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A Message to Young Native Americans from Uncle Bubba

A Message to Young Native Americans from Uncle Bubba


Special Labor Day Article from the People of One Fire

Have you given any thought about what you will do when you graduate from high school?  Far too many young Native Americans today are living just for today, with the assumption that their youth will go on forever.  You will find that life moves quicker and quicker the longer you live.  However, the longer you travel your life path, the harder it is to change its course . . . especially after you take on the responsibilities of adulthood like marriage, families and debts.

One young Choctaw lady was brilliant.  She was valedictorian of her high school class in Texas. She stayed sober and worked hard in college.  Unfortunately, her high school counselors had pushed her into getting a degree in Native American Studies without any thought of what she would do with such a degree.  When she graduated, the only job she could get was working at a fast food restaurant.  She soon got married, but before starting a family, she fortunately realized that she needed a marketable skill.  She had to go back to college part time to take education courses so she could get a teachers license. She started her career a little late at age 26, but now she is doing well.  In fact, after two children, she went back to college and got a PhD.  Now she is a professor in a major university.

Sadly, this Choctaw is an minuscule exception. Over the past 20 years several sociological studies and TV documentaries have followed the lives of indigenous teenagers in various parts of North America.  Particularly, on the Western Plains of the United States, in Canada and Alaska far too many of their life stories turned tragic.  Quite a few of the young people died in auto wrecks or from suicides. Many got hooked on meth or one of the other synthetic drugs.  Many more ended up being parents long before they were ready.   Even more either didn’t continue their education after high school or flunked out of college, when they shouldn’t have.

The indigenous teenagers of the western United States, Canada and Alaska have the highest suicide rate in the world and one of the highest substance abuse and unplanned pregnancy rates.  Those subjects are very serious, but outside of the realm of my professional expertise.  What we are going to talk about, though, is YOUR FUTURE. 

You are not like everybody else, so don’t try to be

If you are from one of the “mound builder,” “pueblo” or Latin American “civilized” tribes, you have a different metabolism and physiology than people from the Old World.  For thousands of years, your ancestors depended on such crops as corn, wild rice, amaranth, chia and/or tuber plants for carbohydrates.  Old World peoples grew wheat, barley, oats and grain sorghum.  The probability of you being intolerant to celiac in wheat, barley and oats is very high.  Especially, among Muskogean women, this intolerance could eventually kill you.  It is the reason that such a high percentage of Muskogean women must have their gall bladders removed before they are forty. Eventually, excess consumption of such common items as white bread, oat meal, spaghetti, beer and pastries will cause your intestines and liver to atrophy.

Your digestive system is designed to thrive on pure, unprocessed foods. Eating a diet of highly processed foods, saturated with chemicals will lead to obesity, colon cancer and liver cancer.  In just three decades, the Mexican people, who are mostly indigenous, have become the most obese people on the planet because they have switched to eating highly processed “Gringo” foods.

Those descended from hunter-gatherer tribes have another problem . . . inability to digest all simple carbohydrates.  This directly leads to diabetes and alcoholism, if you insist on eating a diet and drinking beverages like your non-indigenous friends.   It is safer, if you just don’t drink alcoholic beverages.

The worst possible food that a Native American can eat is fry bread, made with white wheat flour.  It is like poison to descendants of pueblos, mound builder and hunting peoples.  As it was originally prepared by the Creeks, fry bread (or fritters) was made with corn meal and pumpkin, fried in hickory nut oil, which has zero cholesterol. Creek hush puppies and corn fritters, prepared this way are very healthy foods. However, western reservation Indians were only issued white wheat flour and lard.

Your brain probably works differently.  About 20 years ago, leaders of the Muscogee-Creek Nation became concerned because of the poor performance of Creek students in college.  Even though they did well on IQ tests and college entrance exams, they had an inordinate dropout rate in college.

A team of psychologists, neurologists (medical doctors specializing on the brain), sociologists and educators took on the problem at a tribal scale.  They were shocked to discover that Creek and Seminole brains work differently than those of Europeans, Asians and Africans.  This is probably true for many other tribes, but they were not studied.  Creeks think three dimensionally and in color.  Creeks learn fastest and best by guided self-study, not by rote memory.  In other words, they learn by doing and exploring.  

The classroom lectures and rote memorization that typifies many college classes were intellectually boring to the Creek students.  Their receptors shut down and they lost the love for learning.

Careers that have a future in the 21st century

The computer (in all its many forms), robotics and the internet are changing mankind faster that most people realize.  Many jobs have already become obsolete.  Many more will disappear during the next ten years as robots with artificial intelligence evolve from just replacing labor intensive occupations to wiping out wide swaths of white collar jobs.  

Why am I able to find all sorts of information that traditional academicians have missed?  It is because I had a technical education from two institutions, which encouraged analytical thinking and innovative solutions rather that rote memory of facts. That was just the beginning though.

Pocket calculators that could add, subtract, divide, multiply and find the square root became affordable (c. $85) when I entered my freshman year.  The first robot drafting machines and CADD programs came out when I was a fifth year (Thesis) student. In graduate school I was taught how to create complex models of cities or parts of cities on primitive mainframe computers. These models were based on science of statistics.  All information was divided up into dependent and independent variables.  Google Search is, in fact, based on that same principle.  My professors were training me for Google and didn’t even know it!

