Tag Archives: Pamela Colorado

Study Notes on Social Welfare

April 9, 87.

Study notes on Social Welfare. I.

Note I. On Sensuality of Human Relations.

Ref: Gil/Gil Toward Social and Economic Justice (Conference M. 23-25, ’84. Brandeis U.) Schenkman Pub.Co. 1985. HN65 T683.

R.H. Tawney Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, Hazell, Watson & Viney, 1926

Karl Polanyi The Great Transformation, Beacon, 1944.

Morris Bermann The Reenchantment of the World, Cornell U press, 1982.

Golo Mann The History of Germany Since 1789, Penguin, 1974 (1968)

That contradictions move the history

“The forced Choice: Making Change vs. Helping People” by Ann Withorn (in Gil/Gil p 3) talks of the history of social welfare in the U.S. The history is a series of struggles among “humanitarians”, “social reformers”, and “bureaucrats”. The struggle shaped what Social Welfare is. As such the “social welfare” is a bundle of contradictions. But one could ask what ever moved in the history without contradictions. Only the lifeless and immobile can be in a perfectly unified harmony and static equilibrium. Motion needs non-equilibrium, which is contradiction in a political language.

Social welfare, in the form we have today, started under Bismarck in the 1880’s (Golo Mann p 375) [The reason for Bismarck to initiate the “Social Insurance” is said to be an election gimick to appease workers and lure them out of the camp of the Social Democrat Party.] And the history of Germany is a bundle of contradictions, in which the history of Socialism is a part. Marx was there with Bismark. And the emergence of Nazi—National Socialist Party—under Hitler was not unrelated to the history of Social Welfare there.

Before that time, European peasants and workers had “communal” mutual-help networks. It was destroyed as a part of “the ancient regime” in the bourgeoise revolution. The term “Fraternity” in the three word slogan of French Revolution disappeared from the Declaration of Human Right 1792. The revolutionaries kept only “Liberty” and “Equality”, and only in individualistic senses.

The Socialism, of both “Utopian” and “Scientific” inclinations, was a response of the dying “community” to the Bourgeoise Modernization which breeded both “Socialization” and “Individualization”. And the modern “Nation-State” emerged with centralized ruling power, atop huge bureaucracy, military, industry, nationwide monetary system, and mass-education. If we count those huge organizations in the side of the “Socialization” process, then the “Individualization” is a retreat of people into small “fox holes” for each under the heavy bombardments by the Socialization Process. This is another contradiction that moved the modern history.

2. Social Welfare as a ruin of communal life

Social Welfare try to regain some aspects of the “commune” of the “ancient regime”. In the “good old days” of the “primitive commune life, people took care of neighbours in troubles. They looked after children in communal co-operation. Foods were shared in many occasions. Enjoyments in life were by and large in the form of communal celebration. Even disputes between man and wife were often “appealed” to the community and settled on street.

We do still use the public forum for marriage ceremony and funeral rite. But we lost the sense of “community” even in them. We think of them as “Private” matter, despite their public display. Whether or not we believe in humanism, liberalism, socialism, or capitalism in our intellectual life, our “feeling” is deeply “individualistic”. That is to say, we lost our roots to the “community”.

People, not too long ago, used to do things for each other on the basis of “human relationship”. Their relationship was “Sensual”. Today, we have replaced it by Money or Power. Although “Humanitarian” sentiments emerged with the Bourgeoise Revolution, with the “rationalism”, and “materialism”, — note that the “humanism” as we know is a new phenomenon in the Modern Age—, it stayed outside the “distance” considered to be “Sensual”. We literally lost “Human Touch”. Even the articles in Gil’s volume keep the cold bourgeoise “distance” from Human Sensuality. Except Pamela Colorado’s article, none of the authors collected in the volume come close enough to talk about the need of “Human touch” in Social Welfare. [see E.T. Hall The Hidden Dimension, for the “distance”]

Human beings are “sensual”. And the very basis of our relationships of any kind is sensuality of ours. Yet, in our social interactions, we do not consider it “rational”, nor “decent” to admit that, in other than “private” contexts. We use the Power of Command, or Exchange of Money for the social transactions.

Even the essay from Feminist point of view (Feminist Thought Structure; by Ruth A. Brandwein) does not touch the “Sensuality” of humans. Nor the article titled “Humans, Nations, and Nature” (by Elise Boulding) touches on what is it that makes “Human Relations”; i.e. Sensuality. Of course, in an academic conference in North America today it is hardly expected any way. [I do sense that Elise Boulding would gladly discuss Sensuality in informal small group discussion. She could even be passionate about it. But in formal academic conferences, it is not “respectable” nor “intellectual” enough to talk about Sensuality.]

But, the existence of a taboo does tell us about the “cultural” context in which thinking and practices in Social Welfare are carried.

3. Sensuality as Hypothesis.

I imagine that good academics would challenge me to demonstrate that the Sensuality is fundamental to human relations. I shall have to attempt that elsewhere. In the meantimes, I mention Reich’s theory of Sensuality (metaphysics of “Orgon”) explained by Morris Bermann in The Reenchantment of the World. [Cornell U. Press 1982] Bermann’s exposition is highly recommended for its reference to the historical dynamics in which “return to sensuality” has become significant and urgent. Also, there are literatures on this subject from Freudian Psychoanalysis — Freud, Fromm, Marcuse, Foucault, et al.

But, once recognized as a “hypothesis” (metaphysics) or even as a “suspicion”, the consideration of Sensuality would have changed the “perspective” and hence the course of the whole discussion. Both issues of “Making Change” (of socio-political-economic-cultural structure) and “Helping People” can be seen as problems of how much Sensuality our society is able to handle and in what forms (ritual formats). We are asked of our competence to handle our need of Sensual touches, in what extent, in what contexts.

Abstract notions like “Social and Economic Justice” are not only more obscure than sensuality but also a means to “rationalization”, i.e. concealment of, the fundamental issue/problem.

Also, I equated “forms” and “ritual formats”. That is, for itself, a deviation from the “rationalistic” rhetoric of the article by Withorn and others. I imagine that many of Social Welfare Experts, Professionals and Researchers are familiar with Social Psychology, Psychoanalysis etc., if not theoreticians in those fields. Many of them read Freud, Marcuse, Foucault, et al., or they themselves have written texts on Sex, Sexuality, Sensuality, etc. Yet, there is no sign in Withorn’s lecture that their knowledge on Human Sensuality is their “working knowledge”.

To be sure, display of knowledge is not the purpose of the conference. Rather, they were discussing serious problems in the field of Social Welfare Works (Ideology, Philosophy, Theory, Strategies, etc.). Hence, the question is; What help considerations of Sensuality would have brought in the discussions?

I shall have to answer that question.

That means no less than a total reconstruction of social theories on the basis of Sensuality—describing political-economical systems and their dynamics in references to Sensuality—. It would be re-animation or reenchantment of political economy. It also has to touch upon phenomena such as Alienation and to articulate on what “Culture” is. [For I am insinuating that “Cultures” are ways of accommodating and controlling Sensuality.]

[An immediate suggestion following from consideration of Sensuality is a strategy of shifting the “agency centered-ness” to “community centered-ness”. That implies a shift to “cultural approach”, from the German style political, economic approach. This require discussions.]

That is my “home work”. In what follows below, I shall give a sketch of a study program.

4. Economy viewed from the need of sensual relations.

Sensuality manifests in various forms. And many of its “symptoms” are disguised and distorted. We also see “pathological” cases, due to lack thereof.

But let us start with a common sense meaning. In our street language, we say “Human Touch” etc., referring to the Sensuality.

In shopping markets, people expect a “smile” from the sales person to whom they come in contact with. They come to a close distance to the sales person. They may exchange a few words incidental to the business transaction. The “human touch” is not considered to be a “necessary” requirement for the transaction, but it is there. And in terms of the business, manipulation of such an “irrational” factor is, in fact very important for the commercial success. The “smile” may well be “professional” and a deception, but nonetheless employed for the effect (affect).

Psychotherapists noted that people in stress or under depression go to shopping as a self-therapy. People seek “human touch”, though their motive may be concealed and the form (ritual) is a disguise. Some of us go to bars and pay for a drink, but the business transaction in fact buy the context in which we can talk with bartender or the other customers there. The drink is rather incidental to our main purpose.

[Question: What significance Sensuality has in Alcoholism? Any Therapeutic significance?]

5. Ambivalence in Sensuality.

That people seek Sensual Relations and at the same time hide the need of Sensual Relation is an important aspect of the Sensuality for itself.

What E.T. Hall talked about in terms of “Space that people keep around them” [in The Hidden Dimension] is one example of “Sensuality Management”. Hall did not explicitly mention Sensuality, but the “Touch” implied in interpersonal space is a neutral way of describing Sensuality allowed within the “ethical standard” in our science-scholarship as a sub-culture.

There is something that make people “Fear”, “Anxious”, while they are drawn to it. They would give all sorts of excuses to disguise their need of Sensual Relations, particularly between and among “macho” men. One can suspect that physical fights and even combats in wars are “disguises” and excuses for them to “touch” each other.

[In this respect, the modern warfares, particularly Nuclear War, are unsatisfactory. They can be fought in “rationalized abstraction”. “Intellectualizations” which represses “physical” aspects of human life leads to such an atrocity. This is an important issue to discuss.]

6. The Capitalism and Sensuality.

The Capitalist system, on one hand, inhibit our Sensual Relations—the “alienated work” is not sensual—. On the other hand, it exploits our need of Sensual Relations in the market. [see Freud. If we read Polany, Tawney, et al, with awareness of Sensuality, we can see that they have touched upon the problems. Max Weber (The Rise of Capitalism and the Spirit of Protestant Ethics) avoided Sensuality. Weber was, perhaps, privately aware of Sensual nature of religions, but refrained saying anything about it. Talk on Sensuality was a taboo.]

The Capitalists may not buy and sell commodities for their Sensual Needs. [As to the Sensual meaning of their sense of “Power”, we shall come to discuss later.] But, outside goods for our physiological survival, we as consumers, buy things for our “psychological” needs, by and large. Of course, the distinction between what are “physical” and what are “psychological” is not clear to us—for we like to disguise, and the commercial interests like us to be as unclear as possible. But, asides academic arguments, such as “psychology” is nothing other than “physiology”, the distinction can be made practical enough for our considerations.

From that, in the sense of Gedanken Experiment, we can imagine to be natives standing at a shore buying beads and trinkets from the European traders. We do not really need the beads and trinkets. We came there by our “curiosity” more than anything else. And the “curiosity” is one of manifestation of our Sensuality. We might make analogy of it to “a girl looking at a boy” and vice versa. The “Trade” is an act of intimacy disguised. We have started “Trade” as “Exchanges of Gifts” which are expressions of affections.

Here, I point out a political ideology of the Classical Economics which talks of “Trade” in terms of “Scarcity”. That is patently false. Trade start with “Surplus”, not from “Scarcity”. In this, even Marx was in the Classical Economics. The ghost of Scarcity came in there because the intellectualization required the “logic of necessity” to go with the “logical necessity” of their stories (theory). In the Age of Rationality, or more precisely in a desire to emulate Newtonian Mechanics, the scholars-scientists-intellectuals, wanted Determinism. And the Determinism was a mirror image of their desire to make “Compelling arguments”. Marx could not escape from this.

[Here comes an entanglement of Sensuality and Power sensation. But I shall have to discuss this later.]

Today, we are not trading like the natives on the shore did. We have introduced a technology called “Money”. Money insulate our Sensuality and brings us to the side of Power relations. Otherwise, we would have difficulties in trading with total strangers, and sometimes even those whom we consider enemies. [Americans can sell wheat to Russians, because of the technology of Money. But on the other hand, the trade may very well be an expression of a repressed “affinity” between two group of people. At least it keep one channel of communication open amidst the intense hostility.]

7. Why cannot admit our Sensuality? Question of Power.

If our “economy” is mainly for Sensual Relations, then why we are having troubles like “unemployment”, “poverty” which required Social Welfare?

Why cannot we just “share” things for the satisfaction of our Sensual needs?

The point is that we do not admit that we are seeking for Sensual Relations. If we did, our Economic System would collapse. We are dependent on the system—welfare profession and welfare researchers would be unemployed, if the system that creates the problems is desolved—. I would not have had an intellectual satisfaction in writing this, if the problem does not exist. [If I wish to be “immortal” in making a theory of Sensual Economy, the problem have to last forever!]

This brings us to the problem of Power.

Power is a substitute for Sensual satisfaction. And it is “safer” in that Power is one-way”, whereas Sensual Relation is “two-way” (mutual) or worse “loss of control”. Relations brings “entanglements”, which we “individualists” do not wish to have. Business transactions are simpler and we feel confident in them to keep a sense of control. But even in businesses, we cannot shut our sensuality off completely, and hence we go into Power channel (“Power Trip”).

So if we wish satisfaction our own without others, we choose Power. Henry Kissinger once remarked that Power is the best Aphrodisiac. And , the Power structures allow us to be “affectionate” with each other without “shame”. We call it “Loyalty”, “Togetherness”, “Team Work”, “Patriotism”, “Fellowship”, “Class Consciousness”, etc.

The way the US marines stick together and care for each other is far more close and emotionally “intense” than that between homosexual men. But, US marines would be very much offended if someone suggest them the “Sensuality” of their relations. Our loyalty to “Profession” is also one example of those. We have internal “Love-Hate”relationship among us, but looked from outsiders we are very “close” in covering for each other. It is well known that people have a great difficulty obtaining a medical doctor to take a stand against another doctor, and it is the same about lawyers, policemen, etc.

If there is not for the Power Structure—which function as “exclusive clubs” for limited membership for each—we would have troubles satisfying our Sensual needs. To be sure, the Power Structures come with Rituals which limit and control the forms and the extent of Sensualness allowed. Orgy parties like wars are allowed in disguises to deny Sensuality. As the white collar workers themselves allude often, business offices of corporations are like “Harems” consisting of intellectual “Prostitutes” . Expressions like “kissing ass” are in part expressions of revulsion, but they are in part accurate descriptions of the Sensuality. The power provides for the excuses and disguises. And in turn, the Power positions satisfy their perverted Sensuality.

8. Sensual Utopia, The “Primitive Commune”.

Let us try another gedanken experiment. Suppose we devised some way of accommodating the human need for Sensual Relations without the disguises. Then, we would not need much of Economic Inequality. We would not need too much concentration of Political Power. Social Welfare would lose much of its case loads, though human relations are complex enough to leave enough problems.

We can concentrate on the tasks of constructing and maintaining “communes”. We would have networks of “soul mates” to replace institutions like churches, universities, professional associations, etc.

Of course, this is an Utopia. Marx would ask us how in a hell we get there without Power Struggles. Sensuality is good and dandy—Marx did not deny it, but being merely contemptious of it—but how anyone can “manage” it? How is it “controlled” and “distributed? It does not involve “money”, but just the same, it does take time and place, energy expenditure, physcial facilities and above all some “mental” engagements.

Or one might worry, if an open acknowledgement of our Sensuality might break the flood gate checking homosexual orgy in social scales. The result might be worse than wars—save all-out Nuclear war. What are we going to do about AIDS? Who is going to do “production works” Material needs may be less and consequently environmental damage may be less, but what would limit the “hedonistic orgy”? Can human body take all that “pleasures”,  without going into insanity?

etc, etc.

I do not know answers to those questions. Except for the “primitive” small communities that anthropologists wrote about, I do not know of practices of “Sensual Society”. In Freudian sense “Society” and “Sensuality” are polar opposites, and cannot be put in the same quotation marks.

H. Marcuse (Eros and Civilization), E. Fromm (The Art of Loving), M. Foucault (The History of Sexuality), Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex) et al. have been talking about these problems.

9. Religions as Controllers of Sensuality

[home work. Jesus and Mary Magdalenas (p.). Kazanzakis Last Temptation of Jesus Christ.]

10. Sensuality in Physical Sciences.

It is, perhaps, a common notion that Physical Sciences are “cut and dry”, having no trace of human feelings, except “pride” and “righteousness”. In such images, “science” is the furthest, among all human engagements, from Sensuality.

people may have read about in newspapers that there are fights among scientists about a plan of constructing a big atom smasher which costs some 6 billion dollars. Some scientists argue that the money can better be spent on other areas of science which does not cost one tenth as much, etc. Then they would have seen that the issue is essentially “political” one, concerning choice among “value feelings” of various group of scientists engaged in different areas.

Today, “science” as such is impossible without a huge money. So the fight is a matter of Life and Death for the scientists involved. And the basis of the fight is their “Subjective Feeling”—firstly about their job security and secondly about the worth of what they are specialized in.

