Living the Indian Way

With the exception of certain documentaries its fair to say that Hollywood productions are unreliable sources of accurate information about almost anything, particularly indigenous cultures found anywhere in the world.

Having for years been steeped in Hollywood representations of American Indians, imagine my surprise when, as a young adult, I discovered writings by highly literate, acutely perceptive Native Americans, describing their histories, cultures, traditions, religious beliefs, and more.

Cultural differences notwithstanding, it seems that at one point in recent time, an inter-tribal council of elders agreed upon a code of ethics suitable for Native Americans of whatever tribe. ¹

The main points are presented below—

1- Each morning upon arising, and each evening before sleeping, give thanks for the life within you, and for all life and for the good things the Creator has given you and others, and for the opportunity to grow a little more each day.

Consider your thoughts and actions of the past day and seek for the courage and strength to be a better person. 

Seek for the things that will benefit everyone.

2- Respect—Respect means ‘to feel or show honor or esteem for someone or something with deference or courtesy.’  Showing respect is basic law of life.

  • Treat every person, from the tiniest child to the eldest elder with respect at all times.
  • Special respect should be given to elders, parents, teachers, and community leaders.
  • No person should be made to feel ‘put down’ by you; avoid hurting others as you would avoid a deadly poison.
  • Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially sacred objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.
  • Respect the privacy of every person.  Never intrude on a person’s quiet moments or personal space.
  • Never walk between people that are conversing; nor do you interrupt people who are conversing.
  • Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of elders, strangers, or others to whom special respect is due.
  • Do not speak unless invited to do so at gatherings where elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).
  • Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.
  • Treat the Earth and all her aspects as your mother.  Show deep respect for the mineral world, the plant world, and the animal world.  Do nothing to pollute the air, the water or the soil.  If others would destroy our mother, rise with wisdom to defend her. ♠
  • Show deep respect for the beliefs and religions of others.
  • Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they are saying is worthless.  Listen with your heart.

3 – Respect the wisdom of the people in council.  Once you give an idea to a council or a meeting, it no longer belongs to you.  It belongs to the people.  Respect demands that you listen intently to the ideas of others in council and that you do not insist that your idea prevail.  Indeed, you should freely support the ideas of others if they are true and good, even if  they are quite different from the ones you have contributed.  The clash of ideas brings forth the spark of truth.

  • Once a council has decided something in unity, respect demands that no one speak secretly against what has been decided.  If the council has made an error, that error will become apparent to everyone in its own time.

4 – Be truthful at all times, and under all conditions.

5 – Always treat your guest with honor and consideration.  Give of our best food, your best blankets, the best of your house, and your best service to your guests.

6 – The hurt of one is the hurt of all; the honor of one is the honor of all. ♠

7 – Receive strangers and outsiders with a loving heart and as members of the human family. ♠

8 – All the races and tribes of the world are like the different colored flowers of a field.  All are beautiful.  As children of the Creator, they must all be respected. ♠

9 – To serve others, to be of some use to family, community, nation, or the world, is one of the main purposes for which human beings have been created.  Do not fill yourself with your own affairs, and forget your most important task.  True happiness comes only to those who dedicate their lives to the service of others. ♠

10 – Observe moderation and balance in all things.

11 – Know those things that lead to your well being, and those things that lead to your destruction.

12 – Listen to and follow the guidance given to you your heart.  Expect guidance to come in many forms: in prayer, in dreams, in times of quiet solitude, and in the words and deeds of wise elders and friends.

Not bad for supposedly ignorant savages !

♠ The following Shinto saying dating from 6th century Japan hints at a similarity of world view across ancient cultures:

“Regard Heaven as your Father, Earth as your mother,

all things as your brothers and sisters,

and you will enjoy the divine country that excels all others.”

It seems also to hint at harmony with a finding of quantum physics—that everything is interconnected—that everything affects everything else.

¹ Sacred Tree – Reflections on Native American Spirituality, ISBN 0-941524-58-2, is the source of the code of ethics.


Disclosure statements: 

I am not a Native American.

I have no financial interest in any publication cited anywhere on my blog.

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