chapter  10
14 Pages

The case of the noble savage: the myth that governance can replace leadership

ByLinda Sue Warner, Keith Grint

There are many patterns of American Indian leadership in the USA. The presumption of American’s “noble savage” provides the foundation for the creation of one of the world’s most recognizable stereotypes – the American Indian.1 The myth, or rather myths, of the “noble savage” have their roots in the argument that in the original pre-civilized state – the “state of nature” – humans were one of two original

Linda Sue Warner and Keith Grint

alternatives. Either they were “noble” – inherently and essentially good, that is moral, upright, worthy, humane, and just – and happy with their lot; this is the “soft” version of the myth and only with the rise of civilization – the fall from grace – did humans become selfish, jealous, and unhappy with their lot. Or, alternatively, in the “hard” version of the myth, precivilized humans were “savage,” they lived as barbarians in a constant state of war and thus, needed institutions to restrain their animal passions. A third variant combined both assumptions: the “noble” innocence of the pre-civilized humans is now inadequate as a defense against the contemporary predations of so-called “civilized” societies and thus, there is a requirement to protect the former against the latter.