Book Review: Descendants of Warriors
- Paul Hanley | May 08, 2018
In Descendants of Warriors, Kamao Cappo asks and answers one of the most challenging questions of our time: How can Indigenous people successfully adapt to contemporary society? More specifically, how can they prosper by using, rather than losing, their traditional strengths—their distinct identity, culture, and spirituality?
Some Indigenous people have adapted successfully in business or employment, says Cappo, but the majority continue to live in poverty and face various social problems. The solution, he says, can be found in the same principles that helped Indigenous people to succeed prior to colonization.
“Where the Indian people have struggled is in seeing the same principles that applied to and were used in their traditional life are still applicable to modern day society and the only thing that has changed is the outside…. The same qualities, attributes and characteristics that enabled Aboriginal people to live freely and independently in the past can be utilized in this day and age to ensure and enhance their survival as Indian people.”
What were these attributes? Cappo analyses Indigenous principles related to four interconnected functions of society—leadership, protection, guidance, and providing. Each of these functions was weakened in Indigenous societies as a result of racist colonialism. Returning to traditional Indigenous principles in each of these areas will help to revive the conditions of Indigenous communities.
How do we know this is the case? Over the past few decades there has been a re-awakening of Indigenous culture and spirituality. As a result, Indigenous communities have made significant strides in reinvigorating leadership, protection, and guidance functions in recent years. The function that remains weak and in need of the most attention today is “providing.”
Cappo explains that his community, Muscowpetung First Nation in Treaty 4 territory, had actually adapted well economically by the 1940s through its thriving cattle business, but this enterprise was undermined by government actions. Colonial authorities did everything they could to destroy the First Nations economy, and then blamed them for being poor. Under this regime, an unhealthy dependence on meagre government funding ensued, which continues to cripple development today.
The story of a buffalo hunt is used to demonstrate how the traditional values of the past can be brought forward today into, for example, the world of business.
The individual who today is able to provide food, shelter and clothing by acquiring money, is the same type of individual who in the past was able to provide food, shelter and clothing by harvesting the buffalo. The necessary attributes of the good buffalo hunter are the same attributes of the astute business man of today.
Cappo details these attributes and shows how they can be used to achieve success in business or employment. There is a danger, however, that success in activities like business will lead Indigenous people into the materialism that weakens mainstream society. Again, the way to avoid this is the Indigenous principle of sharing: success is measured in the capacity to help others, not in the accumulation of wealth.
I was initially disappointed that Descendants of Warriors was not longer: it is a good read and I wanted more. On reflection, I realized concision is a strength: if you can diagnose the disease and prescribe the remedy in few words, why say more? As a result, the book can be read in a couple of hours, making it accessible for many people, of all age groups. It may be of particular interest to teachers and students who want a clear and concise analysis of the topic, one that may inspire students to excel in both the Indigenous community and the wider economy.
I expect the book will mainly be of interest to Indigenous people throughout North America, but the concepts likely apply to many of the 5000 Indigenous communities worldwide, some 370 million people in 90 countries. I think this is a good book for anyone, especially youth, Indigenous or not, as they pursue their education and enter the workforce. I would like to see it used in school curriculums or youth groups. It may also be of interest to non-Indigenous readers who want to better understand the problems and strengths of Indigenous people. A key to reducing their inherited sense of superiority is to engage in a process of listening and learning from Indigenous writers like Kamao Cappo.
The book is available through Amazon.