Peter d'Errico: Book encourages return to a 'tribal' way of life

Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Photo by mksfca

Can American society learn more from indigenous societies? Retired professor Peter d'Errico reviews a new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebasian Junger, that offers some answers to that question:
Sebastian Junger's new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, doesn't break any new ground and actually perpetuates some wrong-headed stereotypes about Indians; but it does present an old perspective in an easy-to-read popular format. And it points toward a serious critique of American society.

The perspective that Native American "tribal life" is more humane than nation-state "civilization" has been around for a long time. For as long as outsiders—colonists, explorers, anthropologists—have been encountering Indigenous Peoples on this continent, there have been reports about the benefits of Native communal life: friendliness, natural sociability, cohesiveness, resilience, and equitable social relations.

Even taking into account reports of hardship, deprivation, or cruelty, the historical and literary record bears witness to an overwhelming sense that non-state societies present an idyllic condition of human existence. The Puritans and other Christian invaders were embarrassed by the fact that so many of their kind fled to the Indians, while so few Indians wanted to adopt the Puritan world.

Junger quotes Ben Franklin: White captives "liberated" from the Indians, though prevailed upon to "stay among the English…take the first good opportunity of escaping again" to the Indians. Meanwhile, "When an Indian child has been brought up among us…if he goes to see his relations…there is no persuading him ever to return."

Read More:
What Does ‘Tribe’ Mean? (Indian Country Today 9/24)

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