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Grotjahn, M. (1940). Applied: Erik Homburger-Erikson. 'Observations on Sioux Education.' Journal of Psychology, 1939, Vol. VII, pp. 101–156.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 21:97-98.

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Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Applied: Erik Homburger-Erikson. 'Observations on Sioux Education.' Journal of Psychology, 1939, Vol. VII, pp. 101–156.

(1940). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 21:97-98

Applied: Erik Homburger-Erikson. 'Observations on Sioux Education.' Journal of Psychology, 1939, Vol. VII, pp. 101–156.

Martin Grotjahn

1. The Trauma of Historical Change: The Sioux Indians were hunters who followed the buffalo over the vast plains. They were accustomed to an abundance of game which became a legend overnight. The immigration of foreign people, the death of the buffalo and soil erosion destroyed the livelihood of the Indians, who learned to become dependent upon a feeding government. When the buffalo died, the Sioux died. They refused to identify themselves with the conquerors and found themselves as powerless in their situation as children are in the hands of frustrating adults. They dreamed the dreams of restoration and did not realize that the white man was going to stay in their country.

2. Cultural Conscience on the Defensive: The Indians refused the 'American Dollar Civilization'. The idea of storage is strange, money is distasteful to them. The white teachers complain: 'The Indian parents not only let their children masturbate, they teach them to masturbate.' This is answered by the Indians: 'The whites not only let their babies


WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.
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cry, they teach them to cry.' This signifies the correspondence between prejudices and group virtues. Neurotic conflicts and symptoms are not present among the Indians because the white teacher has never really been accepted and does not represent in any way the parent's philosophy or the child's conscience. Indian children can live for years without open rebellion or any signs of inner conflict between two standards which are further apart than are those of any two generations or two classes in our culture. They show passive resistance, do not show neurotic tension or 'bad conscience'. The basic psychological problem of Indian education by whites is the strange inner security and inner personal harmony of the Indians which makes it possible for them to submit to white supervision without surrendering to it.

3. The Training of the Sioux Child: The only neurotic child which could be observed in the Sioux tribe was the child of an Indian who had spent most of his life in Germany. The Indian baby is nursed whenever he whimpers, day or night, and the father is not allowed to interfere with the baby's right to be suckled. Sexual intercourse between the parents is prohibited during the suckling period, even when, as happens very frequently, the child is nursed for three to five years. There is no systematic weaning in our sense. Probably the child succeeds in weaning the mother. The only thing which the mother objects to, by pushing the child away, is the child's attempt to bite the mother's breast. There is no thumb sucking among Indian children, but they like to click things against their teeth, which is probably in connection with the repression of oral sadism. Indian parents seldom threaten their children, and then only in one form: 'the white man will come and get you.' In regard to bowel and bladder training, the Indian children are allowed to attain spontaneously to a gradual compliance with the rules of modesty. So far as sexual education is concerned strict taboos are introduced when the sixth year is reached. From that time brothers and sisters may not speak to one another any more.

4. Conclusion: This anachronistic system of child training is the perpetual source of inner peace under desperate communal conditions. The Sioux Indian can wait for restitution. The Indian child is allowed to be an individualist while quite young: contrary to the educational system of the white man, who allows his child, but only after mechanical socialization, to develop into a rugged individualist.


WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.
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Article Citation

Grotjahn, M. (1940). Applied. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 21:97-98

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WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.