A Return to Tribal Living

I’ve been thinking often lately about how we as humans used to live – in groups, in communities, in extended family units closely knit to one another. We had tribes. Not even too long ago, when one family needed help to raise a barn, to build a fence, to care for livestock, there were people there you could count on – because you were there for them too, and that was how everyone prospered and survived.

This Barn Was Abandoned When the Family Sold Out to the Hanna Coal Company in 1972. the Sale Left Only One Farm in the Area Off Route 800. 10/1973

Then something happened, and we split apart. It became a sign of weakness to ask for help, and people are now less inclined to ‘meddle’ in the lives of others. I think greed became a big part of it, worrying that your neighbour wanted (or was getting) more than you were. Entitlement, working for one’s self, all of these things have contributed, I think, to us growing apart.

It’s a strange feeling, though, to have a small child, and to recognize the need for that little person to meet people, learn how to be a friend and care for others, and then to see in yourself a pull towards those people, too.

It’s almost alarming, to enjoy spending time with another family, and to have your heart swell to see the children interact (usually running around stark naked in someone’s backyard) and then to find that society dictates that you deal with your own problems – your own metaphorical barn-raisings – independent of others because to do otherwise is considered ‘needy’ or pathetic.

My friend Jess shared this article the other day that really struck a chord in me. Motherhood, raising a family, all of it is hard enough without an expectation that we do it all alone.


So I’m trying to find my tribe, I guess.

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  1. says

    I struggle with the exact same thing. I was shocked when I realized how isolating parenthood (hell, adulthood) is. I grew up in a tight knit family and community and am sad that we no longer have that.

  2. says

    This post makes me think of this place in Montana called, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. I first learned about it through Morgan Spurlock’s tv show, 30 Days. It’s an off the grid village of a group of people who work together to live off the land. One of my first thoughts was, I’d love to live in a community like that. And when you say ‘tribe,’ I can’t help but think of community. I agree with you – I think it is greed that’s holding so many back. They want to be so far separated in their large houses with more land than they need and of course the fence. I used to want to live far away from people. And though I enjoy my privacy, I miss community. I grew up in a small town (a village actually) just next to Woodstock in New York and it felt like a community. Everybody knew everybody. I miss that. I want to back, the community that is.

  3. says

    This summer, my little miss met her 2nd cousins for the first time–two older boys about 9 and 11 (she is 2 1/2). They live about 12 hours away, and they’re really the only cousins she’s had contact with. She loved them so much! She took to them right away playing and chasing them around. I was so happy to see it, and yet sad at the same time–even thinking about it now makes me sad.

    Living in a big city, and not having a ton of family to interact with makes it difficult to have those close connections which I think are so important for her. On top of that, add that my immediate group of chums are mostly single late 30s to mid-40s types who aren’t likely to have children, now or ever. It makes me really sad, and I feel really alone in being a mum.

    Granted I haven’t made a huge effort to go out and meet other moms, but the times that I have tried, I have felt less than welcomed. Even with the moms that are just on the outskirts of my inner circle–I’ve tried offering babysitting swaps etc, and the response I’m met with most often “Oh–I already have other friends with kids”.

    It’s almost like I’m being myself–unedited, unabashed and unconventional, makes me unsuitable for the mommy’s club.

    LOL–sorry for the rant, this has been on my mind since the summer, and your post just brought it to the forefront again.

    Thanks for a great post!

  4. says

    When I lived in Malaysia, although we lived in high-rise apartment building–life felt much more like this, your community was your family. Coming back to the U.S. and getting used to handling life on your own after that is hard!

  5. Kevin Brand says

    I struggle w/ this almost everyday, the sense of belonging. I love my family, from my kids, to the grandkids, the son & daughters in-laws, the god sons, i actually have a tribe, but gone are the tribal ways, where people think more about what’s best for the tribe as a whole, & less about what’s good for ME. I often feel like i was born in the wrong century, i don’t like nor do i get the keeping up w/ the jones, the taking of time from your family to pay for material things, the shipping your kids off to be programmed by the govt., so they to will become to some extent selfish. I wish i could pack up my tribe & take them to this place of freedom, but they are reluctant to the same visions of which i am resolute. I fear the time is near, that i will have to do something selfish, & leave my tribe behind, & search out this vision for my own sanity. But when i go, it will be w/ hopes of that when i find this place of freedom, my tribe will come visit me there, & they will see, that it is a real place, & that they had been listening to those w/ forked tongues, that it is not a place of weakness, but every bit as motivated & prosperous as “society”, but that it is motivated by humanity & morals, & not materialism & greed, & that they will like this & move there.

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