By late November, 2012 I decided to cancel my cable TV. I had the cheapest package available, $30.00 a month for about thirty-some channels. So I bought a digital antenna and connected it to my TV. I now have access to over twenty channels and, much to my surprise, four of them are associated with WTTW, my all time favorite. Sometimes signals fade, but I patiently wait until the station comes back. Most of the time it is not a problem.

So one day I was checking out my new line of digital channels when I came across a new one, FNX. At first I confused it with FX, but this was FNX. As I watched I realized that every show was oriented toward American Indians and other indigenous cultures. The light dawned! FNX stood for First Nation Experience. It features indigenous cultures exclusively. I watch it periodically and I can tell you it has expanded my awareness of indigenous issues and taught me much about cultures I knew nothing about. If you get it, I highly recommend it. The subject of this blog is based on a segment of one of those programs.

Not long ago I was watching FNX and a woman who is the Chairperson for the Blackfeet Nation in Montana came on. The host of the show exchanged pleasantries with her and then asked her to explain the importance of the Circle in terms of family life in her tribe. Her comments follow:

At the center of the circle is the child. There are many helpful circles around this child. The inner circle is the mother. The mother is responsible for the health and welfare of that little child. If the child needs attention and the mother is not around, the second circle takes over. In the second circle are the aunts and older cousins. Likewise there is a third circle consisting of the grandmothers. The fourth circle is made up of uncles. The fifth circle belongs to the grandfathers. The outer circle belongs to the father. While each inner circle ultimately supports the child, the father protects all of the family members within his circle.

As the child grows, cousins an aunts help educate the child in regard to customs and the child’s responsibility to the family and the tribe. In the teen years the grandmothers take over, making sure the child becomes more responsible and well behaved. Ultimately the uncles, grandfathers and father help educate the child as well. Of course this is true for all children in the tribe, girls as well as boys, and creates a wonderful network of family support for each of them. This is a wonderful family concept. It’s more intricate than any family structure I have heard of.

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