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Tribe

On Homecoming and Belonging

By Sebastian Junger
15-minute read
Audio available
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

Tribe (2016) scans the historical horizon and plumbs psychological depths to ask what it takes for us to feel at home in the world. Drawing on a wealth of evidence from multiple disciplines, author Sebastian Junger has an unsettling answer: it’s often in the midst of chaos and war that we develop our deepest sense of belonging. From the Blitz to American soldiers serving in Afghanistan, extreme danger welds groups together and highlights the sense of community so sorely missing in everyday life.

  • Soldiers, veterans and their families
  • Anyone fascinated by the life of the mind
  • History buffs

Sebastian Junger is a bestselling author who has written about everything from war to shipping and global politics. His previous books include War, The Perfect Storm and Fire. Junger lives in New York and is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair.

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Tribe

On Homecoming and Belonging

By Sebastian Junger
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
Synopsis

Tribe (2016) scans the historical horizon and plumbs psychological depths to ask what it takes for us to feel at home in the world. Drawing on a wealth of evidence from multiple disciplines, author Sebastian Junger has an unsettling answer: it’s often in the midst of chaos and war that we develop our deepest sense of belonging. From the Blitz to American soldiers serving in Afghanistan, extreme danger welds groups together and highlights the sense of community so sorely missing in everyday life.

Key idea 1 of 9

Many early European colonial settlers decided to live with Native American tribes.

When the first English settlers arrived in America in the seventeenth century, they found a land utterly different from the country they’d left behind. Their new home was a vast wilderness populated by tribes whose lifestyles resembled that of an earlier age.

But that didn’t put them off. On the contrary, plenty of these early settlers were absolutely enthralled by their new home. They were especially taken by the tribal way of life – so much so that many of them chose to live among Native American communities.

The contrast between the way these locals lived and the modern Western world from which the settlers had come was dramatic.

By the nineteenth century, it was even starker. Cities like New York and Chicago had grown into dense metropolises full of factories and slums. Native Americans, by contrast, were still fighting with spears and tomahawks.

Many Americans preferred the latter lifestyle. They emulated Native American traditions and married into their tribes. Sometimes they even fought alongside their adopted communities.

Movement in the other direction was rare. Contemporaries were perplexed that so few Native Americans left their tribes and took up European customs.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was among those baffled by this phenomenon. Native American children, he wrote, raised by Europeans rarely showed any great attachment to modern culture. In most cases, they decided to return to their tribes.

Americans who’d been captured by Native Americans, Franklin added, were a different case altogether. Many of them wanted nothing more than to continue living with the tribe that had taken them prisoner!

This was underlined in 1763 when a Swiss general named Henri Bouquet led an English sortie into Native American territory. The raid was a response to the frequent attacks mounted by various tribes on the rapidly expanding European settlements.

Bouquet’s mission was a military success. His first demand was that the defeated Native Americans return all European prisoners to the colonies.

But the news of their “liberation” wasn’t gladly received by the “captives.” They were sullen and confused. They had no interest in rejoining their old families.

The Native Americans were heartbroken at the loss of these recently adopted tribe members. They followed them on horseback as they were reluctantly led back to the Europeans’ settlements.

But a reunion wasn’t long in coming in many cases. Missing the tribal lifestyle, former prisoners often left the colonies behind and went back to their Native American families.

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