|Commentary on Raising Children|
Essays on Parents and Children
A Treatise on Parents and Children
Education And Discipline
Century of the Child
Teaching Reading - A History
Children & Relationships
What boy would not be an Indian for a while when he thinks of the freest life in the world? We were close students of nature. We studied habits of animals just as you study your books. We watched the men of our people and acted like them in our play, then learned to emulate them in our lives.
No people have better use of their five senses than the children of the wilderness. We could smell as well as hear and see. We could feel and taste as well as we could see and hear. Nowhere has the memory been more fully developed than in the wild life.
As a little child, it was instilled into me to be silent and reticent. This was one of the most important traits to form in the character of the Indian. As a hunter and warrior, it was considered absolutely necessary to him and was thought to lay the foundations of patience and self-control. There are times when boisterous mirth is indulged in by our people, but the rule is gravity and decorum.
I wished to be a brave man as much as a white boy desires to be a great lawyer or even president of the United States.
I was made to respect the adults, especially the aged. I was not allowed to join in their discussions or even to speak in their presence, unless requested to do so. Indian etiquette was very strict, and among the requirements was that of avoiding direct address. A term of relationship or some title of courtesy was commonly used instead of the personal name by those who wished to show respect.
We were taught generosity to the poor and reverence for the Great Mystery. Religion was the basis of all Indian training.
The Indians were religious from the first moments of life. From the moment of the mother's recognition that she had conceived to the end of the child's second year of life, which was the ordinary duration of lactation, it was supposed by us that the mother's spiritual influence was supremely important. Her attitude and secret meditations must be such as to instill into the receptive soul of the unborn child the love of the Great Mystery and a sense of connectedness with all creation. Silence and isolation are the rule of life for the expectant mother.
She wanders prayerful in the stillness of great woods or on the bosom of the untrodden prairie, and to her poetic mind the imminent birth of her child prefigures the advent of a hero a thought conceived in the virgin breast of primeval nature and dreamed out in a hush that is broken only by the sighing of the pine tree or the thrilling orchestra of a distant waterfall.
And when the day of days in her life dawns the day in which there is to be a new life, the miracle of whose making has been entrusted to her she seeks no human aid. She has been trained and prepared in body and mind for this, her holiest duty, ever since she can remember.
Childbirth is best met alone, where no curious embarrass her, where all nature says to her spirit: 'It's love! It's love! The fulfilling of life!' When a sacred voice comes to her out of the silence and a pair of eyes open upon her in the wilderness, she knows with joy that she has borne well her part in the great song of creation!
Presently, she returns to the camp carrying the mysterious, the holy, the dearest bundle! She feels the endearing warmth of it and hears its soft breathing. It is still a part of herself, since both are nourished by the same mouthful, and no look of a lover could be sweeter than its deep, trusting gaze.
She continues her spiritual teaching, at first silently a mere pointing of the index finger to nature then in whispered songs, bird-like, at morning and evening. To her and to the child, the birds are real people who live very close to the Great Mystery; the murmuring trees breathe its presence; the falling waters chant its praise.
If the child should chance to be fretful, the mother raises her hand. 'Hush! Hush!', she cautions it tenderly, 'The spirits may be disturbed!' She bids it to be still and listen to the silver voice of the aspen or the clashing cymbals of the birch; and at night she points to the heavenly blazed trail through nature's galaxy of splendor to nature's God. Silence, love, reverence this is the trinity of first lessons, and to these she later adds generosity, courage and chastity.
Children were taught that true politeness was to be defined in actions rather than words. They were never allowed to pass between fire and an older person or visitor, to speak while others were speaking, or to make fun of a crippled or disfigured person. If a child thoughtlessly tried to do so, a parent, in a quiet voice, immediately set him right. "Expressions such as 'excuse me,' 'pardon me,' and 'so sorry,' now so often lightly and unnecessarily used, are not in the Lakota language. If one chanced to injure or cause inconvenience to another, the word 'wanunhecun', or 'mistake' was spoken. This was sufficient to indicate that no discourtesy was intended and that what had happened was accidental.
Our young people, raised under the old rules of courtesy, never indulged in the present habit of talking incessantly and all at the same time. To do so would have been not only impolite, but foolish; for poise, so much admired as a social grace, could not be accompanied by restlessness. Pauses were acknowledged gracefully and did not cause lack of ease or embarrassment.
In talking to children, the old Lakota would place a hand on the ground and explain: 'We sit in the lap of our Mother. From her we and all other living things come. We shall soon pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever.' So we, too, learned to sit or lie on the ground and become conscious of life about us in its multitude of forms.
Sometimes we boys would sit motionless and watch the swallows, the tiny ants, or perhaps some small animal at its work and ponder its industry and ingenuity; or we lay on our backs and looked long at the sky, and when the stars came out made shapes from the various groups.
Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature ever learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.
Even the lightning did us no harm, for whenever it came too close mothers and grandmothers in every tipi put cedar leaves on the coals and their magic kept danger away. Bright days and dark days were both expressions of the Great Mystery and the Indian reveled in being close to the Great Holiness.
Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest, wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestation; it was expressed in a multitude of forms.
This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was casual and commonplace. The Indian lived in every sense of the word from his first to his last breath.
|"On July 22, 1903, Mary Miner,
five years old, was playing with some friends across from her father' restaurant in the
Bowery when she was struck and killed by a Third Avenue electric car. The motorman
"had a narrow escape from violence at the hands of a mob estimated by the police.. to
have been 3000 strong. " Press accounts describe the girl's father as "so
frenzied with grief that he had to be forced to give up a frantic attempt on the
motorman's life." Twenty years later, on May Day, 1926--a nationally declared
"No Accident Day" for children--memorial services were held at the unveiling of
two monuments in New York City. The crowd solemnly honored the memory of 7,000 boys and
girls in traffic accidents during the previous year."
from Pricing the Priceless Child, VA Zelizer
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