Scoutmaster Minute—An Indian Boy’s Training

April 15, 2012

SM Minute—An Indian Boy’s Training

Excerpts from Charles Alexander Eastman‘s 1902 book, Indian Boyhood.

Very early, the Indian boy assumed the task of preserving and transmitting the legends of his ancestors and his race. Almost every evening a myth, or a true story of some deed done in the poast, was narrated by one of the parents or grandparents, while the boy listened with parted lips and glistening eyes. On the following evening, he was usually required to repeat it… This sort of teaching at once enlightens the boy’s mind and stimulates his ambition…

It seems to be a popular idea that all the characteristic skill of the Indian is instinctive and hereditary. This is a mistake. All the stoicism and patience of the Indian are acquired traits, and continued practice alone makes him master of the art of wood-craft…

My uncle, who educated me up to the age of 15 years was a strict disciplinarian and a good teacher. When I left the teepee in the morning, he would say: “Hakadah, look closely to everything you see”; at evening, on my return, he used often to catechize me for an hour or so.

“On which side of the trees is the lighter-colored bark? On which side do they have most regular branches?”…

He did not expect a correct reply at once to all the voluminous questions that he put to me on these occasions, but he meant to make me observant and a good student of nature…

A bit about Mr. Eastman:

Charles Alexander Eastman (born Hakadah and later named Ohíye S’a; February 19, 1858 – January 8, 1939) was a Native American physician, writer, national lecturer, and reformer. He was of Santee Sioux and Anglo-American ancestry. Active in politics and issues on American Indian rights, he worked to improve the lives of youths, and founded 32 Native American chapters of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). He also helped found the Boy Scouts of America. He is considered the first Native American author to write American history from the native point of view.

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