MNN. June 25, 2013. Indigenous people can be manipulated in front of their peers by ridicule. It activates the fight or flight syndrome. In native culture everyone is equal and we each have our own individual strengths. We use this for the good of the people. Disrespect of one is a threat to the rest of the group. Those who conserve the integrity of the group survive. Those who do not are ostracized.
A public insult can cause someone to become so angry that they go blank and react instantly. They can strike or leave to avoid a confrontation. It looks completely irrational.
Those usurping our rights take advantage of this phenomenon. A strong adversarial atmosphere is created. Insults are hurled to upset and confuse the target. The youth are inexperienced in dealing with such indignities in front of our people. Some can break down or react sharply and swiftly. The attacker gains power by getting others to publicly attack their enemies.
The attacker loses their power when the target stands there calmly and does not fall apart. They sometimes say something degrading to their victim like, “You are the most horrible Indian on the face of the earth”. This is an incredible violation by an older person who wants to destroy a young Indigenous person.
Our people developed a way of dealing with this phenomenon. At a meeting, especially over a contentious issue, we do a “Small Condolence” ceremony. Because we are aware of our volatility, ground rules are set down which we all follow to resolve an issue.
A piece of soft doeskin wipes the eyes of each person so they may see issues clearly; an eagle feather wipes around the ears so they may listen and hear what is being said; and a glass of clear water is drunk so their words will be as clear as the water, without sharp edges.
The higher our Indigenous students go academically and competitively, the more pressure they face. They will find themselves in situations of hostility, aggression, being yelled at, insulted and treated unfairly. Today they cannot respond as normal warriors to fight back or leave the situation. They have to understand and deal with it. As the Artists Against Bullying say, “When you need anyone to talk to, someone is always there”. Artists Against Bullying.
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Aside from expressing words of condolence you can express your help and support at the funeral by offering to run errands such as going to the grocery to buy some foods like bread for the guests. In this way you are helping out to reduce some strain of the bereaved family. This is what I did before when my grandmother died.