UACES Facebook Leadership Lunch and Learn: Tribe Book Review by Kristi Farner
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Leadership Lunch and Learn: Tribe Book Review by Kristi Farner

by Lisa Davis - May 31, 2023

Leadership Lunch and Learn Cover SlideThe May 2023 Leadership Lunch and Learn (LLL) book review featured Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging written by Sebastian Junger and reviewed by Kristi Farner, extension program and staff development specialist – staff development, University of Georgia.

She first presented a roadmap of the book, saying it was published in 2016 and included an important author’s note, introduction, four chapters, postscript, and source notes.

Watch recording here

Tribe book coverAuthor’s Note

The author’s note basically explains two phrases that he used throughout the book that may seem problematic to people.

1) He uses American Indian instead of Native America. Dr. Farner said he's very intentional and specific about why and talks about how he worked with lots of tribes, and it was the people in the tribes that felt very adamant about being considered American Indians because anybody can be a native American. If they are technically born in that place, then they are native to that place, and for them that was the distinction. And so, he's respecting their wishes.

2) Then he also talks about his definition of post-traumatic stress disorder, and that recognizes that the word disorder can be problematic. In the book, he shares why he felt like that was important to include when talking about post-traumatic stress, and that is related to when he talks about war.

Dr. Farner said she appreciated him acknowledging and explaining.


In the introduction, the author shares a personal story. When he was a young man, he decided to go out on his own and explore the United States. One day, he was on the road close to a town, and he sees a man walking towards him. The author was a little nervous. He wondered if this was going to be a dangerous situation. He didn’t want to get robbed. The guy approaching was a little older, a little dirty, but he comes up to him and asks him a little bit about himself. And then asked if he had anything to eat.  The author had about a day’s amount of food but responded that he had a little cheese. The stranger told him you can’t just live on that alone. He had a lunch that he ended up not needing, and he gave it to him. It just really struck the author that somebody who didn't have much gave all he had. Then he felt guilty about the fact he had more resources and that he had held that back. As he would move on in life, he kept going back and thinking about that experience, and how this man went out of his way to walk to him just to check on him to see if he was doing okay, and then went back on his way and that was just a big impression.

That’s how he opens the book. He also talks throughout the book about his background as a journalist.

Chapter One

Dr. Farner said Chapter One had the most impact on how she was thinking about things. She said basically it's comparing the Western Society from Colonial to today with the tribal society of Native Americans.

Native tribal cultures had not changed much in 15,000 years. Their semi-nomadic lifestyle did not emphasis material items. They could only keep what they could carry. This egalitarian society was mostly classless and led by consensus. Authority was earned on an individual basis. All people in the tribe had independence and could walk away if they wanted. Babies were held or carried most of the day because of the lifestyle of hunting and gathering.

Industrialization rapidly changed western culture over 300 years. Colonial lifestyle was rules by laws that claimed all people were equal, yet class division and racial injustice has continued through today. With permanent homes and towns material wealth was valued. Authority was seized and imposed. Strict ideas of gender roles and expectations to live within society. Generational wealth was handed down there has been less and less of need for community to help each other as income increases. Babies slept in a separate space and were not held as much due to the lifestyle.

Chapter Two

Youth will come up with their own coming of age rituals, or they'll do things for each other, instead. They'll drive fast cars. They'll do reckless things or dangerous things to prove they are an adult, and they can do things. She said there is a difference between Western modern society and when you're looking at the tribal communities about that sense of place in the community and earning something and having those milestones along the way that were shared across that whole community.

She explained the author also talks about the societies and concepts of war. And how war is looked at differently in different societies. And he talks about as a little boy growing up and playing war as a little kid, and how as he came of age during Vietnam that they were so much unrest about divisions in our society, about if it's a good war or bad war, and who was against it? As he was having conversations with his father, he was surprised that his dad had a different reaction to how he was looking at being a part of the war. His father said, it's not about that I don't owe them anything; it's that you owe society something, and depending on the situation, you might owe them your life.

But looking at how over time, that there were a lot of people from tribal communities that chose to fight in some of the wars, and that they were saying that they weren't fighting for the United States. They were fighting for Mother Earth. They had this need to be a warrior and go to combat and to fight for the Earth.

And then the interesting thing about coming back from war was in the tribal communities. When you came back you still had a purpose and a place, and you had to go hunt. You knew there were things that they needed you to do to still contribute to society. Contrasting that to the Westernized Americans that came back, and their family had figured out how to do day-to-day life without them and back to a society that was not that cohesive. That there's not really a place for them sometime. And especially if it was a war that a lot of Americans didn't agree with.

Someone coming back without this sense of purpose was a lot harder. He also talks about how, in some of the tribal communities, when they come back there was a ceremony to help cleanse the people from the war and all the bad things. For them to come back into a mindset to let go of those things and come back in peace, in this peaceful community. And that our society doesn't really have things like that to help them to re-enter our society.

Dr. Farner shared a statistic that there were a third of the number of casualties in the Vietnam War compared to World War II, but there was 50% more post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety with the people who had been in the Vietnam War.

Chapter Three

She said Chapter Three talks more about post-traumatic stress, and how our different societies handle it, and what are the differences in sense of community, in the tribal community compared to coming back to modern day US.

She said the interesting thing was talking about guilt, and that people that were further from the front lines had more guilt than the people on the front lines. It was contributed it to survivors’ guilt, or I'm not doing as much as I could, or we both come back after this war, and we're getting the same recognition. Research was finding more PTSD in the people that were further back in the lines or did not have frontline kind of tasks.

When you have fought and sacrificed so much, and you come back to a society that is fragmented—that you feel like is worse than what you left it—you are coming back to a less of a sense of community than when you left.

The shared experiences bringing people together was another theme that was throughout the book. There are several stories throughout all the chapters that talk about this in tribal societies, in different times throughout history of the Western society.

Chapter Four

She said the final chapter talks about commonalities. The author starts the chapter by talking about how he was at a bar, and it was this fun, rowdy place. Suddenly, some people from a different culture come in, look at this guy, and say that's my hat. It was like a Viking hat or something. And the guy say, no, this is my hat. And they're like, that's my hat. I'm taking it. Well, they end up fighting over this hat. As they're both holding onto this hat, they are loud, yelling, and angry with each other.

And one of the guys holding the helmet, asked the author, hey, will you take my place for a minute? And he's like, well, how long do you need to know somebody before you're willing to get in a bar fight for them, I guess an hour. And so, he was a little nervous, but he did take over holding part of hat. The other guy went up to the bar and got a bottle of wine, and then turned over this Viking hat and poured all the wine, and said, “You are guests in our country. You go first,” and had them drink the wine, and then they all took turns going around drinking wine out of this Viking hat, and how that changed everything. By the end of the night the author said, he went and was talking to some other people after this de-escalation, and by the end of the night all those men were putting their arms around each other, swaying, having the grand old time together, and that the Viking hat was on the floor in the corner, and everybody had forgotten about it. The author shared this vivid description of how to de-escalate something and try to find commonalities.

The author also talks about modern society as a kind of paradise because there is modern medicine if you have a headache. We have technology, safe places to live, healthy things, but at the same time with all these modern conveniences, we are further and further away from that core of community and belonging. He says that sharing food and altruistic group defense are some of the core things of a society that is missing in our society that, you see, is strong in a lot of tribal societies, and that in that sense of belonging to a society that brings solidarity, loyalty, and connection.

The LLL Book Review series features leadership experts from across the south. Each presenter reviews a leadership development book. The series gives you the opportunity to hear the cliff notes version of many popular leadership development books. Join us for future LLL book reviews.

June 28, 2023 – The Burnout Epidemic authored by Jennifer Moss and reviewed by Dr. Rochelle Sapp, University of Georgia | Click here to register for this session.