Apela Colorado PhD, Elder
272-2 Pualai St.
Lahaina, Maui, HI.
17 Feb. ’00
Greetings return to you, Apela, and to the Elders (grandmothers) present, and especially to the loyal members of the TKN, in the love and in the light of the ancestors, The Source of Life.
I am in awe from yesterdays moving performance of sharing, by your humble, reverent, and loyal students of life; good work Apela! I was especially moved by Martina’s ancestral song of honor and all of the beautiful giveaways and story telling
. Thank you Apela for another beautiful day in paradise. I am greatly honored.
Each of those students in this group is striving to use, digest, and diversify the information into the channels of their mind, body, spirit, complex without distortion. The few whom they will illuminate by sharing their light, are far more than enough reason for the greatest possible effort. To serve one is to serve all.
Therefore to teach/learn or learn/teach, there is nothing else which is of aid in demonstrating the original thought (love) except their very being, and the distortions that come from the un-explained, inarticulate, or mystery-clad being are many.
Thus, to attempt to discern and weave their way through as many group mind/body/spirit distortions as possible among their peoples in the course of their teaching is a very good effort to make. I can speak no more valiantly of their desire to serve.
Again, Mahalo nui loa to the Elders (grandmothers) present, to all the students resonating and radiating to the light of the ancestors, and to those who came to observe the clarity of your teachings of the ancestral Tribal Knowledge.
With the permission of the ancestors, I leave all of you in the love and in the light of the ancestors; rejoicing in the power and the peace braided with the cords of patience revealing the tapestry of:
LOVE ALL THAT YOU SEE,
LIVE ALL THAT YOU FEEL,
KNOW ALL THAT YOU POSSESS.
Respectfully, in Service
Hono Ele Makua
(Council of Elders)
Dr. Apela Colorado
272-2 Pualai St.
Lahaina, Maui, HI.
12 Oct. 2002
Greetings return to you, Dr. Colorado, in the love and in the light of the ancestors, The Source of Life.
The first WISN international indigenous spiritual Elders and peoples conference was convened on the 29th of September 2002. Participants included indigenous peoples from Glastonbury, Avalon, England, Louisiana, USA; Wisconsin, USA; Hawai’i, USA; France, Italy, Washington D.C., USA; and London, England.
The conference was called to share experiences and common problems, and investigate the formation of a unified body of indigenous elders to promote unity and co-operation amongst indigenous peoples and organizations, to articulate the concerns of our people at an international level, to promote universal recognition and respect for indigenous forms of spirituality, and promote the ideas of peace, respect, compassion, equality and understanding amongst all members of the human family. It was concluded that a further conference be convened on the 28th of January 2003 to:
a) establish the international indigenous spiritual elders council.
b) hear formal submissions regarding human rights violations on indigenous peoples.
c) facilitate on going dialogue encouraging information sharing and developing collective programmes promoting self determination, cultural advancement and environmental protection initiatives between indigenous peoples, states, and international organizations.
d) celebrate through song, dance, chants, art, etc. the world indigenous people.
The echo of the ancestors have been sounded, therefore, I leave all the elders council and Dr. Colorado, in the love and in the light of the ancestors, The Source of Life; rejoicing in the power and the peace braided with the cords of patience, revealing the tapestry of the most powerful force in the universe, your love.
Sincerely in service,
Wayfinding and the New Sun: Indigenous Science in the Modern World
by Pamela Colorado
Note: The last few years have seen a re-assessment of the knowledge held by the indigenous peoples of the world, and a desire to understand traditional ways of life and the wisdom they contain. One of the most exciting possibilities to emerge from this revival is a synthesis, a real dialogue between ancient and contemporary modes of knowledge. The following article is one such contribution to that synthesis. It is adapted from a talk between Jane Carroll of Beshara magazine and Pamela Colorado, founder of the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network (WISN).
Pamela Colorado was born an Oneida Indian, meaning “people of reality’ (called by white settlers the”Iroquois”) of the tribe of Ongwehahwe (“the people of the long-standing rocks”), and was brought up on a reservation in Wisconsin. She was one of the first Indian women to attend an American university and completed her doctorate work at Harvard University where she started her attempt to integrate within herself Native and Western systems of knowledge. This led to the founding of WISN, with participation from tribal elders, scientists, artists, and others; its purpose is to forge links between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples throughout the world, revitalizing ancient forms of knowledge. Of special interest are the great migrations of pre-history, and correlating the oral accounts of these events with modern archeological discoveries.
Adapted with permission from Beshara, Issue 13, Summer 1991.
My thoughts concerning indigenous science first came to me while I was completing my doctoral dissertation in 1977. At that time I was having great difficulty communicating with my doctoral committee. I had excellent instruction and a thorough curriculum, but I just could not communicate in the way that was expected. One day I was sitting in my apartment in Cambridge, and it came to me that it was not just that, as Native people, we look at life differently. Even the way we come to knowledge and present that knowledge is totally different from the Western way. The I heard myself say out loud: “It’s almost as if we have a science of our own!” And as soon as I thought it, or heard myself say it, I realized that is what needs to be said, because up until that time it was only the West which “had science”.
Of course, a lot of what is in the Native American worldview, or indigenous worldview, falls beyond what would normally be thought of as science in a Western sense, although there are some things that are directly parallel–for example,the knowledge Native people have about the environment. But because I felt our view is so much broader I thought it a good thing to call it “science”. Some people have called it natural science, others have called it life science, some have called it woman science. But for my own purposes, I go back to sciens/scientia, which meant “to know” in its largest sense Native science is a way of bringing people to a higher knowledge, and one of its goals is to bring us to the Gii Lai–“the still quiet place”. Ind other words, our religion and our spirituality are built into our science. And Native scientists, through their rituals, songs, dance, are working all the time with energies–the energies of the Earth–in very precise ways.
Now in 1977 it seemed quite radical to think that tribal peoples would have anything at all to contribute to Western knowledge. And indeed nothing much happened until several years ago. By that time, the environmental crises had deepened, threats to the survival of tribal peoples had sharpened, and attention to environmental issues like the rainforests had to some extent focused the world’s attention on tribal peoples. Then in 1987 along came the Bruntland report. It is rather weak in its understanding of tribal peoples but at least the commission’s report says, in effect, go and learn from indigenous people, because they are the last reservoirs of knowledge of how to live sustainably with the environment. They did not do anything to ensure this would happen or make any suggestions about how it could come about. But it was from this that the inspiration came for the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network.
The Dark Sun
Had I tried to do this work before now, it would not have happened because in tribal peoples’ view, at least in the Americas, it wasn’t appropriate to talk about certain kinds of knowledge. These things were considered secret; we just didn’t share them, not among tribes and definitely not with the Western world. Oral tradition says there was a very definite decision made, at some point, not to talk, not to share our knowledge. Recently I discovered that one such policy originated in Mexico at Tenochitlan in 1521.
People knew then that we were entering a time they called the Dark Sun, which was predicted for 468 years.During this time consciousness would go through darkness. Prior to the arrival of the Dark Sun, the spiritual and scientific community prepared the people for what was to come. These preparations were four- or five-fold. The first was that the sites of knowledge–the pyramids and petroglyphs sites that dot the Americas–the traditional “universities” would be closed. The knowledge would no longer be recorded, neither written by Aztecs and Mayans, nor enacted in the big centers of ritual like the pyramids. This is why, when the white people came, they found so many of the ancient sites apparently abandoned.
Secondly, the people were told that the ancient teachings would have to be preserved withi family structures, and moved to the personal domain of our own hearts. Thirdly, Native tribes would stop their cycles of international gatherings and, as a result, the knowledge would become scattered to all the directions.
Many people still assume that the Native peoples of the Americas always lived just as the new wave of Europeans in the 1500s-1600s found them. But that is not true. What they found were people who were under attack, and who were implementing the instructions they had been given for survival through the Dark Sun. For instance, at the time of contact, many of the Native communities had become palisaded, stockaded villages, and people weren’t mixing with each other anymore. When they did mix, the contact was often hostile.
Before this, according to our oral history, there had been many, many conacts, not only between the different peoples of North and South America, but also across the Pacific Ocean and across the Atlantic Ocean. There were established trade routes, and ways of exchanging knowledge. The contacts began to be different in the 1500s. For instance I comre from a northeast tribe and my people used to go to Mexico City for what we might today call “conferences”–policy-making sessions–about every six years. These meetings were attended by peoples from all over the Americas, and also by tribes which came across the Pacific Ocean by boat. They stopped after 1521.
So at the time of the Dark Sun, it was said that only two things would stay open. We would keep our languages alive, because so much knowledge of our ancestors is in that,. Secondly, we would keep our spiritual contact with the Great Spirit, and that would saty open always. It was understood that this layering of activity would encode teachings on our consciousness, just as the ancients carved their knowledge into rocks. And like the rocks, the knowledge or consciousness can be entered into, now, only with the correct “key”.
I have a document which records this prophecy, which I found just recently in Mexico City. In it are the words of Cuautemoc, one of the last Aztec chiefs. Cuautemoc had the job of standing in front of the thousands of people and delivering the horrific prophecy of the Dark Sun, telling them this is how they were to live, how they were going to survive for the next 400 years:
Our sun has hidden.
Our sun has disappeared from sight,
And in complete darkness
it has left us.
But we know that it will return again.
That once again it will emerge
and will shed its light on us anew.
But while it is there in the place of Silence
let us quickly reunite,
let us embrace one another.