But, perhaps, that is not the public image of “Science”. The majority today might think of Einstein in association with the word “science”. Since the case of Einstein has been well advertised, its popularity is not surprising. However, the worshipers of Einstein may not realize that Einstein is “special”. Not too many scientists are like Einstein, though they might like to pretend so.

Ninety-nine percent of some half million scientists in the world earn their living, just like factory workers, by carrying on routines. Some do computational routines. Some do teaching routines. There are very little opportunity for them to be creative and original like Einstein. In fact, his school record shows that Einstein was a failure in carrying on “scientific routines”.

Nonetheless, Einstein does represent an “Ideal” of what science “should be”. I do not underestimate the importance of Ideals in social psyche. Even if they may be illusions, they do affect the way a society collectively thinks and behaves. The “affect” may be like “betrayal” and worse than if they were not there—say in the case of Jesus, or Marx. They are “Powerful”, good or bad.

Do let me talk about the ideals of “science”, disregarding the majority practices which are quite different, if not shams. And one of well praised characteristics of the Ideal Science is the “Curiosity”.

Of course, pure curiosity like that of boys about female anatomy does not qualify to be “scientific”. We do have certain prejudices, taboos, value sensations, and artificial discriminations about this. But, let us be charitable and say that “The Pure Curiosity” is the well spring of the genuine science.

Now, what about this curiosity? Is it not a part of “Emotion”? Is it not a part of our Irrationality? Why should anyone be curious about the existence of the Fifth Dimension, any more (or any less) than “If God Exist?”, or “What makes Dick ticks?” And what those seekers are doing?

If the seeker is indeed free of our ordinary greed and power thirst, then we might describe the seeker to be “trying to communicate” with the Nature, Universe, etc. And if they description is apt, the motive of the seeker is Sensual Relations with the Mother Nature, Universe, etc. The curiosity that we praise in our ideal is an attempt to have an Intimate Relation with the Nature. It is a form of Sensuality.

Of course, the alienated scientists in the profession do not attempt such a thing. They lost curiosity, if they have not “burned out” already and hardly interested in “science” other than as the means to their incomes. Anyone who examine science texts in schools and universities, would find them to be nothing more than texts for “obedience training”, not fostering “curiosity”. Teachers who encourage children to be curious know that they are handling a delicate matter with Sensuality which requires an acute sensitivity and warm understanding. There is nothing short of “Love of it” does the job. Only because they are aware of the Taboo against saying it “Sensual”, they skirt around saying so. And the regulations, rules, etc. imposed by the “Education System” restricts what they can do in the contexts of “school works”. The likelihood is that the Potential Einsteins are exterminated in the system.

[To be sure, there are practical considerations as to How Many Einstein (or Jesus) our society could possibly stand for. Probably one in a century is already more than it can take. For the case of Jesus, one per two thousand years is already too much. The question is the same as How Much Sensual Relations one can take, without blowing oneself up. One can also say this perhaps for “Spirituality”, “Truth” etc. Just because one was good, the more may not be better. We ought to think about this.]

Draft 10/01/87/.

April 11, 87. p. 12.

Study notes on Social Welfare II.

Note II. Culture Based Networking.

11. Does the awareness of Sensuality make any difference in practices?

We have not done theoretical articulation on Human Sensuality. But, if there would not be practical differences, there is no point in articulating the theory.

Most anybody knows the importance of “Human Touch” and if that is all in the “Sensuality Paradigm”, we are back to where we started. Namely, we started discussion on Social Welfare, because we are unable to provide Human Touch in sufficient scale, due to structural constraints, economic reality, prevalent political ideology, etc. Perceiving humans to be sensual does not help, unless there are practical consequences from the perception. Does the perception suggest any new strategy?

We have one suggestion for a practical strategy stated (made by Colorado) in the section 3. above [p.4]. That was “Cultural Approach”. We shall do a follow-up consideration here to test our idea. Also by discussing practical strategy, we hope to shape a “theory”. This is our way of articulating a theory (idea)—the method of thinking experiment.

In a sense, “Social welfare” was a response to an emergency situation created by the Modernization of “community to society”. The major paradigm of the Modernization was “progress” concerning with technological advances which are collectively called “Civilization”. “Culture” was a forgotten entity, misidentified with and subsumed under “Civilization”. And worse, European prejudice made it “Uniformitarian Ideology”. Modern minds could not see Cultures in other peoples than the one perceived through European Civilization/Technology.

And even if the “modern mind” sensed something “cultural” in a romantic fancy, it was thought of something extra like jewels, perfumes, silk dresses and top hats, pomps and ceremony—that which royalties, aristocrats had and did. “Culture” is perceived as a “luxury”, not essential to practical daily life. It was not a part of the “necessity”. Hence, the “modern mind” could not see peasants, workers having a “culture”, let alone the “primitive natives” in colonies. It used to be said that those poor people were “Deprived of Culture”. Until very recently, the “modern mind” could not recognize “cultures” of various peoples. We today talk even of “sub-cultures”— “drug culture”, “bourgeoise culture”, “peasant culture”. And some of us belatedly became enlightened enough to acknowledge “Native Cultures”, which is a recent phenomenon since 1980.

If “Culture” is not in the working vocabulary of Social Welfare officers and scholars, perhaps it is forgiven. Social Welfare is for “deprived people”, not for “people with culture” which implies luxury.

And for that matter, “Human Touch” etc. were also considered to be luxury. Even philanthropists could not imagine that those “poor wretched people” in deprived life could afford to have “feelings”. Feelings and Emotions were for privileged well-to-do people, such as the Queen in story books who says “We are not amused”. Suppose the “poor wretched” have said “We are not having fun in being poor”, what would have been the reaction of the philanthropists? I would imagine neither Social Welfare workers out there are having fun. We are not amused with the situation. But the feeling of displeasure of the Queen counts. Whereas the feeling of the Poor does not count.

The recipients of the Social Benefits are, by the “definition”, must be in such a deprived state that they cannot possibly have any feeling let alone “Culture”. This is an Axiom.

Besides, in our Money Transaction Ritual, we have a peculiar Myth that those who receive money shall shame themselves to be without human dignity. The ritual of Money Transaction is the evidence for “Prostitution”. During the paid hours, workers are Slaves—ones who sold their souls to the Devil. Giving Money degrades, hence, it is not a Gift but an Insult. Yet, we live by the ritual of Money Transaction. This brings further complications to our situation. Giving Money does not solve the problem.

The “Culture Based Networking” attempts to reinstate human touch in the social dynamics. That have to start by declaring “Humans are Sensual” for a “shock value”. We have to wake up our minds by the shock to see it. And, once recognized, it has to become a declaration of a Human Right. To say “Humans are Sensual” is a declaration the “Every Human being has unalienable Right to be Sensual”. And a “Culture” is the way of accommodating sensual needs of the people in a community. [I acknowledge the above sounds like “Social Engineering for sensual needs”, and hence inadequate. But hopefully the discussions following will correct some of its deficiency.]

Now, how we do the Culture Based Networking?

We cannot dictate what people “ought to feel”. We cannot “design” sensuality of people, as if we design a car or computer. To begin with “being sensual” means not only be aware of one’s own needs, but it means “to feel other’s needs”. One cannot be “sensual” without recognizing other “sensual beings”. It is essential that we go beyond the “being nice to” (charitable) sense of Human touch to the recognition of Sensual Beings, who are capable of their own thinking-feelings. It is a dignified right of their to have their sensual needs. And for that reason, we respect them as worthy companions of Sensual Relationships. By this we transcend the level of “charity”—the level that one might have in “loving pets”.

However, even the children caring for pets, they are sensual to the degree they entertain a feeling that the pets have the very same sort of feelings as they do. This is the Principle of Sensuality; that it is a mutual relationship between “sovereign beings” equally capable of the dignity comparable to the one which can say “we are amused, or not amused” and it has to matter and it does matter. If one deny this respect, the sensuality is killed. We then have a relation with “Objects”.

Another useful example for us is the way poets “feel” (perceive) the Universe. Sensuality is essential in poetry. Call it “metaphor”, “emotional projection”, etc. But without the unity shared in deep feelings, or hurts stem from injuries to that, poetry cannot exist.

[There apparently are some linguistic philosophers who deny the possible existence of “Other Minds”. I suppose from Cartesian Metaphysics, nobody but “I” has the “Mind” and others are moving “Objects”. We shall have to discuss this later.]

And Pam Colorado means a lot deeper root than what I so far discussed in terms of the Dignity and Respect. She talks of Cultures in which people find a natural right of dignity. And she even goes to the Spiritual Realm where all humans may be “soul brother and spiritual sisters”. It came from the Origin of Life in the Universe. I am not capable of addressing to such a depth, I shall have to wait for her to speak.

[She might object this term “sensual”, and insist “Spiritual”. That is too heavy for me to touch from my science background, though I can sense that the Spirituality is at the the base of what I called “sensual”.

My “scientific” objection to her “Spirituality” is that if human race has reached a level of being in which the Spirituality can meaningfully be talked about, there is no need to discuss about mundane things like Social Welfare.

In a sense , we are in a Hell, that is why we talk of sensuality.]

At any rate, Sensual Relations cannot be forced, commanded, nor demanded. It can only be Respected and admired.

Thus, dictatorship is out. We have to “let it happen”.

However, we can take two actions.

Remove obstacles.

Provide better Environment.

We shall have to discuss these actions in the situation and condition we have now and here.


[ED: These notes have been transcribed from two original documents and edited for clarity.]

Native Geometry: Letter, 11 December 1987

Dec. 11, 87.

Dear Pam

You say you wish to pursue Native Math. If so, how about looking into “Native Geometry”? The book: Native Mathematics talks only of Number Systems and a little bit of Astronomy. Frankly, that is disappointing. Native Geometry is better. I explain why I think so.

Geometry includes Space Perception, How to deal with Motions, Fields, Relations, hidden, visible, and imagined. It also includes Time Dimension, future, past or side ways. It deal with Order, Disorder, and Nebulous. In short, it is a Cosmology, but relevant to practical life on the ground.

And a “Culture” always come with an implicit, but a fundamental Geometry. [Jung Thesis]. For example, ancient Greeks included “Geometry” as one of 9 Muses, along with Love Songs, Tragedy, Comedy, etc. It was a part of Wisdom of Goddess Sophia. And the Goddess of Wisdom was a representation of the “Collective Intelligence” of the ancient Greeks.

Native Culture also had a Geometry. It is just that you do not give a proper recognition to it. Most Europeans do not recognize the Geometry in their subconscious either. The only exception is Jung, but he did not go too far.

Greek Geometry was also a “Practical Art” for artisans. It was the first “Practical Philosophy” in helping people how to organize thinking and guide social scale actions. [Actions, involving more than few people and lasting for a duration beyond what individuals can manage by “reacting to immediate situation”, require a Vision which constitute a “Collective Will”. The Vision is a Geometry.] It was the first disciplined social scale exercise in Imaginations. It was also the first “Science” ever to be systematized in a Logical Structure. The Structure was built in order to have a basis for social scale communication. Naturally, it became the Mother of European Science. If I exaggerate a bit, the implicit Geometry, as the Pattern of Imagination, was the “Mind” of the Civilization.

Newton learned Euclid Geometry, through Descartes’ analytical method — which Angels taught Descartes in dream — and Projective Geometry from an Architect friend. This Architect was older than Newton, but perhaps he was the only friend Newton ever had. Incidentally, his school did not teach Geometry. Newton went to school, probably because he wanted to become a Theologian, not a scientist. Geometry was just a fun. Yet, his Mechanics was based on a Geometry and the “Language of Differential Calculus”. He wrote somewhere that, in writing Principia, he wanted to emulate Euclid. Euclid invented, aside from the Geometry, the prototype for Scientific Stylism.

From a modern view, what Newton did was simple addition of Time to Euclid Geometry. The reason Mechanics became stucked with Motions of Objects is that Euclid Geometry was Geometry of “Points and Lines”. Geometry of “Fields” has not been developed until Einstein’s time, some 250 years after. Michael Faraday had a vision of Fields, but there was no Geometry then to “Verbalize” the vision.

Einstein barely managed with the little he knew of Geometry. His patron teacher, Prof. Minkowsky, taught him Geometry, but apparently Einstein was a poor student. Minkowsky was the one who admitted Einstein into the University by bending the admission rules. A story is that Minkowsky got mad at delinquent Albert and said to him “I do not wish to see you, never ever.” [If I come to teach you Geometry, I might have to say the same thing to you. You know not everybody can be patient and nice like Mouse Woman.]

But, it turned out that Einstein revived academic interests in Geometry, which was an obscure subject that nobody really cared about in the 19th century. Minkowsky got famous, because of Einstein. Now, the market value of Geometry is down again. Nowadays, high schools hardly offer Geometry. Universities seldom offer courses in Geometry, except in a few special places like Princeton. [Harvard has never been good at Geometry.] Number Mathematics is a lot more popular. The reason, I suspect, is that Geometry is Visual and closer to Art. Intellectual snobism in Universities in general , and Mathematicians in particular, looks down on Geometry as “Unpure”. It uses “Intuitions”, “Perceptions”, “Creative Imagination”, “Images”, “Gestalt”, “Metaphors”, etc. none of which is acceptable to the “Pride of Logical Rigor” of the Mathematicians today.

Yet, the entire Physics can be looked at as “Applied Geometry”. All “verbalizations” of observed phenomena, if they are approaching the level of physics, are implicitly Geometrical. This can also be said for Economics, Social Theories, Psychology. Geometry is the bridge between Observation (Imagination included) and Verbalization. Geometry, therefore, has Hermenuetical elements — that is, if one cares to look at how Geometry use Language.

Whether you know it or not, your talk on Ghii Lii is a talk on Geometry. Your Tree Vision is a Geometry. It is different from the European one, in that it is a “Field Geometry”. Euclid Geometry was a “Geometry of Points and Lines”. You have at least Einstein’s level of Geometry already, surpassing Euclid-Descartes-Newton.

[It is my task to convince you that you started a fantastic thing. By uttering wards like “Native Science”, you opened Pandora’s Box. You probably did not mean anything. But “Bears” are around, and overheard that. Because, the word mean something, you get into all kinds of Shits, including ones from me. If you knew what you were talking about, you would not have dared to utter the word. Europeans have a nice expression for that. They say “Where angels fear to step, fools trot.”]

There is one important thing about Field Geometry which you’d better know. The kind of Mathematics that is needed in Field Geometry does not depend on Numbers — called Topology — but numbers can be used. And Differential Geometry (Geometry of Manifolds) is the standard tool today.

You might ask how anyone can do Differential Calculus without “Quantifying” by measurements. That is an Euclidian prejudice. Just because Euclid Geometry needed measured quantities such as “Distance” and showed off its “Numerical Accuracy” as if that is the “Proof” of it being Accurate Science, it does not mean that Science cannot be done by without “Accurate Number Measure”. In fact, fantastic mathematical acrobatics in formula manipulation etc. can be demonstrated without anything to do with “Accurate Numbers”. Topology is a “Fuzzy Science”, and the “fuzziness” requires a lot more sophisticated thinking than “accurate number mathematics” needs.

If you are thinking of Social-Human Science, the “Fuzzics” that is emerging from Geometry is an ideal tool. This goes against the fundamental Paradigm of European Social Science today. But, it can liberate one from the much worshiped Numbers in Social science today — or from the European Science as practiced by the majority today.

Needless to say it is difficult. Time and time again, even those who do Geometry fall back to Euclid Number Thinking. That includes Einstein himself. When one does not have numerical values, one loses confidence. Or one feels that people would not understand Geometry, therefore they sink into Silence. Since Geometry is repressed into silence, people do not learn it. The community remain ignorant. That makes communication more difficult. So one dares not talk about it. We have a Vicious Circle.

Now, I have a vested interest in Native Science, because I see there a possibility of Field Geometry. I need you to tell the Geometry. You are the poor victim. You have been receiving shits from me, because of that. On the top of it, I am now asking you to look into Native Geometry. That is a bad deal!

I know women over 30 are on “down hill” and cannot learn nothing much new. For that matter, men are no better after 20. (I learned that the only way to get you interested is to make you angry. So I am trying the trick.)

Besides, I know being a mother is a full time occupation. Add 1/3 for being a wife, however a bad wife you are. Then add another 1/3 for being a teacher, even if you are a poor one at that. And whatever else you do? You have probably 200% excuse for not doing anything beyond.

