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Red Paths, and White

August 10, 2009

This is another installation of my trying to talk my way around some recent insights about duyukta/duyukdv, and how best to work toward it. I talked some about the physical impact of getting out of balance in the last post. More of these should be coming; it’s been a dominant theme in my life lately!

Today, my thoughts went around again to to how much more appropriate it is for me to follow a White Path.

What’s one of those? Southeastern Indian people tried to maintain a balanced division between Red (war) and White (peace), including political organizations. They recognized that conflict is a process, in the same way that peace is, and–as events in the West have amply demonstrated–there is enough conflict of interest that the same individuals and organizations cannot handle both at the same time. In particular, people’s mental states are clouded enough by anger on the Red side that they aren’t in a fit state of mind to make decisions about applying the peace process on their own. Some Nations extended this to having Red and White towns. A Red town could regain White status after a number of years without fighting, and could again vote on issues of peace (and international affairs) within the federation.

This looks like a smart way to avoid both squabbling and bloodshed, at an organizational level. It also works at the personal level.

For a variety of reasons, I gravitated toward a Red Path in life, as have most of my family. There are excellent historical reasons for this; the Tutelo who stayed put in Virginia had to learn to be good fighters in order to survive and remain free. Living right on the Warriors’ Path, my ancestors bore the brunt of British-encouraged attacks and slave raids: the sharp end of Divide And Conquer tactics. Things were bad enough that many banded together with Saponi and Occaneechee cousins, and ended up joining the Haudenosaunee in Canada.* For those who remained, forming stronger alliances helped (thus such strong Tsalagi ties), as did making ourselves scarce in an attempt to physically avoid trouble when possible–or, to be fair, frequently when completely overwhelmed, with the aim of living to fight another day.

Still, my mother’s family went warrior easily, and with some frequency–male and female alike. I get the impression that my Papaw’s lineage (which adopted my mom) produced rather a lot more War Women than average. Most of us still have tendencies and a lot of social training that way, whether we opt to formalize it by joining the military or not. We still have a bit of a reputation for being quick to fight, and not tolerating much provocation. My paternal family isn’t much different, for many of the same reasons. In short, besides having a number of aggressive personality traits, I also grew up in a setting in which fighting is considered one of the best approaches to all sorts of difficulties.

IME, this can help reinforce and perpetuate PTSD, among other things. It feels natural for me to stay hypervigilant, and to convert other emotions–such as fear and anxiety–into anger, before conscious thought kicks in. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t harmful. It’s hard to develop, much less maintain, any sort of emotional equilibrium, and this has also caused problems (along with a perceived need for psych meds) for a lot of my relatives. We’re just part of a larger pattern. I strongly suspect that this inherited lack of duyukta has helped create the current problem with domestic violence and child abuse, as social changes have made women and children into more acceptable targets for venting anger and frustration. If you haven’t learned to manage emotional turmoil, it’s going to spill over onto other people around you. It’s also likely to leave you wide open to emotional abuse from other people, who can easily see which chains to yank.

When I was younger, I sometimes acted like an angry, PTSD-trigger-driven nutter–and some other people played on this, with bad intentions. I did hurt some other people, but more often, I turned self-destructive with it. Since then, I have learned how to handle things better. Now I’m learning more about the hows and whys, and developing better emotional regulation. (Again, at least one post of its own.)

As someone wrote about some of our Scottish ancestors: “Macraes also served as counsellors to the chiefs, tutors of the chiefs’ sons, Chamberlains of Kintail and ministers of the local churches. There were also poets, physicians and musicians among the Macraes. But the times and circumstances dictated that they would be most known for their prowess in combat.” Similar circumstances continued after some of them ended up in the colonies, and it’s no wonder that like called to like**. Former/escaped forced laborers–including large numbrs of Scots, Irish, and Angolans–were particularly likely to be adopted by and fight alongside Native people in the Tuscarora, Yamassee, Cherokee (in which my family was involved), and similar wars. There was plenty of incentive to fight, back then.

A while back, it struck me that these times and circumstances have changed. We may still be facing prejudice and threats such as continuing land loss and mountaintop removal mining, but we’re the safest we’ve been in 400+ years. We don’t have to concentrate on fighting, and continue to let historical trauma get the better of us. We can regain some balance–physically, mentally, and spiritually–if we recognize what’s standing in our way.

I realized better than a year ago that the unbalanced version of a Red Path I’d automatically been following was hurting me, and sometimes other people. Now I’m trying to find out what my own version of the White Path entails, besides a focus on healing myself enough that I can help others to learn and heal.

Edit: I should probably further clarify that what I describe is definitely not a balanced Red/Warrior Path, but rather what you get when this is filtered through generations of PTSD, and it becomes difficult to conceive of an approach which does not require fighting. That’s not the kind of Red Path anybody needs.


* “Lawson describes the Tutelo as ‘tall, likely men, having great plenty of buffaloes, elks, and bears, with every sort of deer amongst them, which strong food makes large, robust bodies.'” Astute observation. 🙂 Now, of course, we have to manage without the buffalo and elk, and with fewer bears. Not really on topic, but amusing.

** And, in a non-racist environment, “bestowed full ‘native status’ to their children on account of the matrilineal reckoning of Native American society”, incidentally. This is yet another story, in itself, but I had to point it out. The tone is a bit rah-rah, but the linked site makes some excellent points.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 22, 2009 5:09 am

    I’ve really been loving your posts about “reversing the damage,” and about these concepts from your culture.

    You seem to have words for a lot of really useful concepts that English lacks. I like “gadugi” a lot, and “wetiko” is very handy for encapsulating all the different-but-related strands of destructiveness running through my culture.

    (Usually I call it “our” culture, but it’s not yours. I might not identify with it very much, or hold its values, or aspire to be what it thinks is good, but I don’t have any other cultural tradition to draw on, while you do.)

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