The ‘Warrior Code’ for the Strong Hearts Warrior Society draws a distinction between ‘warrior’, ‘soldier’ and ‘thug.’ It is necessary to train for warriorhood, so as not to become a soldier and especially not to end up a thug. In the Cante Tenze Way, a warrior serves the people, and walks the road of sacrifice.

His mission is justice for the people in their togetherness; however, in Iroquois [cousins to the Cherokee], the word for warrior also translates more mysteriously as ‘protecting the sacred origins’, which implies a spiritual meaning of evil as destroyer of the sacred origins of humanity, and a spiritual role of the warrior in fighting against, and preventing, that destruction. If given free reign, spiritual evil would wholly destroy our sacred origins, and this would be a calamity of unimaginable proportions. The task of drawing a line in the sand, not necessarily defeating evil in any final sense but stopping its unchallenged advance, and especially protecting the sacred origins — a secret wellspring from which we all unconsciously drink without knowing it — is the noble and sacrificial calling of the true warrior.

The warrior is a respected figure in most North American Indian cultures, especially the nomadic hunting cultures of the plains. Interestingly, among the Lakota the warriors also provided virtually all the ‘social welfare.’ In the Cante Tenze warrior society, the youth’s induction was to spend a year helping out a poor family, doing everything for them, hunting, cleaning, carrying firewood. At the end of that year, there was a celebration of the youth’s worthiness, discerned on the basis of his ‘service’ to the people most ‘in need.’

Thus, we do not hold with the ancient Greeks, for example, whose best warriors — Alexander in reality, Achilles in myth — sought the glory of immortality. Glory seeking is not right as a warrior’s motive of heart. Rather, a warrior seeks honour, and honour means keeping a vow. It is true of everyone in Indigenous Native culture that “we make vows” — the first thing a Lakota elder said to me, part as explanation, part as warning not to mess about but be sincere. But a warrior is more vowed than anyone else. He is vowed to make give away, to make sacrifice, for the people. Like the Haka of the Maori, it can be ‘for life’, it can be ‘for death.’ Either way, the vow is kept, and honour resides in being a person who can promise, and keep their promise, to do something hard, for the good of all. The warrior’s strength serves contributing to the people, rather than just becoming the existential tough guy who stands alone, sneering at those who are less tough..

If you go down, I go down with you. I don’t let you go down alone.

That is the warrior’s vow, at its deepest.

Ultimately all vows are made to the Great Mystery, and it is our honour to keep our vows because the Great Mystery has also made a vow to humanity and all created, and he will honour it.

Ultimately, a warrior defends the honour of God.