Pictures and paintings of early Native Americans depict them as communal i.e., interacting and cooperating with each other. Their hunting economy depended upon cooperation even though game was plentiful. Killing that game with arrows and lances required hunting parties to herd the prey into enclosures or over cliffs.

Pictures and paintings of early Native Americans depict them as communal i.e., interacting and cooperating with each other. Their hunting economy depended upon cooperation even though game was plentiful. Killing that game with arrows and lances required hunting parties to herd the prey into enclosures or over cliffs. [1]

Studies of bones of animals killed by Neanderthals showed marks made by spears wielded by hand. Being close enough to wield a spear required being on foot and close which in turn required other hunters to herd the prey into some enclosure. It was evidence of cooperation being essential to their livelihood and lifestyle--similar to that of aboriginal Indians. When animal remains were brought to the Native American villages for rendering and distributing to the hunters, these tasks were typically performed by the women helping each other.

But, they were not socialists such as brought the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England to starvation. It was when the first settlers to Jamestown and New England assigned land individually and learned how to farm from the local Indians that they began to make it economically. A minor passage in an early history of the Indians gave me a major clue to their system: every arrow was marked by the maker which permitted them after the kill to distribute the kill to the one who shot it. Their economy required both cooperation and rewarding individual labor as in modern capitalism.

Community lodges or rotundas were built cooperatively-sometimes on raised ground architecturally similar to our state and federal capitols. Important decisions were made in community lodges by the leading males in sessions of pure democracy under the leadership of their chiefs, elders, and leading warriors. Indians too old to continue their responsibilities were cared for by the tribe. In effect, they had a mixed economy similar to ours.

Every able bodied member of the Native American tribes worked incessantly with no days off. They observed the first half of the third commandment commanding six days of ‘labor’ which whites have ignored while observing the second half of that commandment prescribing rest on the Sabbath. In my lifetime we have ignored the labor mandate, creating free riders.

Indian elders were respected for good reason: they were the repository of wisdom in an era before writing. Their organizational memory was in personal memories meaning lessons of the past were available only from elders.’ Now, continuous improvements in the technology of work has decreased the value of employee’s age rendering applicants over 50 ‘old.’

Native Americans could teach us something about parenting. Recent studies of parenting among the Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula and Hazda hunters in a remote region of Tanzania use parental practices somewhat similar to those of early Native Americans.

Hazda women of all ages were active raising children. Their elders and grandmothers were not ornaments to be supported by others but vital contributors to their own families. Hazda men hunted daily but brought home kills only 3.4% of the time meaning it was up to the women to feed their families through gardens and small farms. The notion that the men were the sole providers of the family’s food is a myth.

Maya moms consider their children as ‘collaborating’ with them to achieve a common goal. Maya mothers don’t have to ask children to do their part of the family’s daily chores because it was modeled for them from infancy by their elder siblings and parents. Throughout childhood girls trained to be mothers by helping with family chores. ‘Hunter-gatherers and other indigenous cultures have had tens of thousands of years to hone their strategies.” Being thus immersed in the adult word they developed a sense of having a stake in raising children and helping Mom.

We, by contrast, have created ‘two worlds’ with children excluded from the adult world and moms left to handle parenting and home duties alone. As a result, our mothers see their role as ‘controlling’ children. Our stay-at-home moms in single-family homes feel like “mom in a box” without help in performing most parental responsibilities.

We are not representative of parenting in the rest of the world. Researchers elsewhere label our parenting as atypical or WEIRD i.e., Western, Educated, Industralized , in Rich and Democratic societies. We tend to boss them around, to control them, whereas elsewhere parents aim to collaborate with them to achieve a common goal.” [2]

Native American children were from the earliest participating in the adult activities of hunt. Villagers were like extended family with women helping in child bearing and functioning as surrogate parents—lightening the parental tasks of moms.

Vintage pictures and paintings rarely depict a lone Native American in their natural setting because they would perish without family and tribe. Youth and adult worlds merged in the activities of daily living. Children were surrounded by males modeling work and parenting. Research has shown the importance of fathers in our society and the probability of problems in children raised in single-parent homes without fathers. [One in four American children live in single-parent homes with much of their socialization by peers and the electronic media—often unfavorable. The rate is double for black children.] Our adults and children live in separate worlds. Their ‘friends’ are often virtual. Parents could learn from the early Native Americans.

[1] Bushnell, David I., Jr., Bureau of Ethology, Smithsonian Institution, Bulletin 77 , 1918, 1921,

[2] Daugert, Katie, NPR, June 2018.