The Sayings of The Nuu-chah-nulth Elders
Taken from "The Sayings of Our First People", Theytus Books 1995
On being Quu?as (1) ...treating people with dignity, respect, friendliness, using good kind words to uplift the person's spirit. ...no open criticism. Nothing is said in harshness. Do it gently. ...respect for self, for other people, the land, the ocean and all resources...knowing how to listen and listen with respect... don't judge other people... caring sharing, humility were important... Humor was another valued characteristic... All humans are precious...We are all related. We are all but one, and that is the way we were taught. Watch nature. Nature tells you everything. That's the philosophy of the old people. Whatever you do, never go overboard. You've got to practice what the whitemen call moderation.
On the raising of children – [They] weren't taught in a strict manner, but gently and with care... This was the true nature of the Indian feeling...that loving upbringing of children...taught primarly by example and oral tradition.... respect[ing] the child's emotional needs to be at ease, to be comfortable so it could learn. Teachings were repeated over and over again throughout life. You don't let them listen to your ill feelings, your hate. That kid is going to grow up hating that person who the parents hate. Discipline came mostly with pride. Indians were a very proud people. Way back in time we had "pritnear" non-existent abuse and neglect of children... they weren'y physically punished, they were just told it wasn't right. ...they weren't being scolded. They were being given teaching advice. The mamaln'i way (2) ...if they do something wrong, Okay, you are punished. Whereas with our people, they'd set the kid down and talk to them...To me the proper way of doing things. Don't slap a kid. If you hit them anywhere you'll be sorry.
On girls and women. [Girls were told they were] ...a very special kind of person... respected by all...loved by all. Men are different from women. Women have stronger minds. We had women at times that could take over a Chieftanship...[or] a ministerial post within our government tribal set-up, and yes, even act like a clown. (3) It wasn't just confined to the male folk.
On raising boys – [The father] ...would talk to him gently at all times because if you spoke harshly, they would remember it... and bring it against you... [He would be told to be] generous and kind... not to do wrong to other people. [The father would tell the boy about marriage] the children come first. Your wife comes second. You come last... And if you can't face responsibility, don't bother getting married.
1.The People. Also referring to being Nuu-chah-nulth.
2. White people, literally "the ghost people", referring less perhaps to skin color, and more to a general lack of substance.
3. I suspect the role of clown was important in Nuu-chah-nulth society as it was in other cultures.