And in the center of our being let us hide
all that our heart loves
and which we know to be a great treasure.
Such a document exists because it was recorded by a Spanish Catholic priest already present at the gathering. It is written in Spanish and Nahuatl, the Aztec language.
All this is in our oral history. Evidence of this, in addition to the written documents, is the reading of wampum belts. These are beaded belts, several thousand years old, made out of shells. They are mnemonic devices, used to trigger the mind, and they’re memorized; people who read those belts are trained from early on to be able to do it. After I heard about the Dark Sun prophecy in Mexico, I visited one of my chiefs in the north and asked whether it was true, and whether there was the degree of migration and contact which I have described. He said, “Yes, it fits.” I was very happy, because I had validated this in a traditional way.
From All the Directions
It was also said that after the 468 years, according to the Aztec calendar, there would be a new sun–which started in approximately 1987. Other Native peoples have a similar prophecy. They may not have put it in mathematical form, but they’ll tell you in another, maybe symbolic, fashion.
What is prophesied as the end of the Dark Sun is that the condor (that is, the land of the South Americas) and the eagle (the land of the North Americas) will be re-united, and the knowledge of the Earth will re-emerge and the knowledge that we have will become whole. When we say “the Earth’ in our language, we don’t mean just the physical Earth, but rather something you might call “energy”. During the Dark Sun, the knowledge became fragmented. This ancient knowledge will rise again, only this time the key to it is integration, and we have to do it with “all the directions”.
One way of understanding all the directions is that these are the colors of the races of humankind. As the fragments of knowledge start to come out, we will meet people and each will have a certain piece, and as we put them together they will start to become whole again. Many people today don’t realize that the different tribes do not understand each other any more. While I can understand most of the Iroquois people, for example, I cannot understand our neighbors, the Sioux, except for a few words. And yet all of our languages (more than 1000 in North America) contain “universal” words, as well as unique local words. Indians love to hear each other’s language, because it gives us the chance to discover how, by what kinds of words, we are united and how we are different.
The Overview Effect
How might this integration occur? Some while ago I read about an intriguing phenomenon described by space scholar Frank White. In his boo The Overview Effect, he talks about what happened to the astronauts when they went into space. Some of them had what I suppose would be called profound spiritual conversions. White describes the experience of looking down on that which we think of as separated things, and seeing it is all one, “the universal insight”. Then he goes on to talk about “the overview effect”, your simultaneous recognition that you too are a part of what you are seeing. He wonders if we could find some way of creating the possibility for human consciousness to be transformed to this state without blasting everybody into outer space.
Combining this with things I have read from Thomas Berry and other environmentalists, I have come to feel that the biggest problem we face in terms of the Earth, and the whole of humanity, cannot be tackled by technology. We already have the technology to do the job, to heal the Earth–but what matters is the attitudes we carry in our minds and in our hearts. A transformation in worldview needs to occur.
So, how to provide opportunities for large numbers of people to achieve “the overview effect” and “the universal insight”? That is the question if the the Earth is to survive. Again, clues come from Native science.
Between the Worlds
Our oral history, which we would estimate goes back more than 30,000 years, describes four periods in the past when the Earth was created and destroyed. One was destroyed by fire, another by wind, another by ice, and another by water. This information is recorded on teh petroglyphs in the Americas, for example, as well as in story form. The petroglyphs give rise to two interesting questions–when were they made and why were they made?
In each of the four periods or “worlds”, there arose a situation from which humanity had some great lesson to learn–and every time there was a mistake made.Sometimes there were warnings. Sometimes people could see they were making a mistake but were unwilling or unable to rectify the error. And so nature herself made an adjustment. The greatest thing we can accomplish in our science and in our lives is to be in balance with the universe. But each time, in each of these four worlds, people were unable to maintain that balance–they made mistakes which led to the destruction of their world.
I have done some research into these four worlds in association with Hanson Ashley, a Navajo medicine man and a transpersonal psychologist. We wanted to know how we could begin to talk about the concept of worlds to the West, and developed the hypothesis that they could be described as the evolving consciousness of humanity.(When I say “evolving”, it has to be understood more like a “revolving” consciousness, because as Native people we don’t look at things linearly.) We also wanted to be accurate in what we said; we didn’t want to distort knowledge in an effort to communicate across cultures, so Hanson spent time talking to several elders about the nature of the worlds. He now has a detailed history of each of them–and this includes the specific teachings or learnings which were of each world.
The elders agreed that you could, indeed, think about the worlds in terms of human consciousness. But the situation was more complicated than we had thought, for Hanson also found out that the people did not learn the most important lessons within the worlds–but between the world cycles. “Between the worlds” was the time when humanity had to do things to put itself in accord again–in accord with life, or with the natural world, however you want to say it. The four worlds were not the worlds of “man”, but were worlds in which nature herself went through her growth, challenges, transformations and realignments to come into balance.
So if we are interested in discovering how to create a shift in attitude, which is necessary now in order to save the planet, and how to integrate Native thought, we also have to understand what happened between those worlds. What happened that somehow saved the day and permitted humanity to move into another world–or, one could say, another form of consciousness? And how did our ancestors’ choices accommodate or block the Earth’s natural evolution?
The Wayfaring Mindset
Many things happened “between the worlds”, but one of the primary events was a journey or migration. These journeys can be described as wayfinding, and it was during these great movements or migrations that knowledge of how to live in balance with the Earth was recorded in the original rock carvings and petroglyphs.
This was a time when people physically moved around on the Earth or on the water. They moved in a patterned way; it wasn’t just any old way, for they knew they were going to some place for a specific reason. They were usually led by someone, one who had the inspiration or vision of where to go. As the people moved about, there were lessons they learned, mistakes they made, risk they took, and out of those experiences they learned rituals, songs and strategies that prepared them for movement into the next cycle.
One of the things the Indigenous Science Network is working on now is to recreate some of these migrations. Our focus is not so much on recreating the exact journeys, but rather the recreation of the protocol, the mindset that came into being as a result of lessons learned during the migrations. We are inviting our white brothers and sisters to join us in this because we believe this is something we are meant to be doing.
Bridges to the West
To communicate with the West we need “bridges”, models of migrations. One good example comes from the Polynesians:
In 1976 the Polynesian Voyaging Society was established and its first task was to recreate a traditional double-hulled Polynesian voyaging canoe, the “Hokule’a”, that would be capable of trans-oceanic voyages. But they soon discovered there were no Hawaiians who knew how to navigate in the traditional way–without instruments! as they searched they eventually found Mao Piailug from Micronesia, an elder who still knew the traditional methods of non-instrument navigation. He was brought to Hawaii to work with a young Hawaiian native, Nainoa Thompson. Nainoa drew from Western and indigenous sciences: He studied satellite weather charts and astronomy, and then he studied with Mao, who used stones to teach what our ancestors had known.
The result of this integrated education was the 1976 voyage of Hokule’a from Hawaii to Tahiti. This voyage was accomplished without the benefit of any instruments or charts. In 1985, on a subsequent voyage from Rarotonga to New Zealand, a distance of 1700 nautical miles across open sea, Nainoa steered a course which was only 100 miles farther than the shortest distance possible between the two points. The only reason for the extra miles was severe weather conditions.
The interesting question is, how did he do it? Well, that gets to something mentioned earlier–the overview effect. As Native people, we learn to train our minds from the time we are children, to be centered where we are, grounded in reality, and see all the signs that are around us. For the purposes of navigation, it is necessary to see the roll of the waves, the movements of the fish, the birds, the winds, etc. Ind addition, you have to have the ability to project yourself out, “to see what it’s not possible to see”. I’m just learning this myself, but I know that it is an ability that our people have known for thousands of years, and still practice. Now our task is to see that this mental acumen, this capacity of “the good mind”, is not lost. So this wayfinding mindset, the ability to project ourselves out, is a knowledge that is necessary if we are to create a healthy relationship with the Earth.
A New Sun
Nobody said that the Dark Sun was due to the coming of the Europeans. (In fact there is evidence of much earlier contact with the Europeans; but then the relationships were different.) Who tells the sun how to move? Not the Spanish or the English!
We don’t like what has happened. We surely didn’t want it. On the other hand, that’s life–the cycles of life. Perhaps the best way to say it is that we really value accommodation as a universal principle. Accommodation to life is more important than judging what needed to have happened. Now what is important is that we are entering a new sun.
The Art of Human Navigation
“For the earth is ocean. And rising everywhere in it are islands. Go find the islands…”
From An Ocean in Mind.
Such was Nature’s strong, persistent message for ancient Polynesian voyagers and native tribes of the Pacific Northwest Islands. Written in the stars, on flotsam, and in bird migration paths, came word of distant, undiscovered islands. Called seaward beyond the horizon clouds, native peoples of the Pacific Rim did indeed find islands scattered throughout a sea spanning half the surface area of the earth. Out they went and back they came, home again to Samoa and Tahiti, to the Prince of Wales and the Queen Charlotte Islands. How? asked western navigators centuries ago. Skillfully, the legends tell us, consistently tracking nature’s guideposts.
