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Published: October 9, 2007, Author: JayTaber

The Oxford English Dictionary defines tribe as a group of families or communities linked by cultural ties and having a recognized leader.

In an article discussing tribal endurance in North America, Indian Country Today observed that, “Tribalism has generally been described as morals, beliefs, and identity with a tribe or socio-political organization, families, clans or related groups that share a common ancestry.”

Jamake Highwater, in his book The Primal Mind, wrote, “Freedom is not the right to express yourself, but the far more fundamental right to be yourself. The abiding principle of tribalism is the vision of both nature and a society which provides a place for absolutely everything and everyone.”

Here’s some modern tribal voices speaking for themselves:

In the U.S., one is inspired to reach their peak as an individual. Well, for us, it is to reach your peak as a family.

Reciprocal hospitality or generosity was such a strong cultural theme that it is to be considered a law.

There was a time when we didn’t have anywhere to retreat. We had backed off as far as we could. We were at the end of our world and yet we were still being pushed. We made no attempt to fight anymore. The only thing left for us was our imaginations and our visions and memories of the past when we were free.

There is a part in here that must remain silent. There is a huge part of it that the outside world has no business knowing.

When you sit with Indian people, they sit in a medicine circle. Within that medicine circle we’re only as strong as the weakest among us. It’s up to the rest to make that one as strong as the rest of the circle.

It’s because Seyowin’s here yet, our winter spiritual dances. It’s because the Sun Dance is there yet, and because the Hopi still dance traditionally and teach that there are reasons to continue to exist.

White people were very different from us; sometimes they did strange and perplexing things, but generally if you watched and listened and considered them very carefully, you could understand them. As a people, I distrusted them less, although I was still wary of something that drove them willfully, aggressively, powerfully, and arrogantly.

No longer will we be told what we can or cannot do. We will do what we know is right. It’s up to Canada and the World to help, or step aside and let us do our job as the rightful caretakers of our territory.

There’s a lot of confusion in our reality right now. I think we need to remember tradition is based upon respect. And they may mess with the ceremonies and the language and all of that because that’s the way this attack comes against us, but in reality tradition is based on respect.

Our deeply reasonable intention is to distribute power so it can do no harm, an idea implicit in the way we weave our clothes, mats and baskets and also in the design and dynamics of the constellations.

Circumspection is the paradigm of harmony. But as with everything modern and “civilized,” there are often casualties among the ignorant, deprived, and unknowing.

Historically, there was equality in the First-Named systems, but materialism and greed spawned novel methods by which to manipulate others. The day divine leadership was deemed unimportant was when the sacred myths began to crumble under the wheels of suzerainty.

I remember, historically speaking, a time when there was no state because I grew up in a society where literally there wasn’t a state, at least in its centralized, coercive form. The state embodies a static concept. When controlled by a class, it is an instrument for holding back society—holding back creativity, art, movement, change, renewal.

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

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