[One day, I was watching a girl with her little brother coming onto the bus I was in. She must be age 7 or 8. I saw a determined tension on her face to look after her brother who may be 5 or so. She let her brother put changes into fare box. Her attention was just like a “Mother” would have had in doing the same. The word “Responsibility” is not quite right for that. I do not know what that can be called. But I got impressed by her greatly. Somehow, she learned it from someone somewhere. I wondered if school education could do anything like it. In comparison to that, stuffs like Geometry is trivial. However, I have nothing better to offer you.]

But then, why do you utter words like Native Science? I take it that you meant it. You would not like me to patronize on your weakness. But you have no idea how to make it real, doing it in the present condition of life.

But, perhaps, there is no harm in trying, even if you cannot hack it. So I make you an offer of making inputs from that side. It is from European Science, but a little better shit than Newton-Euclid ones. Raven would not hesitate to take advantage of whatever available for the means.

However, as to Native side, I do not know anything. that should give you ample opportunity to hit me back. We can be even at that. And more importantly, I tell you that unless you speak out, you learn nothing, and I learn nothing from you. You see a lot of people who are defending their Pride with thick armor, not realizing the self-imposed armor is a prison, the “Box”. Children learn a lot quick, because they are not defensive. They say what they think, right or wrong. And they can accept things, because they are not worried about their vulnerability.

I am thinking of “Learning by and for Community”, as a new strategy replacing “Ego Knowledge”. That calls for “childishness” in learning. However, in this, I do see a difficulty.

Namely, Natives have great deal of concern about their Dignity. It has a good reason, for if they lose their Dignity, they are finished. That is why Elders talk of Tradition, or The Old Way of Doing things. But learning is a Creation. And Creation means Death of the Old. To learn something is not “addition” like putting money in banks. It require a structural change, which means dying and “borning”. Sensitivity that required for Creative thinking is inherently “Unstable” , if not Catastrophic. In that Creativity is the Arch-enemy of Constancy.

I am also aware that “Environmental Conservation”, “Peace”, “Harmony”, “Steady State Economy” etc. come with in metaphors of Constancy. But you note that what a Big Change is needed to achieve any one of these ideals. And here Hopi Philosophy is correct in saying that nothing is constant. Hopi Prophecy is for catastrophic changes. It may be more of the “Traditional” Spirit to be “radical” than fixated in an illusionary Constancy on surface.

This ought not be taken to be disrespect of Elders, nor disregard of Native Culture. I think the respect has to do with learning of the Original Meaning and Creatively Applying it to the changing situations. It takes more profound understanding of the Ancient Spirit and Creativity to live in the present difficulties than just following formalities as routines. I talked of Speaking Up, but I am not ignorant of the value of Silence. Silence can be louder than any big noise. Besides, “speaking” has to be matched with “listening”. As to how to work out these balances, we have to think about it further.

Maybe, this problem of Tradition and Radical Creation holds the key that we need. To reject someone, something in contempt is too easy. To understand something we do not like in respect requires learning of the level we try to achieve. The problem is a gift. It is interesting to note that you Ghii Lii story came out in a context of you talking of “Going back to the Source”. We all get very much impressed by your lecture. Now, it is your turn to listen to what you said, and get impressed by its profound meaning.

In a sense, the real test of “Validity” on Geometry or on any other Theories, Philosophies or Teaching, is whether or not it helps us to deal with such problems. Castaneda’s story, or D.Bohm’s Theory is “Valid” in so far as they help people in troubles. If not, it matters little if real Don Juan existed or not. I think Geometry — i.e. Vision — does help. I am not a magician, nor a guru. But can I make you interested in Native Geometry?


Sam K.

Remembrance: An Intercultural Mental Health Process

Remembrance, An Intercultural Mental Health Process

by Pam Colorado

Mental Health is a European, western derived construct which, in the context of colonialism, has been imposed upon Native peoples. thus one could question the health of “mental Helth”. I propose that it is possible and timely to create processes and models of mental health which are intercultural and have, as their first order of business, the healing of mental health practitioners…myself included!

Issues of mental health and culture are central to my life. I am a traditional Oneida woman, married to a Hawaiian, Kuhuna Kalai Wa’a and Kii, that is, a man who has the Huna or secret knowledge of how to carve traditional ocean going canoes and images. We live on the island of Maui where I commute to California to teach in the Traditional Knowledge Program—a doctoral program for tribal people worldwide. I am also of French ancestry and travelled to France during my early twenties to make peace with the conflict I felt as a mixed blood person.

In twenty years of activism my model of mental health practice evolved from a largely clinical social work/community organizing focus (with a few cultural touches) to an almost completely cultural, spiritual practice that drew on western psychology when necessary. Although reluctant to draw on extra cultural approaches,I found psychology and its terminology to be helpful in dealing with deadly colonial wounds, notably alcoholism. Counselling methods also became a bridge to the western and professional world and to assimilated parts of my personality. In fact, western counselling helped me to decolonize and to embrace my true cultural identity.

But joining Native and western approaches to mental health has always made me uncomfortable. First of all, there are no guidelines or mutually established ethics to govern the linking. Second, the concept of mental health is inextricably bound up in relationships of domination and power. Prior to the invasion of North America there wasn’t even a concept of mental health! Native cultures sought and were an expression of grounded lives lived in balance and intimate communication with all living beings. third, western practitioners’ denial of the power dynamics between Natives and westerners emotionally charge the counselling process. Fourth, whether we like it or not, there is no part of Native life that has not been violated or desecrated. As a result, we carry enormous and undifferentiated anxieties and pain; often we swing back and forth between western and Native behavior without conscious choice. Finally, as my genetics suggest, there is no escaping the obvious fact that American Indians and Euramericans (with their mental health practices) share a land and a reality. We must address the intercultural mental health conundrum and transform it into something good.

Recently, I worked with a French American person whose wife had suffered with terminal cancer for ore than two years. I began the work in my usual way, as a cultural person who used western concepts to communicate and engage. Four months later, when the work was complete, I had been taught a way of doing Native mental health in the western world; moreover, a westerner had entered my Native paradigm and healed aspects of my life. I refer to the process as remembrance and share some of it with you now.

A stormy twilight sky holds the ocean in an indigo embrace. Moving smoothly through the cold spring ocean, I hesitate for a moment, questioning the wisdom of a swim so late in the day. Hawaiian elders warn against this. As I realise I am alone in the water, a sense of vulnerability rises; I do not recall how I got here. I want to return to shore but am powerless to move. The growing density of the night time sky is matched by a sense of growing danger in the water. Suddenly, I am aware of an enormous and awesome presence—Mano! The shark1

My reaction is instantaneous. Rolling over on my back I lie suspended in the water and I wait. Mano is one of the most powerful animal spirits in Hawaiian cosmology. The shark empowers priests, healers and intellectuals; it is an Aumakua, the head of a major clan system and it is Mano that accompanied and protected the first Polynesian voyagers to settle the Hawaiian islands. Lying motionless is the only act of reverence available to me. I can feel him approaching from my right; swift and smooth. He transverses the length of my body, as if appraising me. Death may be imminent. I am afraid. I am hopeful. The shark turns and heads directly towards me. Bright blue lines of electricity stream from either side of his head. Reaching my still body, he races beneath me, around me, wrapping me in blue lines of vivifying intelligence and power. Then he is gone.

I awake, shaking and weeping with joy. Gathering up my medicine bag, I pull on some clothes and head to Launiopoko Beach to make an offering of thanks. Pulling Indian tobacco from its pouch, I call to Mano. Laying a gift of tobacco in the water, I wait. Was it a true dream? A few moments pass, doubt begins to enter my mind. Just then a movement about fifty feet off to the left catches my eye. It is a shark fin, standing nearly one foot out of the water. This must be a great animal. As quickly as it moves towards me, it turns and disappears from sight.

As I drive home, I wonder at the beauty and power of Native ways. The feelings that went through me when I saw the shark acknowledge the offering! I wonder what the meaning of this experience is and what is expected of me. A few days later, a stranger stops by our house to look at Hawaiian art work. It is Mr. Robert Requin (Mr. R), an elderly gentleman of enormous wealth and great political repute.

It is not usual to greet someone of Mr. R’s standing, so I paid attention to what happened. As he entered our house, he went almost directly to the scale model canoe, “Lele O Ke Kolea”, the canoe that brought the first Hawaiians here. As I approached Mr. R to welcome him a spiritual presence, nearly palpable, filled the room. My traditional training enabled me to see it my western mind interpreted it as a crucial bonding. I was shocked because I had never had such a moment with a non Native person.

Any traditional Native person will tell you that ordinary reality is not real at all. This world is spiritual and beings of great power, like Mano, move through the veil of our conscious minds. Like Creator, Mano touches us. It is only an instant but in that moment we experience something timeless and real—our own truth. Truth, according to Native thought is meant to be lived. When a dream comes, work of transformative nature is sure to follow. Because the work is spiritual and difficult, it is important to interpret the direction of the dream accurately.

In the weeks that followed, I struggled for understanding and direction. I spoke to another traditional person who responded, “A strange thought just came to me—your visitor is Mano!” The truth of the message was so strong, it took my breath.

Identifying the Mano as the spiritual protector and power of my visitor, gave me a beginning point for determining how we were related. For a few days, I struggled trying to remember anything I heard or knew of the relationship between Mano and the Thunderers—my clan. The answer came in the middle of the night when I awoke thinking of a petroglyph from the Northwest Coast (where I learned the process of deciphering the ancient language).

On a large rock, located in the tideline, is a carving of the Shark and Thunderbird, held together by a huge lizard—the protector of water and change of consciousness. This 15,000-year-old carving is predictive of transformative learning—of movement into a higher integration of knowledge which will be sensory or predictive. The Lizard also implies genealogy or ancestral communication. In a western sense we might say I had determined an archetypal relationship. I understood that this was a powerful connection but I lacked a course, or even a next step of action.

One day, during a phone conversation with Mr. R, we discussed our French family histories. Realising that our ancestors had arrived in the New World about the same time, I decided to check my family tree, a lengthy document. Turning to a random page, I glanced down and discovered that a man from my family and a woman from his had married in 1560; furthermore, this couple moved to the New World and became the progenitors of both his family line and mine! This confused me. If I had found a mutual Indian ancestor, I would know what to do or who to contact. I was in for a surprise.

Mr. R had purchased a number of traditional Hawaiian art pieces of my husband’s and had asked me to bless them. I readily agreed, until I turned to do it and discovered the purchases included Lei o Mano—weapons of war constructed of sharks teeth and a wood that women do not touch! How do I, as a woman, pray over weapons of death? Is this proper? Do I have the authority? These questions took several days and the pieces were to be delivered the next day. Finally, I understood the next step.

Moving the weapons into the sunshine, I made my prayer but something didn’t feel complete. So, I meditated some more and realized that I needed to do a night ceremony as well.

That night on the lanai, the spirits spoke in unmistakable messages. Mr. R’s wife had survived because two, vainglorious physicians, eager to win the respect and approval of her wealthy husband, had used extraordinary means to keep the woman alive. She had been tortured. I knew it because for a brief moment the spirits made me feel what she had suffered; it was agony. I was told that her end would come soon and I was given several other pieces of information for Mr. R.

When I came in from my prayers, I was shaking with fear. I knew I had to tell Mr. R but I doubted myself. What if I was wrong? What if I had misinterpreted something? And I questioned my right to even tell someone such news. Nevertheless, the following morning while burning sage, I called Mr. R and shared, as gently as I could, all of what had transpired. To my amazement, he nearly wept with relief. In the next few weeks, everything happened just as I had been told. I was stunned at my self doubts and with the power of these old ways.

I was also pleased that ancient Native ways could help Mr. R—in fact, even seeming to complement his devout Catholicism. But two weeks after his wife’s death I learned that my sister was alcoholic and suicidal. Thee generations of family addiction came crashing down on me. All my work in healing did not seem to stop the destruction and death in my own family. I was terrified.

Another dream came to me. This dream revealed the origins of the family addiction problem. It rested in an event that happened in France nearly 700 years ago—an event that Mr. R’s family shared. I awoke from the dream, it was near midnight. Heading directly for the closet, I rummaged around until I found my baptism candle (although raised traditionally, I had also been baptised Catholic, perhaps to cover all the bases!) I took the candle out to my rock altar and then stopped. I didn’t know where to put it. How could I respect these two ways and still bring them together? Desperate for my sisters life, I finally placed it on the lower right hand corner. Then I began my prayer, in my Indian way, explaining what I was trying to do and why. I asked permission to proceed. It seemed okay, so I picked up the candle, stuck it in the damp tropical earth, and lit it. I wasn’t sure how to pray. I tried all the Latin prayers I could remember but nothing felt genuine. Then I tried it the Indian way, by calling to the ancestors. Suddenly, the sultry, leeward night was hit with a cold wind from the North. It came down on me so hard and fast, I had to cup the flame to keep it from going out. I was scared. I knew I had pinpointed the cause and I knew I needed help.

The next morning, I called Mr. R and asked him to help in the tradition of his French Catholic religion. He agreed and for the next three days he prayed for us.

About a week later, Mr. R and I spoke. I thanked him and told him the astonishing news. My huge French-Indian family had finally acknowledged the problem of addiction in our family and was preparing for a family intervention for my sister. He was not surprised because he had felt a peace come over him the first night of his prayers. We both wept and laughed on the phone. Who would ever have guessed the combined power of a Pagan and a Catholic!

I used to think that darkness was evil but an Elder once told me, that darkness is safety, security, like the womb. In the darkness we are all one; separations cannot be seen. Perhaps this is the Huna, or inner secret Hawaiians know. For Mr. R and I to heal required great risks and trust. We both stepped into our shadow many times but we were not alone. At night, in a dream, the shark spirit came to give me the power to do the healing work. Although I doubted myself, I still went to the beach and made a thanksgiving offer. A real shark came proving the truth of the dream as well as the value of facing self doubt.

Mr. R knew of the terrible things his culture has done and continues to do to Native people, but he stepped through that history when he asked for my help.

I entered the shadow again when I turned to my French genealogy; used my candle and asked Mr. R for his help. It was difficult to do. Yet, the evil visited on my family—the multigenerational alcoholism derived from and depended upon the continuing hatred and divisiveness of Catholic and tribal people.

Most likely I will never see Mr. R again, but in the dark moment we shared, a beautiful healing emanated. Two people—from vastly different political, socioeconomic backgrounds, one traditional Indian, the other Catholic—joined using western psychological language and simple loving prayers particular to our own cultures. We healed. Nothing happened, yet everything changed.

First Reading, Vol. 13, No. 3, Sept 95 ESPC

Inowendiwin: Peace and Honor Going Back and Forth Between Us


Peace and Honor Going Back and Forth Between Us

Pamela Colorado

The American Indian Movement is a nation of people concerned with life and continuity. The goal and the philosophical basis of this American Indian world view is Pimadaziwin which means life lived in the Good Way, or life lived to its fullest. This connotes responsibility, joy, and liveliness; it is an objective as well as subjective state of being.

This Spirit Way has neither beginning nor end and is often referred to as “the Life of the People”. Successive generations are born and choose to enter the Good Way or not. In the past most Indian people lived this way as a matter of fact. And the very tangible and beautiful outcomeof those choices can be seen in the Black Hills of Dakota, the Red Earth heartland Okalhoma, and in the wooded glens of New England called Wampanoag.

While there are many other such places in America today, the people who live with and care for these places are uniformly a people no one believes in. Yet this was not always so. Images of free Redmen and a Promised Land called many people to our shores. These strangers, experiencing the results of Pimadaziwin, called this land a virgin wilderness which, by definition necessitated taming through civilization and progress.

Under the rubric of civilization/progress, it is estimated that nearly twenty-four million Indian people were exterminated. And this figure does not include the population decimated by disease before Columbus. For example, Jennings demonstrates, in his book The Invasion of America, that nearly half of the Indian population of the Eastern Seaboard died prior to 1492 as a result of earlier contacts, i.e. the Vikings.

These early European “contacts” escalated into full scale invasion. And the Good Way of Life, became distorted. Pushed, marched, tortured, and exterminated, Indians began to resist. But this resistance did not come easily to a people committed to life. Ward Churchill, Native American activist and writer, notes:

There is no historical record of any war between the tribes and the U.S. which was initiated by the Indians. Each known outbreak of open warfare was predicated upon documentable invasion of defined (or definable) Indian lands by U.S. citizenry. The defensive nature of Indian participation in these wars is thus clear. Logically, they should thus be termed, “settlers’ wars” or, more accurately, “wars of conquest”.

