we found that person, but the happy surprise was that we also found a poet, a storyteller, and an educator who led us through challenging terrain with great patience and wisdom."

―Michael Wright, executive in charge of production, Into The West



Native American lineage holders have long been cautious about sharing their spiritual truths because the essence of this wisdom has been so often misunderstood. In Walking with Grandfather, authentic Lakota lineage holder and award-winning storyteller Joseph M. Marshall breaks this silence with the very best from a lifetime of lessons passed on to him by his grandfather. With him, you will gain access to the timeless teachings that until now remained largely unheard outside the culture of the Lakota people.


Part of an unbroken series of narratives dating back countless centuries, this rare new transmission includes Marshall's rendition of legendary stories such as:


"Follow Me"―why it is not authority but character, compassion, and experience that make a good leader

• "The Way of Wolves"―surprising lessons about the meaning of family

• "The Bow and the Arrow"―the intricate dynamics of spiritual partnership

• "The Shadow Man"―how to honor the sacred warrior in all of us

• "The Wisdom Within"―the passage of truly becoming an elder

• Plus many more stories



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