Native American Culture Lessons


Healing is a matter of time, but sometimes it is also a matter of timing. Hippocrates

There are wonderful opportunities to learn from other cultures how to deal with our emotional turmoil and stop the self-blame and the wild goose chase. When we look at other cultures through a broad lens, it gives us new insights and strategies that have kept others resilient and content.

Native Americans, for example, lived in synchrony with the human and natural world. Their experiences help to learn to find strength, peace and emotional well-being.

Everything on earth has a purpose, each disease a herb to cure it and each person a mission (anonymous 1845)

Well-being and collective harmony

Native Americans encountered vast and devastating experiential upheavals in confronting Western values ​​and practices. Yet many have enduring belief systems and cultural traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation and serve as role models we can look to in order to improve our own well-being.

The general descriptive word for the American Indian worldview is holistic. They see the natural world, the spirit world, and human beings as an integrated whole, and they cherish balance and harmony in the collective universe.

American Indians understand the world in its natural orders, rhythms and cycles of life and include animals and plants and other natural features in their understandings of spirituality.

The Native American worldview is deep and intense and steeped in spiritual meaning. Everything about their culture is tied to their belief system and their love for their land and their people. With the collective support of family and community comes the sense of satisfaction and belonging that defines happiness.

The importance of roles in an integrated culture

Having a defined place within a family, community, and culture builds a sense of purpose, stability, and resilience over time. In AI culture, roles are clearly defined and egalitarian.

Men and women exist in a cooperative partnership, elders are respected for their wisdom, children are raised to honor adults and to be part of the community as well as the family.

Wives share the honors and responsibilities of men in important statuses. Quarrels between friends are rare, although the presence of stress in the form of changes imposed by the dominant culture as well as alcohol and drugs disrupt this usually calm and satisfying situation.

Native American women play an important role in most First Nations social systems. Specifically, the literature has highlighted the importance of older Native American women in transmitting culture and values ​​and as leaders of their clans, tribes, and nations (Barrios & Egan 2002).

The power of Indigenous women is manifested in their roles as givers of sacred life, teachers, healers, doctors and seers. In many cases, the health of their communities depends on them.

There is a special role that deserves attention. The LGBT community exists within the Native American culture and these people are referred to as Two Spirit. They have a special place, defined roles and positive and fulfilling traditions for them and for the community.

In most tribes, Two-Spirit people are called upon to care for children, the elderly, and infirm members of the community. They are believed to possess unique healing abilities and an abundance of compassion. The Mohave tribe believe that they can see with both female and male eyes, which gives them unique powers and strengths.

There are several rituals that serve to engage the two-spirited individual in the heart of the community;

The Papago ritual is representative of this early integration: if the parents noticed that a son was losing interest in boy’s games or manly work, they set up a ceremony to determine how the boy would be brought up.

They made an enclosure of brushwood and placed a man’s bow and a woman’s basket in the center. The boy was told to go inside the brush circle and get something out of it, and upon entering the brush would be set on fire. They looked at what he took with him as he fled, and if it was basket weaving, they agreed he was two-spirited.

The Mohave ritual usually performed when the child is between 9 and 12 years old allows the nature of the child to manifest: A singing circle is prepared, unbeknownst to the boy, involving the whole community as well as friends and distant relatives.

On the day of the ceremony, everyone gathers and the boy is led into the middle of the circle. If he remains there, the singer, hidden in the crowd, begins to sing the ritual songs and the boy, if he is destined to follow the two-spirit path, begins to dance in the manner of a woman. After the fourth song, the boy is declared to be a two-spirited person and is now brought up in the proper manner.

Mental Health

In the area of ​​emotional health, Native American perspectives are holistic; there is no mind-body-spirit separation and they appreciate natural interventions to help heal the afflicted person.

Family and community are involved in healing, and group support is the primary pathway to health. The role of sense of belonging in interpersonal relationships and individual, family, and community well-being is emphasized through the worldview of the Native American population.

It is a dynamic phenomenon of social importance.

In Native American culture and tradition, communication is an emotional experience on many levels. Individuals use gestures to express their feelings and thoughts rather than engaging in verbal interactions.

There is a dynamic use of dance and art to convey messages and story and a high value is placed on listening rather than speaking.

The individual therapeutic model of Western culture is not a trusted tool for the Indian individual who is emotionally distressed and he or she turns to family and community and spiritual healers as well as natural sources of strength. in emotional pain. .

As for the localization of a cause of emotional suffering, the opinion is that this is external to the individual and not a cerebral phenomenon. Spirits can be upset by a disruption of the harmonious balance and restoring stability is everyone’s responsibility.

Additionally, IA people believe that mind-body-spirit distress is often due to trauma caused by oppression and domination by foreign cultures.

The standards by which Western culture defines normal and mental health and the cause of emotional pain are very different and elicit different responses. The shame, stigma, and self-blame that are the ultimate consequences of Western tradition are absent from Native American culture.

So there is an opportunity for healing instead of seeking a cure, and emotional distress brings family and community together instead of creating isolation and disengagement.

Cultural transmission of values ​​and resilience

In Native American culture, the story of tribal experiences is passed down from generation to generation through storytelling and ritual.

This practice provides historical context for their belief system and a sense of stability and security for community members. The stories form an enduring web of beliefs unlike breaking news that impinges on the consciousness of other cultures. They celebrate the victories of cultures and mourn their pains in a way that teaches lessons and guides younger generations.

Although the fabric is strong and the people are resilient, we cannot deny the traumatic events that impacted the lives of Native Americans. After living on the North American continent for 30,000 years as separate heterogeneous nations, Native Americans faced the arrival of European settlers who invaded their ancestral lands through military intrusions, mass murder, engaged in massacres of tribal villages, forced people to be evicted from their territories, and broke treaties.

When not engaged in warfare, forced attempts were made to acculturate the population to colonial life and eliminate Indian culture and religion, in part by transferring children to boarding schools and foster homes .

Disease epidemics spread, populations were decimated and their culture violated. The resulting despondency and melancholy in RNs/RNs was too often met with alcohol and drug abuse as an escape.

Learn and reflect

Recently, there have been changes in the perspective of psychologists that are transformative for Western culture but not for Native Americans. With globalization and research, mind-body connectivity is growing and a more holistic view is being discussed. The environment is credited with influencing human health and well-being, and there is a growing appreciation of the integrative view of life in all its forms.

The lessons we can learn from our Native American communities are simple but elegant. There are ways of perceiving emotional distress that lift the burden off the shoulders of those who suffer. We can begin to consider that many factors play into life experience some of which we know little about.

We can look to those with the wisdom of life experience for their opinions, insights and, most importantly, support. Embracing and listening to friends and family has proven to be part of the healing process.

We can look to valuing spiritual and natural healing processes and incorporating them into a broader area of ​​healing ingredients. Perhaps we can practice listening and storytelling, especially with the younger generation who will thrive when they sit down and hear about the traditions, the heroes and the fabric of life that binds us together.

We can learn by teaching that there is life beyond the individual and that we belong to a dynamic collective universe in search of balance and resilience. Finally, we can reflect on what we have done and decide that we can transform ourselves and find satisfaction, love, and hope in new ways.

The references

Re: two spirits

Kobby Dagan /


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