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Velma's Work
Valiantly Velma - Page 29

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 them.

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 self-control.

“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 room.

“Just a minute, Sir!” Velma was catching the boy up short and he knew it. His face showed his apprehension.

“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.

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