Thinking, now, of Indian resistance, a picture of the Little Bighorn comes to mind. I visited this place in 1981. It was summer and it was dawn. My husband and I scarcely spoke, and when we did, it was in whispers. Feeling what it was, to walk on earth, where our Holy Men and Spirit Warriors put aside peace and decided to kill — for the People, for the children, for the natural world. And I recall thinking how painful it must have been for those people to make such a choice. For the Old Ones know that it takes four generations to heal from a time of killing.

Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Gall, and Dull Knife, I was stepping in their footsteps. The green rolling hill sloped down to the river. A gentle wind blew early morning mist on our faces. Int eh stillness were the voices. And the voices spoke of love for the land, for the People.

Dots of white stone markers, nudged their way up the hill, mutely testifying to the valor of the man called Custer, and all those who fell beside him that day of Red Paint Dust…. The Old People tell us of the Medicine that day—how everyone knew it was going to be a time of death, that no one of the White skinned would breathe after sunset. They speak of the preparation, of the purifying Sweatbaths, of the Holy Men offering the Sacred Pipe, and they speak of how it was done. And the Great Silence afterwards, which stands today, next to a marble marker dedicated to the members of the cavalry… standing there, on lands of Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapahoe. They do not speak of Sand Creek or Washita Bend.

Now two tourists arrive and question the military bungling that led to this slaughter—of the Seventh Cavalry. And they ask us, isn’t it nice that there is this monument? I  ad silent now too, for another reason.

Thinking of another time. In the snow, without food, old people, women, and children…Warriors gone…follow the aged Chief Big Foot to safety. They are Ghost Dancers. They are dancing their death but they do not know it. Facing starvation they see in their prayer, songs, and dance a Way to live, to stay vital to keep the Way of the People. And they understand that the holocaust visited upon the Land and People will end in a whirlwind of destruction for the invaders.

But they do not know they are dancing on land that holds gold. And they do not know that the cavalry is eager to kill and even now encircles the few ragged tepees on this bitter cold December night in 1890. And they do not know they will awaken to screaming, bloody massacre. They do not know these things. But if they did know, they would still dance, pray, and sing. For this is the Great Law of Peace.

And despite this horror, something good happened. You see, the Ghost Dance had opened up channels of friendship among diverse tribes and had taught the lesson of regional unity. Now, survivors continued to travel, and they began to pray in the manner of the Southwest tribes through the Peyote Way. By 1910, Peyote had spread north through the Dakotas and west.

The strength in this movement did not go unnoticed. Christian reformists, who wer the policy makers for Indian affairs from 1900 to 1940, met at their annual conference at Lake Mohonk, New York. The theme of the 1914 meeting was the “menace of Peyote”. The reformists labeled Peyote “a dangerous drug” and referred to its practitioners as “mescal fiends.” For nearly twenty years, these policy makers attempted to outlaw the Peyote Way. While they did not scucceed in creating law to that effect, they did inspire the Bureau of Indian Affairs to administratively outlaw the practice of traditional healing ways. In 1921, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs issueed Circular 1665 to all Indian agents. This law not only affected Peyote, but all the remaingin spiritual and healing ways, especially the Sun Dance, which is a renewal ceremony and involves giving things away as part of the sacrifice. The Circular read:

The Sun Dances and all similar dances and so called religious ceremonies are considered Indian Offenses…and corrective penalties are provided. I regard such restrictions as applicable to any dance which involves…the reckless giving away of property…in all such instances the regulations should be enforced.

In this manner, the massacre of traditional spiritual ways, became institutionalized. But even this did not succeed for the movement went underground; it did not die.

And in 1973, the American Indian Movement, which was five years old, organized the first four-day Sun Dance since 1927, at the Lakota Sioux, Rosebud reservation, in South Dakota. Six months later, a group of Sioux women requested a meeting with AIM and traditional chiefs. AIM leader Dennis Banks recalls:

These women only asked that the spirit, the fighting spirit return so that there would be no reason for Indian people to drink themselves to death, so that there’d be no reason for Indian youngsters to be slashing their wrists.

One by one the Chiefs stood up and their names will come before you…Names like Fools Crow and Crow Dog, names like Catches…names like Kills Enemy, Iron Cloud…We’d reached a point in history where we could not tolerate that kind of abuse andy longer where these women, these parents, these mothers who couldn’t tolerate the mistreatment that goes on, on the reservations any longer they could not see another Indian youngster die. They could not see another Indian man meet death, whether he was in Chicago or Nebraska or Buffalo Gap.

Then one of the Chiefs said: Go ahead and do it, go to Wounded Knee. You can’t get in the BIA office and the tribal office, so take your brothers from the American Indian Movement and go to Wounded Knee and make your stand there…

And we did stand. For 71 days, Indians held the FBI, the U.S. Army, and hundreds of local and state “law” officials at bay. And when the occupation ended, the entire world and all of the Indian country knew, that the People were standing again. And the People continued to stand, for the organizing and sustaining force of AIM was “spirit, land, and people”. The regionalism of the Ghost Dance had now transformed into an international unity of Peyote, Sweatlodge, and Pipe. By 1981 there were 19 Sun Dances held! Sweatlodges stood in Massachusetts and Alaska. Naturally the spiritual unity meant political strength.

In 1974 AIM founded the International Indian Treaty Council which carried Indian issues to the United Nations and to other nations struggling under foreign domination and corruption. IN 1976 AIM “caravaned” to the Custer battlefield, in Montana, to protest the bicentennial celebration honoring Custer. The list of AIM achievements is long, nearly as long as the list of legal actions against the members of AIM. By 1981 nearly all AIM leaders had been imprisoned and the FBI admitted openly that it had used terrorist tactics against the American Indian Movement (Durham, “Columbus Day”). Russell Means, perhaps the best known Indian activist, would be beaten, stabbed, and shot.

It was generally assumed that AIM was dead; that the Indian movement was over. But, fortunately, this was only a superficial observation. For the movement has merely transformed again to the spiritual basis from which it derives. And Indians, hundreds, from North, Central, and South America, are now meeting every year on sacred lands of the Black Hills and Oklahoma. Spiritual elders such as Philip Deere, experienced in international politics as well as healing ways, speak to the People about critical issues like colonialism and survival of humanity through Pimadaziwin.

Old people speaking this way teach us the power that we have. They remind us that outr 191 treaties with the U.S. government put us in a strong position in the international community—because treaties are the universal language of coexistence in the world today. But they also caution us, for we should not expect a country like the U.S. “to recoil in shame at the exposure of its misdeeds”.

But we do have another power, a power that comes with the understanding that we are related to the Great Mystery through the waters, fire, wind, and sacred Mother Earth. And through this knowledge, we are free, knowing that life renews when we live in balance. This is the single most liberating aspect of our traditional beliefs. Life renews. There is no scarcity, except that created by artificial boundaries drawn by those who seek profit. And we understand that balance means that all the Great Directions, Black, Yellow, Red, White, and Self, must work in spirit with the Earth. The Indian has always trusted this and lived it.

In fact, tribes were just beginning to form alliances and confederacies, to insure international peace, when the invasion began. For a while growth stopped but we have begun again, many times. Today, the ceremonial elements may be reduced to a bucket of water, a small stack of wood for a fire, our own breath, and a circle of earth fifty feet in diameter. That is all the natureal resources a Peyote ceremony requires. But even this is viewed as too much by our enemies. *

Looking at America, we see rivers burning, people suffering, and the desecration of al living beings. We are told that this is progress, and some of us believe it. We seem committed to a course of destruction. And while we may flirt with death and brush up against it, we cannot commit to it and survive. This is the lesson of the Indian and the land…..Life. We must respect it; for the children and the relations.

*The average annual income of an American Indian is less than $2,000; approximately 30% of all Indian women have been sterilized; three of five Indian children die in the first year after birth; 70% of all Indian people suffer from malnutrition; Indian people are imprisoned ten times more often than whites; and Indian people have lost 45,000 acres of land every year of this century…

You who have assembled here are already committed to the survival of humanity, the Earth and children, or you would not be here. Let us hope, in the Old Way natural to this land, that we can put our minds together and become “one way of thinking—Pimadaziwin”. It is vital, life-giving and joyful; it is natural.

Like the Tibee gee quay, song of the Anishnabeq:

nin a gamoo an



nin mino inowendiwin

“Warrior spirits related with peace and honor going back and forth between us.”

It is good to be here, to give voice to the People, to the children, the land…and the spirit of CRAZY HORSE.


Native Philosophy of Peace

Title: Native Philosophy of Peace

Part I. An Introduction to Native Philosophy of Peace

Part II. Speaking Towards Peace: A Native American Way

Pamela Colorado

Lethbridge Extension

Faculty of Social Welfare

University of Calgary

Sam Kounosu

Physics Department

University of Lethbridge


From the time of the invasion by the European Civilization in the 15th century, the history of Native Americans has been a history of violence. The Natives have had to endure and subsist under the genocidal policy of colonial powers that overwhelmed them. And the struggle still continues. Yet, the Natives had a profound Philosophy of Peace and have lived and survived with it. We have a great deal to learn from the Philosophy of the Natives. It also gives us an opportunity to examine “violent” elements in our “Civilization” itself, as well as a way out of it. Since the Native Philosophy of Peace is not the academic kind that can be summarized in a set of propositions but rather is a way of life, we shall not attempt to “describe” it. Here, we shall endeavour to introduce the Philosophy in two ways. In Part I we make a descriptive introduction. In Part II, we narrate the Philosophy in the Native Oral Tradition, aiming at communication at a spiritual level.

Feb. 14, 1987.

An Introduction to the Native Philosophy of Peace

Since the invasion by Europeans in the 15th century, the history of Native eAmerica is a history of violence. Therefore, it may appear almost a contradiction to seek the message of Peace from the Natives. But, because of experiences of violence and facing their own extinction, Natives created urgent messages for Peace and have lived with them and survived by them in desperate situations. We have much to learn from their wisdom that is embedded in their way of life.

The violence which the Natives experienced was not the kind which we consider in the conttext of the “push button” Warfares that our science-technology has made possible nor the Nuclear Arms Race between two Super Powers that the huge bureaucratization of violence has lead us to. And if our concern for Peace is limited to the question of how to prevent Nuclear War from impending upon us, the Spiritual form of the Native message for Peace might appear only remotely relevant to us. However, the very difficulties which we have in reducing the scale of the Arms Race indicates that we have a need to examine if our way of life for itself is a part of the problem. And, in that we may find and gain great wisdom for Peace from Natives who have faced and survived the destructive forces of modern civilization.

To understand and to learn from the Natives, however, it is absolutely necessary that we look back to the history of violence. This is an exercise in dialectics We shall learn Peace by learning about our own violence.


[Vine Deloria, God Is Red, Laurel Book, 1973.

Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America, Univ. of N. Carolina Press, 1975.

Gary B. Nash, Red, White and Black, Prentice-Hall, 1974.

Merrill D. Beal, I Will Fight No More Forever, Univ. of Washington Press, 1963.

Dee Brown, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, Holt-Rinehart, 1970.]

2. The way Indians were treated in the North American continent was worse than the Apartheid of South Africa today. Outright massacres were carried on even after the Civil War which supposedly liberated Black slaves for humanitarian reasons. One might imagine that for economic growth, the liberated Blacks were useful, whereas “the only good Indians were dead Indians.” And since Natives resisted “Christianity”, the Christian compassion was not applicable to them. They were considered a part of the Wild Nature to be conquered by the Civilization.

The colonialization started with violence. The Spanish came with greed and atrocity in the name of Christian mission to the New World. That part of history is well known, so I shall not talk about that here.

[See Bartolome de las Casa: Brevisima Relacion De La Destruccion De Las Indias, 1552, for the earliest account. In Montaigne’s Essay (1580), the third book, chapter 6, there is a brief remark about the Spanish atrocity.]

The British flowed soon after, with no less violence. According to the few records that are left, British settlers came to the Virginia coast area and found the natives there to be friendly. One report said:

“We were entertained with all love and kindness, and with much bounties, after their manner, as they could possibly devise. We found the people most gentle, loving, and faithful, void of all guile, and treason.”

[David Quinn, The Voyagers, 1584-1590; quoted by Gary B. Nash Red, White, and Black.]

But the Britons did not come there simply to live with friendly natives. The competition among empires in Europe to establish and expand colonies had already started. Naturally, soon the initial friendly relation deteriorated and “incidents” were created for “Show of Force”, which became a universal pattern in most colonialization processes elsewhere. I cite only two examples here.

“No conflict occured until the English discovered a silver cup missing and dispatched a punitive expedition to the nearby Indian village. When Indians denied taking the cup, the English decided to make a show of force, burned the village to the ground and destroyed the Indian’s supply of corn.”

[Edmond S. Morgan, “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox”, Journal of American History. Vol. 59, 1972, p. 16.]

“Many were burnt in the fort, both men, women and children. Others forced out…which our soldiers received and entertained with the sword. Down fell men, women, and children…Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. Sometimes the case alters; but we will not dispute it now. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.”

[John UnderHill, News from America, (1638), London. Quoted by Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence. Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1973.]

One notes here that burning villages and destroying crops were already practiced tactics when the British invaded Ireland centuries before that time. Both the Red Army and White Army in the Russian Revolution practiced the same. Hitler used it in W.W. II. Americans did that in Vietnam.

[As to the “metaphor” of Indian War repeated in Vietnam, see Richard Slotkin: The Fatal Environment — The Myth of Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800 – 1890. Atheneum, 1985.]

The idea of “show of force”, or equivalent phrases such as “show who is the boss” appears quite often in the records that were left from the period of colonial time. The British were there with the intent of conquering and domination from the beginning. They needed only slight provocations, if they did not create the excuses. Many stories of Native attacks may well have been fibs constructed, like “the Bay of Tonkin incident” in the Vietnam War.

To be sure, there was romanticizing of Natives as “Noble Savages.” We can read it in poetries of Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, et al.

(see White On Red, ed. N.B. Black. Kennikat Press, 1976.)]

Or see it in paintings by Benjamin West and others. But the romanticizing was in effect a beautifying cover for the colonial conquest. It did not stop physical and cultural genocide. Quite aware of such a sentiment, John Quincy Adams wrote in 1802:

“The Indian right of possession itself stands, with regard to the greatest part of the country, upon a questionable foundation. Their cultivated fields; their constructed habitations; a space of ample sufficiency for their subsistence, and whatever they had annexed to themselves by personal labour, was undoubtedly by the law of nature theirs. But what is the right of a huntsman to the forest of a thousand miles over which he accidentally ranges in quest of prey? Shall the liberal bounties of Providence to the race of man be monopolized by one of ten thousand for whom they were created? Shall the exuberant bosom of the common mother, amply adequate for the nourishment of millions, be claimed exclusively by a few hundreds of her offspring.”

[Quoted in I Will Fight No More Forever, p. 24.]

The answer to Adam’s rhetorical question was obvious, as we can see in history. The Natives were driven off the land, if not exterminated. They were confined in concentration camps, called “Indian Reserves.” And as the “Progress of Civilization” wanted more and more land, the Natives were forcefully moved again and again to smaller and smaller confinements each time. The metaphor of the “Mother Earth” was Native, not White, nor was it Christian, as we see in the environmental destructions that went on under what was called the “Manifest Destiny.” The rhetoric asked for sharing the gifts of Mother Nature, but the invader came to dominate and rape the Mother. Environmental concern did not emerge until late 1960’s, and collectively speaking, our actions with regard to Acid Rain, Nuclear Wastes, Deforestation, etc., regretably suggest that we have not yet stopped rationalizing our rapist practices.

[see “Metaphysics of Indian Hater” in Herman Melville’s Confidence of Man. 1857. As to hi Moby-Dick, critics pointed out that Melville was writing, in the metaphor of Whale Hunt, on the whole American assault on Nature in the name of Progress.]

We note here that as late as October of the last year, The United Church of Canada has come to Apologize to the Natives for its “policy of cultural genocide”. In an article “Of course we forgive you,” [The Observer, Oct. 1986], Rev. Wilf Dieter narrates:

“I grew up in residential schools…The second year, I remember going back to school. I was crying. My mother was wiping away the tears. Why were my parents sending me away. I guess one of the things I didn’t realize was the law. If she didn’t take me back, the police would come for me.”

This was taking place only a few decades ago in Canada which we think the most peaceful country in the world. What if some agents of a foreign country come in and pass a law to separate Canadian children from parents? Does white majority consider it less than atrocity? Of course, we as the majority “did not know” that we have been practicing the cultural genocide policy, just as the majority of Germans did not know of the infamous concentration camp during W.W. II. The point is that we did not care to know about them. While reading philosophy of Kant or Russell in books, we did not “read” our real philosophy that we practiced and lived in.

