Exploring the Idea of Community and Tribes

Before you read this blog post, I want you to think about the following questions:
• What is a community?
• What is a Tribe?
• How do you define a community and Tribe? Is it a place, people, organization?
• What makes communities thrive? What makes communities perish?
• What are five words that you would use to describe your community?
• How would you describe your Tribe?

As I read the book “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” by Sebastian Junger, I am confronted by these many questions. This book mainly focuses on the idea of community in regards to what it means to have a Tribe of others with you, around you, that understand you, etc. as it relates to military experience and trauma. The word “community” is not the focal point (until towards the end), but the term Tribe does invoke a further discussion in regards to the idea of community and notion that we are better and stronger as a group, Tribe or as a community.

I have thought long and hard about the questions listed above. You might consider answering them in your head or write them out on paper. The concept of “community” is very interesting. Historically and academically, a community is defined in the Webster’s Dictionary as a group of people living in the same place or having common characteristics. Also defined as a feeling of fellowship with others, with similar attitudes, goals, and common interest. Tribe is defined as a group of people (who are often related) who live together and share the same culture, history, and language. There are many, many definitions for Tribe and community.

I would agree with these definitions but what I find interesting is that, as a society, the idea of community or the illusion of community, is just that, an illusion. You can live the middle of New York City or the middle of the county and not have a sense of community nor a Tribe. Or you can limit your Tribe to very few perspectives/ideas/sameness.

Community is understood and valued differently depending on the people who make-up that community. I would argue that community is also not defined in by structures such as buildings, churches, organizations, etc. Community does not pertain to space and barriers or lines but is defined by the people. Communities consists of Tribes. Therefore, community starts and stops with people and smaller Tribes of people. People who value their community and those who are in it (or their Tribe); share the same values of kindness, knowledge, broad thinking, welcoming others into the community and Tribe, and providing encouragement.


Well-meaning, caring, engaged, people make-up Tribes. They focus on positive action, resilience, and progressive change. Church congregations form communities but each church has a Tribe; the people in small rural towns form communities and Tribes; schools become communities consisting of Tribes of students and teachers; companies and places of work form internal communities consisting of smaller Tribes. All of which need positive nurturing to grow in community or tribalness, support, and encouragement which benefits all that are working, learning, and living there.

Not all communities are positive (once again, people make-up Tribes which make-up communities). Some focus on negative actions, hurtful philosophies, hate, discrimination, etc. You become what you choose to be surrounded by. So, then what contributes to the decline of communities? Lack of Tribes? Lack of leadership? Lack of positive vision, support, etc. Lack of courage to make change? Communities can also be divided. If a community and its Tribes are divided due to political challenges, inability to meet local needs, or the ability to adapt, change or progress, if so, the Tribes suffer and so does the larger community.

Who or what makes-up your community? What makes it stronger, happier, purposeful? Or as this author may ask, who is in your Tribe? At a time in society where we can isolate ourselves from communities and from people in general, the conversation about community and Tribes needs to be discussed, especially in rural America where populations seem to be decreasing, or becoming more nomadic, what can we do in our community to create a supportive, actively engaged, and caring community for Tribes (people who live and work here)? How do we build solidarity and trust which benefits the Tribe and the community?

Sorry for the all questions but these are BIG questions. By confronting these questions, and developing a meaningful understanding of Tribes and community, we might be able to help further develop into a stronger and vibrant community. A community consisting of Tribes that further develop and grow in resilience, kindness, forward-thinking, and cooperation.


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