Law No 9 Do not be greedy for possessions (North American Indian Tradition)

Do not be greedy for possessions

(a story told to me in meditation by Calling Horse, an ancient Chief)

In my day everybody in the tribe had similar possessions. While we all valued cleverly made pots, well sewn clothes and tents, we did not accumulate possessions in the way that people do these days. Indeed we spent our time travelling form place to place, resting in a camp for a few weeks and then moving on. We did not need or want more possessions than we could comfortably carry to the next camping ground.

I can tell you a story about a small family, members of my tribe. There were two children, a girl and a boy, a mother and her husband, White Feather. The husband broke his leg one spring time in a hunting accident. He was unable to hunt, unable to move far at all. His wife was very worried about how they would manage, how would they find food?

In the next tent lived an old woman, a very skilled potter. She suggested that the husband learn how to make pots, since he could not walk and would not be able to for some time. He readily agreed, he was a quick learner and as his hands were already strong he found he could make pots fast and well. He had an artistic eye and decorated them beautifully. The old lady was relieved to have another person to take over her work. She was growing too tired to make pots any more she said.

Members of the tribe had been accustomed to exchanging food and clothing with the old woman for her pots. Now they went to White Feather. He paid his teacher well and was also able to feed his family with the proceeds from the pots. He made enough pots to trade with visiting tribes for other goods which he needed. Sometimes they did not have exactly what he required, but he would take what they offered anyway. He knew that he would be able to barter for what he needed later on.

Every so often a potlatch was held within the tribe. People would gather together all the things which they no longer wanted and laid them outside their tents. Others could come and take what they needed. It would be considered a disgrace to take more than one’s fair share. People did not try to gather more than was necessary around them. The potlatch system worked very well.

One day at a potlatch the chief’s wife came to the tent of the little family. She was carrying a beautiful pot. “I would like you to notice that I have chosen this pot to take home with me today,” she said. “I have never seen such a beautiful pot and I am sure your husband made it. I want to say that I hope he continues to make pots for the tribe even when he can walk properly again. Nobody makes pots like he does.”

calling-horse-law-9-greed-cr2

White Feather’s wife was very touched by this. She reported it to her husband.

“Indeed I will continue to make pots; I find the process very satisfying. I prefer it to chasing and killing animals.” So said White Feather and he was the potter in the tribe for many long years.

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