Sunday, 11 April 2010

Native Americans

Every time I read something about Native Americans my thinking is always provoked! I know there were many different tribes and I suspect their 'collective' wisdoms and philosophies varied but everything I have read has mostly not stated anything other than 'Native American'. Anyway - here is what I like:

1) I remember reading a story about how when 'whites' first arrived on the American continent, the Native Americans asked what it was that they were looking for. They did not mean what they were actually looking for, they were referring to a look in their eyes as if they were always looking for something. That something that the Native Americans knew you didn't go looking for because it didn't exist outside you.

2) In Raising Boys by Stephen Biddolph, the book refers to a rite of passage for boys. At about the age of thirteen, they were left on a mountain to fend for themselves (they were actually watched over all night but they did not know this). Upon returning to his tribe, he was forbidden from talking to his mother for two years and he was at this point considered to be a 'man'. Now I know this sounds a little severe but there was sound reasoning behind this. Stephen B's point was that in our western culture we have abandoned anything like such traditions. He states there is a need to acknowledge that childhood has been left behind but that adulthood is not yet fully attained. It is a transition stage that needs mentors other than parents. Very wise. I would add - it's probably true for girls too!

3) There was the wonderful Native American story about 'war'; a metaphor that illustrates the overall pointlessness of conflict. It's in an earlier post:

Conflict- A Tail of War

4) I also remember reading somewhere that Native American's view 'individuality' quite differently from western cultures. This is a sweeping generalisation I know but what I read said that individuals did not see themselves as separate from their community at all. They had a very collective consciousness - much like many cultures in the far east.

5) And then yesterday, I was reading yet another book on Myers Briggs when I came across this:

Jung and Myers were not the first to observe personality types nor was Jung the first to write about a typology of awareness. One of the oldest such typologies is part of the American Plains Indian tradition of the medicine wheel which assumes that each individual comes into the world with a way of perception that is but a beginning point in understanding others and the world. To these people, one's task in life is to master not only one's own way of perception but of the others. To put it briefly, this model holds that each person is born into a particular way of seeing the world:

the buffalo way - logical and analytical (I'm guessing that's Thinker as dominant function)
the eagle way - seeing patterns and flying high above the details (Intuitive - me!!!)
the bear way - relational and connected to the environment (Feeler)
the mouse way - grounded and close to the roots and details of life. (Sensor)

The addition of various colours and directions to these basic descriptions (a person might be described as a green bear looking inward for example) honoured the complexity and uniqueness of the individual while showing the patterns common to all people. Tribal elders identified the way of a child after much careful observation. As tribe members demonstrated mastery in looking at and appreciating other people's ways, the elders granted stones to them for placement on symbolic medicine wheels. An individual's wheel was then carried in such a way that those approaching could see from the number and placement of stones on his shield or her buckle how accomplished that person was in seeing other people's point of view.

So that is Myers Briggs and it's application!


I once met a Native American making and selling dreamcatchers on a street in Ottawa. I chatted to him for a while. He was very droll and he made me laugh a lot. Oh and I have a friend from New Mexico who is a little part Native American. That's my sum Native American personal history.


  1. You might like Lila by Robert Pirsig (author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance) which draws a lot on native American culture.

  2. I love this idea! Carrying around a coded version of your personality and empathy skills so that people know how to interact with you. Wow!

  3. I'm definitely not a buffalo - no way (but Mr FF is totally). I think I must be an equal third of each of the other types.

    How difficult it must have been for the native american mums - no contact with their sons for two years. It sounds so harsh.

  4. Perhaps I should have INTJ tatooed on my forehead, with a score against each one to show how well I get on with people with the opposite leaning.

  5. When he was a child, my father was a friend of an old Wichita tribesman (can't remember his name). The old indian had a large amount of land near the oil town 'Graham' where we lived for a while.

    He was sick towards the end and went out on a rocky plateau by himself to die. That's kind of the way with the indians.

  6. Hi Molly P
    I once gave a dollar to a native American who was begging near Flagstaff and he scowled...he expected more.

    I think I'm a flying mouse in a bear sort of way.

    How come I missed all these posts? I just couldn't get anything other than the meaning of life.

    All's well that ends well.

  7. We had a Native American whose sole purpose of visiting us, was to do a Peace Pipe Ceremony up in our local mountains in a location of our choice.

    It was good, we enjoyed it. Though I am still left wondering - Why us ?

    And sorry Molly I cannot select a suitable category :-)

  8. Nah me neither, I'm some sort of bivalve or a Salmon, that would be nice. I went to Canada when I was 12, my dad won some dosh as part of a pools syndicate, They lived up on the Skeena (I think) which is some way up from Vancouver and some way from anything at a hydro plant town called Kemano. We spent a fascinating month arsing around in the middle of nowhere. two weeks in Kemano itself (2 hours by boat from Kitimat), and two weeks driving down through the coastal ranges. One of the most fascinating bits for me, apart from seeing Star Wars before all my mates did and Salmon fishing, was actually seeing bits of "North American Indian" as they were then called, or "First Nation" culture. My Bro lived smack in the middle of Haisla (people of the snow) tribal area which is North of the Haida area, they're quite a totemic people and I saw plenty of Thunderbirds and whales and stuff like that while we were there.

    It was in my eyes really cool, I didn't fall out of love with it all until that dickhead Ian Astbury started poncing about as part of the Bradford branch of whatever tribe he thought he as in in about 1985, then it palled a bit. But I do like the graphics style, and still have some of the local artwork, painted onto hardened tree fungus by one of my brothers mates at the time. i also had some books which outlined all of the animal types and legends, but they got nicked when I lived in a shared house years ago. Cool, thanks for reminding me about this stuff Molly.

  9. Been away.....

    Hi Mark – I think Andy (my chap) has read that...will dig it out...

    Codgi – me too - what I particularly love is the idea that you are made aware of your perception (and that there are others) early on in life and then spend effort trying to understand an INTJ – you’d be a buffalo of course – with thinking as your dominant function (inward facing)!!!

    FF – ESFJ would make you dominant feeler function – but that’s obvious no? Yes I’d struggle if I was told I couldn’t talk to my son for two years but I do like the idea of mentors.

    Codgi – INTJ would not be a very pretty tattoo!!! A buffalo might be a bit better?

    Eric – ‘going to the rocky plateau to die’.....that must be quite a way to go..

    Hi Ken D – I have been being odd with the blog...sort of not really doing it but doing it. I am just trying not to spend too much time on it – so posted a load that I had sort of constructed and not posted at once – in an impulsive moment. The posts keep the original date of construction – so appear to have been posted earlier than they were. Not sure what I am up to. Eagle bashing into the mountains because of a strong side wind perhaps?

    Heron – that sounds grand. If you are an ENTJ - why you’ll be a buffalo too....if you are (with the eagle as a secondary function)

    Mr T – hey that sounds pretty special. You have a great quirky style to the way you express things...on your blog too.

  10. I've decided I'm a whale.

    here's one I found.


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