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Wendell George | Little Joe learns another way to perceive the world

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Coyote wondered why Chickadee could see (kiren) better than him. She not only had better vision but a better understanding (n-wen-nah-whant-en) of the world. When Little Joe heard that story he remembered his grandma (qqana – fathers’ mother) saying “I see, said the blind man.”

“Uncle (Twasen), is perception part of thinking?”

“Very good observation, Little Joe. Some say perception is 85 percent of thinking. You see the physical world with your eyes and your brain tells you what that means. Your emotions, feelings, and intuition play a part in that process. The brain allows experience to organize itself as patterns which will be recalled when needed.

But these patterns are not foolproof. Most faults of thinking are faults of perceptions such as:

Seeing only part of the situation.

Having an inadequate frame of outlook.

Emotional selection of information.

Arrogance, selfishness, despair, overreaction.

Everyone has their own bubble of perception and acts accordingly.”

“Why is the Indians’ natural way of self-directed exploration a better way to learn?”

“Proactive thinking (nacut) broadens education to a real-life situation. Today’s education is a reactive approach and does not develop creative thinking. Criticism is easier than creative thinking. It puts emphasis on argument, analysis and logic. Unfortunately that is the basis of politics, law, science and our daily lives. What is needed is emphasis on real-life problems, development of skills to address those problems and an understanding where we are coming from (perception).

Today schools put ready-made perceptions and information in front of students and ask them to react. They are judged on how well they do within this narrow focus. It ignores the individual’s bubble of perception and doesn’t encourage creativity.”

“OK, what is proactive thinking?”

“Our ancestors used the experience of others to do things such as erecting a tepee. Experience suggested it was best to use seventeen poles, but how to put them together was a learning process, not a given. The elders encouraged trial and error to set up the tepee and were thrilled if the student discovered a new way.”

“Seems like a big challenge. Almost like being thrown into a lake to learn to swim. How can we do this in today’s world?”

“Well, this doesn’t all happen at once. It is a growing-up process. Before entering school, you answer the child’s ‘why’ questions. For example, have them draw various airplane designs and discuss the advantages of each. This activates the right brain and develops creativity.

During the first years of school, you help them answer their ‘why not’ questions. Link bigger and bigger perceptions leading up to an ultimate question like Darwin’s theory. Help them identify preconceived ideas and explore facts and new ideas. Recognize that all personal perceptions have inadequacies, prejudices, stereotypes which confuse every situation.

During the later years of school and on in to adulthood, combine critical analysis with objective suggestions as to how each can make this a better world.”

“Right Uncle, and maybe eventually people will become aware of false perceptions and make adjustments.”

“If everyone was a quick study like you, Little Joe, that could happen soon.”


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