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mercredi 20 novembre 2013


Philosophy as a guide to living- an essence of ones contentment, the feeling of treating others well and well connected to the harmony that prevails in the universe- has been with us since the beginning. As Lawrence van der Post eloquently described about his beloved SAN (the Bushmen) of Kalahari- they have maintained the innocence of being closest to the creation of human beings that the Europeans seem to have lost 10,000 yeas ago.
Sharing, looking after each other, putting the interests of the other before yours are at the core of the fundamental Native Philosophy. Living this way, it is not difficult to understand, why most of these cultures, tribes, nations, and individuals are materially poor when they are thrust into the European dominated or the mercantile and selfish societies of the East.
The three examples of native cultures, which flourish while maintaining their belief systems and not compromising their values to the occidental ones, come to mind. I am fortunate enough to have visited all three and become involved with the third tribe mentioned
The OTAVALO Indians of Ecuador

The KUNA Indians of Kuna Yala, Panama

Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, Texas and Mexico

I have a longstanding relationship with KTTT that began when their relatives to the North, the Meskwakia, who were my initial teachers, jokingly said: If you think we are cantankerous, you should meet our relatives, the Kickapoo of Mexico.
Reading up on their history, including looking up some original documents in British Library in London (I was a student of Anthropology at that time in London), I realized that the reputation was due to the fact they would not easily give into the European persuasions and resisted the incursions of Europeans into their minds and bodies. When they were forcibly ordered to remove themselves to Oklahoma by the victorious American Army, the decision was made to move to Mexico. There they would be allowed to practise their religion and culture, in return to their reputation as warriors, rather than submit to the American rules and regulations of life of that day.
It was evident to me the morning when my Kikapu sister proudly showed me the pumpkins she had cultivated in her backyard. (Her crop of 87 pumpkins were distributed to all the elders who needed pumpkins, an ingredient in certain foods for rituals)
Pumpkins are dried and cut into strips, wild deer meat and black corn are added to make the traditional soup which is the food to welcome the New year- around the full moon in February of each year, as set by the Spiritual Leader when the first thunders are heard.
This reminds us who we are, she exclaimed. I recognized the steadfast desire of each Kikapu to remind themselves who they are.
On another occasion my Kikapu sister said to me: When we lived in Mexico for 150 years, we were Kikapu living in Mexico and not Mexicans; and now that we are living in USA, we are Kickapoo living in America but not Americans.
Clinging to traditions mean following all the characteristics of the tribal philosophy-not pick and choose what you wish to follow, to fit into an European model. Just knowing a few words in your language does not make you a Kikapu; you have to be fluent in that language if you wish to call yourself a Kickapoo (KTTT).
It is music to my ears, when I hear, in the American soil, kids as young as 4 or 5, speaking fluent Kickapoo, resonating the ancient chatter of this land.
It was the elder, Donald W of the Meskwakia who told me that to call yourself an Indian, you have to fulfil the following criteria. (As there are One million “real” Indians, one million “card carrying “ Indians and many more “wannabee” Indians. There are 8 million descendants of Indians in America)
Born into the tribe
Speak the Language
Believe in the Indian ways, including Religion
Contribute to the welfare of the Tribe
Carry on and propagate the culture of the Tribe
In certain countries of the American Continent, it is not at all fashionable to be “Indian”- such as Guatemala, Peru or Bolivia, all with Indian majority populations and ruled for centuries by European descendants.
(Viva! Evo Morales, an Ayamara who is President of Bolivia and Ollanta Humala, a Quechua who is President of Peru)
KTTT were dirt poor even then they shared everything they had- land, food and money.
Around a decade ago, two events coincided that paved the way for the welfare and good fortune of the tribe.
A younger generation of Kikapu took over the leadership
A casino was established. The KTTT location just across the river from Mexico was also a fortunate coincidence.
The tribal council sorted out and invited the expertise of considerate Americans, Mexicans resident locally and in Mexico, to plan for the future: welfare in all its forms, Health, Education, Housing, Security without surrendering their unique cultural identity. It is the traditional values of the Kickapoo that have lifted them up from poverty to an all around “middle class affluence”, still classless and without status among themselves. Each and every Kickapoo would be offered new housing, for example, depending upon your needs.
Elders get spacious houses with furnishings, middle aged with families also get larger homes with spacious backyards, younger members with small children live in a part of the reservation in modern trailers with all conveniences (believe it or not, including WI fi! they all will soon move into their own homes}. Each home is furnished in the mould of well off middle class American ones. Slowly these fiercely independent group is shaking of their dependence on Federal Government, letting go one by one, the federal agencies from the reservation, so that they can live without their authoritative influences and taking over these responsibilities. (I was given the example of federal help for single mothers, among others)
I like to tell people that just because I know how to use a MacBook Pro, I don't stop being Jewish. The “modern” is convenience, and does not interfere with the traditional strong values.
Each time I come to this settlement of KTTT along the Rio Bravo, my heart rejoices. The self-confidence of each and every Kickapoo is up, people are no longer ashamed to be Indians, and hide behind the cloak of “being Hispanic” in this predominantly Mexican-origin town. When it comes to the attitudes of newcomers to the indigenous people, the contempt stands out, whether European in Australia, USA, Canada and NZ; Black Africans in Namibia and South Africa; Mestizos and Europeans in Latin America; Asians (Indians, Malaysians, Vietnamese, Cambodians) in Asia.
A spacious and modern Health Centre is under construction with good access to Health Care. (There are even free Zumba classes for those who would like to participate). All children are given opportunity to educate themselves, from Headstart/Kindergarten to the University levels.
But they remain steadfastly Kickapoo, holding on to their value system and world view and practising their ancient ceremonies and religious practices, which has seen them through conflicts with the French and then the English and later the Americans and Exile and poverty and marginalization.
Currently in the region where they live, their community is one of the more prosperous. They achieved it through traditional means, not through the manipulations of the system, or illegal trade or competition.
Many would like to claim that the prosperity of the Kickapoo is due to their presence in America. Certainly there is some substance to it I like to dispute it. I feel that the current prosperity which is all inclusive, there are no social divides or status divides in their society, is due to the fact that they have remained Kickapoo, rather than being integrated into a society whose values are not congruent with their traditional ones.
During my travels, questions would be asked, why do the Jews succeed well, regardless the country of their residence (well according to the local standards) whether it is USA, Argentina, France or Australia or South Africa?
What is the single theme in this “success”? (Which is a measure by others strictly in material or educational terms). It has to be more than our country of residence, however integrated we may be. Argentina and Australia are very different, Social systems in the USA and South Africa are not similar.
Then the thought occurs, we have “succeeded” because we have remained Jews
A Line from my favourite poet, Pablo Neruda of Chile, rings in my brain.
A soul without roots is an injustice!
Una Alma sin raices es una injusticia!
I wish my Kickapoo friends and relatives well into their future: living with their organic gardens, in their spacious homes, with good access to health care and education, while caring for each other as they always have.
I know that the spiritual ground in Mexico would always attract them and they would be there regularly to build traditional homes, Wickiup, for summer and winter each season, to perform ceremonies and rituals; to learn, to demonstrate what it means to be a Kickapoo/Kikapu.
On my way out of the reservation, I dropped in to pay my respects to Sr Don S, the administrator of the tribe and he said the most complimentary words that I have ever heard about Kickapoo and in fact all the Indians:

“I consider them super intelligent. What all they need is Experience and Education, which are on their way”