Without instruments navigation was a human act. The map was in the mind of the wayfinder, whose whole being had been trained and opened by chants, long hours of observation and elder’s patient teachings. He or she learned to recognize and interpret nature’s clues to judge direction, distance traveled, time and final landfall. Under sail in a circle of sea and sky, memory, awareness and the physical senses formed part of a dead reckoning system linked to ocean, atmosphere and sealife
Wayfinding was a well-developed art according to Will Kyselka, astronomer and author of a book on Polynesian wayfinding. For hi it was as precise as math and logic, with the magic of ritual and intuition. For Native American and social scientist, Dr. Pamela Colorado,founder of the Indigenous Science Network, it was and is, science in the full meaning of the word, “a holistic way of knowing nature, fully human, aligned with self, nature, and spirit.” It is proof, according to her and cultural anthropologists, of the intentional peopling of the Pacific through exploration, trans-Pacific gatherings and established trade routes.
For the ancient navigator apprenticed to the sea, wayfinding was a way of life embedded in his being. It was part of a culture that still watches, rearing seamen as meticulous observers of natural phenomena. These new wayfinders, schooled in modern astronomy and experienced in ways of the sea, are learning to trust their senses and their minds once again on a journey in search of the ancient mind. Their goal is to sense and feel their way back into harmony with nature, a state of being so needed, many claim, in a high-tech western culture trained to dominate, not cooperate, with nature.
Each ocean voyage began with two points on the navigator’s reference course. “You knew where you started, and where you wanted to go,” says Hawaiian steersman Na’ilima. He recently returned from a wayfinding voyage to Tahiti on the Hokule’a, a modern replica of an ancient sailing canoe. “Between home and that distant island may lay thousands of miles of open sea,” he says. “It did for us.” It did, no doubt, for the Haidas people of Prince of Wales Island. They sailed, Dr. Colorado tells us, to Japan and back. Along such a route, everything had meaning: ocean swells, the color and shape of the clouds, currents, and the pitch and roll of the canoe.
“Native sailors knew what to expect,” says Dr. Colorado. “They knew the wind and sea conditions all along the way from chants, personal accounts, and petroglyphs, or symbolic rock drawings.” According to her research, Indians of the northwest Pacific coast may have planned their trips using star maps and tidal clocks written in the changing pattern of tideline rocks.
Navigators, like the Nootka women of Vancouver Island, had songs and special rhythms keyed to the surface movements of the sea. “Everything we ever knew about the movement of the sea was preserved in the verse of that song,” writes Anne Cameron, quoting an elder in her historical novel on Nootka tribal history. “There was a song for goin’ to China and a song for goin’ to Japan. All she (the steerswoman) had to know was the song and she knew where she was.”
“We had the rising sun and the swells to steer by too,” says Na’ilima. “Like other wayfinders, we also knew where reference islands lay along our path. And most of all, we had the stars. They showed the way.”
According to Na’ilima and others, navigators set their course, their time, their latitude,and their distance traveled by the night sky. Each target island has its guiding stars, points along the margin of an imagined compass that was studded with other well known lights. In the center sat the wayfinder, watching and memorizing the patterns. The steersman nosed the “compass needle” along a predetermined path of successively rising or setting stars. In the mind’s eye of the crew, the sea and reference islands flowed past a stationary canoe, from beneath one star position to another. Synchronous pairs of rising or setting stars, charted just above the horizon, told latitude. Other stars at zenith marked the location of target islands like Tahiti and Hawaii.
At dawn the navigator read direction in the swells against the pattern of the morning sky. “We always knew where north was–our reference point for daytime steering,” Na’ilima explains. It was never more than a few handwidths away from a sun that rose just north and south of east.”
Wayfinding was very effective but less precise during the day. It required more clues and more concentration to assimilate and process them. But the swells were always there, and seasonal trade winds blew in consistent patterns written in the color and shape of horizon clouds. The wayfinder could estimate speed from the sound and feel of the canoe and determine currents from the shape and direction of waves. At times he or she just knew the direction to set–with or without external clues–drawing upon intuition, perhaps, or a subtle communion with the sea itself that was the essential mark of a seasoned wayfinder.
The final destination lay to windward of the reference track, surrounded by what Kyselka calls “concentric circles of life”, coastal fish and homing birds, land clouds, and wave defraction and refraction patterns. These diverse though predictable signs of a landmass could expand a small island into a sizable target or bridge island gaps in an archipelago, creating a large block to aim for. With a shift in focus to the nearfield, the wayfinder pieced together each island’s signature. Carefully, knowingly, the crew tracked the evening seabird flight paths and the directional streaks of transient deep phosphorescence.
That final destination, Dr. Colorado reminds us, is also a mindset. It is a way of seeing and being in balance with nature, gleaned from living a ceremonial life. Each wayfinding voyage, she points out, reminds us of our human potential to integrate analysis with intuition, and ritual with western science. “The greatest thing we can accomplish in our science and in our lives,” she concludes, “is to be in balance with the universe.”
Renewed interest in wayfinding presages a time when scientist and seaman alike are in balance and in open communication with nature. Recent voyages have proven that it can be done again. In Hawaii the Hokule’a has made three successful wayfinding voyages to Tahiti and back. The first was led by Mau Piailug, a traditional Polynesian navigator; the last two by Hawaiian Nainoa Thompson, one of the new breed of wayfinders. Na’ilima’s expedition, called “No Na Mamo” (For the Next Generation), symbolizes the intention of native peoples and organizations like the Indigenous Science Network, to share traditional knowledge. Other trips are planned. Canoes will gather from around the world on Vancouver Island in 1993 as native tribes convene to rekindle the art.
“We are still missing pieces of information”, says Dr. Colorado. “Some of the art remains hidden. Some may have been lost.” Or not yet found, at least by western culture. For we in the west may still not know how to ask the right questions or to understand the full meaning of each answer until our own minds begin to open and expand under the tutelage of elders and nature’s wise persistent teachings.
Author’s note–books cited or recommended: An Ocean in Mind by Will Kyselka; The Daughters of Copperwoman by Anne Cameron; and We the Navigators by David Lewis.
For more information on the Indigenous Science Network, contact Dr. Pamela Colorado, 573 Wainee St., Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.
Karen Chandler, M.S., is a marine ecologist and co-founder of Adventure Spirit Maui, a company which specializes in ocean awareness and wilderness expeditions. P.O Box 3104, Waikoloa, Hawaii 96738.
A Meeting Between Brothers
The last few years have seen a re-assessment of the knowledge held by the indigenous peoples of the world, and a desire to understand traditional ways of life and the wisdom they contain. One of the most exciting possibilities to emerge from this revival of a synthesis, and a real dialogue, between ancient and contemporary modes of knowledge. In the following articles, we introduce two ways in which this possibility is currently being presented to us.
Dr Pamela Colorado talks to Jane Carroll
Dr Pamela Colorado was born an Oneida Indian, meaning ‘people of reality’ (called by white settlers the ‘Iroquois”) of the tribe of Ongwehahwe (‘the people of the long-standing rocks’), and was brought up on a reservation in the state of Wisconsin. She was one of the first Indian women to attend an American university, taking a degree in Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where she was the only native person in a student body of ver 20,000. She went on to do doctoral work at Harvard, studying alcoholism in the native communities. It was during her doctorate that she began to take an interest in her indigenous culture, and to attempt to integrate within herself native and Western systems of knowledge.
She has since made a special study of the ancient American rock carvings and their meanings, and in 1989 founded The Worldwide Indigenous Science Network. With a membership which includes tribal elders, scientists, artists, academics and other professionals, the Network aims to forge links between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples throughout the world, researching and reviving the ancient forms of knowledge which the tribal peoples still hold. Amongst the many schemes scheduled for the next few years is a research project into the great migrations which the Indian peoples undertook in pre-history, trying to correlate the accounts given in the oral histories of the tribes with modern archaeological discoveries.
Dr Colorado now teaches at the University of Calgary in Canada. Jane Carroll spoke to her during a recent visit to the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California.
How did the Network for Indigenous Science start?
The idea had first come to me whilst I was doing my doctoral dissertation in 1977. At that time, I was having great difficulty communicating with my doctoral committee. I had excellent instruction, and it was a really demanding curriculum, but I could not communicate in the way that was expected. One day I was sitting in my apartment in Cambridge, and it came to me that it was not just that, as native people, we look at life differently. Even the way we present the knowledge and come to the knowledge is totally different from the Western way. Then I heard myself say out loud: “It’s almost as if we have a science of our own!” And as soon as I thought it, or heard myself say it, I realised that that is what needs to be said, because up until that time it was only the West which could have science. The rest of the world’s cultures could have culture or philosophy, but it wasn’t considered that anyone else could have science.
Of course, a lot of what is in the native American worldview, or indigenous world-view, falls beyond what we would normally think of as science in a western sense – although there are some things that could be considered directly parallel; for example, the knowledge that native people have about the environment. But it was because I felt that our view is so much broader that I felt it was a good thing to call it ‘science’. Knowing something about the history of science, I knew that western science is in the process of struggling for its third revolution – revolution in the sense of Thomas Kuhn’s definition – so I thought that maybe by calling indigenous knowledge ‘science’, there was a possibility of making a bridge between it and western knowledge.
Another consideration was that one can still see, everywhere, the destruction of native lands and tribal people. The people have never been able to find a voice to stop this destruction. This is perhaps because of the language that we use; not only because of actual linguistic differences, but also the way we have been educated and learnt to communicate with western people. For instance, we have had available to us the language of anthropology, because in the past anthropologists were the only educated people that ever spent time with us. But these people were clearly not doing the job of preventing the annihilation, for even in the 70s it was becoming clear that things were getting very dangerous; there was worry about the survival of tribal people globally and about the survival of the planet.