3. Today, we may be sufficiently “liberal minded” to say that the colonial practices of the historical past were “mistakes.” But read the rhetorical question of Adams again and see if we have changed our way of thinking. The Capitalists, the bourgeoisie, and the liberal thinkers would say that, “in the inevitable power struggles which bring the progress of the production power”, the “backward” way of the Native life had to be eradicated, although we might try to employ as “humane” means as possible. And socialists and Marxists would agree. The modern intellectuals, left, middle or right, are believers of “progress” in which some unfortunate “backward” portions of humanity will become extinct like Dodo birds.

[see also Ward Churchill, ed. Marxism and Native Americans. South End Press, 1983.]

Christians today would say that the atrocities condoned by the missionaries in the colonial conquest did not represent “True Christianity”, which is presumably based on Love. But, one wonders if the christians clearly distinguish the religion of Love and the religion of Power, and honestly live by the principle of Love, as the Natives have lived by their Spirituality. It appears that the Christians believe more in the Might of Nuclear Weapons and Laser Guns than Love. It is ironical that the presumed anti-christians in the Soviet Union do the same. They both are believers of the same Power.

[However, we pay attention to Liberation Theology.

Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation. Orbis Books, 1973.

Bishop Remi De Roo, Cries of Victims – Voice of God. Novals, 1986, etc.

As to links between Christianity and European Civilization, see:

Max Weber, Protestant Ethics and The Spirit of Capitalism.

Lynn White, “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis”, American Scientists. March 1967.

Lawrence R. Brown, The Might of the West. Joseph J. Binns Pub., 1963.]

Here I am not talking of the hypocritic morality, but doing purely pragmatic thinking about the consequences and the cost of the European World View. The “Intelligence” of the European tradition is centred around “Power” to dominate people. Our “science” stemmed from the desire to conquer and exploit Nature. Academic and theological knowledge claims are claims of authority and control of thinking. Our official languages are basically the languages of commanding others.

Of course, we know that our competition for power, authority in terms of knowledge claims, etc., is illusionary and for the most part of little significance. Nonetheless, we do use the stylism as a “proper ritual” in academic settings, if we wish to be taken seriously. And, perhaps, the effects/consequences of such a ritual may only be indirect in encouraging the notion of the Conquest of the Wild Nature with Barbaric primitives in it. Our higher Education, which produces elite classes of our society , may or may not be directly responsible for Pollution and Environmental Destruction. If someone argues that the Pollution and Destruction are necessary requirements for the existence of the Elitist System, there would be many objections from the Intellectual elites. They would demand “scientific” proof demonstrating causal mechanisms for the connection. But, in a noncausalistic sense, we are all implicated in the violent history. And if the Nuclear extinction falls upon us, it is we who made it possible, not by default, but by a determined will, a great organized drive and mobilization of intellectual efforts.

4. After all, we do believe in the hierarchical system of Power. In our ordinary language, “Powerless” does mean degradation. We have not reconciled with Love that is powerless. For the North American psyche, it is winning that tells them that they are on “God’s side.” Not fighting tantamounts surrender to the Devil. We say “all men are created equal”, but we are as “equal” as the degree by which we win the competitions. As long as it is legal, and does not offend one’s own “moral feelings”, Might is Right. The only thing that protects one’s safety is, therefore, military superiority. The modern nation-states followed that logic. If one follows the causal-mechanistic thinking which we consider “rational”, there is no other way.

We know SDI would not work, but we do have to keep the illusion of the Superior Power going even at the cost of Trillions of Dollars. Recently, some among us apparently started to worry that the “peace propaganda”, such as The Day After, made us “too soft” and so they produced a counter-propaganda series on T.V. called Amerika to remind people that the Power Principle has to be defended. That is because Power is our religion. If the Power Principle is undermined, the whole social structure of the Western society might collapse.

The only trouble is that the logic of Power has now reached its ultimate in that it can destroy the human race as a whole. That is why some of us are interested in searching for alternatives.

[see also Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point, Bantam Books, 1982.

Morris Bermann, The Reenchantment of the World, Cornell Univ. Press, 1982.]

But there is a problem. If we are to turn around on the way to ultimate power, what would be the alternative? Certainly, going back to the arbitrary dictatorship of the feudal system or the old slave-caste system would not likely secure Peace in any sense. At least, we think, we do have a “civic” sense of peace in the advanced industrial countries. “Democracy”, although perhaps imperfect, seems to correlate with the progress of civilization in the European style. We would say that we cannot go back to the Stone Age, in a metaphor of Indians as wild beasts who lived in inhuman indignity. The Noble Savage metaphor does not work here any more than the romantic metaphor of womanhood works for women’s dignity. But rather, it enforces our fear of going back to Feudalism or Barbarism which we think dictatorial authoritarian. Hence, we would normally not think of the Native Culture as possible instructive material for learning the way to Peace.

5. Surprisingly, however, the Native Americans were not authoritarian. Their communities were organized on the principle  of sharing. The Indians were capable of becoming fierce warriors, but they lived in their communities of Love. They had a strong sense of personal dignity, and honored their liberty, though they were not egocentric Individualists. Nash narrates:

“One aspect of child-rearing on which European and Iroquoian cultures differed was in the attitude toward authority. In Iroquois society the autonomous individual, loyal to the group but independent and aloof rather than submissive, was ideal…

They were trained early in life to think for themselves but act for others…

They were being prepared for an adult society which was not hierarchical, as in the European case, but where individuals lived on a more equalitarian basis, with power more evenly distributed among men and women…”

[Red, White and Black.

See also: Walter B. Miller “Two Concepts of Authority”. American Anthropologist. Vol. 57. 1955, p. 271-289.

What Max Weber described in his study of “Authority” may be peculiar to Europe. We also note that, phrases such as “Show who is the boss” appeared frequently in the expressions of British colonialist to justify atrocities committed against the Natives.

In the context of Peace Research, Wm. Eckhardt’s study showed that the “aggressive” and “authoritarian” personality are correlated.]

It is also known that the principle ideas of Democracy in the American Constitution were influenced by Iroquoian ideals.

[Carol L. Bagley and Jo Ann Ruckman, “Iroquois Contribution to Modern Democracy and Communism.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Vol. 7 #2, 1983. p. 53-72.]

6. Iroquois, before their contact with Europeans, had established a “United Nations”. The name “Iroquois” stands for a group of five nations established in the 14th century or earlier: the Mohawks, the Onondaga, the Oneidas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas. The philosophy that united these nations was known as “Dekanawideh”, and we can decipher that the basic principle fo the Native “United Nation” was a philosophy of Peace, not the European tradition of “domination by the strongest.”

[Anthony F.C. Wallace, “The Dekanawideh Myth analyzed as the record of a revitalization movement”. Ethnohistory, Vol. 5, 1958.

Wm. N. Fenton Parker On the Iroquois. Book III. Syracuse U. Press, 1968.]

It appears that to the Natives “to know” a philosophy can be nothing short of honestly living by it. Therefore, they left no written “expose” on their philosophy. Nonetheless, we can infer a few glimpses of their philosophy; for example, the Philosophy of “Tree of Peace” has been translated and documented. It is remarkable that the Natives, despite their experiences of violence, had a vision of Peace in which they embraced whiteman within the “Four Roots of the Tree of Peace” that holds the World in love.

The Natives narrated the philosophy of Peace in a form of “prophecy” using a metaphor of a huge tree that protects and provides for all people. Its four roots are said to interconnect and hold the entire World.. They did not see any other possible way to have Peace on Earth, but by love that embraces the whole.

Since Dr. Colorado is to communicate the Peace message in the proper Native way in the following presentation, I shall not elaborate on the Peace Philosophy.

[See also Pamela Colorado, “Inowediwin. Peace and Honor Going Back and Forth Between Us.” Toward Social and Economic Justice, Gil & Gil, Schenkman Publishing Co., 1985.]

I would like to discuss one thing however. In studying the Native Philosophy of Peace, I have come to think that this Philosophy was embedded in a distinct Epistemology from that of traditional Western culture. I shall try explaining, the best I can, the distinct Epistemology that the Natives had.

7. The Natives had an oral tradition and to them “to know” was “to live in” the philosophy, as I mentioned above. They did not have “philosophy” existing only in texts, as in the European case. As a consequence, there existed no written text for their philosophy. Therefore, from our European custom of scholarship being a “book knowledge”, there exists considerable difficulty in researching the Native philosophy. I cannot assert that what I say here is correct. The only thing I can do is to report what I have “guessed” so far in my groping of an hypothesis in hopes of stimulating interest.

We cannot understand “philosophy” here in the sense of technically analyzing written expressions — as lawyers do in technical arguments about the “letter of the law” —, but we have to address “the spirit of the law”, so to speak. and the philosophy has to be deciphered from practice, and inferred from the way of life in the contexts of concrete situations at hand. The western sense of “objective knowledge” alienated from the knower’s own life is absurdity, if not dishonesty to the Natives. That is, Native philosophy was “spiritual” in the sense that it was the inner most thinking of the sovereign soul. And at the same time, the philosophy was “pragmatic” and “existential” in that it did not allow alienation from actual living. It was also akin to the Marxian position, in that “knowing” was “changing the World”. They did not learn “philosophy” as a text, but learned it as “awakening to wisdom”, which is an experience of change in the way of life. “Truth” that does not change one’s way of life is not a Truth, in their philosophy.

Even the Greek work “Truth” (a-letheia) meant “uncover” or “revelation” , refering to the existential experience in learning processes. The authoritarian dogmatism of European religion and academia perverted the active sense to a static sense of “knowledge” that someone could have a “patent” on, stake a claim on, and even could sell on the market. This “objectification’ is a peculiar fetishistic characteristic of the Western Scholarship and Science. It is the Epistemology of Capitalism, although the Communists also believe the same; whereas the natives had a dynamic epistemology.

We talk, in particular in an academic context, in the posture of claiming knowledge, with an implicit assumption that the audiences are hostile and demanding proofs and demonstrations. We are competing in an intellectual market, on an assumption that the adversary system brings the best. This is the assumption of the Free Market and Social Darwinism. Although we have disproved them a long time ago, our stylism has not been changed.

The Natives would much rather think of their statements to be gifts from love. Their discourses are not “power struggles”. Their propositions are “proposals” offered with unilateral commitment by the speakers. They know “giving” is the way of making a community. If the negotiators of Western nations talked in the Native way, we would not have the Arms Race.

We have an intellectual pride in being able to articulate technically on “letters.” But we might look back to see why we have come to do that. Perhaps, we are thinking of our communication as if a battle with a hostile audience and the art of articulation is a defensive shield against expected attack. We also think by articulation that we assert our intellectual superiority, if not attack the other. Do we play such games so often that we come to value the skill? If so, we may be mentally sick in admiring the art of manipulating our letters. To the Natives, it is a puzzle that there can be differences between “letter of law” and “spirit of law.” And they would say it is incomprehensible absurdity, if they were told that the Western Philosophy thrives on technical analyses of “letters” and has little to do with “spirit” or practices in living. They would not understand why we have to be so aggressive even in intellectual games. We analyse violence in Alcoholism as someone else’s problem from an “objective” stance. But, perhaps, we might look at our own tendency to intoxicate in a Power sensation.

We do know that Nuclear War in its scale is not the same as aggression at a personal level. We do have concerns about social structures of violence, but it may be that Nuclear Aggression is a collective consequence of our aggressive drive which manifests even in academic contexts.

And in talking of aggressiveness, we might also pay attention to our attitude of contemptuously looking down at “subjective” experiences in the name of “objectivity” or “value neutrality” of “science”. It might very well have come from our alienated neurotic psyche. I might concede to some theory to an effect that the scientific sense of “knowledge” can only be generated from alienation, enigma or fear, and although the “knowledge” does sometimes “sublimate” the aggression, it leaves residues of fear or hostility which leads us to violence. If so, we have a serious task to change “science” as such for the sake of Peace. And on this point, Native Philosophy appears to be very instructive.

[As to “Science as a destructive element”, see Birgit Brock-Utne. Education For Peace. Pergamon, 1986. This is a feminist critique of science. ]

The Algonquian and the Iroquoian of Ontario: The Beginning

The Algonquian and the Iroquoian of Ontario

The Beginning


O Jist Duu Yee How Aay

Pamela Colorado, Ph.D.


K’aw Daa Gangaas

Woodrow Morrison, J.D.

Stony Lake—Near Peterborough, Ontario

It is dawn, to a soft sunned Ontario summer. Like dark fingers, the night shadows retreat, tracing ancient symbols carved into coarse crystalline grey rock. Approaching the ancient site, silence and the scent of pine embrace the pilgrim.

The sound of water, moving deep within the rock, soothes the worries of everyday life and invites the pupil to listen, to learn, and to participate in the lessons of the land. The Ojibwa call this place Kinomagewapkong, the teaching rocks. It is here, and at similar prehistoric rock sites of knowledge that history is being opened up to us today.


Human and Ecology

Within the province of Ontario are located two different “types” of indigenous peoples; Algonquian and Iroquoian.

The Algic or Agonuian speakers in Ontario include the Algonquin, the Cree, the Nipissing, the Ojibwa, and the Ottawa (and one Potawatomi Reserve). The other group, the Iroquoian speakers, includes the Cayuga, the Huron, the Mohawk, the Neutral, Oneida, Onondaga, Petun, Seneca, Tobacco, and the Tuscarora.

The arrival of the first of the two linguistic groups, the Algic, into the Great Lakes area, began possibly as early as the 13th Millennium B.C.; the Iroquoian speaking peoples not appearing in the area until approximately 10 millennia later. Although their cultures, languages and origins are profoundly different, the cosmology of both of these aboriginal groups include “Beings” of critical importance to their survival; the Thunderers. In a sense, these “Thunderers” are the result of a very complex eco-atmospheric system that, in large part, has given life to that region and provided the laws to guide their different life-ways. Hence, rather than attempt to “fight” or resist the ecosystem (their habitat), it was necessary to adapt; to fit one’s physical and spiritual presence into an accommodation with the system.

“…Today, when a storm approaches an Indian community and someone places the proper offering on the ground in a respectful way, the storm will separate and go around the village.”

In the Great Lakes region, tribal “eco-atmospheric” behaviour is necessitated by its wide range of weather conditions and temperature variations. This central northern Canada region is isolated from both Pacific and Atlantic moisture sources by a remarkable series of interrelated topographical factors. The mountain ranges of Western Cordillera, Baffin Island and Labrador serve to channel continental air masses north and south over Canada’s relatively dry interior. As a result, total precipitation in Northern Ontario is rather small (about 60 cm.), of which most, peaking in July, falls during the summer months of thunderstorms. Snowfall, on the other hand, has its primary peak in November with a secondary one in April, both occurring during periods of shifting frontal zones, changing winds and unsettled conditions. Cool Spring and late Fall temperatures turn the tail ends of these precipitation periods into a large portion of the area’s snowfall.

Also, the region experiences pronounced seasonal temperature cycles; minimum daily temperatures range from a monthly means of 29 degrees C in January to 11 degrees C in July. And, maximum daily temperatures rise from a low of -19degrees C in January to 21 degrees C in July. Thus, it was necessary for the region’s inhabitants (including human) to develop a flexibility suited to that broad spectrum of change.

Despite the close physical proximity of Ontario’s two neighbouring people to one another, we find wide variations in their social and cultural practices, and in their economies. The differences are further heightened by the fact that the Algonquian live directly within the eco-atmospheric system described above, while the Iroquoian’s northern boundaries lie along the southern and eastern fringes of the system. Also, both derive from vastly different histories.

The Histories

The origins of Ontario’s Native people and their development and emergence as distinct Iroquoian and Algic or Algonquin speaking peoples spans a vast period of time and space approximately, some linguists say upward to 20,000 years. Such sweeping histories have great relevance for today because they include critical information about the environment, about the nature of human development and consciousness and, they call for a new working order between Native and non-Native people. Ancient though these histories are, and remote may be the records left by the ancients, the evidence and knowledge can be understood. The key is to recuperate information about the migrations that brought both peoples into the area.

The Algonquian and The Iroquoian of Ontario

Western science tells us that the Human specie of mammal evolved from mouse-sized primate of the Tardier family. Further, archaeologists found skeletal remains of such an animal in Africa which was subsequently dated as having lived 35 million years ago; thus concluding that the origins of the human specie lies somewhere in central Africa.

But then, in January 1991, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania reported that between 1984 and 1987, they unearthed skeletal remains of that same specie of primate. This one, found in United States (Wyoming), dates back 50 million years. And, as reported in the British Journal Nature, “…challenges conventional wisdom by suggesting that man may have evolved in North America.” This is consistent with the histories of nearly all the tribes of North and South America.

