THE CENTRE FOR INDIAN SCHOLARS
AN INDIGENOUS RELIGIOUS CENTRE
Center for Indian Scholars
June 19, 1984 Robert K. Thomas
For some fifteen or twenty years now, North American Indians have been feeling a profound
dissatisfaction with the quality of life in their communities, or among their relatives recently
migrated to cities, as well as a profound anxiety about the possibility of their survival as peoples
in the modern North American milieus. This dissatisfaction and anxiety is usually expressed in
such phrases as "holding on to our identity" or "preserving our culture". In this period, North
American Indians particularly the young, with the instinctive good sense that one finds many
times among threatened peoples, have again turn to their elders for guidance during this time of
turmoil and transition for them. This is evidenced by an often-heard phrase among Indians now
"We must listen to our elders", as well as by the numerous Indian religious conferences which
are functionally a gathering of elders, and by the struggle of tribal governments to structurally
make room for the inclusion of tribal elders.
However, there have been three factors that have made this thrust on the part of American
Indians that turned to one's elders in any time of trouble not satisfactory. One is that elders’
conferences are far too limited in time. Most elders simply get a chance to introduce themselves
and to comment on the present situation. Secondly, there is no structural way for elders to
continue this dialogue in their home communities given the quality of life in Indian communities
now: social breakdown, turmoil, individual isolation, family ties weakening, and a great deal of
everyone’s time taken up in pursuing a living as individuals. Thirdly, most elders’ conferences
have been local attempts and it appears that North American Indian elders at this time in history
need very much to have stimulation which can be provided by fellow elders from other tribes.
This kind of interaction both provides intellectual stimulation and sanction for one's ideas.
What we would like to do to meet this new thrust, that is the turning to elders for direction and
the resulting inability of attempts to bring about this activation of Indian elders, is a permanent
centre for Indian Scholars where Indian elders could come and live together for long periods of
time as well as being able to meet their counterparts from other communities and from other
tribes. In other words, we would like to facilitate what is already in the minds of North American
Indians but which has not been able to come together because of structural difficulties.
Organizers of Indian life have in recent years been too tied to patterning their attempts to meet
problems after the general society, i.e. a 4-day elders’ conference or a week-long religious
gathering. Solutions that would work in more stable situations and solutions which would
perhaps meet a similar problem in the more general society. Now of course one might ask why
should the members of the more general society be of help in this process. First, of course, one
could make a case that it is the socially responsible thing to do. That point speaks for itself.
North American Indians are in serious trouble regarding the quality of their social life and live
with the profound psychological fear and immobilizing fear of social extinction, a profound
burden for a section of one's fellow symmetry herein North America. For the second reason, it is
simply in the self-interest of other North Americans to help deal with this problem. So far in
history, industrial society has not been successful in incorporating tribal as social groups or as
individuals into its matrix. What has happened more often is that tribal communities have been
so disorganized and broken apart socially that social ills have reached astronomical proportions.
Up to the present, industrial society has attacked the tribal community as a community and at the
same time excluding them functionally from North American life. And in many parts of North
America has created a whole population of de-culturated, de-racinated and psychologically
troubled individuals. This situation in many areas seems almost to be a permanent condition
since it has gone on now for some three generations among tribals in some parts of North
America. The solution to this difficulty is not to simply wait until “education” has solved the
problem or economic betterment has solved the problem. As a matter of fact neither of these
vehicles seem to be solving a problem at all, but in fact making it worse, as are programmatic
bureaucratic solutions coming from the great welfare bureaucracies of the United States and
Canada. At the present time, unless something is done, this horrendous and worsening social
problem appears to be permanent in Canada and the United States or at least appears to be one
which will gone on for several hundred years into the future. If North American Indian peoples
can learn to exist enclave by surrounded by within or partially incorporated by the industrial
civilization of North America then the social problems and present day Indian anxieties will no
doubt lessen considerably. Instinctively North American Indians know that this can only be
solved by utilizing the wisdom of their elders. Such is the purpose of the Centre of Indian
Scholars - to serve the ends both of Indians and the general society of North America as well.
THE CENTRE HAS TAX DEDUCTIBLE STATUS AS A CHARITABLE INSTITUTION.INDIVIDUALS OR CORPORATIONS WHO WISH TO MAKE DONATIONS TO THE CENTRE MAY ALSO SEND THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE SECRETARY/TREASURER, THE CENTRE FOR INDIAN SCHOLARS, 6000 IONA DRIVE, VANCOUVER, BC, V6T 1L4. CHEQUES SHOULD BE MADE OUT TO THE CENTRE FOR INDIAN SCHOLARS.
CCopyright 2010 Centre for Indian Scholars. All rights reserved. Updated November 11, 2010