So my feeling was, that if I could find a way to talk about the native sciences, and about how much fuller and richer they are in many ways than western science, perhaps the western scientists would see something that they could learn from. Then maybe they would get involved with us, and then maybe they wouldn’t kill us anymore. I thought of it that simply, as a protection – not only for indigenous people but also, perhaps, for all people.
Can you say in what way indigenous knowledge is science?
When I looked around at what I had learnt through my education, I asked myself what, in western society, carries the weight that our indigenous knowledge does in ours? what is equivalent in term of value that we put on our knowledge systems, including the ritual and all that’s in it? I concluded that it had to be science, not religion or philosophy, for it seemed to me that science is held in such high esteem in the west. Since we hold our knowledge system to be spiritually based and, in a sense, spiritually driven, I wanted to find an equivalent knowledge system in the west that would be capable of ‘carrying the weight of God’. And again it looked like science to me.
If you want definitions of what indigenous science is: some people have called it natural science, others have called it life science, some have called it woman science, but for my own purposes, I go back to sciens/scientia, which means ‘to know’ in its largest sense. Native science is a way of bringing people to a higher knowledge, and one of its goals is to bring us to the Gii Lai – ‘the still quiet place’. In other words, our religion and our spirituality are built into it. Another thing that can be said is that native scientists, through their rituals and songs, etc. are working all the time with energies – the energies of the earth – in a way which is just as precise as the way western scientists work.
How have people responded to the idea of indigenous science?
In 1977, it seemed as if I had a tremendous nerve to think that tribal people would have anything at all to contribute to western knowledge, and I was considered quite radical. People said they were interested, but they did not want to know more. Although even then there were a few who said, this is really good stuff, have you written about it? Of course I hadn’t, because I had not worked out any way of talking about it properly. So nothing much happened until two or three years ago. By that time, the environmental crisis had deepened, threats to the survival of tribal people had sharpened, and the attention given to certain environmental issues like the rainforests and the problems in Brazil had focussed the world’s attention a little on tribal people. Then, in 1987, along came the Brundtland report. It is rather weak-kneed as far as tribal people are concerned, but at least the commission’s report says: go and learn from indigenous people, because they are the last reservoirs of the knowledge of how to live sustainably with the environment. Of course, they did not do anything about seeing that it would happen or make any suggestions about how it could come about. But it was from there that the inspiration came for the Network.
One thing that is important to add is that if I had tried to do this work before now, it would not have happened, because in tribal peoples’ view, especially in the Americas, it wasn’t appropriate to talk about certain kinds of knowledge. They were considered secret; we just didn’t share them, not among tribes and definitely not with the western world.
Is there a specific reason for this?
Yes, at least in the Americas. I haven’t checked it out in the other parts of the globe. In our oral tradition, it is said that there was a very definite decision made, at some point, not to talk, not to share our knowledge. I did some research recently into where that policy originated, and found that it was in Mexico at Tenochtitlan in 1521.
You see, people knew then, through our scientific practices, that we were entering a time they called the Dark Sun,which would go on for 468 years. During this time, consciousness would go through darkness. In fact, around that time it is recorded that there was a flare-up of solar activity with enormous sunspots. These sunspots, which were visible to the naked eye, made the sun look black.
Prior to the arrival of the Dark Sun, the spiritual and scientific community prepared the people. These preparations were four or five fold. The first was that the sites of knowledge – such as the pyramids and petroglyph sites that dot the Americas – those traditional universities would be closed, and the knowledge would no longer be recorded; neither written down in the case of the Aztecs or Mayans, nor enacted in the big centres of ritual, like the pyramids. This is why, when the white people came, they found so many of the ancient sites apparently abandoned. Secondly, the people were told that the ancient teachings would have to be preserved within family structures, and move to the personal domain of our own hearts. Thirdly, native tribes would stop the cycle of international gatherings and as a result, the knowledge would become scattered to all the directions.
It was said, at that time, that only two things would stay open – we would keep our languages alive, because so much knowledge of our ancestors is in that; and secondarily we would keep our spiritual contact with the Great Spirit, and that would stay open always. It was understood that this layering of activity would encode teachings on our consciousness, just as the ancients carved their knowledge into rocks. And like the rocks, the knowledge or consciousness can be entered into, now, only with the correct ‘key’.
I have a document which records this prophecy, which I found in Mexico City just last February. In it are the words of Cuautemoc, one of the last Aztec chiefs. Cuautemoc had the job of standing in front of the thousands of people and delivering the horrific prophecy of the Dark Sun, telling them that this is how they were to live, how they were going to survive for the next 400 years. The reason that such a document exists is that the Spanish had already arrived in Mexico City, and there was a Catholic priest present at the gathering, who recorded it. It is written in Spanish and Nahuak, which is an Aztec language; after I found it last year, I brought it back to North America and had it translated. It is a very powerful and moving speech.
Many people still assume that the native peoples of the Americas always lived just as the new wave of Europeans in the 1500s/1600s found them. But that is not true. What they found were people who were under attack, and who were implementing the instructions they had been given for survival through the Dark Sun. For instance, at the time of contact, many of the native communities had become pallisaded, stockaded villages, and people weren’t mixing with each other anymore. When they did mix, contact was often hostile.
It had been different before this time?
Oh yes. According to our oral history there had been many, many contacts, not only between the different peoples of North and South America, but also across the Pacific Ocean and across the Atlantic Ocean. There were established trade-routes, and ways of exchanging knowledge. The contacts began to be different in the 1500s. For instance, I come from a tribe up in the north-east, by the Great Lakes, and my people used to come down to Mexico City for what we might today call ‘conferences’ – policy-making sessions – about every six years. These were attended by peoples from all over the Americas, and also by tribes which came over the Pacific Ocean by boat. They stopped after 1521.
All this is in our oral history. But I know, being a western-trained scientist, that if I tell someone it is in our oral history, they’ll say, prove it. Well, one of the evidences of all this – in addition to the written document – is that amongst our surviving traditions, is the reading of the wampum belts.
These are beaded belts made out of shells, and they are a couple of thousand years old. They are mnemonic devices, used to trigger your mind, and they’re memorised; people who read those belts are trained from early on to be able to do it. After I heard about this prophecy in Mexico, I visited one of my chiefs and asked whether it was true,and whether there was the degree of migration and contact which I have described to you. And he said: Yes, it fits. I was really happy, because I had validated it in a traditional way.
Do you have any explanation for why the choice was to keep that knowledge underground?
Oh yes, they’re really clear about that. It was for protection. They didn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands: it was too sacred and too powerful.
Was Mexico in some way a centre in that period for the native peoples in the North of America, so that a statement made there could have effect throughout the continent?
Yes, but this another thing that’s tricky to understand. because some parts of our knowledge system can be said to be very intuitive, people that weren’t there knew it anyway, and felt it, and they were preparing themselves.
Then they said that after the 468 years there would be a new sun, which started in approximately 1987. This is in the Aztec calendar. You see my people from the Great Lakes come from the Aztec people, from that migration. Other native people have a similar prophecy: they may not have put it in mathematical form, but they’ll tell you in another, maybe symbolic, fashion.
What is prophesied at the end of the Dark Sun is that the condor (ie the land of the South Americas) and the eagle (the land of the North Americas) will be re-united, and the knowledge of the earth – and you must understand that when we say ‘the earth’ in our language, we don’t just man the physical earth, we refer to something which you might call ‘energy’ – the knowledge of the earth will come out again and the knowledge that we have will become whole. The ancient knowledge will rise again, only this time the key to it is integration, and we have to do it with ‘all the directions’.
One way of understanding ‘all the directions’ is that these are the colours of the races of man. As the fragments of knowledge start to come out, we will meet people, and each of us will have a certain piece,and as we put them together they will start to become whole again. You see, during this Dark Sun, the knowledge has become fragmented. Many people don’t realise that the different tribes do not even understand each other any more. I can understand most of the Iriquois peoples, because they speak dialects of my language, but I cannot understand our neighbours, the Sioux, except for a few words. This is important because all of our languages (there are more than 1000 in North America) contain both ‘universal’ words and unique local words. Indians love to hear each other’s language, because it gives us the chance to discover how, by what kinds of words, we are united and how we are different.
When you talk about the knowledge coming out now, I take you to mean not the formal knowledge that was repressed or hidden four hundred years ago, but that spirit of the knowledge?
Yes- although I would call that ‘formal’ knowledge. What’s more formal than that?
I mean that rather than being known through a formal ritual, now it might take other forms. For example, the video you show to introduce the Network mentions that modern technology has taken us to the moon and given us a view of the earth as a single whole. The indigenous people have always had this kind of knowledge of the earth, but it has taken highly analytical technology to bring it back to us. This view of the earth is becoming a kind of icon for our times, and it seems to be a combining between the two knowledges.
Except, a man named Frank White, who is a space scholar and a writer, wrote a book called ‘The Overview Effect’ in which he talks about what happened to the astronauts when they went into space. Some of them had what I suppose would be called profound spiritual conversions. White calls the experience of looking down on that which we know as separate things, and seeing that it is all one, ‘the universal insight’. Then he goes on to talk about ‘the overview effect’; which is that it isn’t just that you are standing back from what you see, but at the same time you recognise that you are a part of it. He wonders if we could find some way of creating the possibility for human consciousness to be transformed to this state without blasting everybody into outer space. It is very destructive of the environment to create those ships, we don’t have the resources, and not everybody wants to be an astronaut.