The Oral Tradition

Native American histories portray a far more complex picture of the past forty to fifty millennia than most western scholars might possibly imagine.

Although not commonly known by western scholars, within all tribes, the transferring of history from one generation to the third, involves a rigorous process; one in which history is taught by the grandparents to the grandchildren (grandmothers to granddaughters and grandfathers to grandsons—the history of the origins of women and origins of men are not the same) with the generation between listening until the grandparents ahead of them are gone or are not capable of carrying on. Then the formal training of the next generation begins; it is a life-long process rather than simply an avocation or career choice of self-appointed individuals.

The histories of the origins of the various tribes are individualistic; although they may have aspects in common, they do not tell of one common creation. Some point to a specific locale within their present territory and say, “This is the place we came into being.” Others tell of origins that go so far back into the dim reaches of human history, so far back as to make it difficult in today’s terms, to identify the situs of that origin However, those origins are recorded in, as we shall see, “non-language” forms.

Oft-ties the oral traditions tell of the origins of a people’s migration as having begun at a much greater distance away from present locations that indicated by the boundaries mapped by western science. A common variation of tribal history tells of the arrival of people different from themselves, into their homelands migrating from some unnamed origin. A third scenario is one wherein one people tells of another people within their territory leaving for unnamed destinations. Such is that of the Hopi.

In 1947 Hopi Elder, Thomas Bnyacya, was appointed by a Council of Hopi Elders to be Spokesman for the Hopi Nation (Arizona, U.S.A.). One of his first assignments was to contact a people who migrated out of the south-southwest and failed to report back, those people were today’s Ontario’s Iroquoian people, with whom the Hopi had lost contact thousands of years earlier. Yet, through their annual ritual reading of their petroglyphs, the Hopi remembered who had (migrated away) and who had reported back. Elder Banyacya was spared the trip North when a delegation of Six Nations Chiefs literally appeared at his door, about fifteen thousand years late for the meeting!

The Bering Land Bridge migration theory is extremely problematic, for like the “ice-corridor,” it is too narrow.

Even if Native people had run across the Americas, there would not have been sufficient time for them to have populated the continent to the extent estimated by western science (100 million by the year 1492) nor to have diversified into such a vast array of distinct language and cultures that were present to greet the new arrivals from Europe in the 15th and 16th Centuries, A.D.

The last retreat of an ice age; one emptying the Bering Straits of sea water between Siberia and Alaska, occurred only 15,000 years ago (the current estimate is that there have been approximately ten ice ages every one million years, or one, on average, every 100,000 years.). Such vast time periods, as those lapsing between ice ages, are understood widely by tribal peoples; Algonquians refer to the ages as “Fires.” Hopi describe them as “Worlds” and the ProtoIroquoian as “Suns.”

In western terms a “World” (or “Fire” or “Sun”) is 26,000 years; a period measuring a complete cycle of the Precession of Equinoxes. Early Native scientists were so attuned to the natural world that phenomena such as this “wobble” in the Earth’s rotation was perceived and entered into their mathematical calendrical calculations.

Tribal histories almost invariably present accounts of supernatural origins…stories which, to the western mind, are without this sense of time. Tribal languages do not discuss history from the perspective of “time” but in terms of “distance,” hence, are timeless stories. The events chronicled in song, chant, and/or story might have taken place in “this world” (26,000 year cycle), or in other worlds which the People described as timeless, pre-time.

Non-Language Messages

When the migrating tribes arrived in their new homelands, each group began a curious undertaking, that is the creation of a new form of information — carving and painting of ideographs on rocks. Unlike the phonetic alphabet of Europe, ideographs, these designs are highly developed picture writings that convey “abstractions, subtleties and multiple associations.” The powerful psychographic information encoded on rocks ensured that the message recorded would be recoverable for thousands of years. Moreover, a message, written in ideographic form, is independent of a particular spoken language, i.e., non-Language form. Generations born millennium later, who might not speak the language of their ancestors, could still access the knowledge — but only if they had matured into and mastered the “good mind” or the authentic Native mind.

The “Dark Sun”

It is probable that the most recent migrations were responses to their prophesies o the “Dark Sun”; and event that was more than a Spiritual or psychological prediction, it was an actual physical phenomenon recorded in rock records. The year zero, or null-year time, i.e., around the time of the birth of Christ, forward to the end of the first millennium, A.D., marked an epoch of intense solar activity. Enormous solar flares, visible to the naked eye, created great black splotches across the face of the Sun. It was a terrifying an experience then as it would be today; and the impact was profound not only on human beings but on the climate itself, of North America.

The Nine (9) Hells — 468 Years

Life-ways decisions, based upon thousands of years of keen observations, and a very precise knowledge of complex planetary movements and weather patterns, were implemented with a very high degree of confidence. So high a degree of confidence that when the decision was made to leave home, the people picked up their belongings, left, and set out on journeys exceeding the life-spans of several generations of their people.

An example of this knowledge involves the Aztecan people of Mexico (cultural-linguistic relatives of the Iroquois) who view great spans of time (as stated above) as “Suns” which, like the Hopi “World,” equals 26,000 years. Approximately 1,000 years before the time of the birth of Christ, Aztec scientists began to predict a Dark Sun, which would conclude in Nine Hells, a span of 9 Aztec centuries of 52 years each or 468 years. During the period of these Nine Hells, (or negative energy) hardship, suffering and great death were anticipated.

Native peoples began to prepare. Representatives from all of Anauak (a pre Columbian name for North America, literally, the land of the wind or eagles) met at Tenochtitlan where they arrived at the following directives designed to protect the knowledge of the Americans:

The sacred sites of learning including the pyramids, would be closed. This would prevent power and knowledge from falling into the hands of people who were not prepared.

The people who would be arriving from the East would be greeted in friendship, this would be in the long-term interest of the land and future generations.

Knowledge would no longer be written or recorded; except through oral tradition.

The North American leaders discontinued their meetings in Mexico.

Only two communications systems were to remain opened — the Native languages and the direct communication with the Great Spirit.

These precautions were not taken only because European people would be arriving but because it was the time of the dark sun — a necessary fluctuation of negative energy which would be balanced in 1987 with the New Sun.

Beginning in1519, consciousness (represented by the Sun) entered the darkness. the yellow-pelted Jaguar with its black spots symbolizes this epoch and appears everywhere in pottery, rugs and art from this period of Aztecan history.

It was at this time when Cuauhtemoc, nephew of Montezuma addressed the assembled Iroquois and Azec leaders (recorded by a Spanish priest):

Cuautemoc’s Consignia

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.

Let us hide our sacred spaces and grounds

to the Spiritual Creator,

Our schools, our Ball Courts,

Our centre’s for the youth,

Our houses for song and play,

Let our homes seclude us,

Until emerges our New Sun.

Dear fathers and mothers

Never forget to guide your youth

And to teach your children while they live.

How good She has been,

Until now, our beloved land Anauak,

the shelter and protection of our destinies.

Which our ancestors received

through their great respect and good behavior

And which our dear fathers very wisely

Instilled in our being.

Now we will advise our children

Not to forget to tell their children

How good She will be,

How She will rise up and gather strength,

And how well She will fulfill her great destiny,

This our beloved Mother Earth Anauak.


August 12, 1521

Proto Algonquins Begin to Arrive

The Algonquin, whose name means “they are our relatives,” can be traced to an early people — the Proto Algonquins — who moved into and populated much of Eastern Canada shortly after the retreat of the East Glacier around 15,000 years ago. Based on their own history, these are the only North American Indian people to have originated somewhere in the Atlantic, then move westward up the St. Lawrence and into the Great Lakes area.

By 6,000 B.C., the great earth mounds that characterize this early populace were already covering the banks of the waterways of Southern Ontario. Along Lake Erie, the oldest existing mound systems are found clay and artifacts from distant reaches of North America. Other mounds contained burials and some, by their location and design, speak to educational purposes. These recent discoveries, although “new” to the “Scientists,” have long been an integral part of the “story”; part of oral tradition of Algonquian peoples who say the well-developed trade routes and communication systems established this area as a major sphere of intellectual and economic activity. But the movement westward did not stop with the mounds.

Two of the three branches of the Algic language group, the Yurok (now thought to be extinct) Wiyot, continued westward and settled in Northwestern California. The third branch, the Algonquian speakers, remained within the general area of the Great Lakes.

In terms of territorial distribution, it is difficult to pin-point the exact geographic boundaries within which these peoples were distributed but, that distribution appears to have been bounded by natural forces, i.e., eco-atmospheric system. In any case, the linguistic group was numerous and dispersed widely enough by the end of that first millennia to begin developing separate linguistic traditions. But, evidence derived from the oral traditions of the people themselves, and some provided by archaeology, and from linguists indicates that the territory occupied by this group was quite large.

The territory occupied by this group was quite large, perhaps from Lake Huron to some distance down the St. Lawrence River. In fact, the northeastern (and Eastern/Northern Carolina Atlantic coast) languages (Abenaki, Beotuk and Micmac) were at one extreme end of the resultant dialect chain. Algonquians are also found (west of the Mississippi River) as far south as Kansas and Oklahoma. Curiously, it appears that culturally this group is more closely identified with those of the East and Northeast than with the others.

The Mound-Builders, Adena, Hopewell and Mississippian Cultures

Oral history says that the Iroquoian people moving northeast encountered Proto Algonquin and helped to build effigy mounds, including Ohio’s serpent mound. Subsequent arrivals from the southwest would create elaborate platform mounds and finally pyramids, as far north as Wisconsin.

Hundreds of these sites literally dot the landscape, beginning at the mouth of the Mississippi River, travelling up the Ohio River and terminating in Southern Ontario.

Although much is unknown about these ancient efforts, today’s archaeologists refer to the ancient mounds as spheres of interaction. At these sites fancy symbolic goods were produced and exotic trade items and other highly prized materials came from great distances and were exchanged. These newcomers and their great earthworks also brought new ideas and technology which triggered a profound shift away from hunting and gathering towards an economy of horticulture.

As this way of life grew larger, more stable communities developed with increasingly substantial housing. A golden age of social and community development was at hand when suddenly development stopped. Early historians speculated some type of cultural decline that the mound builders culture fell apart and that people reverted to simpler ways of life, but contemporary scholars contend that the new way of life had simply diffused among the population thereby rendering the mound complex obsolete.

Aztec, Iroquoian history states that this phenomena represented the scattering of the knowledge to the four directions — the ultimate sacrifice of a people determined to survive the coming age of darkness.

Proto Iroquois

The Proto Iroquoian people linguistic relatives of Mexico’s Aztec, like the Proto Algonquin, also migrated to Southern Ontario. But, unlike the Algonquin, they originated in the Southern or Southwestern part of North America.

this move North occurred over a period of time exceeding, perhaps 15,000 years during this period, the tundra of Southern Ontario was changing and evolving into the mixed woodlands — we associate with the area today. The warming of the climate meant that agriculture, never before possible, could now eventuate in the North. Responding to this new change in the environment, the Iroquois moved, not so much for new opportunity, but out of the perceived need to maintain balance. The move up the Mississippi was hazardous and demanding. The people were moving across a land that not only they had never seen before, but had not even known of its existence. In order to travel safely and with confidence, these early people created maps of many types and practiced the indigenous science and art of wayfinding.

Through wayfinding, the Native traveller relied on all senses and drew upon years of rigorous study and practice in order to successfully negotiate vast distances of land and water, knowledge of the stars and their movements, ability to read weather patterns and mastery of oral traditions which contained survival information was necessary. Because the knowledge was so complex, numeric devices including notched and painted sticks, wampum and woven belts were created to aide the memory of ancient travellers. Many of these artifacts exist and are used today.

The Contemporary Algonquin Arrive in Ontario

About 7,000 years ago, the ancestor’s of today’s Algonquin speaking people began to arrive in southeastern Ontario, Beuton tells us that “the people were so many and so powerful that if one was to climb the highest mountain and look in all directions, they would not be able to see the end of the nation.”

Clans and bands were widely distributed and highly specialized. There were: berry pickers, wood carvers, fisherman, canoe makers and stone carvers, others called Gi-t-gay-wi-nini-wug, keepers of the creators garden, raised and gathered food. Trade and communication, as in Proto-Algonquin days, was active and highly developed. The early Algonquian used the waterways to travel by canoe, and dog sleds and teams to travel in winter. According to oral history, life was good for the people — the clan system and government were strong; there were plenty of food from the land and sea. The groups grew and diversified.

Historically there was a continuous shifting of kin-related groups of Algonquian-speaking peoples who resided along the north shore of Lake Huron and Superior, from Georgian Bay to the edge of the prairies. The high mobility inherent in the migratory and relocation patterns of these peoples resulted in small scattered sites concentrated in areas of great faunal variety and density. Areas such as edge zones and small discrete natural communities of the northern forest. Generally, these settlements consisted of relatively small habitation sites and associated hunting camps. The movements tended to be restricted by eastern arctic weather systems to the north, and those of the “mild Pacific” to the south and by their neighbours to the east and west. In short, they moved in a relatively homogenous environment and seasonally coalesced around locales dictated by Spiritual guides.

The tribal cultures encountered by the early European arrivals had existed for a considerable period of time. It seems to have been a modified continuance of a somewhat more complex Algonquian culture, which developed south of the Great Lakes, and was in place before the Iroquoian migration into that Eastern region (nearly caused total isolation of the eastern Algonquian from their western kindred).

Before the projection of this Iroquoian wedge into the regions bordering the Lakes Erie and Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River, the eastern outpost of the outer fringe of this group of people whose more “complex” culture we have already mentioned, and whose derive shaped burial mound building activities centred in Ohio, entered and occupied a large portion of New England. There seems to be little doubt that they belonged to the great lakes Algonquian.

Ottawa (Outaouakamigouk)


The Ottawa tend to be concentrated primarily on Manitoulin Island; chiefly in coastal and riverine regions of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and adjacent parts of Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin (arrived later in Kansas and Oklahoma).

It is sometimes difficult to separate Ottawa territory from that of their linguistically close related neighbours. Seventeenth Century sources apply the term Ottawa not only to a local group otherwise known as Sable but also to both the total totemic or local groups that together formed the tribes (Kiskakon, Sinage, Sable, Nassauakueton and, later, others) and to all other “Upper Algonquians,” including possibly the Ouacheskesouek.


The physical environment of the Ottawa was mostly wooded except for small prairies in southwestern Michigan; hardwoods predominating in the south, while in the north mixed conifers and hardwoods. Fish, fowl and mammals, especially beaver, were present in great variety while the temperate, humid climate with annual growing seasons of up to 180 days easily permitted the cultivation of corn and other crops.


An Algonquian-speaking people whose homeland was the Lake Nipissing region of Ontario. The language of this group is clearly related to that of the Algonuin, Ottawa and Ojibwa dialects.

The precise limits of Nipissing territory are not known; they seem to have been neighbours with the Temiskaming and Temagami on the north; the Ottawa, Bonnechare, and Kipawa Algonquian tribes to the east; Huron to the south; and the Amikwa and Achiligouan Ojibwa to the west.

Their territory all lay within the glaciated “Canada Shield,” within the mixed coniferous-deciduous forests of the Great Lakes — St. Lawrence River region, and at or near the northern limit of maize cultivation. As with the territory of the Ottawa, thre was an abundance of fish, waterfowl and mammals.

Unlike the other Algonquian-speaking peoples who spent time cultivating the land, the Nipissing were primarily hunter-gathers (fishers) who moved according to their Spiritual guides instructions.

Algonkin and Cree

Along the Ottawa river and adjoining the Montagnais in the east were the Algonkin proper who gave their name to the entire group of people. By now, the culture of the Proto Algonquin shaped by its “old copper,” technology and its focus on mound building had with changing climate, become wild rice country. The region, filled with countless lakes and marshes of menominee or wild rice held skies filled with waterfall. The region teemed with people.

To the North, the cultural and linguistic relatives, the Cree had moved into the spruce for country that ran all the way to the Hudson. Centering largely upon hunting, trapping and gathering, small family units of Cree distributed themselves across vast areas of boreal forest. The board pattern of dispersal was critical for it provided sufficient area for triplanes; permitted generations of a single family to live in one area over hundreds of years. The stability of Cree society promoted knowledge of medicinal plants, and animal behavior which cannot be matched even by science today.

The stability of Cree society and the demands of the northern climate produced deep knowledge of medicinal plants, northern meteorology and animal behavior. What Cree people learned of boreal ecology is so profound that the slightest change in environment can be detected even today.

