Column: Walking a mile in Native moccasins

"Ask any child: It's really hard to walk when you want to run. I was reminded of this with the release of a recently published report about American Indian and non-Indian perceptions of each other.

The report, "Walking a Mile: A First Step Toward Mutual Understanding," references a frequently quoted American proverb: "Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his boots."

The hackneyed Native version of the proverb is typically phrased as the prayer, "Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins."

The study was conducted by the nonprofit organization Public Agenda. The report is described by the organization as "one of the most in-depth examinations ever made of the thinking of American Indians and non-Indians about each other."

The report, while helpful, will be somewhat of a disappointment for American Indians and culturally competent non-Natives. Non-Indians' negative perceptions, obliviousness to our lives and issues, and resentment toward perceived preferential treatment might be ground-breaking to the researchers, but they are common experiences for Native people.

Unfortunately, one of the most significant impacts of the report might be the validation of these Native experiences.

The study does make some interesting recommendations, however, that provide hope for the future of the research and Indian/non-Indian relations."

Get the Story:
Cheryl Long Feather: Working to understand one another (The Bismarck Tribune 9/26)

Get the Report:
Walking a Mile: A First Step Toward Mutual Understanding (August 2007)

$rl Public Agenda - http://www.publicagenda.org

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