Have you ever thought to yourself, if things get chaotic and technology fails, you could live like the Indians? Have you learned how Indians made shelters or lit fires while you were at a wilderness survival camp? Is learning the ways of native Americans already part of your prepping strategy?
Thanks to movies, TV and books, it’s all too easy to romanticize the old ways or the red ways. But what useful skills and attitudes can we glean from American Indians which will help us survive?
I sought an expert to give us some needed perspective. Christopher Nyerges, well known survivalist author and instructor, is well acquainted with the old ways and is qualified to speak authoritatively on the subject.
He was kind enough to be my guest again on DestinySurvival Radio. I’ll talk about part 1 of this two part series in this post. The link for part 2 is below.
Christopher has written thousands of magazine and newspaper articles and ten books at the time of this writing. He founded the School of Self Reliance with his late wife to help teach urban survival and has been teaching about plants and survival in the L.A. area for nearly 40 years.
Since his youth the ways of the Indians have been of interest to him. Botany and the uses of plants fascinated him early on. As his love for nature grew, so did the idea of living simply, rather than having and depending on the newest gear. As time passed he became acquainted and learned much from native Americans in Southern California.
Along with skills and traditions, he was attracted to their spirituality. He has participated in a number of sweats–not something just anyone can do.
Christopher packs so much information into his conversation that you need to listen to my interviews with him to get the full impact. He really knows history. And the name dropping he does along the way is interesting. His late wife was part Osage, and he has some amazing connections.
Challenges of Learning the Old Ways
Indians have become so integrated into our modern society that even many of them don’t know the ways of their ancestors. Some have forsaken them in favor of running gambling establishments. Others don’t think we can understand their ways and are reluctant to share what they know.
The Indians of the past had their own societies with social, political, religious and cultural structures. For you and me to learn traditional Indian survival skills is good–and it might help us survive–but it doesn’t encompass the Indians’ whole way of life.
To complicate matters, there’s no homogenous Indian culture. Many tribes covered our broad, diverse land. There’s also no simple way to define what it means to be Indian. So much racial and cultural mixing has taken place over the centuries. The real question is, who does an Indian tribe recognize as Indian?
According to Christopher, if you’re really interested in learning the old ways, you’ll need to do your homework. Find out what’s going on in your local area. Is there a reservation nearby? Are there events to go to? Start making personal connections.
Many of us have heard of pow-wows, where dancing and art are displayed and tribal decisions are made. Such a festival can be a good place to make contacts, if you’re seeking Indians who can serve as guides and mentors.
It takes time and dedication to grasp and absorb the red ways. It’s not something you can just do in a weekend or two. Finding credible sources is key. To know more of how they’ve thought and lived, see For Further Reading below.
For further reading
Below is a list of some of the books Christopher mentioned in our conversation. Click on highlighted titles to find out more about each one. You may want to check your local library for some of these titles as well.
- The Winds Erase Your Footprints, by Shiyowin Miller
- The Pipe and Christ, by William Stolzman
- Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, by Richard Erdoes and John (Fire) Lame Deer
- Black Elk Speaks, by John G. Neihardt
- God is Red, by Vine Deloria, Jr.
- Custer Died for Your Sins, by Vine Deloria, Jr.
- Red Earth, White Lies, by Vine Deloria, Jr.
- Cahokia, by Timothy R. Pauketat
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown
Some books I’ve enjoyed from my own reading are…
- Native Roots, by Jack Weatherford
- Neither Wolf Nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn
- The Wolf at Twilight, by Kent Nerburn
- The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo, by Kent Nerburn
- Food, Farming, and Hunting: American Indian Contributions to the World, by Emory Dean Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield
- Medicine and Health: American Indian Contributions to the World, by Emory Dean Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield