The following are right hemisphere functions as they relate to the traditional Native American mode of thinking:

Traditional Indian education was done by precept and example…creativity occurs in the learning process when a person is allowed to learn by discovery.

Many tribes used symbols to record their history… the right hemisphere cannot think in words, it only thinks in symbols.

Native American elders taught the youngsters to think twice before they spoke or acted on anything…setting a problem aside, until an answer arises allows the right hemispheric tasks to function.

Traditional Native Americans taught through the use of stories or story telling.

Historically many tribes believed in and used dreams as a method to guide their lives.

People acquainted with Native Americans are amazed at their ability to laugh about serious situations. Humor is the right hemisphere’s metaphoric ability.

Almost every school child has studied about the perceptiveness of the traditional Native American… scouting, hunting, tracking techniques of the Native American. Perception is a unique ability of the right hemisphere.

Scholar after scholar has been impressed with the dominance of the verb in Native American sentences (Native American sentences are structured in reverse to English, and most commonly end with a verb). The fact that the verb may be more oriented to the object than to the subject in Native American sentences suggests they are interested in the result more than the cause.The cause (a reason for an action, logic) is a function of the left hemisphere.

The Native American language does not differentiate between time and space states. All temporal statements are therefore spatial: Example-letan Pine Ridge tohan hwo? Translated into English it would read “When is Pine Ridge from here?”.Spatiality is a function of the right hemisphere. The Hopi language can verbalize non-linear ideas with ease.

Traditional Native Americans never developed a written language. Two reasons may be that the right hemisphere cannot think in words, it only thinks in symbols and the fact that when traditional people wanted knowledge all they needed to do was to participate in a ceremony to receive knowledge. The Native American ceremonies allow a person to utilize his unconscious mind (the right hemisphere). Dr. Jung states that within the unconscious mind are latent memory traces from one’s entire ancestral past.

Dr. Jung also stated that the archetype of the supreme being exists in the unconscious mind (the right hemisphere). Traditional Native American religious ceremonies utilize dance, artistic symbols, music–all functions of the right hemisphere. The Native American view of the supreme being is holistic (the seeing of whole things or overall patterns). Holistic is a function of the right hemisphere. This may be the reason why Native Americans do not have a single term for describing the supreme being.

The I Ching states that within the unconscious mind (the right hemisphere) exists the feminine principal. The hero archetype for Native American religion is a female (white buffalo calf woman-Dakota, deer mother-Taos, corn mother-Hopi, changing woman-Navajo). For the Native American the mother or woman is first, all other things or persons follow.

The right hemisphere hasn’t a good sense of time and doesn’t seem to comprehend what is meant by the term “wasting time” as does the left hemisphere. In observing traditional Native Americans this lack of time specific is a dominant trait.

Each hemisphere is in competition with the other–each demanding that its perceptions and methods of organizing data be considered superior.Currently we are living in a left hemisphere oriented society, and nowhere is this more emphasized than in our schools.

This is limiting, not only to the youngsters who learn and express themselves through right brain activities, but also to left brain thinkers who have not developed right brain activities. The brain should be synergistic in its approach toward developing a whole person.

Native American spiritual people have developed methods to deal with this competition of the hemispheres. Since the spiritual side of the brain is the right side, and verbal dominant is the left, spiritual people practice a technique which allows both sides to exist without fear of being out of balance. This method for balance is called the Dakota “Red Road” in Dakota religion. This term denotes an existence between pairs of opposites. Almost all Native American spiritual people have a concept which enables this psychological balance to occur. Spiritual people pray constantly for this balance.


2 Responses

  1. Hi Jinan,

    Nouns are falsely created by the left brain which mistakenly separate and fragment the holistic processes of life.

    The value of boredom in complemplative practices is its tendency to defeat the highly motivated left brain allowing an opening for right brain awareness which is never boring.


  2. my observation of non literate communities in India also points to the above mentioned facts. Verb more than noun, lack of sense of time etc
    But I would like to point out that boredom is not there in these cultures.
    It is only experienced by cultures who are concerned with time. i have seen these people waiting for hours for bus with no trace of boredom. The problem with the western culture is that they think they are superior and do not see how cognitively damaged they are.Boredom is not to be celebrated as it is being done today.It is peculier to the ‘educated world.The birth of reasoning mind in the 17/18th centuary is actually due to textualisation of their experience. Bible as text was introdued few centuries earlier in the west. all destruction of modernity is the rise of rational mind

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