Native American warriors were responsible for the protection of their people and also had the responsibility for providing the basic material needs of their people such as food. There were no grocery stores for them to go to when the pantry was bare, nor any refrigerator or freezer to preserve meat over long periods of time; this was an ongoing responsibility and one which fell directly on the shoulders of the warrior. If the warrior did not or could not provide these needs, his family did without or depended on the charity of others. This lifestyle was one which defines self-sufficiency and was an awesome responsibility.
Native American youths had to learn the skills to provide for their wives and children; they could not afford to grow up as the vast majority of our young men do today – aimless, self-centered, selfish, and immature. Native Americans knew this. They knew that their youth were their future. There were no government supplying guaranteed health care. There were no insurance policies for their old age; their sons and daughters were their insurance and were expected to provide for them as they reached the point where their bodies could no longer meet the demands of this self-sufficient lifestyle. Educating their children as to their filial duties and to respect their elders was a major part of the Native American life-cycle.
in the tribe…and we aspired to be like them.
We never allowed our old people to want for anything.
Buffalo Child Long Lance
The Native American tribal leaders understood something that people today neither understand or seem to care about. I am referring to the important role of a meaningful rite of passage into adulthood – the vision quest. In today’s society, most teenagers seem to connect the transition from youth to adulthood as a certain chronological age or the time when they are simply able to drink legally. Now there’s a great rite of passage, “I’m now an adult…Let’s celebrate and get totally wasted!” What a wonderful way to step into the role of adulthood. It is not the youth’s character or accomplishments which determine whether or not they have become an adult, but rather our all-knowing government’s determination that the youth has turned 18 and is now anointed “an adult” or now he is 21 and can legally drink his life away.
To the Native Americans, becoming “an adult” had more to do with an individual’s character and accomplishments than with his chronological age. The focus was on the internal character of the person; the vision quest had more to do with spiritual strength and proving oneself worthy of respect and admiration, than the mere fact that one’s parents kept him alive for a certain amount of time. The purpose of the vision quest was to allow the youth to transform himself spiritually and mentally into a responsible adult, and eventually a warrior.
taught me the will of the Great Spirit.
The young boy would go away on his own for as long as needed, a period of days, to survive on his own and to acquire this spiritual knowledge and seek guidance for his life and his future. He would not be trusted with any adult responsibilities until he had proven himself spiritually fit to be an adult. During the vision quest, the young man would meditate and pray for guidance for his life. It was expected that he would meet his spirit guide, usually in the form of some animal which would for that point on, be sacred to him. This animal spirit guide would clarify God’s expectations for this young man and help guide him throughout his life.
Ask questions from your heart,
and you will receive answers from your heart.
We believe that God is nearer to us in solitude.
The spirit guide was not randomly assigned, but rather came to the boy during his prayers and meditations while he was focused on finding his life-path. This spirit guide became a part of the warrior’s identity. When the boy returned from a successful vision quest, he would first visit with the tribe’s medicine man or religious leader, who would discuss his dreams and meditations with him. He would further help to direct his path. Then their would be a celebration for this boy indicating that he was no longer a child, but now a respected adult on his way to becoming a warrior, and he was expected to conduct himself accordingly. This was a crucial rite of passage and one which was taken seriously by all involved.
The vision quest focused the boy’s mind on becoming a man – on no longer being a child. During this adventure, he learned to rely on himself, he developed self-confidence, self-esteem, and courage. He learned to rely on God to both provide for him and to give him guidance through spiritual means. This was not merely his tribe celebrating his birthday, but this was rather a total transformation of the boy into the man, or at least the beginning of this transformation.
After the vision quest, the boy was then deemed ready to ride with the warriors and count coup to demonstrate his courage, another milestone in his transformation in this warrior culture. In short, the transformation from youth to adulthood was a serious matter and not something to be taken lightly. This was a transformation of a boy on his way to become a warrior.
This is quite a contrast from today’s youth which considers the transformation to adulthood simply a time to party, get wasted, and continue to do so for weeks, months, or years, enabled by parents who proudly declare, “You’re only young once. Live it up while you can!” Is it any wonder that our society is seeing such a decline in both morals and attitudes among our people? This party attitude has been dominant for several decades and we are now starting to see the results. We have missed the mark with our youth when it comes to educating them and guiding them into adulthood. We have taught our youth to be self-centered, selfish, arrogant, and shallow.
father when the son swore.
Parenting should be taken seriously – very seriously. And, although this will surprise many of you, I do agree with the African proverb which our corrupt politicians have twisted into a political barb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The meaning of this was known to the Native Americans, but has been lost on our society. The true meaning is that every responsible adult should help guide our youth in the right direction when he or she sees a young person acting inappropriately. It has nothing to do with the government controlling families or individuals.
Care enough to attempt to help guide a young person if you see that he or she is headed in the wrong direction. You never know, you may just be the only guidance that the young person in question has available to him or her. Don’t just mumble something about, “young jerks” under your breath and keep going about your business – make a difference, or at least attempt to make a difference. Your words may not make any difference at all, but then again, they may completely change someone’s life.
This lack of guidance and quality parenting is the cause of many of the problems in our country today, and it has a domino effect. Maybe it is time to reconsider the vision quest or something equivalent, to give our youth a vision of how their lives should be lived. Nobody just happens to live a lifestyle of excellence by accident; it is something that has to be fostered and taught. The warrior lifestyle requires effort. It requires someone to teach the benefits and reasons behind taking the road less traveled. It is not the easy, party road, but rather to steep road where life is lived a little more seriously and with purpose and character.
Letting children determine their own path without any guidance is equivalent to not caring; if you care about their future or yours, you should take the time and effort to provide wise guidance for tomorrow’s adults. One way or another, you will be held responsible for you choice where this responsibility is concerned – the choice is yours.
but are lent to you by the Creator.