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Monday, January 17, 2011


Today’s essay focuses on the training of the young and contains the last references to Native American culture.
To give yourself a measuring stick for this essay I strongly recommend that you refer to my essay Cubists, which I have linked below.


Four American Indian views on the training of the young follow:

Something is wrong with the white man’s council. When the Micmac people used to have council, the old men would speak and tell the young men what to do—and the young men would listen and do what the old men told them to. The white men have changed that, too. Now young men speak and the old men listen. I believe the Micmac Council was far better.

Peter Paul

Several of our young men were brought up in your colleges. They were instructed in your sciences; but when they came back to us they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods, unable to bear either cold or hunger. They didn’t know how to build a cabin, take a deer, or kill an enemy. They spoke our language imperfectly.

They were therefore unfit to be hunters, warriors, or counselors; they were good for nothing.

If the government of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take great care with their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.


We send our little Indian boys and girls to school, and when they come back talking English, they come back swearing. There are no swear words in the Indian languages, and I haven’t yet learned to swear.


When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.

And what is to say farewell to the swift and the hunt, to the end of living and the beginning of survival? We might understand if we know what it was that the white man dreams, what he describes to his children on the long winter nights, what visions he burns into their minds, so that they will wish for tomorrow. But we are savages. The white man’s dreams are hidden from us.

Chief Seattle

To draw a comparison to these teachings I think back to when I lived in an upper scale neighborhood consisting primarily of business and professional people. The talk among men usually focused on the economy, what they were going to buy, where they would go on vacation, and on whether the Yankees would win the World Series. It annoyed me that discussions never left the shallowness of the material realm.

In reflecting on Chief Seattle’s inquiry, what do these men describe to their children on winter nights, what visions are burned into their minds that they will wish for tomorrow?

None and nothing!

Those who live in cubes have no concept of sitting around the fire on a cold winter night. Cubes do not have cold winter nights or hot summer nights, or dry days or humid days, or dark nights or star-studded nights. The temperature and lighting of the cube is always the same. The only concern about the elements for cubists is how it affects their travel from cube to cube. The news channels burst into chatter with the advent of heavy rain, deep snow, heat waves, blustery winds, and frigid temperatures all to describe their affect on travel from cube to cube.

To the Lakota Indians winds, snow, rain, sunshine, day, night, and change of seasons were endlessly fascinating. They provided some of the grist for the teachings of the elders on cold winter nights. The changing temperament of Mother Earth provided the basis for an understanding of the relationship of humans to the earth and the relationship of the earth to God. The great American poet Walt Whitman said, “I think all great deeds were conceived of in the open air.” Living in a cube does not enable one to become cognizant of the open air.

Those who live in cubes do not sit around in quietude—a necessary requirement for listening, contemplating, and understanding. The children (and adults as well) have multitudes of distractions such as texting, watching television, using computers, playing video games or making inane phone calls for hours. They no longer have the attention spans to sit in silence and absorb.

What little advice father’s pass down focuses on going to school, getting an education, making money, and becoming somebody; hardly the stuff that makes for the development of men. The values held by Chief Canassatego of the Iroquois never made it into the Western mindset; men are not taught the ethics necessary to maintain the well-being of society. The behavior of their children reflects the lack of ethics.

Zitkala-Sa, an Indian mother lamented that children came back swearing after learning English, whereas in her language there were no swear words. People raised in the cube do not look upon swearing negatively; it is considered a manifestation of freedom of speech. The Constitution calls for the pursuit of happiness. If swearing makes a person feel good, then Western thought feels it should not be restricted. The negativity that swearing generates does not concern Western thought, for it has no race consciousness. It only has a self-consciousness. It strives to satisfy the ME.

America has the distinction of having the most violent boys in the world; it also possesses most of the wealth of the world. Could moral behavior and material accumulation vary inversely? Does material accumulation affect the relationship of youth to their elders as Chief Peter Paul lamented on the change of who spoke and who listened at councils?

Among those who live in the cube, the value of a person is determined by his contribution to productivity and the amassing of wealth. Productivity is governed by technology, which changes at an accelerating rate; fathers and elders have less and less to hand down to their children in the way of technological knowledge. What fathers and elders did to earn a living has become obsolete; therefore the value to society of the elders becomes marginalized. They are old people who tend to get put someplace and cared for by the state.

A review of the four comments made by Native Americans in this essay indicates that they considered training of the young to include self-sufficiency, moral rectitude, respect for the elders, care of society, and spiritual unfoldment.

That society had no prisons, little thievery, a high level of honor, good health, and a great deal of sharing. Mental illness, depression, and suicide were unheard of.

A fundamental difference between the indigenous people of the Americas, Africa, and the Pacific, as compared to those raised in Western thought, is that the former live in the world that God has made and the latter live in the world that man has made. When people leave the world that God has made they lose the natural connection with the Creator and all that He has bestowed upon humankind. A friend of mine runs a farm museum in Queens and he told be the children that arrive want to see the pumpkin tree and the cow that delivers chocolate milk. They have lost most of the awareness of the relationship of the food they eat and where it comes from, a condition that typifies Western society.

As Western schooled children progress into adulthood they become less cognizant of the world that God made and increasingly limited to the confines of what man has made. Life inside the cube is an aberration of natural living. As Chief Seattle foretold, we stopped living and started surviving. Western activity has become a battle of survival; the joy of living has passed.


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