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Indigenous Education and Its Role in Individual Transformation

Indigenous Education and Its Role in Individual Transformation

23 January, 2016

It is important that the relationship of Indigenous education to starting and maintaining individual and community wholeness be seriously taken into account.

Much of Indigenous education can be called “endogenous” education; it revolves around a transformational process of learning by bringing forth illumination from one’s ego center. Educating and stimulating the inner self is the imperative of Indigenous education embodied in the metaphor, “seeking life” or for “life’s sake.” Inherent in this metaphor is the realization that ritual, myth, vision, art, and learning the art of relationship in a particular environment, facilitates the health and wholeness of the individual, family, and community. Education for wholeness, by striving for a level of harmony between individuals and their world, is an ancient foundation of the educational process of all cultures In its most natural dimension, all true education is transformative and Nature centered. Indeed, the Latin root educare meaning ‘to draw out’, embodies the spirit of the transformative quality of education.

“A transformational approach to education is distinctly universal, integrative and cross-cultural because it is referenced to the deepest human drives. From this viewpoint all human beings concern themselves with self-empowerment and with whatever enables them to transform their lives and the conditions in which they live; such a viewpoint engenders the intent of people striving to create whole, happy, prosperous, and fulfilling lives.”

The goals of wholeness, self-knowledge, and wisdom are held in common by all the traditional educational philosophies around the world. Indeed, even though medieval times all forms of European education was tied to some spiritual training. Education was considered vital in inducing or otherwise facilitating harmony between a person and the world. The goal was to produce a person with a well-integrated relationship between thought and action. This idealized outcome was expected as following naturally from the right education.

The right education is, of course, a culturally defined. Its main criteria is socializing the individual to the collective culture of the group. However, this socialization is only one dimension of education, a first step in a lifelong path of learning. Right education causes change that in time creates a profound transformation of self. This transformation is a dynamic creative process that brings anything but peace of mind, tranquility, and harmonious adaptation. The exploration of self, and relationships to inner and outer entities, requires a tearing apart to create a new order and higher level of consciousness. Harmony is attained through such a process, but it lasts for only a short time before it has to be revised as people and their circumstances change. This is the endogenous dynamic of Tribal education.

Process of Indigenous Education

The process begins with a deep and abiding respect for the spirit of each child from before the moment of birth. The first stage of Indigenous education rotates around learning within the family, learning the first aspects of culture, and learning how to integrate one’s unique personality in a family context. The first stage ends with acquiring an orientation to place.

Education in the second stage revolves around social learning: being initiated to Tribal society, and learning how to live in the natural environment. The second stage ends with obtaining a sense of Tribal history and learning how to apply Tribal knowledge in day-to-day living.

The third stage revolves around melding individual needs with group needs through the processes of initiation, learning guiding myths, and participating in ritual and ceremony. This stage ends with a profound and deep connection to tradition.

The fourth stage is a midpoint in which the individual attains a high level of integration with the culture and attains a degree of peace of mind. It brings the individual a level of empowerment, personal vitality, and maturity. But it is only the middle place of life.

The fifth stage is a period of searching for a life vision, a time of distinct individuation and the development of mythical thinking. This stage concludes with a deep understanding of relationship and diversity.

The sixth stage ushers in a period of major transformation characterized by deep learning about the unconsciousness. It is also a time of great travail, disintegration, wounding, and pain that pave the way for an equally great reintegration and healing process to begin in the final stage. The pain, wound, and conflict act as a bridge to the seventh stage.

In the seventh stage, deep healing happens in which the self mutualizes with body, mind, and spirit. In this stage, deep understanding, enlightenment, and wisdom are gained. This stage ends with the achievement of a high level of spiritual understanding. It acts as a bridge to finding one’s true center and to being a complete man or woman in “the place the Indians talk about.”