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NAPA Indians - What Does an 83% "Positive Past" Mindset Mean?

NAPA Indians - What Does an 83% "Positive Past" Mindset Mean?

NAPA High School is in turmoil and topics on what to consider in the name-change debate are wide ranging, it’s important for the school board to consider the social science impact on the students found in Psychologist Phil Zimbardo's book "The Time Paradox" which identifies “historic” mindsets and their associated behaviors. The ramifications of Zimbardo’s work will provide those engaged in this important debate a more thorough understanding of the current anti-Indian “information campaign” – or more importantly – it will provide some basic understanding on how the campaign against the long-held Indian tradition may have already impacted the mental well-being of NAPA High School students. Finally, this essay may offer some way forward in adopting a Native American & Zimbardo-style recommendation on a peaceful and balanced recovery of your community.

While most leaders on the NAPA School Board seem to be discussing the monetary costs of a potential school name change, debate considering the well being of your student body is hard to find.

Indeed, since this campaign started, some students may now be feeling emotionally cut off from others, irritated or may be having angry outbursts. At worst, they may have even lost interest in being an “Indian” based on what’s been conveyed to them by the activists. If any of these signs are already visible, your students may be suffering from early signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD

These symptoms may occur after activist groups were allowed to run what is a well-rehearsed and threatening “information campaign”. PTSD-like signs can occur among students who have internalized the threat to the “life” of their beloved Indian – one that they’ve even physically protected from pedestrians (as seen in recent news footage) – and feel they have “no control” over their ability to help save their Indian from the overtly hostile attacks.  

Similarly, lack of control is what sent these High School students racing out of class by the 100s and into the streets of New York when they lost their "mascot" to an outside activist group and the school. And, three years later, the school has still not recovered psychologically where vandalism, a polarized school board and booster club donations (down by 80%) are now newly persistent problems for the community the activists left behind when they moved onto their next target.  

So, the question every school board member should be asking is, “What are the short and long term impacts to the students in allowing the negative DeColonization and cultural segregation scripts to run unchallenged by race-based activists?”

Well, beyond the potential signs of PTSD, the school’s recent survey suggests that the children there have already been impacted. And, as has been seen nationally at other native-named schools, the division-inducing campaign against the NAPA Indian has placed your students into two distinct groups who are now intellectually pitted against each other.

The survey tells us that 17 percent of NAPA students, those who have absorbed the “Changer’s” point of view, may be reasonably be classified by Zimbardo’s model as having High “Past Negative” Mindsets. This is based on the historically negative and race-segregation basis of the “Changer’s” logic and storylines. Zimbardo describes this group:

'If the people in a culture that uses the past to evaluate current situations share a past trauma, they are likely to want revenge. These people a likely to promote violence and a vendetta mentality undercuts attempts at peaceful reconciliation as new generations are obligated to avenge crimes against prior generations.

Meanwhile, the 83 percent who have withstood the “change” narratives and wish to carry on with their Indian-namesake heritage may be classified as High “Past Positive” as described by Zimbardo:

To the extent that people share positive views of the past, they seek to maintain the status quo culturally and politically. These people seek to conserve and re-create in the present what was good in the past.' 

In major behavioral studies, we can see that the “Past Negative” group differs from the “Past Positive” group in that Past Negative students are typically:

More Aggressive; More Anxious; Less Conscientious; Less Considerate; More Depressed; Less Stable; Less Friendly; Less Happy; have Lower Self Esteem and have Higher Tempers. 

And, while anecdotal, it seems that some on NAPA’s football team have recently fallen into a predictable “Past Negative” behavior which was – until recently - an extremely rare occurrence.

Further when negative messaging is accepted wholesale, i.e. accepted by students without giving the message its due diligence, research or reflection … the message can act like an infection and spread unabated. Critical thinking and honest two-sided debate isn’t just a native way of problem solving, it is considered among communication scholars as the key method of inoculation in turning back the spread of a virulent, damaging or – as Zimbardo might suggest – a past-negative-centered narrative.

While debate and critical thinking may not sway a student or even a school board member who is now dug into a post-decision defensive mode - someone in a confirmation-bias mindset - Past-Negative minded people can recover toward a positive path, argues Zimbardo, ‘by seeking to adapt the way they imagine their future’. Zimbardo writes, “You can free yourself from your past and embrace the future by letting go of negative attitudes and nurturing positive attitudes toward the past.” He also notes that those who spend more times with family – core and extended – tend to find themselves in a “Positive Past” mindset.

Likewise, NAPA can regain its long standing future-oriented spirit by embracing even closer (not eradicating) its school name, affiliated native traditions and engage in a policy of ‘closeness’ with its region’s native “family”. Moreover, this approach parallels the Native American “N7” approach to decision making – which demands critical thinking and a future-oriented approach to all long term plans.

Finally, both the Native American N7 and Zimbardo’s psychological recommendations toward attaining a “Positive Past” provide a way forward for the NAPA community. 

The school board should strongly consider adding local and national Native American curricula, guided field trips and even a path – as is done at other schools – where non-native students might earn honorary tribal adoption by a local tribe for completing a series of historic, educational and community service tasks such that NAPA High School students would be considered “Past Positive Ambassadors” as they enter into the next phase of their lives. 

This is the win-win solution for all parties as there is nothing to be gained by the current ill-informed and rushed decision that will only to produce a “win-lose” outcome. A "win-lose" scenario promises no way forward for anyone and will absolutely promote the toxic “Past Negative” or anti-N7-mindset in the students and larger community.  

Andre Billeaudeaux was an award-winning psychology student of Stanford Psychologist Dr. Phil Zimbardo. He is published on such topics as “Communications Inoculation”, National Identity and Race. He is the Executive Director of the Native American Guardian’s Association. NAGA’s native leaders are contributing authors to a Federal Court Amicus Brief helping protect the native culture and are invested in a philosophy of “Educate not Eradicate”. Their goal is to maintain positive native images, names and traditions among all culture groups as part of the nation’s vision of E. Pluribus Unum or “From many we are one”. 

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