a tale of two tribes

Erik Erikson’s ┬ávision of a universal identity, the one all-human outlook that would somehow bind us together and sublimate violence into peaceful behaviour. Whether this was a universality attained by repressing peculiarity, a kind of synthetic layer built on a theory constructed on falsehood in another matter; a matter of Erikson as a sort of appeaser who felt that forsaking religious, ethnic, cultural concerns for the sake of keeping the peace was a fair deal. History does seem to indicate that peace, despite self-effacement and betrayal is still long in coming which means that perhaps identities based on Rousseau’s noble savage end up to be a series of noble lies strung together within the art and craft of the best minds humanism can muster to polish and spiffy up dreadful suffering or repress it into an expression of lifestyle attributes.

---"Canadian Patriotic Indian Chiefs" Saskatchewan, ca. 1915 Photographer: Ronald R. Mumford PA-030224---click image for source...

—”Canadian Patriotic Indian Chiefs”
Saskatchewan, ca. 1915
Photographer: Ronald R. Mumford
PA-030224—click image for source…

Again, with his studies of First Nations,the perspective is still that of examining the “other” from the point of view of the refugee, the accidental tourist indigenous to nowhere where he wants to be. It’s a part epic study, and like many groups there is a lesson in insular cultures being misogynist, dysfunctional, and fearful of the outside world.

The Yuroks and the Sioux, two different approaches to life. Almost a Jacob and Esau split. For the Yuroks of the Northwest, nobody spoke during meals so everyone can keep their thoughts focused on money and salmon. The adult Yurok during meals was supposed to make himself see money hanging from trees and salmon swimming the river during the off season. Thus, a maximum of avarice and nostalgia was provoked very early in the infant’s life and nurtured along the road to these ideal attitudes. The groundwork for the Yurok’s sexual attitudes as well, is laid in the child,s early conditioning, which teaches him to support drive to economic considerations.

In contrast, the Sioux man, in his exaggerated masculinity, was more phallic sadistic in that he pursued whatever roamed, be it game, the enemy or women. Erikson called the Yurok more phobic-compulsive; he cultivated avoidances, such as not being “snared” by the wrong woman or at the wrong time or place; “wrong” meaning under any circumstances that would compromise his assets as an economic being, so he could buy a worthwhile wife. If he were to make an unworthy girl pregnant, he would have to marry her. In the sweat house he had to learn the strange feat of thinking of money and of not thinking of women.

---You are looking at a amazing picture of a Yurok Canoe On the Trinity River. It was created in 1923 by Edward S. Curtis. The picture presents an indian man paddling a canoe in a stream.---click image for source...

—You are looking at a amazing picture of a Yurok Canoe On the Trinity River. It was created in 1923 by Edward S. Curtis.
The picture presents an indian man paddling a canoe in a stream.—click image for source…

Within these basic limits, however, sexuality was viewed with leniency and humor. The fact that sexual contact necessitated purification seemed to be considered a duty or a nuisance, but did not reflect either on sexuality as such or on women in general. A girl knew that virtue, or rather, an unblemished name, would gain her a husband who could pay well, and that her status and that of her children and her children’s children would depend on the amount her husband would offer her father when asking for her. Weakness of character or habitual deviancy was usually attributed to a delinquent maternal side not having been “paid for in full.” This meant that a woman and a man who became involved prematurely and had to marry on a down payment and then maybe were unable to pay the installments. Such people were not “clean.”

To Erikson, the Sioux and Yurok value system gave examples of how he termed “primitive” consciousness of being human coincided with an exclusive image of being a “strong” Sioux or “clean” Yurok. Each tribe was dominated by a conviction that its virtues marked it as “the” people in “the” world. Each attempted to create a unique and exclusive way of life pleasing to its own supernatural powers, superior to any other way of life. The human propensity to invent, to plan, to “grow” appropriate virtues, becomes part of a cultural style that pervaded the whole ensemble of designs, from the weaving of a blanket to the telling of stories and from mythologizing to ceremonial behaviour. Thus, one world is presented to the growing individual at every step.

---Blood First Nation pow-wow dance [Alberta], 1910 Photogapher: A. Rafton-Canning---click image for source...

—Blood First Nation pow-wow dance
Alberta, 1910
Photogapher: A. Rafton-Canning—click image for source…

Many questions have been raised referring to Erikson’s belief of identity formation. What about those adults who rediscover themselves and develop adifferent understanding of their lives due to life’s changes and experiences? Is it possible for an individual to change throughout life? Other theories ondevelopment lean toward the individual having psychological development completed at much earlier ages.

Another controversial aspect of Erikson’s work is his agreement with Freud that personality differences between sexes are biologically based, originating in the possession or lack of a penis. Erikson based his conclusion on research with children in a study in which boy

d girls from age 10 to 12 constructed various scenes with toy figures and wooden blocks.

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>