Combining this with things that I have read from Thomas Berry and other environmentalists, I have come to feel that the biggest problems that we face in terms of the earth, and the whole of humanity, cannot be tackled by technology. We have the technology now to do the job – to heal the earth – but what matters is the attitudes that we carry in our minds and in our hearts. A transformation in world-view needs to occur.
So, how to provide opportunities for large numbers of people to achieve ‘the overview effect’ and ‘the universal insight’? That is the question if the earth is to survive. And it is here that I feel that native science has something to really contribute.
Could yo give an example of the sort of scientific projects the Network is undertaking?
Yes, but first let me provide some background. In our oral history, which we would estimate goes back more than 30,000 years, it is described that there were four periods in the past when the earth was created and destroyed. One was destroyed by fire, another by wind, another by ice and another by water. This information is recorded on the petroglyphs in the Americas, for example, as well as in story form. The petroglyphs are interesting to mention here, because of the questions they give rise to, such as, when were they made and why were they made?
At each time, in each one of those worlds, there was the situation in which humanity had some great lesson to learn, and every time there was a mistake made. Sometimes there were warnings, or people could see that they were making a mistake but were unwilling or unable to rectify the error, and then nature herself made an adjustment. The greatest thing that we can accomplish in our science and in our lives is to be in balance with the universe, ultimately. But each time, in these worlds, people made mistakes which led to the destruction of the world.
I have done some research into these four worlds in association with a man called Hanson Ashley, a Navajo medicine man and a transpersonal psychologist. We wanted to know how we could begin to talk about the concept of worlds to the West, and developed the hypothesis that they could be described as the evolving consciousness of humanity (and when I say ‘evolving’, it has to be understood that it is more like a ‘revolving’ consciousness, because as native people we don’t look at things linearly, going from one point in a straight line to another). We also wanted to be accurate in what we said; we didn’t want to distort knowledge in an effort to communicate across cultures, so Hanson spent time talking to the elders about the nature of the worlds. He now has a detailed history of each of them – and this includes the specific teachings or learnings which were of each world.
The elders agreed that you could, indeed, think about the worlds in terms of human consciousness. But the situation was more complicated than we had thought, for Hanson also found out that the people did not learn the real lessons within the worlds, but that in between the worlds, there was a cycle of twelve. This cycle of twelve – I don’t know how many years that was – was the time when humanity had to do things to put itself in accord again – in accord with life, or with the natural world, however yo want to say it. The four worlds were not the worlds of ‘man’, but were worlds in which nature herself went through her growth, challenges, transformations and realignments to come into balance.
So, if we are interested in discovering how to create a shift in attitude, which is necessary now in order to save the planet, and how to move from western thought to native thought, we also have to understand what happened between those worlds. What happened that somehow saved the day and permitted humanity to move into another world – or one could say, another form of consciousness? And how did our ancestors’ choices accommodate or block the earth’s natural evolution?
Well, many things happened, but one of the primary events was a journey or a migration. These journeys can be describes as wayfinding, and it was during these great movements or migrations that knowledge of how to live in balance with the earth was recorded in the original rock carvings and petroglyphs.
This is a literal wayfaring?
Yes and no. The literal wayfaring is only one kind; but many things were happening simultaneously. It was a time when people physically moved around on the earth or on the water. They moved in a patterned way; it wasn’t just any old way, for they knew they were going to some place for a specific reason. They were usually led by someone; someone who had the inspiration or vision of where to go. The case of the Navajo is interesting, because one of the people who led them, I think it was after the flood, was a woman, who is referred to in the histories as White Shell Changing Woman.
As the people moved about, there were lessons that they learned, mistakes that they made, risks that they took and out of those experiences they learned rituals, songs and strategies that prepared them for movement into the next cycle.
One of the things that the Indigenous Science Network is working on now, is to recreate some of these migrations. It is important to understand that when I speak of re-creating the migrations, it is not so much recreating the exact journeys and the steps; what we want to recreate is the protocol, the mindset. We are inviting our white brothers and sisters, the scientists, to join us in this because we believe that this is something we are meant to be doing. As native people that’s enough, that we have a vision to do it. In my case, it refers back to a vision that I had at a ceremony in Arizona in 1984, when the spirit of wayfinding came into the ceremony and touched my life in a way that set me on this path. But the problem that we faced was how we would be able to talk to the West about it.
Is this where your interest in the great Polynesian journeys comes in?
Yes. But before I go into that, I want to talk about the confidence level that’s generated by indigenous science. Confidence is a big issue in science. In westerns science, the confidence that people have in it depends on how accurate it is, how likely it is we can replicate it, etc. It was confidence, for example, that brought Columbus to the Americas in the first place – confidence in the navigation instruments which allowed him to go out of sight of land for the first time in European history. He got to the New World because he knew how to use them, whilst none of the other sailors that were with him did. They wanted to mutiny, to throw him overboard, but they didn’t dare because they were out on the ocean, with no landmarks to go by, and Columbus knew the navigation.
In the same way , there is a confidence that can be engendered by indigenous science. For example, the Navajo people have an extremely short life-span, about fifty years of age. Their average annual income is probably still not much more than about $2,000 – so in an economic sense, they live very marginalised lives. But when we first thought about re-creating these journeys, Hanson went back and talked with the medicine man who had run the ceremony in which I had had my vision, and spoke of all the things that had unfolded since then and asked him about it. Specifically, he asked about White Shell Changing Woman’s journey, in which she led the Navajo people from where they lived in the South-West over to the coast here in California, to the Pacific Ocean. There, they met Indians who were ocean-going, who could build canoes, and they showed the Navajos how to navigate and what to do. The Navajos sailed to the farthest island in their journey and then came back.
Hanson discussed with the elder the possibility of recreating this migration. In the light of all I’ve said about the Navajo’s lifestyle today, one might have expected the response to be – but how do we do it? Where will we get a grant, who will back us? But actually, the response was: well, we have stories and we have the charts to guide us, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. That’s the kind of confidence that’s engendered.
This illustrates as well how powerful indigenous science is, in the sense that it contains and is able to pass on information through thousands and thousands of years by its oral traditions. In contrast, how long do we think that most of the knowledge that we have today will last? We have very powerful computers, but even with them, the models change all the time, and if the electricity fails because of some kind of calamity or disaster, the knowledge is gone.
But the kind of knowledge that you are speaking of is very different from that of modern technology.
Yes, indeed. So in order to communicate with Western scientists, we have to give them a bridge, or an opportunity, to look again at these ancient forms of knowledge. And to do this we need models, and as far as the migrations and the navigation goes, it turns out that there is a good, existing example, and that is the case of the Polynesians.
For, in 1976, the Polynesian Voyaging Society was established. Its first task was to recreate a traditional double-hulled Polynesian voyaging canoe that would be capable of trans-oceanic voyages. Building the canoe – ‘Hokule’a’ – revealed some startling facts. Firstly, there were no trees left on the Hawaiian Islands that were big enough to make such a canoe, so Hokule’a could not be traditional; it would have to be a performance accurate replica which used some fiberglass instead of wood. Secondly, they discovered that there were no Hawaiians who knew how to navigate in the traditional way. So they began to search and eventually found Mao Piailug from Micronesia, an elder who still knew the traditional methods. He was brought to Hawaii, to work with a young Hawaiian native, Nainoa Thompson. Nainoa drew from Western and indigenous sciences. He studied satellite weather charts and astronomy, and then he studied with Mao, who used stones to teach what our ancestors had known.
The result of this integrated education was the 1976 voyage of Hokule’a from Hawaii to Tahiti. This voyage was accomplished without the benefit of any instruments or charts. In 1985, on a subsequent voyage from Rarotonga to New Zealand, a distance of 1700 nautical miles across open sea, Nainoa steered a course which was only 100 miles farther than the shortest distance possible between the two points. The only reason for the extra miles was severe weather conditions.
The interesting question is, how did he do it? Well, that gets to something I think Frank White is talking about when he describes the overview effect. As native people, we learn to train our minds from the time we are children, to be centered where we are, grounded in reality, and see all the signs that are around us. For the purposes of navigation, it is necessary to see the roll of the waves, the movements of the fish, the birds and the winds, etc. In addition, you have to have the ability to project yourself out, ‘to see what it’s not possible to see’. I’m just learning this myself, but I know that it is an ability that our people have known for thousands of years, and still practice. Now our task is to see that this mental acumen, this capacity of ‘the good mind’, is not lost. And the reason why we’ve been talking about this today is that the wayfinding mindset, the ability to project ourselves out, is the knowledge that is necessary if we are to create a healthy relationship with the earth.
There obviously is a major dichotomy between indigenous science and western science. Do you see western science as something that has gone wrong, or do you see that it’s pursued a particular path which is perhaps unbalanced but which is not wrong in itself?
That’s a difficult question, because it’s got so out of hand that the temptation is to say that it was an experiment that failed. I don’t know if it’s failed or it hasn’t failed. But I can say from a traditional perspective that when we describe the form that the migrations took, for instance across the Americas, it is a cross within a circle; a cross lying on its side. Our ancestors always knew about linear thought, but it was linear thought contained in a circle of light. The Hopi prophecy, which is written on their petroglyphs and which they ritually re-enact in their cycle of ceremonies every year, tells us that what needs to happen is that the knowledge of the white brother needs to be united with the earth knowledge of the native person.
