Skip to main content

An important part of daily life among many traditional American Indian people was—and for many still is—the maintenance of harmony. Harmony is about living with other human beings and non-human beings, about living with the environment, and about living within the physical limitations of your own body.

Living in harmony with other human beings is difficult, and sometimes feels as though it is impossible. Traditional Indian people prior to the European invasion knew that for the individual to survive there must be a group. While individual freedom was highly esteemed, there was a recognition that decisions had to be made based on the common welfare. Although many decisions dealt with immediate needs, future survival had to be considered. With most decisions the community considered: How will this impact the seventh generation?

Leadership photo DSCN8943_zpsc0dd6172.jpg

The role of the leaders—sometimes called “chiefs” by non-Indians—was not to impose their will upon the people, but to listen respectfully to all and to summarize the comments. Being a leader required humility, an ability to listen, and good oratory skills. Good oratory was expected to bring the people together, not to separate, segregate, or alienate them. Leaders chose their words carefully, fully understanding that words are living things and will continue to have impact long after they are first spoken.

It was also said in many tribes that a leader must have skin at least two thumbs deep. In other words, leaders must be focused on the common welfare of the people and not on themselves. They must not take the words spoken by others personally. Again, there is a focus on humility, not personal aggrandizement, fame, wealth, or ego.

Living in harmony with the environment was easier for animists: everything was seen as having a soul, as being a living person, and thus the same courtesies afforded to humans applied to the environment. When thinking about the environment—about the plant people, the animal people, the water people, and so on—the human people had to consider the common welfare. This was the common welfare of the human people and the other people.  

In dealing with the environment, traditional Indian leaders had to be able to listen. They studied the plant people, the animal people, the stone people, and all of the other things around them. As with their dealings with humans, the leaders did not impose their wills upon these other people. Their decisions were based on observation and knowledge—today, we would call this science. People in a position of leadership required humility, an awareness that they did not fully understand everything, and a realization that they must continue to learn from the other people in the world.

A final note on humility: the idea of erecting a statue of a leader, or carving the likeness of their face into the side of a mountain, or even naming the mountain after them would have been unthinkable. All of these actions honor the ego of the leader, and true leaders acted in the spirit of humility. It was not their name that was important, but the impact of their actions on the seventh generation.

Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Native American Netroots

 An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.


Originally posted to Native American Netroots on Tue Jul 02, 2013 at 08:32 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, Street Prophets , and Invisible People.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site