How is Stoicism Taught -
With a method, “those who can, should”
How and where did the
philosophies of stoicism come to be a part of the Native American? Zeno in
309 BCE was said to found stoicism which teaches self-control and
detachment from distracting emotions. This was to allow one to be a clear
thinker who can be level headed without biases. These are the things to
give an individual virtue, wisdom and integrity. Persons of these cultures
are encouraged to help those in need, know that those who can, should. By
mastering passions it is possible to overcome the discord of an outside
world and to find peace first with oneself and then with the world around
These are the values of the
early Ponca. For those few older ones who are still living, they can tell
of their philosophy which is simply stated, “peace with me and peace all
about me.” However, the teaching of this stoicism is done with a method
that is not very peaceful, especially if a person is not aware of what it
is they are supposed to be learning.
Tribal laws adulterated
with the teachings of the modern world can cause so much confusion in the
youthful Native American person. Lack of understanding as to the why and
wherefores of his elders gradually can rob the strength of these teaching.
The obedient prosper, those who question can be lost in the muck of
ostracism, disapproval, withholding of actual tribal benefits.
As Velma ages she slips
back into the beliefs and conduct of her aunts, who were masters of this
stoic philosophy. The grandchildren wish to please their grandmother.
Grown children who are schooled in the world around them often are not
very uninterested in a Greek philosopher’s teachings of stoicism.
This world demands
competition at every turn. Teachers in the school system become irrate if
they are not allowed to use that method. “Heaven help us if we have to
work,” one teacher was heard to say while she defended her competition in
the classroom, and yet, competition is often just the opposite of
“Come on, Jim, I want to
show you something!” One of the grandchildren came running through the
house while Velma was reclining in a chair at the middle of the living
“Just a minute, Sir!” Velma
was catching the boy up short and he knew it. His face showed his
“Since when do you address
your uncle with his first name? I don’t want to ever hear you speak to him
again without calling him Uncle, first of all.”
This was an easy lesson.
The more difficult teachings were often dropped on another person who was
in a more responsible position. Jabbing, jarring, intimidation can push
anyone to the limit of that person’s self-control. If the steeling of
one’s being isn’t practiced there could be, at the least, an argument and
anyone with any sense didn’t want that to happen. If control is totally
practiced along with the heavy responsibilities of daily living in a
difficult world then that person could be reduced to a point of illness
from too much stress. For the elder children who know what is happening,
still, it is difficult. The younger siblings are often totally without
understanding and sometimes fare very poorly. It is often noted by people
who are of the Ponca nation, “It’s not easy to be Indian.” And so, we
return to Lee’s admonition, “Velma is Native American, and we are proud of
that.” He did deviate a bit from his inherited Christian teachings coming
through Scotland, Ireland and even Wales when he spoke of pride. So it is,
we step away from pride and go back to Stoicism.
This is the one way to deal
with this new-world, Velma and others created when they began to educate
the children to another way of thinking and living. It is impossible and
too late to go backward and all that can be done is to gain understanding
through love and devotion to the elders, who still have these stoic
philosophies, to exist in their trained-consciences.