by Dr. Denise R. Ames
Why can’t we just get along? This is a question that I have been working on in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. In the next several posts in this blog series I am looking at one of the five worldviews: Indigenous Worldview. I would like to share with you some ideas that I have been exploring.
Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children. … Ancient Proverb
Modern and Indigenous Political Differences
The political changes experienced by indigenous peoples as they modernize are quite disruptive. These changes involve replacing the traditional religious, family, and ethnic political authorities with a single, secular, national political leader. A decentralized, local political system is replaced with a modern, highly centralized government, complete with a large bureaucracy and written laws.
Loyalty to the extended family and tribe shifts to an allegiance to state and political parties. A modern political system requires diverse social groups to come together to form working coalitions of different political parties.
These parties then compete in a voting procedure for political rule with the winner selected as the elected leader.
A large centralized government requires a large bureaucracy in order to function smoothly. Workers in the bureaucracy are formally educated in the functions of a modern state system. Often this education is obtained overseas in Western educational institutions, such as in the United States or Europe. The educated elite return to their country of origin intent on changing the indigenous political system to what they consider a superior, modern one.
An impersonal, legal structure is typical of modern political exchanges, which is usually alien to indigenous peoples. Untold numbers of indigenous people have had their land swindled by intricate legal technicalities that they are unfamiliar with or that are not compatible with their worldview as to how agreements are conducted. In the United States in the 1890s, for example, native people, known as the Five Civilized Tribes, were displaced onto reservations in Oklahoma, according to the provisions of the Dawes Act of 1887. Eager white settlers rushed onto the tribes’ territory to stake a proprietary claim on what they deemed “unsettled” land. Native people faced additional pressure to “give up” their land when oil was discovered on the Oklahoma parcels that were previously thought to be of no value. Lawyers descended like locusts on Tulsa, Oklahoma, to defraud tribal people of their claim to land according to a corrupt legal system. Of course, the lawyers made a great deal of money in their deceitful endeavors.
About the Author
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95