How American Indian Values Can Help Your Workplace

American Indian organizations are interdependent. They understand that the success of the organization depends on everyone regardless of their title, role, paycheck or ego.

Obligation to Others
American Indian organizations realize they are obligated to the success of their members and those they serve. They do not give up on each other no matter how difficult the circumstances. An implicit social contract exists within American Indian organizations to support their people for the long haul.

Group Reliance
Success in American Indian organizations is anchored in group effort, execution and recognition. Individual achievement is tied to the notion that everything they do should cause all boats to rise.

Traditional Values
Probably the most important American Indian value and most misunderstood, respect of tradition, elders, family and clan serve as a springboard to other principles of this unique community. Moving past the more common definition of tradition as functional fixedness, tradition for Native people means taking what has worked in the past and making it relevant in the present as well as instructive for the future. This is why generational conflict is rare among American Indians because each generation sees the value the previous and next generation brings to the organization. You hear this value reinforced when American Indians evaluate the impact of their actions on the “7th Generation.”

Blood is thicker than water in Tribal communities. There exists an instinctive responsibility that Tribal members have for each other. You see this in domestic relationships when American Indians talk about extended kinfolk of uncles, aunties, clan mothers and medicine men that extend beyond their nuclear family. American Indians take networking to a new level. This bond creates a reality of “everlasting arms” that Tribal members can fall back on when times are tough.

Family Takes Care of Their Own
This is a sensitive issue for American Indians in light of federal government policies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that placed thousands of American Indian children in boarding schools in order to hasten their cultural assimilation. It wasn’t until 1971 that Congress realized that American Indian children were essential to Tribal survival. Their passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act represented a departure from the rule of individualism in American law to one of what is in the best interest of the Tribe.

Just as domestic American Indians take care of their own American Indian organizations do this as well by promoting within. You can count on being mentored, coached and groomed in an American Indian organization. This sense of family provides security from a non-Native world often hostile to a “develop our own” mentality.

Notice how a strong sense of collectivism connects all of the above attributes? Where harmony sometimes outweighs truth and where age, wisdom and tradition are valued. Where status is gained through generosity and where cooperation triumphs over competition any day of the week. Where servant leadership voices are still heard despite the deafening noise of an increasingly individualistic and self-centered world.

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