We Indians know about silence. We aren’t afraid of it. In fact, to us it is more powerful than words.
Our elders were schooled in the ways of silence, and they passed that along to us.
Watch, listen, and then act, they told us. This is the way to live.
Watch the animals to see how they care for their young. Watch the elders to see how they behave. Watch the white man to see what he wants.
With you it’s the opposite. You learn by talking. You reward the kids who talk the most in school.
At your parties everyone is trying to talk. In your work you are always having meetings where everyone interrupts everyone else, and everyone talks five, ten, or a hundred times. You say it is ‘working out a problem’.
When you are in a room and it is quiet you get nervous. You have to fill the space with sound. So you talk right away, before you even know what you are going to say.
White people like to argue. They don’t even let each other finish sentences. They are always interrupting.
To Indians this is very disrespectful and even very stupid. If you start talking, I’m not going to interrupt you. I will listen.
Maybe I will stop listening if I don’t like what you are saying. But I won’t interrupt you. When you are done I will make my decision on what you said, but I won’t tell you if I disagree with you unless it is important.
Otherwise I will just be quiet and go away. You have told me what I need to know. There is nothing more to say. But this isn’t enough for most white people.
People should think of their words like seeds. They should plant them, then let them grow in silence.
Our old people taught us that the earth is always speaking to us, but that we have to be silent to hear her.
There are lots of voices besides ours. Lots of voices.