On Communication

"Tribal styles of communications are mis-understood in today's world."

Daisy Sewid-Smith, Kwakwaka ‘wakw

Our silence, which is something that again the untrained or the young people will not understand today, that disapproval in our custom and our tradition, is to be silent. If you want to do something, and everybody's silent, or if you said something and what you said was not good, everybody would be silent. And if you know the traditions and customs, you would know that means disapproval. They did not like what you said. But if you said something that was good and correct and done something well, they'll let you know. They'll say, 'That is wonderful. I am so glad you said that, or I'm so glad you did that.' You will hear that.

But silence has now been interpreted as the European silence, of approval. And that's what the untrained and young people now are thinking that that's what [silence] means, but it means the opposite among our people. And it's surprising that trained people, [we] can talk to each other just by facial expressions and our eyes or in our hands, without saying a word. It'll be just a mannerism, body language. And you see a lot of that when a person or untrained person says something that's so untraditional or not part of the custom. And you'll see a lot of the old people doing that. And their silence doesn't mean they approve, it means they disapprove. Otherwise they would have verbally told you they approve. So that's what kind of misconceptions are out there.


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