Sunday, September 5, 2021




My wife and I spent over a decade in the Indian and Eskimo villages of Alaska.   One of the things we heard when we first arrived was ‘White man talk too much.”  

A white man would come in and say ‘It’s cold outside…’ The northern Native would not say that because at -45 degrees it is obviously cold outside. 


The Natives don’t feel the necessity of stating the obvious.  They speak what is necessary.  White people can not stand a void in conversation – we feel we have to fill in the void even if it is just babble.  


If a Native grandfather is working on a canoe and the grandson wants to assist, the grandfather will hand the boy a tool and show him how to use it.  He will stop and assist the boy when he is not doing it correct; but few words will pass between them.   

It took us our first year of teaching to realize that teachers talk too much.  We were trained to give verbal explanations, verbal directions, verbal corrections and verbal reinforcement.  We would boor the Native students into lethargy.  We learned to demonstrate and show.   We were teaching multi-classroom, so in our second year we grouped our students by mixing the grades; the older students could assist the younger students.    And we learned: White man talk too much.


White musher: It’s four-o-clock and getting dark, I had better go out and feed the dogs while there is still some daylight.  We need to get some more dog food when we go into town.  I am worried about my second lead he seems not to be eating well.  Do you know where my glove liners are? I took the off when I came in yesterday.  I shouldn’t be long.


Native musher: Go feed dogs.


The Ol’Buzzard



  1. This brought a flashback to my DS as a small child. After he figured out on his own how to start the computer, I got him a couple of computer games. I hoped these would make him happy and he wouldn't go "exploring" and goof up settings and deleting things, etc. It worked. While learning to play the games, I found out fast words didn't work nearly as well as keeping my mouth shut, except to say "other button", and pointing to where he needed to click. Same thing when it came to explaining why I kept beating him in the Hot Wheels race game. No amount of words got the point across about the inner lane being shorter. He got it immediately when I cut 2 pieces of string the same length and showed him the difference when laid out in a curve. I never won a race against him again, unless I managed to get out in front before he did or he crashed.

  2. A great illustration of the benefit of few words.
    Chinese use silence to their advantage in negotiating with Canadians and Americans. They sit and say nothing and eventually the other side gives away the farm.


COMMENT: Ben Franklin said, "I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false."