Freedom is the ability to successfully control your own learning and actions. Freedom skills are very necessary for independence, whether we are talking about nations or individuals.

Independence from what, you might ask. Independence from alcohol and drugs is a good example. Dependence on the use of alcohol and drugs is an issue that we are all aware of in our peoples. Now that we have an idea of what dependence can be, let’s learn a little about what independence means.

There are many advantages to freedom (independence), which is why much of history is a story of peoples’ struggles for greater freedom. Freedom allows you to make more choices in life and makes it easier to adapt to different and uncertain situations. Freedom requires skills and does not just happen. Everyone has some of these skills but like any kind of fitness, freedom skills will develop or decay, depending on whether they are exercised and depending on how they are exercised: Freedom skills start to develop almost from the moment you are born. The play years of your childhood and your teenage years (the years you are learning about your self-control) are the most important times for developing independence. As a little child, when you explore your ability to make things happen and learn from the experience so that you improve your ability to do things on your own, then you are developing freedom skills. If your freedom skills are in good shape while you are young it will be much easier to keep them in shape when you are an adult.

If you are having trouble connecting with the idea of “freedom skills,” try this image. Think of your life as an adventurous journey on a ski-doo or canoe, an expedition into unknown land or water.

Now think of yourself as the commander of this expedition. Freedom skills are what it takes to do a good job of being in charge of the ski-doo or canoe, of having to figure out what’s going on and what to do next The more difficult the journey, like travelling in bad weather or rough waters, then your freedom skills of judgement courage and initiative show up and become important skills for survival and reaching your destination.

Once your freedom skills start to develop you will discover that you always have choices, no matter what is going on. Knowing about the different places that you can apply your powers is necessary for independent travel in life. You can apply your powers by changing your outlook on life, developing your powers, improving your physical state or you can work at something in the physical, social or cultural environment Power is the ability to produce change and to live with change. Personal powers are everything you have that allow you to make things happen and to live with what happens. You need two different kinds of personal powers to be independent One type is field skills which are required to make things in the world work. The other type, character skills, are required to make yourself work. When you are learning mechanics, spelling, cooking or another language, you are focusing on field skills. When you are learning courage, curiosity, determination or patience, you are focusing on character skills.

The Native way of teaching is very holistic in that it teaches both the field skills and character skills in a complete way. When a young man is taught how to go out and learn about the land and handle a gun (field skills), he is also taught patience, courage, determination (character skills).

When a girl is taught sewing she is taught good design and stitching (field skills) as well as patience, creativity, persistence (character skills).

These days most of the teaching in schools emphasizes field skills but personal freedom can’t go far without strong character skills.

People can blow their freedom once they have it so you must become aware of what can cause you to stop exploring, developing and exercising your powers.

1. Simple pleasure traps: Spending too much time on simple pleasures like watching tv., napping or partying.

2. OFF-Control trap: Allowing other people too much control, letting habits or routines run too much of your life.

3. Image trap: Not wanting to be seen as learning, struggling or failing and so not trying anything new.

4. Grim trap: Being so determined and serious that opportunities to develop new perspectives and skills are never taken.

The SIMPLE PLEASURE TRAPS are the traps that many young people tend to fall into. They are universal activities in that they are not specific to Aboriginal people.

There are 11 universal activities which fall into the category of simple pleasure traps. They are as follows: napping, people watching (tv.), snacking, idle chatting (gossiping, meaningless talk), listening to music, courtship behaviour, simple movement, day-dreaming, grooming (combing hair), reading (not studying), intoxication (alcohol/drugs).

Most of these activities are not necessarily negative or bad for you to do in themselves but if that’s all you are doing to busy yourself in your everyday life, then it probably means you are not doing much else to develop your personal powers. They are so easy to do that you can do several of them at the same time without much effort When several people get together and snack, listen to music, drink alcohol and do some idle talk, they are doing several of these activities atthe same time. This is called a PARTY Therefore people who just party most of their time are not developing their powers and in fact are decaying their powers.

Most of these activities are pleasurable things that one usually can do as a form of relaxation, such as listening to music or reading a magazine, but it is not healthy to take them on as a lifestyle where you do nothing but these universal activities. In fact if they are taken on as a lifestyle they can start to decay your personal powers. If you should find yourself doing a lot of these universal activities and not much else, first, do not judge yourself, since judging yourself can be more harmful than the activity itself; second, become aware of what you are doing; and third switch to something else challenging like sports, hunting, challenging games that will help develop your personal powers.

The most important thing to remember is to be alert to situations that weaken your powers of self-control. Avoid them, get out of them or compensate for them by going for other challenges.

With self-government on the horizon, it will be important for you the Native youth, as the future leaders, to start thinking about developing and exercising your personal powers, since FREEDOM SKILLS will be a must if true SELF-GOVERNMENT is to become a reality. The definition of Self-Government must come from within us.