What do you think of Native American values?

collage0038boy glass bowl and feather as hat
Collage:  For himself or for his community?
(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)

When we say we want to maintain our culture by reviving Ladino, what do we mean?  Aren’t cultures basically the same, other than their histories and customs?  What’s the big deal, really?

This article reports on a study of Keresan Pueblo Indian students and why there have been so few of them in gifted classes.  It turns out that their culture’s view of “giftedness” is radically different from that of the mainstream culture offering the “gifted” classes.

[Before reading how the Keresan view people’s talents, think for a moment how you view giftedness.]

Several essential interrelated elements of a traditional Keresan Pueblo perspective of gifted:

1. Giftedness is viewed as a global human quality encompassed by all individuals and manifested through one’s contribution to the well-being of the community. In Keresan Pueblo society, community contribution or “giving back” is described as an inner desire to contribute to the well-being of one’s people and to the perpetuation and preservation of the Native way of life, its culture, values, traditions, and language. This fundamental life principle extends beyond individual actions and spans into a realm of human existence linked to the tribal community to intimately bind a Pueblo community together. “Giving back” is an integral element of a Keresan Pueblo perspective of giftedness.

2. Although no Keresan term exists for giftedness, present in the Keresan language are descriptive terms referring to the possession of unique and special cultural abilities, traits, and talents in specific areas which retain their significance only in the Pueblo value system.

3. In a traditional Native context, these unique and special cultural abilities, traits, and talents are recognized as unique abilities, traits, and talents only and are not utilized as a basis for distinction or highlighting one individual over another.

4. The concept of possessing unique and special abilities or talents in specific areas is meaningful only as they are applied and utilized in a way which benefits others.

5. Forms of giftedness are intrinsically linked with the cultural values and activities of the Keresan Pueblo society. ….

The conventional “exclusive” gifted concept often promulgated in formal educational institutions reflects the values, needs and goals of the competitive mainstream American society. Thus, the majority of gifted programs in schools focus on individualism and differentiation as means of meeting the needs of the “cream of the crop”. In contrast to the mainstream concept of gifted which focuses on individualism, the Keresan Pueblo concept of giftedness focuses on the community or “inclusion” (see Note 6). The special and/or unique characteristics, traits, and talents of a traditionally gifted Keresan individual are intricately linked to the well-being of the community and function as the strength for binding the Pueblo community members together.

[As you read the following “major contrasting elements,” which are essentially values, which are more conducive to maintaining a culture?  And are the opposite values suited to taking a culture apart? ]

Major Contrasting Elements of Mainstream and Native Concepts of Giftedness

Mainstream/Conventional Concept

Native/Keresan Concept

•academic/mainstream needs and values

• Native/Keresan needs and values

• exclusive nature

• inclusive nature

• individualistic focus

• community focus

• distinction

• interrelationships

• self-promotion

• community contribution

• competition

• cooperation


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