the memorials and listening to the official park ranger presentation, I still know very little. The technical facts of the battle do not begin to explain the nuances of the politics that led to the battle, the pressure for congress and for the President to do something about the struggling US economy of the time,
or the misunderstandings of two very different cultures each wanting the resources of the territory and each wanting to protect their lifestyle and values. So far though, I know there is more than meets the eye and far more
than we were taught in school.
There is a Native American saying that if you speak to the animals, they will speak to you and you will understand them. If you do not speak to them, you will not understand them, and what you do not understand you will fear, and what you fear, you will destroy. It seems to me, this lesson applies to many aspects of
Back in Arizona, I met a Navajo woman who grew up on the reservation, and now lives and works at Lake Powell. I asked her what the biggest misconception is most white tourists have about the Navajo. Her answer took about an hour as she told her story of growing up on the reservation and about her elderly parents who could never leave their traditional home and ways. They have grown to accept her decision to leave the reservation and marry a Jamaican man she met at the resort. She told us about her gay nephew who has difficulties living with his very conservative parents on the reservation, but is getting through it. She says she has many gay Navajo friends, most of whom
leave the reservation, but overall, are starting to be accepted. I got the impression that social progress is happening in her culture, even if a few decades behind mainstream America. I'm sure that is the case in many
communities across the country for non-native communities as well. I learned, by the way, the politically correct term for white people is "non-native". Incidentally, after using the formal term only once, she quickly returned to
calling us white people and I wasn't the least bit-offended.
Her story is not so different from the stories I hear from my Italian, Irish or German American friends - all of us who know our own family history, can tell stories of traditions, foods, holidays, and family stories that our parents or
grandparents held dear. I think we are more similar than different. So yes, talking to others, making simple inquiries can create an understanding, which removes fear. We can in fact, replace judgment with curiosity.
Can we then, if not as a nation, then as individuals, learn the lessons from disasters like the battle at Little Big Horn? Did so many people die in vain? They (soldiers) were killed by weapons our government gave to their enemy, (original Americans) who did not need to be an enemy in the first place, to fight a battle over resources we could have easily shared. Was it not primarily fear and ignorance that caused such horrific pain, suffering and death? What, if anything, is so different about our battles today?
In our own lives, at work, with our family, our neighbors, those crazy foreigners who moved in down the street – who or what do we fear? Is it the pending changes at work that worry us? Is it our own insecurity as a parent that makes us angry at our child’s teacher? Is it our lack of commitment that makes others seem uncommitted? With whom should we be talking and trying to understand? That which we do not understand we fear, and that which we fear, we
Before we destroy our jobs, or our relationship with our children, or the potential friendship with the neighbors, or our customers, let’s reflect on Steven Covey’s habit number five: Seek first to understand, then be understood.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org .