A letter to the Seventh Generation by Lincoln Tritt (Gwich'in)
No matter how well adjusted an individual feels as an indigenous person, one would have to consider the fact that after 500 years of mind manipulation there have to be many non-indigenous concepts and beliefs that dictate our actions and ideas. Therefore, it is necessary to go back to the times when learning was of strictly native methods. The methods start with the universe and the origin of life and the fact that without life, this planet cannot live. In this way, an individual's learning is comprised of all that exists in this universe and how to live and respect the life it gives with the guidance of the true creator.
When this kind of teaching is used, then the student will learn that the Western European method is no more than programming the mind through memorization. Indigenous methods feed the mind of the student all the information he or she will need to go through this life, using the knowledge and wisdom gained in the past and keeping in mind the continuation of life in the future. For this reason, native people say, "The truth can never be destroyed, because the truth is always good."
The reason indigenous students have problem with modern education is because it is not complete and lacks reality. We need to step back and review what is the reality of life as the world knows it, as opposed to white man's reality.
Education and many other English words do not reflect or relate to the whole original traditional native concept of life or knowledge and wisdom. One big difference is that the English language is a material language while our native language is a language that is deriving from the life of the land itself. Therefore it is a good idea to translate these a good idea to translate these English words from our native perspective of what is essential to the life of this planet and our place on it.
When you see a lake, you can only see what is on the surface and often do not see the whole other world that exists beneath the surface. When you compare the wisdom and knowledge of the Western European to that of the indigenous people, you can see how much more depth there is in the knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors.
Formal education, for the most part, only deals with the surface, like how the modern dominant society has made a game of life, instead of living it with respect for all other forms of life. In this way, modern educators can only deal with the surface or how they have re-interpreted the world for themselves. As a result they only believe in things they can physically see or hear. Contrary to this, indigenous knowledge and wisdom extend to the universe and all of time.
A few years ago, I stopped in at the village clinic and one of the high school students was there. I said to him, "I thought you are supposed to be in school?" He replied that he didn't want to go to school anymore and that he didn't like it. My answer was, "You are not in school to be what they are teaching you. What they are teaching you is about how the white man thinks and does things. You don't have to be like them, just learn about them." A couple of days later, I saw him at the school again. That spring, this kid got an award for the highest achievement. The next year, although he was taking care of himself, he put himself through school and graduated that spring.
This is a good indication that if you feel comfortable about who you are and where you came from and keep things in proper perspective, knowledge and wisdom will come easier. It has always been my opinion that everybody has a brain and if people are dealt with as human beings and are respected, there is nothing they can't do or learn. For me, it is easier to learn or do things when I know the purpose or the ultimate goal. Reality makes things more acceptable. You can do this by giving your instinct more credit. Otherwise, we will never stop talking alcohol, drugs and suicide.