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Grotjahn, M. (1941). Observations on Sioux Education: Erik Homburger Erikson. The J. of Psychology, VII, 1939, pp. 101–156.. Psychoanal Q., 10:507-508.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Observations on Sioux Education: Erik Homburger Erikson. The J. of Psychology, VII, 1939, pp. 101–156.

(1941). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 10:507-508

Observations on Sioux Education: Erik Homburger Erikson. The J. of Psychology, VII, 1939, pp. 101–156.

Martin Grotjahn

The Sioux Indians were buffalo hunters accustomed to an abundance of game which became a legend overnight. They then became dependent upon a feeding Government. When the buffalo died, the Sioux died. They found themselves as helpless in their situation as children are in the hands of frustrating parents with whom they refuse to identify themselves. They continue to dream their dreams of restoration. The idea of storage is strange to them and money distasteful. The white teachers complain 'the Indian parents not only allow their children to masturbate, they teach them to masturbate'. And this is answered by the Indians 'the whites not only let their babies cry, but they teach them to cry'. This signifies the correspondence between prejudices and group virtues.

The white teacher has never really been accepted by the Indians and does not represent in any way the parents' philosophy for their children. Indian children may live for years without open rebellion or any sign of inner conflict between two standards which are further apart than are those of any two generations or two classes in our culture. They may show passive resistance; they do not show neurotic tension or 'bad conscience'. Every Indian child has the right to call all sisters of his mother 'mother' and all brothers of his father 'father'. When he feels frustrated in his family he just takes a leave of absence. The basic psychological problem of Indian education by whites is the strange inner security and inner personal harmony of the Indian who submits but does

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not surrender. The sudden change from the strict Indian family into the freer atmosphere of the American boarding house results often in sexual delinquency of the Indian girl.

The Indian baby is nursed whenever he wants to and the father is not allowed to interfere with the baby's privilege. If the child is nursed for three to five years no sexual intercourse between the parents takes place. There is no systematic weaning and it is probable that the child finally succeeds in weaning its mother. The only thing which the mother resents is being bitten by the baby. Indian parents seldom threaten their children, and then mostly with the same formula: 'The white man will come and get you.'

Bowel and bladder training the Indian children are allowed to acquire by themselves in gradual compliance with the rules of modesty. Strict sexual taboos are introduced when the sixth year is reached. Brothers and sisters are then no longer allowed to speak to one another and girls are confined to play with girls. A dangerous increase of ambivalence is avoided because there are many mothers and many fathers in the Indian family.

Contrary to the educational system of white men who allow their children only after mechanical socialization to develop into individualists, the Indian child is allowed to be an individualist while quite young. This anachronistic system of child training is the source of inner peace under desperate communal conditions.

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Article Citation

Grotjahn, M. (1941). Observations on Sioux Education. Psychoanal. Q., 10:507-508

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