How Many Walls In Your Teepee?

I woke from a wierd dream state while finishing up my ten-day assignment in Indianapolis.  I was staying at the JW Marriot for my university.  As my mind crawled out of its haze, this emerged; “How Many Walls In Your Teepee?”  I didn’t really know what this meant, pondered it for a minute or two, and then shook it off.  Although I didn’t completely throw the thought away because when spiritual things comes to me, I no longer run from them or repress them.  I murmured to my waking mind, hmmmm and then went to packing up my belongings.

Some of my colleagues from the night before had their planes cancelled due to the snow fall in the deep south, and I was a little nervous about making my way back to New Hampshire.

I made it down to the hotel lobby, well in advance of my departure air flight time of 4:20.  It was about noon when I asked Frank, the front desk staff member, if there was anything I might do to “kill the time.”  He mentioned that there was a Native american museum sand another museum right next door to the hotel.  So I braved the freeze for about 3 minutes and walked to the Eiteljorg museum.

This was a perfect choice for a quick trip that lasted an hour or so; I saw wonderful contemporary art by Native Americans, an enchanting photo exhibit about gay rodeo riders, and a emotionally painful and somber reminder of the plight of Native Americans.

From one of the exhibits, I re-learned that the concept of how time works is culturally derived.  This was not the first time I thought about how different cultural groups have differing perspectives about the meaning of time.  This is prevalent in multicultural psychology and Africentric thought.  Dr. Hope Landrine wrote a powerful article that I love dearly

-Landrine, H. (1992). Clinical implications of cultural differences: The referential versus the indexical self. Clinical Psychology Review, 4, 401-415

For example, we use time across a linear perspective, progressing in a step by step fashion, chopping it up as past, present and then future.  According to this one exhibit, some Native Americans think of time as a ripple effect.  They explain this concept by showing a large photograph of a pond and then dropping a small rock into the water and observing ripple effects.  The movement of the water represents how time works; it moves outward and impacts the water around it and beneath it.  Time is not linear it is experienced as past, present and future, combined at once.  This concept of time resonates with me because I believe that my ancestors are with me in the present and not gone from me in the past.

The next epiphany or learning came to me about how we think of and respond to difference.  For even the elementary school student an exploration and discussion of Native American history means that we have to confront war and genocide.  Exploring Native American history we come to truly understand how resilient and strong a cultural group is, no matter how another group tries to decimate the spirit and belief system of another people.  It cannot be done. Hope triumphs over suffering.  Although the suffering will go beyond our estimation, engagement in war brings out evil aspects of man and woman kind.

How we respond to the perception of our differences is at the heart of our decision to create tension and war.

War means eradication of the other for reaching some other aim. We do not have to see our differences as divisions, although we often do.  In patriarchy, difference is as an opportunity to subjugate, demoralize, and constrain.  In capitalism, difference is an opportunity for wealth creation.  In some religions, difference is a call to re-educate, to indoctrinate another into our own religious belief systems.  In psychiatry and psychology, difference is sometimes seen as a reason to medicate and recapitulate.  In some educational systems, difference is seen as outliers and clogs in the machinery of shaping purported moral characters.  In healthcare systems, some difference is treated as a virus as opposed to a virus being seen with the ability to use its function toward healing.

Given the spiritual nature of Native Americans they accepted Whites, why would they assume such treachery and debauchery from another human being?  They assumed that Whites would respect their ways of being, why would they believe or think otherwise? The physical fighting and negotiations were more than just Whites taking Indian land.  In domination, imperialistic, greed, oppression, and colonial rule, it  calls for complete eradication of another’s culture.

I finally saw the Teepee that I had dreamed of earlier…it was majestic, beautiful, comforting.  The number of walls in the Teepee depends on how many poles you place between the initial three poles.  Before I found the Teepees, I discovered this from Major William Trent, during the French and Indian War;

Trent’s entry for May 24, 1763, includes the following statement:

… we gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect. (

This attempt at genocide and biological warfare was unsuccessful.

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