Cradleboard Teaching Project

Making Things Better
Helping Children to Deal with
Guilt and Bitterness

Guilt and Bitterness are two sides of the same coin. When Native American people begin to learn the painful truth of how unjustly we have been treated, many of us go through a hell of Bitterness. When European Americans learn about it, many people go through a hell of Guilt.

Some people will tell you to "Just throw that away, that guilt, that bitterness", but you shouldn't: you should learn to use it.

Think of those ancient people out on the Plains. They're carrying bags. They're bending over, picking things up off the prairie. What are they gathering? Food? No. Wood? No. They're collecting dried buffalo chips. That's manure. But it's dried, and that's the key.

They take that dried manure that others throw away, and they bring it back home, and then they do the magic that only Human Beings can do: they turn it into fuel; and they make fire.

Once you make fire, you can create light and warmth. It's like you extend the length of the day. You can build a community around a fire; you can read a book beside a fire; you can dream and invent and write a book beside a fire. Or you can cook up something brand new, and all because you were smart enough to convert that dried up manure into fuel to make a fire.

Or you can take that dried manure - that Guilt, that Bitterness - and spread it on your garden as fertilizer and grow something brand new. But you have to be patient enough to let Nature dry it out in order to convert it into something positive.


    1. Don't try to use that Guilt or Bitterness while it's still fresh. Let it calm down, let your feelings settle, let it dry out. Then you can handle it and turn it into fuel.

    2. Don't spread it on your face like makeup or wear it as your badge of identity: "I'm the bitterest person in the world" or "I'm so guilty, I can't cope." You are much more than just some sad feelings and you can do wonderful things in the world to make things better.

Use it like fuel and turn it into something good.

c. Buffy Sainte-Marie
Cradleboard Teaching Project

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