Tribe Schooled


We need to go back to true tribal schooling. In the non Native world, they may call what I am talking about “home schooling,” but our model has always been a little different; something I’d like to call “tribe schooled.” In our old ways, children were brought up right along side family members; playing and working throughout the day. Important wisdom was shared and life skills were passed on, all while children learned how to make a living. In short, we showed our children how to “be” in this world. Most of our tribes have faced mandatory, state run education at some point in our history. In some cases, we were coerced into sending our children to boarding school or, worse yet, convinced to give them up for adoption to non Native families. All of this was an attempt to “civilize” us, which really just means making us less Indian.

To go back to a tribal style education, there are two steps we should make, not necessarily in order:

  1. Make our villages resilient. Resiliency means focusing on local production of goods and services: energy, food, products, security and transportation to name a few. The Republic of Lakotah has proposed a model for their tribe. Going to this kind of economic arrangement frees our people from wage slavery. It frees us from “punching the clock” with an employer who doesn’t allow us to be parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents to our children while we’re on their time. It frees us from needing childcare for our littlest ones, and frees us from having to send them to public school, which is often the only place parents can send their children while at work. With this kind of economic arrangement we are making a living where we live, and in midst of our own community with a network of family members nearby, and the flexibility we need in order to teach our children.
  2. Turn every moment of the day into “school.” We are going to move to an apprenticeship style of learning. While we may not be able to produce doctors, lawyers and engineers this way, we can certainly produce artists, artisans, builders, farmers, carpenters, cooks, chefs, mechanics, programmers, designers, specialty manufacturers and a whole host of other professionals and workers. A tribe schooled child will grow into a teenager who will be eager to learn a career or profession from an aunt, uncle, or other clan or tribe member. Tribal people should feel great pride when a young person comes to them seeking knowledge of a craft or trade. At the same time, this is the perfect model for also imparting cultural knowledge. Indian language, philosophy, oral history, art and rituals are all passed on in the form of tribal schooling, already. Without compulsory public education for our little ones, we would have more time to devote to teaching these important lessons in being Indian.

For more on tribal schooling, see Ishmael Hope’s conception of a tribal college:

The School of Tlingit Customs and Traditions
Part 2: The School of Tlingit Customs and Traditions
Part 3: The School of Tlingit Customs and Traditions

And this transcription of a speech by James Crippen on Indian language:
Haa Yóo Xh’atángi Áyá Tusineixhát: We Are Saving Our Language

And finally, a video by a friend demonstrating why we need to leave public schools behind:

About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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