Teaching of Children Among the American Indians

Dear friends:
Reading and hearing about American Indian cultures—their beliefs and practices—never fails to amaze me. The following quotation is no exception. It seems like an appropriate guide for today when our education system is failing and no one seems to know where to turn for advice. It may seem impossible, but we can adopt much of the American Indian way of teaching children. We must let them learn what they wish and when they are ready. If we can let them participate in adult activities as assistants, they can learn better and faster of whatever skills society can use. We already know that schools are like prison to children and on entering them children’s natural learning process either stops or drastically slows down.

I stop here and let you draw your own conclusions.

Teaching of Children Among the American Indians

“It is commonly supposed that there was no systematic means of education for Indian children. Nothing could be further from the truth. All the customs of our people were held to be divinely instituted, and customs involving the training of children were scrupulously adhered to and transmitted from one generation to another.

It is true that we had no schoolrooms, no books, and no regular school hours. Our children were trained in the natural way – they kept in close contact with the natural world. In this way, they found themselves and became conscious of their relationship to all the life. The spiritual world was real to them, and the splendor of life stood above all else. And beyond all else, and in all, was seen to dwell the Great Mystery, unsolved and unsolvable, except in those things that it is good for one’s spirit to know.

We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second-hand. Our physical training was thorough and intelligent, while as to the moral and spiritual side of our teaching, I am not afraid to compare it with that of any race.

We conceived the art of teaching as, first and foremost, the development of personality; and we considered the fundamentals of education to be love of the Great Mystery, love of nature, and love of people and country.”

(speaker’s name is not known)

March 03, 2007