Indian Time

It is a gray day and cool. I have a pretty long list of things to do.

I was with a friend later in the day yesterday lamenting that she started her day with a long list but as the hours passed, she hadn’t gotten nearly as much done as she’d wanted. I suggested that we can make our lists with the best intentions but we never really know just how long each task will take. Not having time enough is really a problem of planning too much. But there is also the factor of the little unexpected events, like spending time talking to a friend, as we were doing at that moment.

Years ago I was part of a program in which we took a church group of youth to Red Lake Reservation here in Minnesota. The purpose was to introduce the teens to a culture different than their own. We were hosted by the Benedictine sisters who have a convent and school there. We set up a number of experiences for the kids such as a typical native feast (fish, wild rice, fried bread), attending ritual ceremonies and meetings with various groups and leaders. It wasn’t an unusual experience for us to be sitting in the school library waiting for a speaker…and waiting…and waiting. Even the meal started later than we had on our agenda. The Sisters understood our frustration. “This is Indian time,” they told us.  To me, it was utter frustration, especially being with a bunch of squirrely teens. One of our speakers explained this strange concept of time to us. He said, “When one is having an encounter with a person, that is the most important person in the world at that moment in time. It is not respectful to rush them or cut them off. So you stay until it is proper to leave…even if it makes you a little late for a meeting.”

Now Red Lake has a government like all other nations and I am sure they have meetings that are meant to start at a particular time like any governing body. But the attitude behind “Indian time” did not escape me. It is based on respect and living in the moment. I think we need more of this in our fast and furious culture.

2 thoughts on “Indian Time”

  1. I’d love to read it. No hurry, though. I am really excited about your trip. I wish I were going…maybe some other trip in the future.

  2. Fits with a book I recently retread in prep for my Haiti trip: Foreign to Familiar: a Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures. Interesting quick read; let me know if you’d like to read it!

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