Westerners are taught to dismiss tribal cultures as part of the past, primitive, violent, and irrelevant to the modern world. Yet, Native American cultures offer the world an unmatched vision of balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the culture that has yet to be achieved elsewhere.
The United States as emphasized the supposed freedom of the individual, often at the expense of the common good. The Soviet Union submerged the rights of the individual in an attempt serve the collective. Perhaps it is time now to take a closer look at how the cultures of this hemisphere have achieved this illusive mix of freedom and devotion to the good of the society. It is foolish to continue to ignore a model that has worked so well for so many cultures here for thousands of years!
In American Indian Cultural Heroes and Teaching Tales, Kurt Kaltreider points out:
"In fact, a theme running through this book has been that humans are by nature tribal animals. The farther we move away from this natural society, the more we disintegrate and become dysfunctional. For example, genocidal warfare was unknown to the American Indian, as was the slaughter of noncombatants, which the Pentagon inhumanely refers to as 'collateral damage'. There was only a slight difference between 'rich' and 'poor'; while theft, bribery, rape, lying, and mental illness were virtually unknown.
There were no homeless, there were no hungry, and there were no disenfranchised. Indeed, if you were to take all the many ills that now plague our modern world, you would find few of them in tribal culture. Such problems are the result of 'civilization' and its propensity for placing more value on property than on the quality of human life -- or life itself."
The Native American cultures had no prisons and no taxes. No Indian could command another -- even a chief. So, if a War Chief wanted to wage a war, but could not convince enough people to follow him, there would be no war! US soldiers, on the other hand, were court martialed if they refused to fight. They were not free to follow their own consciences! Indians were shocked and puzzled by that.
Kaltreider points out that many European colonists chose to join the Indian nations -- but Indians never voluntarily joined the white society. He concludes the book with: "I can only hope that humanity recognizes that the deadly detour it has taken from our natural social organization will eventually lead to our extinction."
Lakota poet/musician/activist John Trudell has been speaking out in a variety of ways for several decades to help us change our values and save life on Earth. In the last video below, he talks about the destruction of the tribes of Europe. There are still some indigenous European cultures -- like the Saami.
This view of Native American cultures also ignores the reality that the Inca were doing successul brain surgery at least 3 centuries before Europeans, that they had an empire the size of the Roman empire with a communication system 2.5 times faster than that of Rome, that Machu Picchu is an engineering marvel even by today's standards, that the Peruvian terraced farming is considered the best in the world, that the Amazonian "terra preta" cannot be duplicated today. The Spanish were awed by the Aztec capital.
Our system of government and Constitution -- and the United Nations -- are based on the Haudenosaunee model. Drug firms capitalize on tribal herbal knowledge to the tune of $40 billion in 1990. Westerners are now flocking to drink ayahusaca with shamans and to study with Incan priests. The list goes on! It's past time to re-think our bias against Native American culures that have taught us so much -- and have so much to teach us!
Our own survival now depends on our adopting an holistic worldview like that of Native American cultures!