What do you think Western scientists or any of us should be doing in a principal way? Obviously we should be learning to take care of the earth much better than we are, but how?
Well, for example, two physicists asked me in Germany, “Dr. Colorado, what would you recommend if we were to do our science differently?” One thing I said was that I think scientists should extend their calculations to seven generations. I asked them what they thought they would find out if they did that, and they admitted that the results would be very different. That’s one really simple thing they could do. Well, perhaps not so simple.
To expand their horizons…
Exactly. And in other directions. If you talk to scientists, you’ll find out that most of them have deeply moving moments of creativity and inspiration which they say that, at the present time, they’re not allowed to discuss or to bring into their science. They have to act as if it doesn’t happen, and as if all of their hunches, which may turn out to be right or to be wrong, were just manifestations of sheets of calculations. So another thing that would be good is for them to begin to create forms where they can talk about the other levels os knowing. Some people of course have already begun this – David Bohm, for instance.
I ask scientists to join us at any level. I have researched the journeys in a western way – I’ve researched it many ways – and I’ve had a lot of contact with different kinds of western scientists, from archaeologists to physicists.
It does seem that there is a very narrow focus to much of Western science, and an unwillingness to accept oral history, or mythology.
Bohm makes the point really well. He says that since Einstein, we continue to practice our science as if he hadn’t said what he said; and probably that vein of science, that particular very focussed approach to knowledge, will continue. What we see happening, I suppose, is that new streams of thought and science are appearing now. It’s from these that I’m looking for solutions, not only cross-scientifically but also globally. In a way, I think science has already begun this, or a least the scientists have already begun; that’s why a place like the ‘Institute of Noetic Sciences’ in California exists; that’s why Bohm does the work that he’s done for so many years. There is group of ‘scientists for peace’, and many scientists are looking for new ways. I have a lot of hope.
is there a way, from the native American perspective, to look at the cataclysm that occurred for you in the last four hundred years? Is there a way in which it has meaning?
If you think back what I had said earlier about the Dark Sun, nobody said that it was the Dark Sun because of the coming of the Europeans. The Europeans had come thousands of years earlier (there are evidence of very early contact which I won’t go into now) but then the relationship was different. Who tells the sun how to move? Not the Spanish!
We don’t like what’s happened, we surely didn’t want it. On the other hand, that’s life itself; that’s the cycles of life. Perhaps the best way to say it is that we really value accommodation as a universal principle – accommodation to life is more important than judging what needed to happen. Now what is important is that we are entering a new sun.
Fire & Ice: Natives, Alcohol and Spirituality, a Northern Health Paradigm
Pamela Colorado, Ph.D.
Faculty of Social Welfare
University of Calgary
4401 University Drive
CANADA T1K 5A8
The Language Between the Cultures
Native and non-native interaction is powerfully and intricately interwoven with western science. Native alcoholism and the way it has been addressed provides insight to this complex phenomena and illuminates the possibility of global sobriety. From initial contact to contemporary times, the scientific view of the Indian has evolved through stages. Each stage has dramatically impacted the lives of both peoples.
Stage One, Scientific Racism
Scientific inquiry and literature on American Indians was born in the scientific racism of the nineteenth century. This doctrine replaced the word, “nation” with the word, “race” and assumed that moral qualities of people were positively correlated with physical characteristics; further, that all humanity could be divided into superior and inferior stocks (Berkhofer, 1978).
Typical of his time, Leslie Scott (1891) wrote an article entitled, “Indian” Diseases as Aids to Pacific Northwest Settlement” in which he States:
…Wherever went the white man’s appetites and wares went also his afflications which multiplied manifold in the savage habitat. Indians in the white man’s clothing, in his houses, in his liquor drinking, were like the cultures of malignant germs which the scientist multiplies in his laboratory…. throughout the entire West the Indians were victims, but perhaps nowhere else so badly as in the Pacific Northwest; and nowhere else were the results so good for the whites….
Thus, scientific arguments provided a rationale and a justification for the genocide and ruthless appropriation of Indian lands. Political rhetoric of the early 1800’s which was filled with optimism for the human race and the improvability of humankind gave way in 1850 to a strident “pessimism for inferior races and a belief in ineradicable racial weakness” (Horsman, 1975). In a popular work of the mid 1800’s phrenologist Combe argued that comparison of the heads of American Indians and Blacks demonstrated that Indian intellect was weaker but pride stronger therefore Blacks…
…were able to appreciate the superior moral and intellectual powers of the European race, and are content in some measure to live under their guidance.
The Indian on the contrary has refused to profit, to any great extent by the arts of literature of the Europeans and has always preferred death to servitude.
Bailey, who wrote as late as 1922, codified the scientific racist paradigm when he stated:
“From the statistics which relate to the two so-called primitive races, the African and the American Indian, it appears that the primitive could not under any present circumstances attain the average intelligence of cultured races. This appears to be so, not because there is any detailed information as to the potentiality of the primitive mind but because mental deficiency is so profuse that their average intelligence must be inferior to that of average European intelligence.”
Because Native alcoholism was understood to be a function of inferior biological stock, the treatment was death or near death. This view, turned on Native medicine and healers was examplified in a letter written in 1892 by Mrs. Willard, Christian Missionary who wrote:
It is here….I would speak of the Kling-get (Tlingit) fiend, the medicine man, and beg of those in authority to cause his extermination. His incantations should be held a crime and his uncut hair, his touch of power, should be shaved clean to his head; the whipping post and work under guard on public improvements would be better than a prison….(Dauenhauer, 1980)
These scientific “proofs” continued to assert innate Indian inferiority and establish complete confidence in ultimate Indian disappearance. In fact, scientific racism marched hand in hand with expansionists who at the close of the 19th century had exterminated more than twenty-five million Indian people!
Survivors of this “paradigm” became subject to the emerging cultural anthropological paradigm – at its worse a covert form of scientific racism and at its best, a harbinger of the golden age in Indian policy.
Cultural Anthropology, the Second View
In the birth of ethnography and cultural anthropology (beginning in the last part of the 19th century) the raciology and the evolutionism of scientific racism was repudiated. Boasian scholars such as Swanton, and later, Kroeber, espoused the idea of culture to explain the diversity of lifestyles of humankind. The cultural anthropological school separated biological heredity from the social transmission of culture, challenging previous work in the field.
Using empirical methodology, Boasian scholars stressed the import of replacing evolutionary history of Natives with actual history. They were convinced that tribal change, including alcoholism, happened more as a result of diffusion among tribes from a unilinear sequence of modifications in cultural perceptions and practices presumed by evolutionists.
This shift in thought produced dramatically different research. Radin (1972) wrote:
“the relationship of conquered to conqueror is important to both. Up to the present, all attempts that have been made to understand them, or to come to any reasonable adjustments with them have met with signal failure, and this failure is in most instances due to the scientific accredited theories of the innate inferiority of primitive man…”
Drawing on this earlier thinking, Lemert (1954) studied Haida and other Northwest tribes. His research indicated that alcoholism was not a function of race; that greatest drunkeness occurred when tribes were intensely involved in fur trade. Lemert argued that anomie, interclan rivalry and cultural conservatism were the most appropriate way to view Northwest Native alcoholism.
Lemert’s findings were typical of those in the flowering of cultural anthropology in the 1950’s. From this time forward, any discussion of Native alcoholism would include “culture”. The word “primitive” was no longer used to refer to Alaska Natives; empiricism became the method and major theories of deviance and social control became the philosophical underpinnings of future research.
The Sociocultural Model – A Third View of Native Alcoholism
The activism of American Indians, the Civil Rights Movement and the growth of the human sciences brought national attention and funds to the problem of alcoholism among Native people. The field exploded, producing more studies in a single decade than in the preceding fifty years. (Bates, 1980) More than half the literature continued to be anthropological (Leland, 1970) but the sociocultural model was emerging. This model,
derives from the view…that human behavior is the complex resultant of any interplay of biological and historical factors including interactions among systems that can be distinguished as those of the culture, the society and the individual…” (Berkhofer, 1970)
The contribution of the sociocultural model include: freeing Natives from the “ethnographic present” of anthropological research. No longer were Native people frozen in time. The model led to awareness that the effects of ethanol include social, economic, historical and cultural factors as well as chemical, physical and biological factors. Using history as a methodological tool, socio-cultural theorists have shown how attitudes, values and ways of drinking have changed in various ways and at different rates in many cultures. (Heath, 1980) Finally, this multi-disciplinary approach of the sociocultural model showed a propensity to get within the society being studied, to see history and life from the view of the people being studied.
The application of this science looked different from previous models. Psychiatrists and physicians including Bergman (1971) and Pascarosa (1976) participated in traditional Indian ceremonies and reported that Native science or way of coming to knowledge was efficacious, rigorous and humane. Native alcoholism and health sciences united. Alcoholism was viewed as a medical problem properly treated with technology. Publicly funded community programs struggled to integrate Western and Native healing techniques.
A second significant event that occurred was the emergence of the first generation of college educated Native scientists. This small group used the sociocultural model to talk with non-Native people about Native issues. Their work looked to external forces – historical, economic and political, as causative agents of Indian problems. The work was concerned with continuity, tended to be highly descriptive and combined realistic and spiritual themes.
The New Empiricism, a Fourth Model
Early sociocultural research produced a wealth of descriptive and explanatory studies but few claims were made for scientific rigor (Heath, 1980) and the need for definitive studies pushed empiricism to the fore (Nobel, 1976). The nascent cross-cultural scientific exchange was effectively halted as the study of “Native People” moved toward the harder sciences.
