Hope you are all having a fabulous April. Did anyone get caught with some good ole April Fools jokes this year? I’m afraid that I’m away from home and so missed the usual fun of April Fools this year. And how are y’all doing on your taxes? This is also Tax month. Anyone planning to go to Washington DC this April 15th to join the protest against the IRS and the Federal Reserve? That 16th Amendment, which was radified — or so it’s said — in 1913, after heavy lobbying by Rockefeller, seems to be more and more a burden on the average American citizen (thee and me). There are some who are determined to shine the light of day on the IRS, which I think is very brave considering that the IRS has been known to treat objectors ofttimes with a bit of a rough hand. So if you’re going to the rally, I wish you well.
All right, so I thought we might spend the day talking about Native America and the child. How was the child valued in Native America, how were they disciplined? What would it have been like to grow up in Native America?
It is said that a culture that doesn’t value the child and the parents who raise that child, is a culture that will not exist for long. And it’s probably true. Children are our future and without a system of raising the child, so that he retains his natural dignity and curosity, is a culture that is most likely on its way out. In Native America, before the advent of the Amero-European culture spreading around it, the child was adored. From the moment a woman knew she was pregnant, she would eat certain foods, take long walks, sing, think happy thoughts and do little things that would encourage good growth of the child within her. A child was born into the family, and that included the extended family — grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. In fact, in Native America, the child often called his aunts “mother” and his uncles, “father.”
A child was also welcomed by every member of the tribe. The work-a-day world of Native America included the fact that every household — be that a tepee or a longhouse or other form of home — would have food (usually soup) cooking all day long. A child, any child, was always welcome in any home. He was always welcome to come in and eat, sit and talk, and literally be at home anywhere within the tribe. Children were never hit or struck in Native America. Sometimes, in the Iroquois Confederation, if a child continued to be naughty, someone might throw water on him, but most usually the form of discipline for the child was in the form of an elder who would tell the child a story, one that had a moral do to with whatever the child was doing that was naughty.
In fact the Blackfeet had an interesting way of disciplining their children so that a child’s natural dignity was never destroyed, and yet he was brought into the tribe and its moral codes in a very natural way. It went like this: let’s say that a child was being naughty. He’d picked up a stick with the intention of hitting his brother or something of that sort. Some elder of the tribe might have seen him with the stick and the dialogue might have gone like this:
The elder: “Aa, I see that you a good stick there.”
The child, looking around for the elder, cringes because his intention is to hit his brother.
The elder: “Aa, what a good child you are. I see that you have that stick there to help your father mend his arrows. Your father is lucky to have such a good child as you.l”
Now the child knows he intended nothing of the sort, but to save face, the child nods his head in agreement, and goes off to help his father mend his arrows, forgetting all about wanting to hit his brother.
In Native America, a person who would hit a child in discipline was considered crazy and if it happened once too often, that person was often ostracized by the tribe. Is it any wonder then, when met with those from a civilization that considered physical discipline important, that the Native American thought that person more than a little crazy?
Okay, I admit it, I keep cheating with this picture, but I really do like it! What would it have been like to have been a little boy, growing up in Native America? Well, according to those white men who grew up in Native America, there was nothing to compare with it. What freedom! The freedom to come and go whenever you wanted! The freedom to explore anything you wanted! Being coached and groomed by your elders, being told stories when you were acting in a way that wasn’t considered best. Learning to track, to follow trails, to learn the movements of the animals, to be able to go out and stay outside and learn. To watch the stars on a soft, summer night, to make friends with another boy who would remain your friend for life. Indeed, those men who grew up in Native America usually stayed, or if they did have to leave, would often return as soon as they were able. And those men, like George Catlin, who went amongst the natives to paint them, never really ever returned to civilization, except for occasional visits.
Sometimes, when I go to the reservations, I remember the things that I’ve read about the freedom of the Native Americans and I think that if I had a choice, what a pleasure it would have been to grow up in the old days of the Native American.
So what do you think of child rearing? Do you have any special tips that have made raising your children easier? Come on in and let’s talk about our most natural instinct: that of being a parent. Let’s share. And don’t forget, THE LAST WARRIOR, my latest effort, has just been released to bookstores everywhere. Please do pick up a copy.