Moving from Fear to Fearlessness by Four Arrows

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Friends, hardships pursue me; Fearless of them, I live…

Love of my country is why I am doing this—Sitting Bull

            In Lakota, Wóohitike means having and showing bravery or courage. It enables us to risk what all for a higher purpose.All cultures value it, along with other virtues, such as generosity, patience, fortitude, honesty, and humility. However, under our dominant worldview precepts, few are guided by such virtues, especially when fearful. Our societies seem to have become “cultures of fear” (Tudor, 2003). In the Indigenous worldview fear is an opportunity to practice a virtue. It is essential for fortitude, which required the courage to persist. It is about wisdom, which is the courage to act on what you know for the greater good. Consistent compassion for others often calls on courage. Being truthful about yourself and the world takes courage. Love and the sacrifices associated with it require it. Lakota people consider generosity to be the highest expression of courage.

           Even those with courage are selective and conservative with its use. Courage takes lots of energy. Traditional Indigenous People overcame this by turning courage into fearlessness. This is very different from the dominant worldview that says fearlessness is foolishness. Aristotle, a co-creator of the worldview most of the world now follows, thought “He who exceeds in fearlessness is insensible” and “he who exceeds in confidence is rash” (Grades/Fixer, 2018). In contrast, under Indigenous worldview once a commitment to act is initiated, a fearless trust in the universe takes over.  The action is happening and courage becomes unnecessary. Outcomes are up to the Spirits. The stress vanishes.

            Such fearlessness is coupled with accepting the mystery of life and death, believing in an immortal consciousness, and knowing that the world is interconnected. This movement from fear to courage to fearlessness reveals that, for traditional Indigenous cultures, fear is relational and motivational. It bonds people together and inspires a full commitment to one’s highest potentiality in relationships to all.

            R. Michael Fisher analyzes these ideas about fearlessness in his book, Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows: The True Story of an Indigenous-Based Social Transformer (2018)

The CAT-FAWN Connection:   Are you ready to work on becoming a braver person? If so, start with one thing you fear. It might relate to ridicule, relationships, dogs, swimming, public speaking, spiders, etc. Ask yourself how you might turn the object of your fear into a catalyst for practicing one of the virtues. Consider the source of your anxiety. Now reflect honestly via you being the highest authority on the matter. Change whatever hypnosis a previous event or an authority figure may have programmed your mind. What words do you use that continually re-hypnotize you? For example, do you immediately say, “I can’t do that” or “That scares me?” Finally, reframe or create Nature’s experiences to learn from other creatures, plants, rivers, or mountains. After these metacognitive considerations, use your pendulum device or whatever self-hypnotic technique you want to use, to visualize desired changes. 

GradesFixer. 2018. The Concept of Courage in the Aristotelian Thought., viewed 4 July 2020,

Fisher, R. M. (2018). Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows: The True Story of an Indigenous-Based Social Transformer. New York: Peter Lang.

Tudor, Andrew (2003). “A Macro Sociology of Fear.” The Sociological Review.  51(2), pp 238 0256.

Articles by: Four Arrows

Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows), aka Donald Trent Jacobs, Ph.D., Ed.D.

Formerly Dean of Education at Oglala Lakota College and a tenured Associate Professor of Education at Northern Arizona University, Four Arrows is currently a professor with Fielding Graduate University. Selected as one of 27 "Visionaries in Education" for the AERO text, Turning Points, he is author of 21 books on Indigenous Worldview and its applications for education, sustainability, wellness and justice. He is a recipient of a Martin Springer Institute for Holocaust Studies "Moral Courage Award for his activism in behalf of Indigenous Peoples and sovereignty. Co-editor of the Indigenous section of Sage's new International Handbook for Critical Pedagogies, his book, Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education, was selected as one of the top 20 progressive education books along with Paulo Freire, John Dewey and Neil Postman. Other books have been endorsed by Noam Chomksy, Vandana Shiva, Michael Apple, Thom Hartmann, Jon Pilger, Darcia Narvaez, Henry Giroux and other notable educators. Dr. Michael Fisher wrote a book about his work entitled Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows (2018). His newest book is The Red Road: Linking Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives to Indigenous Worldview (in press, IAP). Four Arrows and his mustang Briosos made first alternative to the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team for 1996. He is also a World Champion "Old Time Piano Player."

He lives with his wife in Mexico in the winter and in British Columbia in the summer.
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