NATIVE ETHICS AND RULES OF BEHAVIOUR

by Dr. Clare Brant

 

NON-INTERFERENCE

A high degree of respect for every human being's independence leads the Indian to view giving instructions, coercing, or even persuading another person to do something as undesirable behaviour. Groups goals are achieved by reliance on voluntary co-operation."

ANGER

"Displays of anger could jeopardize the voluntary cooperation essential to the survival of closely-knit groups. Anger must, therefore, not be shown or sometimes even felt. Individuals practising this ethic in a less than totally traditional setting risk becoming, as s result of repressed hostility, particularly vulnerable to depression following separation or loss."

TIME

"Like others living in close harmony with nature, the Native people have an intuitive, personal, flexible concept o: time. The right time !or harvest, personal venture, or other activity is patiently awaited and carefully chosen. Although near total inactivity may precede the "right moment", extraordinary energy and tenacity accompany any task undertaken when the time is right."

SHARING

"Group survival is more important than personal prosperity. Consequently, individuals are expected to take no more than they need and to share freely."

EXCELLENCE

"Gratitude is very rarely shown or verbalized since Indian society routinely expects individuals to behave in & manner which many other societies would view ors helpful and constructive enough to elicit gratitude. Because excellence is generally expected, praise 1s reserved for only the most exceptional of accomplishments, and individuals are reluctant to attempt anything they feel unable to do at a "normal" i.e. excellent level."

PROTOCOL

"Protocol subsumes notions such as manners, ceremony, and "savior faire". Within highly,structured Indian societies, it is elaborate and locally varied. The ethic of noninterference prevents protocol from being articulated. Breaches of protocol by outsiders can, however, be over looked, especially if more fundamental and less arbitrary values such as sharing and non-interference are respected."

TEACHING AND LEARNING

"Instruction is based on modelling rather than shaping. One is shown how rather than told how. Practice and observation largely replace theoretical discussions or presentations. Learners keenly observe doers until the time is "right" and they feel able to take over and do a job correctly." i.e. "excellently"

CONSERVATION-WITHDRAWAL

"Conservation of both psychic and physical resources is an adaptive reaction to stress. .Dangerous or anxiety-producing situations lead to potentially bewildering withdrawal characterized by even slower and quieter behaviour. After having defined, through careful observations, the parameters of a stressful context, Indians will reactiviate themselves as soon as they feel ready to deal successfully with the source or stress."

DEMOCRACY

"The ethic of democracy, which underlies the ethic of noninterference, emphasizes the equality of all individuals, encourages economic homogeneity, decision making by consensus, independence of mind, autonomy and a high degree of personal privacy."

 

Dr. Clare Brant, psychiatrist, a Mowhawk from the Bay of Quinte area of Southern Ontario.
Assistant Professor of. Psychiatry University of Western Ontario,
Chairman, Native Mental Health Section,Canadian Psychiatric Association.
Address: P. O. Box 89,
Shannonville, Ontario
KOK 3AO

Thanks to the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association for collecting and contributing this document.

 

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