The Screams You Hear May Be Your Own

by Mitakuye Oyasin

Some days it's hard to find anything positive to say about the American Dream. Far too many are living in what they feel is their worst Nightmare, "leading lives, " as Thoreau put it, "of quiet desperation." According to news reports, hatred and violence are everywhere, every day.

People are badgered with advertising and social pressure which is constantly stirring up restlessness with the promise of "bigger, better, newer, more, and faster." The god of consumerism is everywhere, attempting to create unrest and dissatisfaction with what you have and with who you are. Is it any wonder that so many are confusing need with greed?

Instead of loving people and using things, the push is to love things and use people. Commitment is becoming a word with codicils and footnotes attached, especially in marriage, and everywhere you look you can observe the mind of a crotch-centered society bent on engaging in mutual masturbation.

Can society reverse some of the damage that has been done? The politicians seem to think so. They are talking about spending more money for education, but this is like painting a rusty car. Society is already suffering from info-glut, and public education has always confused knowledge with wisdom. School children are being outfitted to play Trivial Pursuit, spewing out facts that help them sound smart when they take exams, but leaving them ignorant of the need for living in harmony with Grandmother Earth and all living things, including themselves.

If any reversal of damage is to be accomplished, it must begin where the problems begin­­ the family. As a Native American, the family has always been the most important thing in my life.

My family, consisting of my daughter and my three grandsons (ages 11, 12 and 13), live together in a small home in a small rural community. A few years ago, my daughter and I had a meeting of the minds, and since neither of us cared for ;what is going on "out there," we decided to act on our beliefs.

The toughest and most important job on the face of the earth is preparing children for their own future, fortifying them with love and being ever mindful that the really important things are caught, not taught. Too many parents are turning that job over to strangers who often have strange ideas and even stranger habits.

My daughter decided to teach the boys in home school. Home school is, of course, not new to Native Americans. The most frequent criticism made of home school is the absence of socialization but that is precisely what we have seen as the biggest benefit. The social pressure to conform to group values (or the lack thereof) can literally sweep children away like a raging river, undermining home values and home influence in the time it takes to catch a school bus.

We don't watch television in any form. Television invites garbage into the house, is a poor substitute for entertainment and destroys communication (except during commercial breaks). We do watch selected videos, both as an aid to education and for occasional entertainment.

While poverty, per se, is neither good nor evil, we have found that the love of poverty is a blessing. We have eased into a life where less is best. We love making do with what we have and while we do not have much by the standards out there, we consider ourselves the most fortunate family on earth. While the rest of the world is getting stomach cancer and going insane from running on high speed (78 rpm), we are content to stay out of the race altogether.

Far from feeling deprived, my grandsons consider themselves very fortunate. They have a family that loves them. Their clothes are clean, though frequently used. They have toys and games to play with, though none of them are electric or electronic. They consider a weekly trip to the library as a treat. They respect all living things and have constructed bird houses and feeding stations in abundance. Rather than learning to have what they want, they have learned to want what they have.

True to Native American culture, even our fishing days are more for gathering family food than for sport. We thank the Great Spirit for the fish who give their lives for our sustenance.

The life we have chosen is not for everybody. It is just our way of taking care of what we can.

This article posted to Zephyr online June 26, 1997
Back to the Zephyr home
page.Send us e