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Wendell George | Sports are part of Indian culture

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Little Joe watched as the excitement peaked at the end of the basketball game. The point guard deftly twisted and turned through the other team to the roar of the home team crowd. As he neared the basket, the tall opposing post collapsed on him, so he smoothly bounce-passed to his teammate, who made a layup unopposed. Neither boy cherished credit for the win as they felt they were just part of the teamwork necessary to succeed.

Little Joe turned to his uncle (Twasen) sitting next to him, “Is teamwork a natural or learned process?”

His uncle, an excellent basketball player in his youth, had a ready answer.

“It depends on the background of the player. Some have difficulty fitting into a teamwork environment. They want to prove their ability by scoring the most points and become the star of the team. They miss passing opportunities and dribble or shoot too much. This usually results in poor team performance.”

“The boys making that play are both Indians. Is teamwork a unique culture trait of Indians?”

“Yes and no. In this day and age of mixed cultures it would be hard to say. However, there are natural tendencies. Indians have a head start on teamwork but they don’t own it. Sports aptitude comes naturally to them because they inherited the skills their ancestors developed. Horsemanship and basketball are excellent outlets and are now part of the Indian culture.”

“Why are we team oriented?”

“We are group oriented and cooperative because of our right brain tendencies. Left brain tendencies are more aggressive, controlling and individual goal oriented. Western Europeans are predominantly left brained. But many have overcome these tendencies by subduing their ego.”

“How do they subdue their ego?”

“Team sports are an excellent activity to learn and practice controlled cooperation. One doesn’t need to give up his identity but merely fold it into the group attitude. Once this lesson is learned it can be applied to government, education, business and social networks.

A new world would evolve if everyone emphasized teamwork over the individual.”


Wendell George writes Go-la’-ka Wa-wal-sh (Raven Speaks). He can be reached via email at His books are available at the local book stores, tribal museum and