As a result of the new more rigorous and robust scientific empiricism, fundamental issues were raised regarding previous work. First scientists recognized that Native social problems are a complex phenomenon about which little is known; second, data collection and interpretation problems presented manifold problems and finally, the appropriateness of theoretical models was called into question.
“…it is not clear that the disease we call alcoholism is the same in both white and Indian societies or even that there is one unified pathology we call alcoholism. Those indicators, both behavioral and physiological, which have been used to diagnose alcoholism in the White society have been found to be determined in part by sociocultural factors. The behavioral indicators have been most frequently used to diagnose the presence of alcoholism in Indian populations. Since the association between these behaviors and either a physiological predispositions to drink has not been demonstrated, there must be an effort on the part of clinically oriented researchers to observe and measure the causative agents of alcoholism more directly if, in fact, this is possible…” (Nobel, 1976)
Lacking a precise definition or clear understanding of the variety of Native cultures meant that the new empiricism was confounded in its earliest efforts. And the increasing reliance on sophisticated analysis produced a new set of problems:
“There is a growing concern about where quantitative techniques are carrying us…our data manipulation techniques are carrying us…our data manipulation techniques have become increasingly complete mathematically sophisticated and governed by strict assumption, but, paradoxically, our interpretive frameworks which make such data meaningful have grown looser, more open ended, fluid and contingent…there seems to be rather widespread skepticism surrounding the ability of conventional data collection techniques to produce data that do not distort, do violence to, otherwise falsely portray the phenomena such methods seek to reveal…” (Van Mannen, 1979).
Thus, in the early 1980’s alcohol research and the science that guided the research were again in search of a paradigm that would work. Van Mannen observed:
“…there is something of a quiet reconstruction going on in the social sciences…There has come of age that significant realization that the people we study (and often seek to assist) have a form of life, a culture that is their own and if we wish to understand…we must first be able to both appreciate and describe their culture…”
Toward a New Paradigm
The sterility that characterized the findings of much of the “New Empiricism”, triggered a movement back towards holistic and qualitative research in Native alcoholism. Theories of Paulo Freire, South American educator, and research by UNESCO prompted researchers to look at culture in a very different way. Freire observed:
Research is a cultural action, if it has a humanist character, it is eminently dialogical and dialectical. In culture based research, “MEN DO NOT ACT ON OTHER MEN AS OBJECTS”.
Freire concluded that research should not be
“our research on you, but rather a research project in which, together, in dialogue, we will come to know each other better and the reality in which we find ourselves so that we can more effectively transform that reality”.
For the first time scientists began to recognize that Native people have a voice, and by extension, a way of knowing or science. Methodologies and approaches have evolved from this recognition. Popular writer, Milam, typifies the movement towards synthesis. While arguing for medical dominance of the filed he nevertheless recognizes that the “ism” in alcoholism necessarily involves a human or family system not merely the alcoholic. Participatory research, systems theory and family therapy all focus on relationships, development and the strengths of an existing system.
In Canada application of Native science has sparked a fire in Indian alcohol treatment. Tache a small reserve in British Columbia has used its mobile treatment model to move from 100% alcoholism to 95% sobriety. According to Maggie Hogson, Director of Nechi Training Institute, the spark has now jumped over to Alberta and other parts of Canada. The key to this phenomenal success lies in a careful integration of western treatment methodology and Native traditional ways.
These methods complement, native science and offer the possibility of intercultural scientific exchange. Native Alcohol work, usually the unwelcome relative to “harder” science, may draw on its theoretical underpinnings of wholism to assume leadership in the new pardigmatic shift. The firs step is to ask Native People, what is Indian science?
“…This is what Raven did for us…The shelter is the tree…”
Indian science, often understood through the tree, is holistic. Through spiritual processes it synthesizes or gathers information from the mental, physical, social and cultural/historical realms. Like a tree the roots of Native science go deep into the history, body and blood of the land. The tree collects, stores and exchanges energy. It breathes with the winds, which tumble and churn through greenery exquisitely fashioned to purify, codify and imprint life in successive concentric rings – the generations. Why and how the tree does this is a mystery but the Indian observes the tree to emulate, complement and understand his/her relationship to this beautiful, life-enhancing process.
The Meaning of Science
To the Indian, the tree is the first spirit or person on Earth. Indeed, the tree which oxygenated Earth’s atmosphere, is the precursor to our human existence. Because of its antiquity it is a respected Elder but the greatest power of Native Science lies in the reasons behind the trees existence.
When discussing the origins of the tree Chief Donawaak, Tlinget Elder says:
“This is where stories begin, there is no story before this…When Raven spirit and Black Raven are working on this land, they put coves in it where you can come in when it’s blowing – a place where you can come ashore.
My Great Grandfather who told this story to me said – the cove is where you’re going to be safe. If you pass that harbour you’re not going to go very far…you will tip over or drown. But if you come to the cove you will be safe. This is what Raven did for us. The shelter is the tree. You could get under the tree and stay there overnight. All this is what the Raven did…(Colorado, 1985)
From these words we see that Native science has a sacral basis and that its teachings are grounded in the natural world. The Navajo and the Natural World are one; he expresses that unity this way:
The foundation, you have to know your roots, where you are coming from. It is understood that we all come from God, God created us. But you have to understand in your own Indian way, where your roots are. You see a tree that is weak, about to give up. Sometimes you find people like that. Why is that tree just barely making it. Because the roots are not strong. If the roots are solid and strong, then you see the tree is strong and pretty. It can withstand cold, hot weather and winds. The human, has to have those roots because we are growing too. The Great Spirit put us here with nature. We have to understand the nature. That is why we understand how an animal behaves. That is why we have to talk to them. We don’t pray to them, we talk to them because they breathe the same air we do. We are put here with them. We are also a part of the plant life. We are always growing, we have to have strong roots. (Colorado, 1985)
Indeed all of life can be understood from the tree.
…just after the earths crust was formed Raven (the Creator) made the tree. Why did he make this tree? He made it to shelter us. Even before Raven broke light on the World, people took shelter from the tree. And after he broke light, look what your sitting on, what’s above you, it comes from the tree.
And that’s where the Tlingit gets his canoe, his house, his clothes – everything. The Raven put it there for him (the people).
And look, what’s growing under that tree? The grass. In the spring the Bear comes down to eat that grass and the wolf, the moose and the mountain goat. All these things, they come. And the berries, growing there – salal, salmonberry, huckleberry and beneath them, the plants, the medicine. All that, it comes from the tree… (Colorado, 1985)
So the roots and their functions form the basis of Native scientific methodology. Seeking truth and coming to knowledge necessitates studying the cycles, relationships and connections between things. Indeed a law of Native science requires that we look ahead seven generations when making decisions!
Principles of Native Science
Laws and standards govern Native science just as they do western science. In an Indian way, Bear who is the North, represents knowledge, healing and comfort. The Bear is also fierce, his claims are non-negotiable. Western Science understands Bear in terms of rigor, reliability, and validity.
In the spring Bear marks his territory on the tree. Stretching as far as possible, Bear uses his claws to score the tree. Other bears, passing by are challenged to meet this standard. If they cannot reach the mark they leave the territory. For the Native scientist the tree is not merely science but science interwoven inseparably with life. We meet the mark or die. Like the Bear passing through, no one watches us; the science relies on utmost integrity.
Native science assumes its character through power and peace. Vine Deloria (1986) noted Lakota scholar discusses its principles:
Here power and place are dominant concepts–power being the living energy that inhabits and/or composes the universe, and place being the relationship of things to each other…put into a simple equation: Power and place produce personality. This equation simply means that the universe is alive, but it also contains within it the very important suggestion that the universe is personal and, therefore, must be approached in a personal manner…The personal nature of the universe demands that each and every entity in it seek and sustain personal relationships. Here, the Indian theory of relativity is much more comprehensive than the corresponding theory articulated by Einstein and his fellow scientists. The broader Indian idea of relationship, in a universe very personal and particular, suggests that all relationships have a moral content. For that reason, Indian knowledge of the universe was never separated from other sacred knowledge about ultimate spiritual realities. The spiritual aspect of knowledge about the world taught the people that relationships must not be left incomplete. There are many stories about how the world came to be, and the common themes running through them are the completion of relationships and the determination of how this world should function.
Deloria notes that there is no single Native science, each tribe or Nation follows ways specific to a locale. However, the tree and the Bear are nearly universal. From South America to the Arctic, the tree and all that it implies has been guiding and shaping the thought of Native people since the dawn of humanity. Those who follow this natural science do so in search of balance, harmony or peace with all living relations. Iroquois call this SKANAGOAH.
The Goal of Indian Science
Skanagoah, literally interpreted as “great peace”, is the term used to describe the still, electrifying awareness one experiences in the deep woods. This feeling or state of balance is at the heart of the universe and is the spirit of Native science. For the western educated audience, the notion of a tree with spirit is a difficult concept to grasp. The English language classifies reality into animate and inanimate objects, with most things falling into the inanimate classification. Native languages do not make the same distinction. As Deloria says, the universe is alive. Therefore, to see a Native speaking with a tree does not carry the message of mental instability, on the contrary, this is a scientist engaged in research!