Such breadth and accuracy was developed and maintained through a vigorous spirituality which created in its disciples, the ability to receive lucid dreams; the ability to wayfind — to project one’s consciousness in order to see what can’t be seen while simultaneously remaining alert to ordinary reality — qualities essential for mapping and hunting in vast spaces. Jung describes this as accessing the collective unconsciousness. In any event, the Cree so valued this ability that it became institutionalized through shaking tent ceremonials. Through such processes individuals received knowledge, often in the form of animal images,that empowered or healed people and allowed them to live in balance with the land.

Ojibwa — The Final Arrivals and Message

Ojibwa (Last syllable pronounced “way,” refers to the peculiar puckered seam of their moccasins; Europeans garbled it into Chippewa and stuck to it so persistently that many Ojibwa today call themselves Chippewas) made up one of the largest nations north of Mexico.

The Ohio Valley, the centre of the Hopewell Mound Builders some centuries earlier, had become very sparsely populated due to diffusion and absorption of knowledge created through these centers. The Miami Confederacy of Indiana and environs (one of their villages was called chicago, meaning “Skunk Place”) and the somewhat more populous Illinois Confederacy to their west were growing in number (These people were of the Algonquian language group, while the Erie to their east, below Lake Erie, were Iroquoian speakers.)

The history of the Ojibwa, handed down to us by elders tell us that seven major prophets came to the Anishianabe in prehstory. They came in the time when people were living full peaceful lives on the eastern seaboard. The prophets gave the people seven predictions, each prediction was called a Fire which refers to a particular time and space. These seven Fires instructed the Ojibwa to:

leave the seaside and migrate west following the sacred megis shell, to a place in the west where food grows on the water.

Organized and lie the teachings of the spiritual Midewiwin Lodge.

Prepare to receive the coming light skinned race which could come carrying either good technology and ideas or wearing the face of death. The face of death would be known when rivers run with poison and fish become unfit to eat.

The fourth Fire warned of a great struggle that would grip the lives of Native people if Ojibwa reached out for a false promise of great joy and salvation.

The fifth Fire predicted that Native children would be taken away and that elders would close their reason for living. “The cup of life will almost be spilt. The cup of life with almost become the cup of grief.” (Beuton).

In the sixth Fire visionaries came among the people and the Ojibwa joined the Aztec and Iroquois in hiding the sacred scrolls. Like cantemocs message, it is said that “the teachings of the elders were hidden out of sight but not out of memory. It was said that when the time came that Indian people could practice their religion without fear that a little boy would dream where the ironwood log full of sacred bundles and scrolls was buried. He would lead his people to this place.”

The seventh Fire says that Native people will reawaken and retrace their steps to find out what was lost. The light skinned race will be offered a choice between two roads. If they choose the right road then:

“the seventh Fire will light the Eighth and Final Fire, and eternal Fire of peace, love, brotherhood and sisterhood.”

If they make the wrong choice, the destruction will come back to them and cause suffering and death to all the earth’s people.

Based on the prophecy of the Fires, the Ojibwa moved up the St. Lawrence and took up residence in the areas that Europeans found them in. As they arrived the knowledge of the Fires and other essential information was encoded in petroglyphs.

By the time the Europeans arrived, all of Ontario’s Native people had undergone profound changes in anticipation of the Dark Sun. Villages had become stockaded; Indian versus Indian  wars erupted; and, in the final moments the Ojibwa forged the three Fires confederacies of Algonquin Nations which would unite and strengthen people for the difficult times ahead.

Contemporary Iroquois

“…our beginnings were toward the setting Sun, where the grass grew tall, where the buffalo lived.”

Around the time of Clvasts birth, the Iroquois headed up the Ohio River towards the Great Lakes. The halcyon days of social political, cultural and spiritual evolution through wayfinding and monumental architecture was over. The Dark Sun neared and Native societies grew restive.

As the final southwestern people arrived, one band of Iroquois crossed the Great Lakes and settled on Georgia Bay. They are known as the Thastchechi; the Huron. South of the settled the Tionontati, the Tobacco people.

A third band of the Hotinonsonni settle along the shores of Lake Erie; they are the Gaguagaono — Erie people. Still another band, the Hatiwaterunh — the Neutral people — settled along the Niagara River. To the southeast of this group settled the Wenrohronon (Wenroe) band while, along the Susquehana River is found the Kanastoge people. To the west of them, a seventh band, along the Upper Ohio, the Honiasontkeronon (Black Minqua) built their towns.

The Nottoway and Meherrin people migrated up the Kanawha River. And, far to the south, across the Appalachian Mountains migrated the Oyatageronon, the Cherokee people.

The main band continued down the St. Lawrence River. There they met the Adirondack people; a people different from themselves. These people were physically smaller than the Hotinonsonni, but there were more of them. They were hunters, while the Iroquois were more or less farmers. The Hotinonsonni noticed that when these people cooked their foods, they flavoured them with different kinds of bark. So, the Hotinonsonni called these people “Adirondacks” or porcupines, meaning literally the Eaters of Bark.

The Iroquois did not get along well with the Adirondacks; and oral history records many battles with the “Bark Eaters.” In time they were defeated by the Adirondacks and forced to pay tribute. After many years of planning and with secretly-store provisions, one dark night they left their village and silently paddled their canoes up the St. Lawrence River.

They looked back and saw specks on the waters. These distant specks were the canoe of the Bark Eaters. The Hotinonsonni know that the Adirondacks, not being burdened with women and children would catch them before they could land. The Adirondacks overtook the Iroquois near the mouth of the Oswego River. A great battle took place.

For a time it looked as if the Iroquois would be wiped out. The Thunder People heard their cry of distress and sent a great storm. In the confusion, the rough waters and high winds, many of the Adirondack canoes overturned. Those who survived, turned and headed for home.

War in the European definition was virtually unknown on the North and South American continents. Raids that are today referred to as “wars” usually involved only a fraction of the available fighting men and those only for a very brief period. Utterly defeated nations were assimilated rather than annihilated. Nevertheless, after the Iroquois were established in the Finger Lakes region of New York and southern Ontario, they began to stockade and fortify their villages as did the Algonquin.

the life lived by these woodland people in their stockaded towns had sudden storms of terror and violence but was not one of constant strife.

The Iroquois Evolve and Diversify

Following the fight near the mouth of the Oswego River, the Hotinonsonni landed and built their village prospered and, soon their population reached a point where it was necessary for the people to begin moving to other village sites.

So from their adopted homeland along the Oswego River, they trailed to the south, the east, and to the west. The Flint People or, to others, the Mohawk settled along the Mohawk River.

The People of the Standing Stone, or Oneida, built their villages along Lake Oneida while, those called the People of the Hills, or Onondagas, settled along Onondaga Creek. To the west, the Great Pipe People, or Cayuga, erected their towns along the shores of Lake Cayuga.

The Seneca, People of the Great Mountain, settled along Canadaigua Lake. Another band, the Akotaskarore, or Tuscaroras, travelled far to the south.

Now, they, the one band of Hotinonsonni, like a nuclear family, had become six separate bodies. To the east was the Hudson River running eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. To the west stretched the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. North was the Adirondack Mountain region and south were the Finger Lakes.


Collectively, the Huron called themselves Ouendat…their confederacy consisted of five tribes; the Attignawantan, the Attigeenongnahac, the Arendaronon, Tahontaenrat, and the Ataronchronon.

Generally, the southern frontier of the Huron territory, defined in today’s terms followed the regional strongholds and principal villages; Ossossane (La Conception), Scanonaenrate (Saint Michael), Teanaustaye (St. Joseph II), and Contarea (St. Jean Baptiste).

To the northeast, vast swamps stretched along the contact line separating the rock-knob area of the Canada Shield from the arable uplands of the Huron territory. The southwest was sharply defined by the tangled cedar and alder swamps of the Nottawasaga lowlands. ONly along the southeastern frontier between Orr Lake and Lake Couchiching were the swamps more discontinuous. The Huron homeland was in fact an upland area of arable soils surrounded by water and swamp.

The climate in pre-contact times (say 16th century) seems to have been similar to today’s 20th century climate. Winters were a bit longer, long enough to hinder tobacco growing but not corn; a growing season of approximately 140 days. Huron corn matured in 90 to 120 days.

Although the extent of the forest cover has changed greatly, the dominant species are the same; maple, beech, and bass wood. White pine, hemlock and elm are also common, particularly in the moister soils. And, there is no doubt that cedar and alder swamps were at one time extensive, as was the abundance of surface water.

Social Organization

Descent and inheritance was matrilineal. Children did not succeed to their father’s property, but to that of the mother’s brother.

They were monogamous and formed nuclear families…the matrilineal extended family was the fundamental social and economic unit. The Huron society was divided into clan units; Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Hawk, Porcupine and Snake.

To the Huron, there was no concept of animate-inanimate; everything had a soul or Spirit. The more powerful of these spirits, those that exerted control over the daily affairs of humans were called “Oki.” The most powerful “Oki” was the sky because it controlled the seasons, the winds, and all natural phenomenon. The Sky “Oki” was invoked at special occasions such as the conclusion of a treaty, the healing of the sick, or the giving of a promise. Feasts were given in its honor, and tobacco was offered as a sacrifice.

Since animals also had spirits, the people were careful not to offend them. Animal and fish bones were not burned nor were they fed to dogs. Fish nets were never left in the presence of the dead and, to ensure a good fish catch the nets were married at the beginning of the fishing season to two virgins. While fishing, prayers, were offered to the fish and tobacco offered as a sacrifice to the Spirit of the waters.

Some of the more important Spirits could appear in human or semi-human form. Ondoutachiae, part human and part turkey cock, was the Spirit of Thunder, Lightning and Rain. After the Sky, the two most important Spirits were Ataensic, a woman identified with the Moon, and her grandson Iouskeha, who was identified with the Sun. Iouskeha made the lakes and rivers, freed all the animals from a great cave, made the corn grow, provided good weather, and passed on the secret of fire-making to humans. All living things were in its care; Ataensic had fallen from the Sky to become the Mother of humankind.

It was Ataensic who made people die, was in charge of their souls, and continuously tried to undo the good works of Iouskeha. Both Spirits lived very much like humans but could rejuvenate themselves once they got old.

Khionontateronon (Petun)

The Petun was located about 26 miles southwest of the western boundaries of Huron territory. The occupied portion of the Petun territory lay below the Niagara Escarpment and generally above the major recessional shoreline of Glace Lake Algonquian in what are now Nottawasaga and Collingwood townships, Ontario.


Unless it be the degree of specialization in growing and trading tobacco, the Petun did not appear to have possessed a single trait not shared completely or in some degree with the Huron. The same can be said of all the Iroquoian speakers and, the same homogeneity is found in the Alquonquian cultures.


While a barter economy existed between Huron and non-Huron, there is no evidence of any kind of barter system among the Huron themselves. In fact, there is no evidence that goods and services were redistributed within the Huron society through commercial transactions or any kind of marketing system. Within the kin sphere, goods and services were simply shared. Beyond that system, goods diffused through ceremonial exchanges (“give-away”), such as name-giving ceremonies, burial ceremonies, and through gift-giving such as marriages.

Everyone within the kin sphere was related; traced back to common ancestors. And, when gifts were given, the value of the gift was dependent upon the view of the worth or “standing of the donee by the donor.” Hence, in this system, one’s reputation, in a society wherein secrets were few, determined the stature of an individual, family, or clan and, accordingly, provided the motivation to be a person of stature.

Hoarding of goods and stinginess met with strong village disapproval and could lead to unpleasant accusations and to banishment, while liberality was highly valued and received strong social approval.


Some, notably the Huron, north and east of Lake Ontario, practiced elaborate mass burial ceremonies when the collected bones of the deaths of 10 or 12 years were formally interred together with mountains of rich funeral gifts; from furs to beautifully worked tools and arms.


The southern ball game, with racquets was played—La Crosse. An east coast innovation was introduced in the centuries following the decline of the Hopewell world, was in widespread use; sea shells (actually the hinges of the shells) strung on strings or beaded into belts, used to record history, and exchanged between nations at diplomatic councils as solemn promises of earnest intent; Wampompeag, in the Algonquian language—Wampum to the English.

The final policy meeting of North American leaders, in Mexico City, triggered profound changes in Ontario Native life. Five Iroquoian nations inhabiting all of central New York, from the Genesee River to Lake Champlain, organized themselves into a Confederacy. They were from west to east, the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and the Mohawk; the League of the Iroquois.

North of the Five Nations were the Huron, a populous confederacy made up of five aristocratic tribes, richest in tradition and ceremony of all of the Iroquoian, and a number of dependent groups; one an Algonquian community.

To the west of the Five Nations was the Iroquoian State that became known as the Tobacco Nation and the Iroquoian confederacy that came to known as Neutrals.

Southwest of the Five Nations were the Erie, also known in their Iroquoian language as the “Cat Nation,” from the full meaning of their name, “People of the Panther.” South of the Five Nations, in central Pennsylvania and adjacent regions were the Susquehanna, also known as the Connestoga or Kanastoge.

The League of Iroquois was organized by Huron statesman Daganawida and assisted by a Mohawk named Hiawatha, put an end to the conflicts between the Five Nations and established a universal peace based upon harmony, justice and a government of law; The Great Law of Peace.

The Confederacy, still active today (the oldest living democracy), is composed of a Grand Council of 50, made up of the Head Councillors of each of the Five Nations. The “Sachems” wer selected from specific families by the Clan Grandmothers, and were appointed for life—although the Clan Matriarch of his clan could have a Sachem deposed if he turned out to be a bad choice (not taken lightly).

A second level of Sachems, known as “solitary pine trees,” to which anyone could aspire by merit rather than by birth. These Pine Tree Chiefs had the right to speak in Council and made up a House of Representatives, so to speak, as against the Senate of hereditary chiefs.

The League, or the Great Peace, has these many centuries kept the peace among its members. Its great Council held each summer at the principle Onondaga town provides an impressive show, instilling a feeling of unity, as it continues year after year, generation after generation, century after century. The joy and strength of friendship was established, the deep conviction that “…come what may…” one’s nation does not stand alone; that all the ay from the Seneca to the Mohawk, the west wind streams over a forest of family.

To enhance the feeling of family, the political structure of the Confederacy paralleled the Longhouse. The Mohawk became the eastern door, the Seneca the west. The Onondaga who most resisted Confederacy were granted the central fire. Moreover, the methods and means of building a Longhouse mirror, the way Iroquoian sentences and thoughts, are constructed. This, politics, architecture and language were synchronized and created a powerful psychological construct that would serve to protect and maintain the people through the forthcoming holocaust of Invasion by Europe.

Kinomagewapkong—What do the Rocks Teach us Today?

The tribal “chronicles” of Peterborough and all of the Americas are important not only to the people for whom they were recorded but also for the rest of humanity. The reading of petroglyphs corroborated in oral histories permit the participants, a hundred generations, later, to “experience” the events of ancestors. They also provide us with a picture of what the original ecology of our planet was like, at least during the last few hundred centuries. Also, they may also serve as sources for important environmental and species survival purposes.

The rocks in the Americas are beginning to reveal new information. Elders have begun to notice and are travelling across the continent to interpret these messages. Western scientists have also become interested.

Barry Fell was one of the first western scientists to state that the North American rocks contain a record of Celt, Basque, Libyan and even Egyptian visits and colonies dating back 2,500 years. Fell’s interpretation of history provides an image of peaceful, productive relationships between Native peoples and Europeans which was sustained over a long period of time. Needless to say, mainstream historians were skeptical and continued to hold to the linear impoverished Bering Strait’s theory.

From a Native viewpoint, Fell’s work is important because it  begins to bridge the chasm that has existed in the knowledge systems and relationships of Native and non-Native Canadian. Fortunately, there is a growing interest on the part of established scientists such as Mavor and Dix from Harvard to build on the foundations revealed by Fell. This is crucial because Native knowledge systems hold a key to long-term environmental and species survival. Cross-cultural scientific communication and collaboration is essential if our children and their children are to continue.

The future calls upon the people of Ontario to address and find creative solutions to major human and ecological issues such as further development of hydroelectric power and proposed clear cuts. Left unattended, these contentious and vital decisions which are dividing Native and non-Native people out of the hands of science and concerned citizens and into the hands of politicians and vested interests. Unfortunately  these groups rely on approaches which evolved out of the epoch of the Dark Sun and produce Burttuo conflict and confusion.

The other avenue is a wholistic approach, articulated in quantum physics and carried in the wisdom of informed Native Elders. One immediate way, to comprehend this life sustaining approach and to access vital information on a timely basis, is to visit the ancient universities like the rocks at Peterborough. As we study and begin to make sense of the messages left for us, there we also discover the deep meaning and the great potential of the western person in Native North America. It is the dawning of the New Sun—let us begin.

