I attended a workshop many moons ago with 3 others in Toronto. The workshop was all about listening, pride and humility amongst the indigenous peoples. I walked away from that workshop with a new sight, not only because of the hours spent listening and learning how to really listen to others, but I learnt from others who were there for the same reason as I was. It was almost like this one man was planted within our group of 20, as part of the assignment. He boasted a lot about who he was and what he did, back in his community and where he stood on a greater level as a member of that community. I sat and I listened to this gent, this indigenous man, with the long hair talk about how he lead sunrise ceremonies, how he lead his people during a powwow, how he was a pipe carrier. He could not talk enough about the role he played within his community.
I did not know at the time, one of my fellow co-workers stood close by, could hear the conversation, the one sided conversation between myself and this gent. Once I walked away from him, I felt kind of overwhelmed by what had just occurred and the first thing that come to mind was, is this man trying to impress me? That evening over dinner, my 3 work mates and myself talked about our day, when it was my turn, I told them about the talking circle I participated in, how it was, what I felt like and then I told them about the man who was boasting regarding himself, back in his community.
The one co-worker that overheard the chat earlier that day, said. Any man who has a great role within his community, does not boast the way that man did with you Cynthia. A man will wait to be asked and even then be hesitant about his talents, his abilities, about all that is sacred within the culture. That evening, I listened again and I learnt a lot. There has been since that workshop, people, men and women that I have met up with who boast a lot, brag a lot about who they are and the role they play in this world, the world around them personally. I went in search of humility and the indigenous peoples for my morning coffee read and I came upon a great article with regards to the Atchiksualiq peoples of Alaska.
I don’t see the harm in all peoples practicing this.
The information below is from that article and the thoughts of certain contributors to the
Alaska Native Knowledge Network
a the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Submitted by Asiqluq on Tue, 02/25/2014
Humility is a good quality to have, especially for the Inupiat. It helps them recognize their place in the world.
In the past, humility played an important role in the Inupiaq culture. People who put themselves above others were not working for the good of all.
Long ago, people lived in small cabins, sod houses or temporary shelters. It was important that people got along and did not brag or were too proud. Humility is important in today’s Inupiat culture because the environment hasn’t changed much over the decade. It is still important that our Inupiat people recognize and respect their place in this world.
When we were young, being humble was taught to all the young. We were taught never to boast about anything. But in this day and age, you hear people boasting about themselves.
Somewhere along the line, we lost our Inupiaq value about being humble. The chain was broken, so to speak. The person who isn’t humble doesn’t have any friends.
Our Elders were a good example for us. No matter how old they are they never say, I’m too tired,” or “I’m too old.” It seems the Elders appreciate everything around them where the younger generation does not.
We need to start showing the children about humility again. Atchiksauqta. . .let’s be humble
His father then cautioned him that that kind of feat was something a person didn’t talk about to other people. You just quietly appreciate your abilities but not talk about them. You never know what some jealous person might do to cripple such a talented person. Better to keep quiet about it but know within the family what your own capabilities are in an emergency.
Besides personal capabilities, people didn’t talk about their own accomplishments. I think that’s one of the reasons why our people have a hard time expressing themselves in job interviews. They are not used to “selling” themselves. Usually another person will talk about a person’s accomplishments and wonderful capabilities. An Inupiaq didn’t do this for himself. But, if someone who knows of his capabilities asks him to do something, the person must show respect to the requester and comply, giving his best efforts. This is also probably why few people will volunteer their services but will comply with appointments.
Another area where the Inupiat were strict about expressing humility was in regard to the animals and birds. No one boasted that he would get X number of animals or birds when he went hunting. Because the animals had spirits, they could “hear” the person’s boastful pride and perceive his negative feelings toward others and stay away from his hunting environment.
Hunters must approach their hunting with the best of feelings toward each other and the wildlife they are hunting. There must be harmony of feelings.
Some years ago, when the International Whaling Commission decided to ban bowhead whale hunting in Alaska, there was a lot of hard talking and discussion about the whales. A small quota was eventually established to give the Natives an opportunity to harvest some whales. But the hunters felt the number was insufficient and so they made a lot of to-do about it. The next season, not a single whale was caught.
The women then reminded the hunters that we are not supposed to fight over animals because they can hear us.
Personally, I think that until the hunters can get together and plan a strategy of hunting together in harmony, there will be no beluga to be had. That’s the way it’s been from time immemorial and it has not changed. Animals are still the same. You can’t fight over them if you want to enjoy them.
The old Inupiat teach us that sooner or later a boastful person gets an opportunity to fulfill his boasting. Most of the time he gets to eat a lot of humble pie. The old Inupiat teach us it is better to keep quiet about our super capabilities because sooner or later people will find out about them without our saying so. Then they can tell the whole world how wonderful we are!
Elder Rachel Craig