Martin Brokenleg is an educator, administrator and therapist working with children and youth in the Lennox, SD region. Dr. Brokenleg authored an article that was published in the Reclaiming Children and Youth Journal in the Fall of 1998, entitled Native Wisdom on Belonging.
This article draws some very interesting parallels between our belonging initiative and a traditional native approach to the development of young people. For example, the author describes belonging in this way,
“The ultimate test of kinship was not genetic but behavioral: You belonged as a relative if you acted like you belonged. Treating others as kin forged powerful human bonds that drew everyone into a network of relationships based on mutual respect.”
He goes on to propose, “Mastery measures competence by an individual’s progress relative to past performance rather than in comparison to others.”
And, “Independence is the only principle that allows all persons to exert power over their lives.”
And finally, “Generosity is the measure of virtue in Partnership cultures, where relationships are more important than possessions.”
In conclusion, the author suggests, “In this materialistic, fast-paced culture, many children have broken circles, and the fault line usually starts with damaged relationships. Having no bonds to significant adults, they chase counterfeit belongings through gangs, cults, and promiscuous relationships. Some are so alienated that they have abandoned the pursuit of human attachment. Guarded, lonely, and distrustful, they live in despair or strike out in rage. Families, schools, and youth organizations are being challenged to form new “tribes” for all of our children so there will be no “psychological orphans.”
1. Belonging is the organizing principle in Partnership cultures. Significance is assured by belonging, whereas in Dominator cultures one gains significance by standing out from the others, as seen in the hyperindividualalism of U.S. society today.
2. Mastery measures competence by an individual’s progress relative to past performance rather than in comparison to others. The achievements of all are celebrated. In Dominator cultures, “winners” show competence by beating “losers.”
3. Independence is the only principle that allows all persons to exert power over their lives. In Dominator systems, only a few can occupy coveted positions of power; the majority are obliged to submit.
4. Generosity is the measure of virtue in Partnership cultures, where relationships are more important than possessions. In the Dominator culture, the “good life” is reflected in the accumulation of materialistic goods.
For information or to communicate with Dr. Brokenleg, contact Reclaiming Youth, PO Box 57, Lennox, SD 57039.