When did the Dog Learn to Bark? - P.O.W. Report

Saturday, April 6, 2019

When did the Dog Learn to Bark?

Dr. Morrison makes regular posts on the Tlingit and Haida people of Alaska facebook page and you are encouraged to follow it [here].

More of Haida Culture...

KAWAN SANGAA (Woodrow F. Morrison Jr., BA.,JD.)

“Dii guudangaay sG̱wáansang” was the norm. We shared a common mind; a world-view that, today, many of our younger “ambitious” ones are struggling to shake free from - something our peoples were warned against. For example,

Wise vs. Educated
When discussing such topics as “Traditional Knowledge”, how do we discuss “Tradition” utilizing a non-traditional, literal, Command language? That should be a great trick especially since we have so many people moving rapidly away from tradition.

We distinguish between a person who is “educated” and one who is “wise”: ’Láa uu klagáay an únsiit ’aláa aa úu yáagang. (That person knows [understands] its way through the land very well.)
The person with "data" (or is "educated") is described as: ’Láa uu kugíin an únsiit ’aláa aa úu yáagang. (That person knows [understands] what is on the surface of the paper.) What does that mean?

Well in our earliest history, in Haida it is called "Hláa uu K’iigang." (I am telling the story of all the humans).

The explanation is quite long and involved but, suffice it to say, it comes from our oldest historical account; our version of the “Garden of Eden”, “Sangaay ‘laa giihlgiiaagang” – the atmosphere is always good.

The story describes a situation involving a cataclysmic event and humans had to go into caves to survive. Caves are dark and when you enter a darkened place and look straight ahead, all you will see is darkness. However, if you turn your head slightly, enough light will get past you so you have an indication of where you are going. We will discuss a bit more of this in a couple of minutes.

Origin of "Wise"
In that account it warns of “amassing things” (accumulating more than you can use) results in Hlgawjuu “Grabbing” . People whom live according to an absolute conviction that, “You can never have too much.” Unfortunately, that is what all wars are fought over; if you have something, I’ll kill you to get it. We don't use the term "greed" because it is a value judgement.

To guard against becoming hlgawjuu you always have to give something back, however, “giving back” does not always mean “replacing”, most often it means “not taking”. English is great for euphemisms. What we call Hlkuujuu, in English it is called "investments". Owning four or five houses is simply an investment.

Decision Making
In Haida tradition, when a decision was to be made or a problem solved (say within a family group), the men would sit around the fire. There was no debate; every man would express himself in turn. In that system, every participant was afforded exactly the same number of opportunities to speak.
The family head, Nang Iit tlaakdaas ("the Big Boss Who Cannot Give Orders"), would introduce the thing to be discussed and, the four rules:

1. Be subjective; speak from your own point of view, your own experience and knowledge; not what you heard from someone else. Begin with “I think…, I believe…, etc. and tie it to how it will effect you and your family. Do not say, “I agree with…”, nor, “I disagree with…” (no debate).

2. Bury the hatchet; we are not interested in whom you are angry at or what you are angry about; leave it outside.

3. Keep Talking. No matter how angry or upset you become, stay and keep talking.

4. No stepping on lips (respect). When a person is speaking, that person has an absolute right to speak to the topic, within the parameters of these rules. It is also a reminder that others are going to speak.
Once Nang Iit tlaakdaas introduced the topic and the person to his left would address it, speaking to the entire group (no Chair). When finished, the next man would speak. If someone chose to not speak; to “pass”, the next person in line spoke.

As each person spoke, questions would arise and, a person with a question did not ask it until it was his turn to speak and, the person did not answer until it was his turn to speak. The process was necessarily slow but thorough and, no one or two people could control the process. At the end, there was no vote.

Through the process, it becomes clear that all participants want the same things, by different processes; a consensus was always achieved.

(To be Continued)

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