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On a cultural revival

Dr. Youngwolf strives to build bridges between the tribals of the world, and make the world aware of their unique identity.



BUILDING BRIDGES: Dr. Youngwolf is on a missi on to preserve dying arts.

DEMOCRACY IS not a white man's sophisticated concept, but ancient wisdom of the American Indians, (also known as Red Indians). The emblem of the USA, the great bald eagle holding arrows in its claws too is no work of an inspired artist, but borrowed from the symbol of the Iroquois tribe. These and many more are the startling revelations made by Dr. Youngwolf, of Christian and American Indian decent. A Cherokee tribal to be specific.

Dr. Youngwolf was in India on a unique mission. A mission to build bridges among the various tribals of the world. To preserve their dying arts and culture and revive their rich wisdom.

A qualified student of arts, his special interest lies in researching the antecedents of American Indian art and culture and restoring it to a pride of place in American society.

He is introducing Cherokee culture to children as well as adults through story telling, clay work, gourd masks, tribal songs and other creative ways.

He says all his tribal tales, like our very own Panchatantra, have a value or a moral hidden in them. "It is like planting a seed, which flowers when the situation demands."

During his travels in India he saw a lot of similarities in tribal cultures of India and the US and very few differences. That is because, according to him, all ancient cultures share the basic values of earth and have spiritual foundation of life. "They may be derisively referred to as nature worshippers by modern Christianity, but essentially it is the worship of the Central Spirit of creation in all its manifestations," he says. Recently his works won a prize for poignant depiction of displacement of native Indians by the Europeans settlers of America, called the `trial of tears'.

`Trial of tears' is the period between 1838-39 when the Europeans came and drove the Indians from their lands to far off places. In the process 35 per cent of the Indians died of disease and trauma. It was also a period when the decline started. Many Indians chose to either marry the white men or leave the native faith and convert to Christianity to avoid the `trial of tears,. Dr Youngwolf says, "a good Indian is a dead Indian, was the popular line then. And it worked and this is how all ancient culture was lost."

According to him, MNCs (multinational corporations) and various religions are the main threats to this fragile culture. He illustrates his point with a beautiful story called the Truth Divided.

The story goes, one day god divides truth into four colours and asks it to go to the four directions of the world to bring good. But along the way each truth started thinking that it was the only one who was right and all others were false. This led to the corruption of their purity, until god came again and said, "each of you is true in right, but only in parts, and the complete truth is revealed only when all parts come together as a whole."

He says this story of ancient Indians beautifully illustrates the need for harmony, tolerance and balance. Balance is the core - for good health is balance, life is balance. It is only when one loses the balance that troubles start.

Ancient American tribes and also our own Indian culture believes in the `cycle of life'. Where every facet of life, be it trees, water, air, animals, birds has to be preserved to maintain that glorious balance. "Today's materialistic culture preaches that man is the lord of earth, which is wrong," he says, "this is the notion that gives him the freedom to exploit nature with impunity for small personal gains, and it is these people we need to work on most," he says.

Something of an authority on Hinduism and Buddhism, Youngwolf sees commonalities in ancient cultures, which he says were far more sophisticated and advanced. For instance he says, Benjamin Franklin came upon the concept of democracy in ancient American Indian tribals who had representatives of every group in their law making bodies. Perfect equality was accorded to men and women. "The Europeans," he says "till then had not had a single democratically-ruled country, it was only after watching the highly representative system of native Indians that America incorporated that concept in its life."

The history of the famed symbol of America also reads the same. Dr. Youngwolf says, "The Iroquois tribes which numbered five were represented by the five arrows held in the eagles claws, symbolising unity of the clan. Today the number of arrows in the symbol of United Stated are more in number representing the states.

He says as long as people have pride in their culture -- nothing can harm it. It is only when you lose respect for it that all is lost. He advocated its revival through introduction in schools so that the spiritual content will help balance the crass materialism of today and help make better and more tolerant human beings.

ARUNA MASARGUPPI

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