Nine months after graduating with a Masters of Urban Planning, I saw an IBM personal computer for the first time.  I played “Pong” on it.  It could not do much more than that and write a letter.   Four years later I bought my first and most expensive personal computer.  It cost $2800, the equivalent of $11,000 today. It had no hard drive or mouse.  It sole memory was a floppy disc with 250,000 bytes of memory.  Five years later, I bought a personal computer for half has much that had a mouse, color graphics and a whopping 30 mb hard drive.  I also bought CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) and a robot plotter.   I had entered the modern era.  Most of my fellow graduates in architecture at Georgia Tech did not make the jump.  They thought it was “unprofessional” to draw on a computer.  By the end of the decade, most of them were out of a job.

Now I own a business computer with artificial intelligence, whose memory can be expanded indefinitely. It only cost me $940 because by then laptops, Smart Phones and I-Pads were the in thing. I have a $3000 full color plotter in my storage bin that I bought in 2005.  It is completely obsolete.  Not too long after I bought it,   reprographic shops bought powerful robotic plotters that could turn out perfect full color drawings from data sent them via email attachments.  Buying the plotter was the biggest business mistake I have made, but who would have thought that technology would change so starkly in a few months.

The approach to teaching anthropology and archaeology at most universities in the United States is to require student to absorb fossilized knowledge and then regurgitate it to the professor.  The students, who are allowed to graduate are those who replicate their professors often less than perfect belief system.  Woe be to it the student, who discovers something that the archaeology professor didn’t know.

In contrast, I once wrote a term paper for a postgraduate Transportation Planning class at Georgia Tech on the early history of electric street cars.  The information I gleaned, contradicted what the professor had said in class.  He made a point of stating before the class that he was changing his syllabus and adding my term paper to the required reading list, the next time he taught the class.

You can see what is happening.  Technology is changing at a far faster rate of speed than society.   Anybody who is not adequately educated to adapt to that technology, will be left on the side lane.

Here are the careers that right now seem to have the greatest potential for providing comfortable income for the rest of your working life.

  1. Education – There will always be a need for teachers, counselors and school administrators.  If your passion is music, art, history, foreign languages, basic science, social sciences or Native American culture, still take enough courses to obtain a teaching license.  If you are going for a PhD to become a professor, still take the courses required to get a teaching license.   There is a glut of PhD’s applying for positions in universities.  Being also trained in educational techniques will put you first in line for those jobs . . . and of course, make you a much better professor.
  2. Healthcare – People will always get sick, but WARNING . . . robots and computers are doing more and more of the work.
  3. Computer Science – There seems to be an infinite demand for computer science, information science and systems engineering graduates.
  4. Robotics – It is happening everywhere . . . in the manufacturing plants,, UPS, hospitals, construction sites and even on the highway. The Volvo Company in Sweden is currently road-testing massive tractor trailer trucks, which drive themselves.
  5. Agricultural Science – An agricultural revolution is underway in Northern Europe, which will soon come to North America. Adapting technology first developed by illegal marijuana growers, agricultural scientists are now growing crops year round in doors more efficiently that large scale farms in the United States.  These massive robotic green houses use far less chemicals and insecticides than traditional farms.
  6. Nanotechology – It seems that almost every device we use is being miniaturized to reduce labor and material costs. The biggest advances in nanotechnology are now occurring in healthcare and communication devices.
  7. Engineering, architecture and surveying – These professions have been radically changed by computerization. Now robotics is entering the construction site. Already, entire houses are being constructed with 3D Printers in Europe using the same software that has been driving robot plotters for 20 years.  We are about 5-10 years away from large buildings being primarily constructed by robots. The architect of tomorrow will be a puppeteer for robots.
  8. Sustainable energy technology – The technology developed by the aerospace industry is now being applied to cities. We are just now entering a new age in which fossil fuels will eventually become obsolete. You can be at the forefront of that revolution.


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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    This is a really great article as always Richard. Inspiring and constructive (great for an architect !) I noticed the reference to coeliac disease, which I have. It seems to be the background condition for b12defiiency/pernicious anaemia which I also have and which as you can guess by the name is very dangerous when not treated. You can’t think straight in the beginning and maybe later can’t walk or talk well. There is a website and . This can make teachers think kids are not clever or are lazy, and kids feel helpless. Others think they have alzheimers, which actually can be the long term outcome. Your advice to avoid alcohol rings a bell as this sneaky disease is a lot to do with the liver too. But the injection regime works if the simple oral treatment is insufficient – just don’t take anything before the blood tests. Feel free to delete my comment. Its just if you think it is relevant.


    Excellent advice. Is the brain thing all across the tribes? My husband has dyslexia but is an amazing carpenter and has excellent spatial intelligence. He is Native American/Melungeon as are my children, of course, and they, too, struggled to learn the way I do. I haven’t a drop of Native American blood. As a special ed. teacher myself, I’d like to learn more about this.

    • I don’t know. However, I strongly suspect that the “brain thing” may have come from Mexican tribes, since most of the ancestors of the Creeks came from either Mexico or Peru.


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