In the lower Rhinelands of Germany, carnival season is a time, especially children are looking forward to. Weeks ahead every child is pondering about which costume to choose, which role to slip into. In my time, most of the kids, having read the books of the german writer Karl May or having seen one of the movies about Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, wanted to be an american indian.
Though we understood quite well that Winnetou was a fictional character, we did not really want to know. We wanted him to be real. By putting on a Winnetou carnival costume, we wished to become like him, be just as strong, have his grandeur, be just as noble. Every little boy and every little girl wanted to somehow take part in the magnificence and nobleness of the chief of the Apache tribe in the story by Karl May.
Transmitting the tradition of the American Indians
As a young child, imitation is a major way of learning. This holds also true for values. Adults who just talk values can’t teach values.
It is later on, especially during adolescence, that we question values and are looking for their rationale, the more profound reasons behind them. Adults who don’t know and /or can’t explain the deep and profound grounds of values, can’t convince others of them, let alone hypercritical teenagers.
At the heart of each civilization and, thus of the specific values, lies religion. This holds true even for the most secular societies of today. Understanding your own religion is, therefore, preeminent for teaching values.
Do the american indians of today still understand their religion? As an ethnic non-indian, it is not up to me to judge.