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.