Put another way, western thought may accede that all natural things are imbued with energy. Much like the electromotive force in a capacitor, the force of the energy is transmitted without there being a direct flow of energy. If you had a piece of wire, electricity would travel from one end to the other uninterrupted. But if you put a capacitor in the line, the force is transmitted from one side to the other without there being a direct flow of electricity form one side to the other. This is how energy is transferred from tree to tree to tree to person without there being a direct flow of energy. The spiritual energy of a tree isn’t transmitted directly but rather its life force is felt. Like a capacitor, the thickness of the dielectric, the physical distance between the person and the tree, is not important; the exchange still occurs.
This exchange suggest that human beings play a vital part in Skanagoah. Western thought teaches the value of the specialist, especially to the masses who are mostly generalists. In an Indian way, we may think of the Bear as a specialist, indeed, if I compete with the Bear in his own environment and on his terms, there is no way I can match his proficiency. But the generalist, in this case, human beings determine the continuance of Bear’s habitat. We are related, we are all one, life and death, good and bad, we are all one. The Indian acknowledges this and so discovers the most liberating aspect of Native science; LIFE RENEWS and all things which support life are renewable.
The struggle through Native alcoholism has repeatedly brought two peoples together. Let us hope that the fire of sobriety sparked in northern communities, spreads south and our sciences lead the way.
The Bear Has Made His Mark…
Can you Reach It?
Sacred Indian view of life may save planet, academics say
by Dana Flavelle
They couldn’t be more unalike. Pam Colorado, small and dark, is a North American Indian who grew up in the wilderness learning the ancient ways of her people at her grandfather’s side.
David Peat, tall and pale, is an Englishman from Liverpool who spent his early childhood cultivating a passion for modern science.
But years later, as accomplished academics in very different fields, Colorado and Peat have found a bond in their mutual search for new ways to heal our troubled planet.
War, environmental disasters and the high cost of technologically based health care are a few of the problems that must be addressed in radically new ways, and quickly, they say.
“In my opinion, the problems facing the Earth are critical,” says Colorado, who is now a professor of social work and native studies at the University of Calgary.
“Conventional science has missed something,” says Peat, a physicist, author and consultant based in Ottawa. “It has given us an incredibly detailed map of the world, which is very useful. But it has had a lot of unpleasant side effects… deterioration of the ozone layer, global warming and things like that.”
To share their views, the pair were in Toronto to address a group of 30 other interested academics, environmentalists and futurists at a conference sponsored by the Institute for Cultural Affairs.
Providing forums for leading edge thinkers such as Colorado and Peat is one of the functions of the independent, non-profit institute.
The cause of many of the world’s problems is modern scientific thought, with its overly simplistic, mechanistic view of nature, Peat believes. Every time we try to fix one problem, we seem to create another.
Colorado thinks the solution may lie in the past, in what she calls “indigenous science.”
Put simply, indigenous science refers to the native people’s view that everything in the world is sacred and interconnected and, in many ways, beyond our control.
It’s a concept that, coincidentally, is in vogue among leading-edge Western scientists such as Peat, who have come to some of the same conclusions through the chaos theory of physics.
“It’s that sense that we’re all part of a great web of life in which everything plays a role and has to be respected,” Peat says.
Take the problem of acid rain, for example. The conventional approach is to pass laws limiting emissions from coal-fired hydroelectric plants. The indigenous approach might be to re-examine the lifestyle that creates the high demand for those plants in the first place.
“By looking at the world differently, you begin to change your values. You may become less concerned with the whole notion of progress,” Peat says.
He and Colorado are also trying to spread their ideas through the World Wide Indigenous Science Network, a group Colorado founded two years ago in Alberta. Intended to bridge the gap between modern Western and ancient native thinking, the network counts about 60 academics, business people and anyone else interested in healing the planet among its members.
Its lines of communication now reach as far as California, Mexico City, Hawaii, New Zealand, Nigeria, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines. By starting this dialogue between native and non-native people, Colorado hopes to create profound social and personal change around the world.
The notion that there might be an indigenous science with something positive to contribute to society came to her slowly and painfully.
For many years, while struggling up the academic ladder toward her PhD in social sciences, she worked hard at hiding the fact, even from herself, that she is Indian.
“As a native person, I was raised with the same myths and stereotypes you were: that we were stupid, primitive types and all we did was follow the animals around. I watched the Lone Ranger and Tonto and all that stuff growing up, so that was my idea of what being Indian meant.”
Suddenly, in the late ’70s, on the verge of finishing her thesis, she hit a roadblock. She couldn’t write the required outline for the last four chapters.
It took a year and half of agonizing over blank pages before she realized what was holding her back: A sacred native belief that you can never presume the outcome of any endeavor.
I’s like the Dene hunter who, faced with an empty larder, puts on his parka, packs up his gun and says: “I’m going for a walk.” He would never say “I’m going hunting.
“I realized then that we don’t just have different cultures, we native people have a science of our own, a way of coming to knowledge of our own… We go for a walk. We come prepared, we keep ourselves open… but it’s not up to us to decide what the conclusion will be.
“In a Western social scientific way I was being told to outline where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. It was exactly the opposite.”
That revelation marked the beginning for Colorado of a long journey back to embrace her native origins as an Oneida Indian and member of the Six Nations.
It has sometimes been painful. Watching the army and Quebec police battle it out with Mohawk Warriors over disputed Indian land in Oka this summer both saddened and terrified her.
Over the next few years, the indigenous science network is planning to stage three major events aimed at boosting public awareness of some of the problems the world is facing.
There will be a walk along an Inca trail, a trek across North America from Canada into Siberia and a voyage around the Pacific in ocean-going canoes, in each case following the routes taken by indigenous peoples centuries earlier.
Dr. Apela Colorado
272-2 Pualai St.
Lahaina, Maui, HI.
25 OCT. 2001
Greetings return to you, Dr. Colorado, in the love and in the light of the ancestors, The Source of Life.
My apologies for the delay in responding to your request. My attention was toward a sacred site in Kona, Project Hokuli’a. All is well for the moment and maybe the ancestral bones would return to its place through the court order. Anyway, here is the information I received for your request.
HEALERS ORGANIZING A COUNCIL OF ELDERS
Here is the echo of the ancestral thoughts:
Here is Kanaka Lawelawe, the servant; this energy is all about do anything, be anything, try anything. It is typified by the “DOER”, a being who does, and does. The mana is that of EXPERIENCING, regardless of purpose, regardless of outcome, regardless. The energy is part “I AM” and “I WANT”in the ancestral Sea of Time
In this place, The Sea of Time, we exist and experience. Duration leads to sequence, and we separate then from now, this from that, and you from me. Everybody wants to do something; we stir. Entered Na Po’ai Ali’i, The Circle of Kings (Round Table?)
The Circle of Kings is in the Ancestral House of The Spirit Incarnate and is the gift of “I PROJECT”. It is the gift of togetherness. If I AM to project myself, there is nothing I would like more than to be in good company. The Circle is UNITY, the commonality of all things, all a part of a whole, and the gift’s achievement in the world is PARTICIPATION, every person acting like a part of a whole. Entered KAUILA NUI MA KE HA I KALANI: The Lourd Lightening of Kaihelani.
The ancestor, KAUILA NUI MA KE HA I KALANI, LIGHTNING, is a condition that is CRITICAL, one that seem to border on chaos, yet is loaded with energy. It is a condition that is unstable; something is bound to happen, but no one knows where the lightening (Lightning) will strike. It is a state in which great amounts of energy are unleashed. What may have been static before is now undeniably dynamic and powerful. Kauila nui ma ke ha i kalani dwells in the Ancestral House of the Matrix; the combination of the energies of IMPULSE and REACHING. Entered the counsel of the Ancestral Healing Stone, KALAMA ‘ULA.
The Ancestral Healing Stone, Kalama’ula, dwells in the Ancestral House of Perfect Form and in the realization of “I PERFECT”. The challenge on the alanui (Path) of perfection is dealing with all the things along the path that get in the way.
Kalama’ula perceived as a obstacle stands (6x6x6) in my way, stops my forward progress. If I look at the same block of stone in a slightly different light, it can appear as a PROBLEM. Now it is something that must be figured out, solved, before I can go on.
But I can cross the subtle line of perception and see the ancestor, KALAMA’ULA as KUMUPA’A (FOUNDATION), a solid foundation built and established with the strength of compassion, a footing, a stepping stone. Now, The Ancestor, KALAMA’ULA, is not in my way; Kalama’ula as building, something to build with, or blocks as stepping stones ahead of me. The question is: When is an impediment and impediment? The answer is: When I say so.
Kalama’ula is the realization for Na Maka o Kaha’i, her seas of LABYRINTHS (HO’O POHIHIHI) and the Southern sea of quiet flowers (KE KONA KAI OPUA I KALAI).
Here in this place, getting involved creates access and inner completion makes the way out of the sea of Labyrinths.
Over this sea shines the Star of Independence where spontaneity creates a way in and decisiveness makes the way out of the sea of quiet flowers.
We are all making drastic modifications in our lives. We are all re-connecting to the Source. And as we all endeavor to re-connect rest assured all our paths will go in different directions, but all knowing the destination will be one and the same.
For it is not what service you DO, it is the love (aloha) with which you do this service that makes all services equal. It is the quality of love with which you do it.
The being of doing needs to begin with being to respond to the call for service.
With the permission of the ancestors, I leave you, Dr. Colorado, in the love and in the light of the ancestors, The Source of Life; rejoicing in the power and the peace braided with the cords of patience, revealing the tapestry of aloha.
Sincerely in service,