Tribe Awareness

Safety through belonging and loyalty


This worldview first appeared around 12,000 years ago, when ethnically similar clans began to form rural communities. People living in Tribe Awareness survive through horticulture and animal husbandry. Some tribes are still nomadic.

In the worldview of Tribe Awareness, people identified with an ethnic group of several hundred thousand people. They also strongly identified with the territory they relied on to provide food for their survival.

Each tribe had its own language, rituals and body adornments. Collective aggression in this worldview was primarily limited to inter-tribe rivalries, which mainly showed up as skirmishes and raiding. Protecting the group’s food stores, animals and territory from incursions from other tribes was essential for survival. Without the protection of the tribe, people stood little chance of survival.

A worldview based on safety through belonging and loyalty required that everyone conformed to the rules of the tribe. Possessions did not belong to the individual; everything belonged to the tribe.

Ceremonies and tribal rites of passage strengthened and reinforced people’s connection to the tribe. No one could stand out and be different: strong egos were suppressed. People who broke the unwritten rules of the tribe were reprimanded or punished through public shaming. An apology and reparation were required before forgiveness was granted. The ultimate punishment, for those who refused to live by the rules of the tribe, was banishment. The status of women was equal to that of men. Elders were respected since they were regarded as the keepers of the tribal wisdom.

The leaders of communities that operated from the worldview of Tribe Awareness were known as Big Men or Chiefs. A big man was an influential individual who was skilled in persuasion. He provided his followers with protection in return for gifts (usually food), which were then redistributed to members of the tribe in banquets and seasonal festivities. This sharing served two functions: it kept members of the tribe loyal and it consolidated his position as the big man.

The term ‘chief’ was usually reserved for the leader of a large tribe that was stratified by social rank and maintained a permanent group of warriors paid for by some form of taxation administered by the henchmen of the chief. The chief displayed his wealth and power through his dress and way of living: he lived in a big house and had many wives.

Whereas in the worldview of Clan Awareness there was no sense of separation, in the worldview of Tribe Awareness, separation began to show up in the form of ethnicity and territoriality. You could trust people from your tribe, but you could not trust people from other tribes. People from other tribes were considered less than human. Therefore, in some tribal cultures, but not all, it was considered permissible to torture, maim or kill members of other tribes.Awareness.

How the worldview of Tribe Awareness shows up today

The worldview of Tribe Awareness can still be found in large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, in North and South America, the Caribbean and parts of Oceania. We also see the influence of the worldview of Tribe Awareness among indigenous peoples of the world, such as the Sámi in Finland and the Indian tribes of North America, as well as among people who live in ethnically defined regions such as the Catalans of Northern Spain and the Scottish and Welsh nationalists in the UK. In all cases these peoples are attempting to establish an independent self-governing territory to preserve their ethnicity – their unique cultural heritage and their language.

We can also find aspects of the worldview of Tribe Awareness showing up in dress codes, body adornments, hair styles and the use of rituals to differentiate one subgroup from another, such as the followers of sports teams, teenage gangs and spiritual cults.

The cosmology of Tribe Awareness

People living in Tribe Awareness, like those living in Clan Awareness, have a strong association with the spirit world. However, because of the shift from survival through sharing and reciprocity, to safety through belonging and loyalty, people living in the worldview of Tribe Awareness hold their ancestors as well as nature spirits in high regard.

Those living in the worldview of Tribe Awareness believe that after death they go to the spirit world, and because of this they believe their ancestors can intercede with the gods on their behalf. Keeping the spirits of their ancestors happy is seen as a way of assuring good fortune.

Superstition, taboos and rituals are an important aspect of the cosmology of Tribe Awareness. Shamanic and voodoo practices have a strong influence in the worldview of Tribe Awareness. Shamans not only know about healing, using natural medicines, they also know how to mix potions to cast or ward off magic spells and keep evil spirits away.

Correspondence with the conforming stage of development

Young children realize that to keep safe they must conform to the desires of their parents and the community in which they live. Safety depends on belonging, loyalty and staying close to your kin. They begin to recognize that they are living in a world of separation. They begin to develop a separate sense of ‘I’. This realization leads to the formation of the psychic entity we call the ego. The child’s nascent ego is often suppressed by the parents for the sake of harmony in the family, in the same way that egos are suppressed in the tribe.

Behavioural characteristics

The principal behavioural markers of the worldview of Tribe Awareness are:
  • Respect for the rules of the tribe
  • Respect for elders
  • Big chief or council of elders makes decisions
  • Respect for ancestors
  • Displays of ego are suppressed
  • Males and females fulfill natural roles
  • Spells are used to ward off evil spirits
  • Sharing of resources within the tribe
  • Tribal territory.

The transition to State Awareness

Originally the transition from the worldview of Tribe Awareness to the worldview of State Awareness occurred because of mass migrations caused by the desertification of lands in the Sahara and East Asia regions at the end of the last Ice Age. However, in the past few centuries, the transition from the worldview of Tribe Awareness to the worldview of State Awareness has been driven by colonization, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Consequently, all former tribal territories now form part of nation states. Some nation states are highly influenced by Tribe Awareness, others less so and some not at all.

Humanity Awareness initiative

Other World Views

Clan Awareness

Survival through sharing and reciprocity

Tribe Awareness

Safety through belonging and loyalty

State Awareness

Security through power and strength

Nation Awareness

Security through authority and education

Wealth Awareness

Security through status and influence

People Awareness

Freedom through equality and accountability

Humanity Awareness

Self-expression through personal creativity