Tribes and Families Alike: Brain Drain/Gain (Short)

I have had the opportunity to read a bit of my wife’s dissertation based on what is known as “The Brain Drain.” The Study is focused on why Native American Tribal members leave the reservation to get formally educated, but fail to return to the reservation to strengthen that economy (brain drain). Pondering her paper, I have come to the realization that tribes and families are alike.

The Brain Drain: The study uses a method called hermeneutics to identify why Natives choose to live where they do. Simply put, hermeneutics is the method “from mouth to ear.” Essentially, my wife and her team interviewed Natives, recorded the conversations, then transcribed the interviews, and combed over them looking for common identifiers that pointed to why they chose to live where they do. There are three portions to the study:

  1. Identifying those with education who never left the reservation
  2. Identifying those with education who left and never returned (brain drain)
  3. Identifying those with education who left and then returned (brain gain)

Although she participated as a team member in all aspects of the study, the portion of her dissertation was the brain gain, identifying those with education who left and then returned. The objective of the study is to make recommendations to policy writers of the Navajo Nation, that would promote brain gain.

What she has discovered in this process of interviews is that tribes and families are alike. Overarching themes of the importance of relationships were a clear and common thread for each participant returning. Strong relationships were the key that drew people back, despite the difficulties of reservation life. But a surprising fact that participants continually identified as resisting their return was the instability of the Tribal economy, based on a weak or nonexistent constitution. Anyone familiar with Native American tribes in general could find direct related connections for both tribes and families alike.

No Constitution: After talking to my wife about her dissertation, I searched the internet to see what the Navajo Nation’s constitution was based upon. I was even surprised to learn that the Navajo Nation had no constitution. After the Navajos were forced onto reservations in 1864, a non-native secretary of state gave them “Tribal Laws” as their foundational governmental structure. Ever since, laws and regulations were added into one collective whole. Their government is simply a hodgepodge of rules in the drivers seat of the Navajo Nation as a vehicle.

Tribes and families alike both suffer from living in a world where rules/laws govern people. What’s right is less important than what’s legal. What’s acceptable in a culture is more important than what’s true. We end up sacrificing a constitution based on truth and core values, in exchange for the status quo (keeping things the same as it has always been). Thus both tribes and families are swayed by every wind of doctrine, having not been anchored in truth.

Ephesians 4:14

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

In order for our tribes and families to not be swayed by “every wind of doctrine” fed to us by the cunning craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive, we must be founded in “the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” Being swayed by every wind of doctrine is likened to being children, and that was not a good thing.

Conclusion: The Navajo Nation was originally founded upon core values of spirituality. However, over the decay of time, their values were substituted with collective rules and laws, eroding the fabric of their existence. Now, the Navajos are swayed by every wind of doctrine fed to them by the cunning and craftiness of men who lie and wait to deceive.

Our family can choose to walk the same path as the Navajo, expecting the outcome to be different. Or, we can learn from their mistakes, and become founded and governed by a constitution from on high (the gospel).




2 thoughts on “Tribes and Families Alike: Brain Drain/Gain (Short)

  1. Wonderful dissertation. Excellent research. It DOES apply to family. When each member participates with their mana’o (whether it be from books, school, friends, family, or scriptures) we share a part of our spirit that contributes to an interwoven fabric of love. Family, like these Navajos, travel away from home thinking to find the grass greener on the mainland, etc. Eventually, they find their way back to that homeland where they were raised and where they were loved, and where the core of their family remains. So much to be thankful for. So much to appreciate in each other. So much love for one another. Thank you. Love, Mom

    • Thanks for the compliment. I’ll pass it on to my wife as she is the brain of that work. But, I’m afraid that, in your comment, there is a message (applicable to the strength of families) that has gone unnoticed. And I’d like to clear that up here.

      The strength of a family has two components:
      1) The first is attraction. You get this. The attraction is familial relationships and love. That always brings family home.
      2) The second is the staying power. This is what I noticed missing in your comment. Staying power has been replaced with rules or laws, to define allowable or acceptable boundaries. As long as those boundaries are respected, then we are willing to stay. Cross those boundaries and there’s no staying power. It all shatters into pieces.

      Tribes, Families and individuals naturally sacrifice the success of the long-term for the pleasures and short-sightedness of the here and now. Staying power is absolutely long-term.

      While the relationships of family and love attract, and bring family home often, it’s the constitution that determines if they “STAY” home. For most families, loving relationships are hard to come by. But when it comes to relationships, our FAMILY has tons, and more to spare. That’s why we all come home at least once a year, sometimes more. We are a lucky family to have parents who cultivated loving relationships, pulling us to continually reunite. We like being together. But what is in question is our desire to “STAY TOGETHER.” What’s missing is a reason for our family to “STAY HOME!”

      While our attraction power is great, our staying power needs work. The glue is the staying power, …not the attracting power (love). The family constitution is the source of staying power. Scriptures call it by different names: Title of Liberty, plan of salvation, plan of redemption, the words of Christ written upon your hearts, etc. Only those with such a constitution can keep a family together, to be ONE! The family that is able to build their HOME upon this foundation will not only …COME HOME, they will …STAY HOME! They will have become “ONE BODY!”

      In the condition our family is in, we keep bringing them home, but some stay and some go. Those who stay have degrees of closeness that they can bear. They have certain boundaries that they don’t cross or allow others to cross. So while they may seem to be “STAYING HOME,” oneness still alludes them. Those who are away want to be home, but even they have degrees of “STAYING,” when they are visiting. Everyone gauges how close we can get before the refining fire is too hot, and we risk getting burned, before withdrawing. The constitution being offered in the words of Christ has “STAYING POWER.” THOSE FOUNDED UPON THAT CAN ENDURE THE REFINERS FIRE, TO BE MELDED INTO ONE!

      That’s why the Lord always says, if you are not one, …you are not mine.
      The Love we have for one another is unbelievable. But our staying power stinks!

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