Traditional Advisors

Xilonem Gavcia, Aztec Elder

Mazatl Galindo, Aztec

Mary Jones, Choctaw Elder

Thomas Banyacca, Hopi Elder

Jake Thomas, Six Nations Chief

Field Work Sites

Teotichuacan, Mexico

Giza, Egypt

Poverty Point Mounds, Louisiana

Big Horn Medicine Wheel, Sheridan, Wyoming

Aztalan Mounds, Greenfield, Wisconsin

International Social Work and Social Content as a Springboard to a Mission Statement: A Discussion Paper

International Social Work and Social Content as a Springboard to a Mission Statement: A Discussion Paper

Pam Colorado


Issues, implications, contradictions, and possibilities abound in considerations of an international program in social welfare. Foremost among these elements of discussion are culture and politics; the quintessence of the term “nation”.

In order to articulate a mission statement, this paper analyses the social context of international social work issues. Drawing on the political, scientific and ethical components of social science reality helps ground discussion on local and global levels.

Political Context of Social Welfare.

  1. Social Welfare as Political Neutrality;

Withorn argues that social welfare has protected itself by riding the fence on its position in capitalism. The results of this retreat – from engaging directly in ideological debate/from working behind the scenes – are that social workers often present themselves as faceless bureaucrats without a social vision; workers are profoundly confused as to what they should do, and have an enormous sense of isolation and frustration from other workers and clients.

Withorn suggests that the 1980’s are the time to;

“alter our perspectives and begin to see service delivery and political quest for basic social change as unalterably intertwined not irrevocably separate.”

The author purports that open political debate that results from links with personal and political concerns will provide the base for a new strategy, which will demand services without compromising quality; and, which will see workers as people within a critical industry for social change efforts.

2. Social Welfare as “Political Beast”

Good social work practice has faced fundamental challenges in the international arena. The locus of social work activities and the agent of publication and research has often been large, powerful agencies such as UNESCO and CIDA. Thus, social work has been subject to highly charged international politics. Moreover, the international bureaucracies that house international social work activities have clutched the safety of western scientific, positivistic objectivity. The results of this retreat into unbridled positivism have often been disastrous for third world and minority peoples, and have done great damage to the reputation of our profession and its relationship to global humanity.

The Scientific Context of International Social Work

  1. Atoms and Alienation

Bohm, theoretical physicist (University of London) points out the problems inherent in western, positivistic science:

“Fragmentation and wholeness are especially important to consider today. Fragmentation is widespread, not only throughout society, but also in individuals, in science, and in all human activities. It is creating a general confusion of the mind, leading to an endless series of problems that have no solution.

Science has become a very important source and sustainer of fragmentation in modern times, through its aim is unity. Physics has become the pattern or paradigm aimed for by all sciences. … (I)n physics around the time of Newton, they developed a mechanistic approach by which the world was effectively regarded as made up of atoms – separate fragments, each with its own existence. Each one moving mechanically, interacting according to predetermined laws of force. The parts were the ultimate reality. They were fixed in their relationships. Any whole was only the convenient way of looking at the parts collectively because it had no independent reality. Now this fragmentation introduced a certain unity, for all the world was made of similar atoms with certain universal relations between them. So from the beginning it was a step towards unity.”

The problems resulting from this paradigm include;

“Humans have attempted to live according to the notion that the fragments are separate, when in fact, they are not. Humans have lost an awareness of what they are doing. They just keep on dividing automatically. This process of division is the result mainly of a way of thinking. In order to divide things we must think of them as separate. This thought process was extended to cover man’s notion of himself and the whole world; to say everything is divided up, including man. People are divided from each other. If you cross the border from one country to another there is very little difference in nature, but there is a tremendous difference in the way people think about it. This has produced big differences in the way people are living in the two countries, though they may come from the same background. Humans, therefore obtain an apparent proof of the correctness of this fragmentary thought. They say, ‘look! It is really all broken up.’ They haven’t noticed that they have broken it up.”

Bohm goes on to argue that relativity and quantum mechanics both imply some individed wholeness of the universe. Thus physics is no longer supporting a fragmentary analytical point yet this fact is not commonly recognized.

“There is no very good non-mathematical way of thinking about these things that is easily available to most people, and thus they don’t know what quantum mechanics means. Very few know what relativity means. The prevailing impression even among most physicists is that quantum mechanics and relativity are still supporting a mechanistic fragmentary point of view. There is no imaginative understanding. Instead of using Newton’s equations to calculate, they are simply using these more complicated equations such as Schrodinger’s equation or Einstein’s equation. Then it looks as if no fundamental change has occurred, when in fact a very fundamental change has taken place.

What this means is that our present knowledge of nature does not support this fragmentary view, but the opposite view. Nature is an undivided whole. Therefore if we are thinking in fragmentary terms we are trying to break up things that should not be broken up. That is what fragmentation is.

2. Social Work and the Tyranny of Science.

Karger, Rosen, Fischer, Saleeby, and other social work researchers link the ascent of empiricism and quantitative research with the creation of hierarchical structures that bind social work to an undemocratic fabric.

“It is not that social work researchers consciously attempt through collusion to establish hegemony over knowledge in the profession; rather, through adhering to specific constructs and implicit ideologies, status and power hierarchies are enforced.

A striking feature for the hierarchical relationship between research and practice is the enforced division of labor. In the organizational structure of social work, the researcher-academicians sit on top of the status pyramid…

Rein and white cite the existence of the division of labor between a group made up of social workers, teachers, planners, and administrators – the people who make things happen – as opposed to the group designated as people of knowledge.

The lower rungs of the division of labor are occupied by the practitioners who, paradoxically, constitute the bulk of the profession and the raison d’etre for the activities of the elite researchers. Conflicts between researchers and practitioners are often reflected in the literature.”

The authors’ concede that the rise in impiricism reflects the profession’s need to establish greater legitimacy (in the ascendency of the physical science); the desire for more effective service and the belief in the reality of empirical observation as the only legitimate method of examination. But the new empiricism also produced unanticipated outcomes, including;

a. Context Stripping.

“By this Mishler means that quantifying removes any social or subjective context from a phenomenon and objectifies it. Any interconnectedness with other events is necessarily minimized. This ‘context stripping’ that permeates so much of social work research is also political and ideological. Quantitative research’s masking of the complex web of causes obfuscates social reality and hides the true nature of phenomena.

b. Control over Knowledge Production.

The role given to researchers is even more significant than it appears on the surface – it is the power to define the reality of the profession. Those who define the questions to be asked define the parameters of the answers, and it is the parameters of the questions and the ensuing answers that function as the lens by which people view reality.

c. Scientific Imperialism

“All research is political and ideological: by the choice of the subject and design of methodology, the researcher creates a context for understanding social phenomena. Conversely, the refusal fo the researcher to create a context for understanding social phenomenon is also political…

All research attempts or should attempt to clarify or interpret an event or problem . The meaning research gives to an event is shaded by the social and political climate in which the event is interpreted. As such, research functions as storytelling in modern societies, and the research is analogous to the stories that were used in nonindustrial or tribal societies to explain incomprehensible phenomena. The earlier stories were shrouded in religion and today’s are scientific, but both make claims to legitimacy. The function of both stories is to reinforce the existing social paradigm in a society. Rein and White observe.

‘On the one hand, the stories are classical in function in that they strive to bring meaning to human action in the way that stories always have in human societies. On the other hand, they are scientific in their constitution. Their empirical foundation serves to make the stories corrigible and falsifiable.’

The perpetuation of “stories” that are functional in reinforcing the existing social paradigm is political. It is the ability to perpetuate ‘stories of reality’ that is the prize of the ruling paradigm and the group that supports it.” (Karger)

3. The Feminist Critique of Science.

Overfield provides a well developed critique of western science. She notes that the assumptions of science are the assumptions of our daily lives with the control of science concentrated in male hands. She argues:

“… that science is men’s studies and cannot be modified and that a ‘woman-centred-science’ would be so radically different that it would no longer be invested with the meaning of ‘science’ as we understand it. It would not be ‘science’ and therefore, in a society where science is the frame of reference, would be without validity.

Despite the fact that it is possible to perceive science as a dogma and no less open to challenge and enquiry as, for example, the religious dogma which preceded it, science itself permits few heretics. Its system of beliefs must be accepted and rather than taking the challenge of non-believers, science denigrates them with labels such as spiritualist, mystic or telepath. While much of substance may come from sources outside science, such is the hold of the scientific dogma or ethic over our minds, we are capable of dismissing it, as superstition or mythology, of trivializing it, of spurning its non-rational nature.

Women as well as men have been impressed by the scientific ethic and have acquiesced to its values. yet, argues Overfield, the scientific ethic is the male ethic; it is the ethic of dominance and control, it is the ethic which encodes a dichotomous and unequal division of the objects and events of the world into man/woman, norm/deviant, dominant/subordinate, rational/emotional. To enter science is to accept this scientific ethic, to accept these unequal dichotomies, and for the reason Overfield urges women to eliminate, not modify, the basic constructs of science.”

4. Indigenous Reactions to the Monoscientific Paradigm.

The untoward consequences of applying empiricism transculturally are aptly summarized by Pauolo Freire;

“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.”

Social work education is also perceived as a powerfully alienating experience for Native people. Deloria notes:

“One of the most painful experiences for American Indian students is to come into conflict with the teachings of science which purport to explain phenomena already explained by tribal knowledge and tradition. The assumption of the western educational system is that the information dispensed  by colleges is always correct, and the beliefs or teachings of the tribe are always wrong. Rarely is this the case. The teachings of the tribe are almost always more complete, but they are oriented toward a far greater understanding of reality than is scientific knowledge. And precise tribal knowledge almost always has a better predictability factor than does modern science, which generally operates in sophisticated tautologies that seek only to confirm preexisting identities.”

Ethics and International Social Work.

United Nations University scholar, Boulding, reminds us that a program in international social welfare involves moral choices:

“A program for social change is not a neutral institution. Moral choices will be involved. The program could try to repair the failed Western model of development or any one of its variants, or ti could try to enter into the emerging transnational sharing society reflected in concepts of the new international order.

In the realm of the sociosphere, that sum total of interacting social entities, structures, and cultures of the planet, there is a world public interest which stands beyond national interests. Trying to discern what that public interest might be is one of our major challenges. It will not be easy. We are all citizens of nation states, and nation states have conflicting interests with regard to the inter-nation order. One indicator of the maturity of the new international order will be when scientists, planners and community development workers have been able to develop a variant of the Hippocratic Oath which will declare that they will practice their respective crafts in such a way as to do no harm to any nation state, and to be of service to all. It will be difficult to apply such an oath in practice, but its formulation will be a great step forward for science, building logically on the values set forth in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.”

Resources and Tools for Developing an International Social Work Program

  1. Conceptual Tools.

a. Acknowledge the limitations as well as the benefits of the western, positivistic science:

“People thought for hundreds of years that classical physics was the final view of the world – the truth, not just a way of looking. atoms were not taken as convenient divisions, but as ‘the way it is’ ….

Of course, breaking and dividing things up should not be condemned. It is necessary to divide things up for practical purposes. For example, we divide up fields according to what can be grown; we divide up all sorts of things. But this ability to divide things up has been carried too far because it has led us to divide things which should not be divided. This is an essential point. We attempt to divide things which are one an d united.” (Bohm).

b. Learn about and from nonwestern traditions.

“It is the special task of learning centers in the West to break out of the shell of western technology, to begin the overdue learning process about nonwestern traditions, and to identify the features and resources of the emergent new order and the skills at its disposal, so a collegial process of social construction can begin.” (Boulding).

c. Change begins with each of us;

“Global transformation is a major theme of Third World planning these days, and it is a major theme of the work of the U.N. University with which I am associated. It is a term, however, that makes first worlders very uneasy. Transformation implies the emergence of wholly new forms; with all the uncertainty and unpredictability of the new, the untried. What the first world wants is equilibrium, stability. Change is perceived as a re-equilberating process. Yet new theories of change, such as Ilya Prigogine’s, are theories of dissipative structures, theories that direct us to look at the points of maximum disorder in the old system, a new order. We in the first world have to be willing to be part of the raw materials for the new order, rather than imposing our old molds on the rest of the world. From the perspective of creation we are all, individuals and societies, prima materia for that which is to come.” (Boulding).

2. Methods, recommended by U.N.U. and U.N.E.S.C.O.


Indian Association of Alberta Child Welfare Needs: Assessment and Recommendations

Indian Association of Alberta Child Welfare Needs: Assessment and Recommendations


The extension of child welfare services to Indian people following World War II has had serious effects upon Indian children, families and communities. In the past decade, several theories have been extended in an attempt to explain the causal factors of the high proportion of Native children in care; however, these theories generally propose solutions based on the assimilation of Indian people into “mainstream society”. Assimilation of a people has often been described in the context of a colonial model. It is within the scope of this paper to examine the principles and practices of child welfare from a colonial perspective. Using the colonial model as a theoretical orientation is useful for two reasons. This model not only offers an historical description of Euro-Indian relations, but it also offers solutions which promote the cultural preservation of Indian nations.

Present Day Orientation

The Native Community’s concern for their childrens’ welfare was brought to critical point by the tragic, untimely death of a 17 year old Native child by his own hand. Once the facts surrounding this tragedy were revealed an awareness was created from which White and Native communities can now act; for Indian Child Welfare is now on the agendas of the respective Native and White governments.

Among the Native Child Welfare issues brought to light resulted from data indicating that Native children in Alberta represent a disproportionately high percentage of children in the Child Welfare programs. In fact, Alberta government statistics indicate that Native children are more likely to come into contact with child protection services at a frequency six and one-half times greater than do other children of the Province.

In response, the Indian Association of Alberta initiated this project; designed to provide a basic structure with principles from which First Nations can begin negotiations for the control of Child Welfare programs. It is our intent to establish a picture of the issues concerning Native Child Welfare. The assessment will then determine the severity of the issues; identify gaps and strengths of the present system and describe alternative models and approaches.

Present statistics indicate the inadequacies associated with services to Native families and communities. The questions that need asking are: Why has the Native community allowed this to go on? What is happening for the child and the family as children are removed from their communities? Whose needs are being met? Native people have argued that, historically, the services provided to them contain little recognition of Native culture and provide only meagre support for the socio-economic conditions plaguing their communities.

In addition to these inadequacies, the other factors precipitating this study are; Alberta Social Services recently implemented campaign for the privatization of Child Welfare programs, and the enactment of a new Child Welfare services to the First Nations. However, the pivotal force of these concerns is Native peoples’ feelings of powerlessness over the control of their own lives, symptomatic in the lives of their children. As a result, in Part 1 the research begins a dialogue in its examination of these issues and the dynamics of the relationships among Indians and between Indians and Whites. Then, it examines the dynamics of the types of relationships which gave rise to the tragedy of Richard Cardinal’s life and death.

Although statistics is an important western scientific research tool, inherent in it are many feelings of inadequacy. Ideally, the best one can hope for when attempting to use quantitative means to determine the depth and degree of human social dysfunctions, is an indication of dysfunction.

Part 2 will discuss problems with, not only analyzing data, but also the question of how to gather, and insure the accuracy of the information gathered. A large part of the problem has to do with previous research concerning Native behaviour, those studies assume some standard of behaviour for the Non-Native community then applies that standard to research involving Natives. Further, Part 2 discusses the need for knowledge of human history.

Part 3 looks at accepted western scientific paradigms, research models and attendant research methodologies, and discusses their limitations and failings in terms of the study of Native behaviour. The discussion then presents a new paradigm, research model and methodologies, explaining the advantage to these approaches.

Part 4 presents “Indian Science”, the process through which Native peoples come to knowledge. This part also includes a discussion of “Western Science” from a Native point of view and, the discussion includes the concerns of its own practitioners. Western Science is both ethnocentric and imperialistic; it recognizes no other science save its own, then uses that same science as the justification for the denial as the existence of any other science. However, many western scientists are searching for a new paradigm, fro they have come to realize what Albert Einstein stated fifty years ago. “The system of Newtonian thought does not work.”

Part 5 is a presentation of analysis and findings which will be presented differently from “standard” research. Rather than presenting statistics, this section presents a profile of four generations; Greatgrandparents, Grandparents, Parents, and Children. The findings and recommendations come from the people themselves.

Part 6 is a presentation of specific recommendations on management principles which go beyond programatic concern; will deal with specific tasks which can begin immediately and some fundamental principles for approaches and development.

The objective of the assessment is to identify a basic structure with principles from which First Nations can approach the issue of Child Welfare programs.

Wayfinding and the New Sun: Indigenous Science in the Modern World

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

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.

Karen Chandler

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.