Tag Archives: western science

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?

Yours

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

Raven, The Original Scientist

Raven, The Original Scientist

Written by Dr. S. Kounosu, PhD

Edited by Dr. W.F. Morrison, JD. (Haida)

Preface

Among Haida there is a story of how Raven brought Light to the World. I found it to be an intriguing story, for it takes us to the beginning. This is but one variation of many, many stories of Raven and, like the others, it teaches us many things. Often the things learned are not only the result of things heard, seen and remembered but also things felt. This story tells you and me what we might remember when experiencing problems.

Today this telling of Raven’s story is a story about Science and Scientists. There are many kinds of science; all peoples have their own, but I am a scientist in the “western” tradition. That is why I choose to tell the story in this way. I have a scientists interest in understanding; not only in understanding science but also understanding myself as a child of the universe.

Introduction

This tale of Raven begins in a time when Earth was covered by a blanket of darkness, either there was no Sun or Earth was covered with a blanket of clouds so thick that almost no light penetrated the darkness. Shapes, like faint blurs, were discernible but without definition. It is entirely possible that millions of years ago this phenomenon actually occurred.

Western scientists have found evidence that in geologic times many disastrous things had happened to Earth. In recent news we learn that scientists from Alberta (Canada) went to the Gobi Desert and there discovered a dinosaur graveyard. Today the Gobi is a very dry area, too dry to provide the habitat for the dinosaurs of prehistoric times. But, millions of years ago the area was a big, warm swamp. In any event, at one time in history the area harboured herds of dinosaurs. Those Canadian scientists think that the Gobi dinosaurs were related to the ones that once roamed the Alberta seashore. The are we now call Alberta was once covered by a body of water now called the Gulf of Mexico. Dinosaurs are, of course, now extinct. But, locating the remains of prehistoric creatures in an area that today could not support those life-forms tells us that the climates of Earth, at different times, have been quite different from that which we are now familiar. Maybe this “Dark-time” of the Raven story is the one that killed off the dinosaurs. Who knows?

Raven, the Original Scientist*

Without the Sun to give heat and light, all was cold and dark. Imagine it being like a cold, starless winter night all of the time. People did not like this very much. Raven the Scientist was not happy either. So what did Raven do? Raven was a scientist, so turned it thoughts to the problem. But, more than merely unhappy and hurt by the suffering resulting from the dark and cold, Raven was driven to respond; this was Raven’s domain. Thus Raven was obliged to find a solution to the problem. Raven the Scientist thought long and hard, “What can be done to remove this blanket of darkness and cold from the World?”

Raven’s name (Nang Kilst laas) describes a spirit-being who is able to assume whatever physical shape and substance appropriate for the occasion. When assuming the Raven (bird) shape, Raven’s feathers are pure-white and, Raven’s power is derived from the ultimate power of Creating. So Raven is not “all-seeing” and “all-knowing” in the sense of the Christian God. Instead, Raven travels, watches, listens, and senses. Then, whenever encountering a disturbance of any sort Raven assumes the appropriate form, one which carries with it the knowledge, wisdom and specialized attributes of the thing into which it has changed. Thus when the “blanket of darkness” enveloped Earth, Raven had to “consult” al the knowledges and wisdoms contained in its ability to transform. This could be like many, many scientists combining all of the knowledge and information at their disposal for the purpose of finding a solution to the dilemma.

In the darkness Raven encountered difficulties. It was like a group of people trying to organize in the dark; bumping into one another, arguing and having difficulty in determining the order of speakers. Thinking was also difficult in the darkness; the mind wanders trying to see in the dark.

*An adaptation of an original Haida story of how Raven, a supernatural, spiritual being got the Sun, Moon and Stars.

Often when we know that something is wrong but cannot identify the nature of the problem our minds wander. The “Darkness” meant “Ignorance”. So, the manifestations of Raven had to do a lot of blundering and groping around. Even today, scientists do the same. Some people say that blundering and groping are the essence that makes Science. They say, “Trials and Errors” make science. I might add that the arguing/fighting are also important. For, we must talk with each other to make Science; no one knows everything. The Haida story simply says that “Raven bumped into things in the dark.” But I think it means that there were a lot of difficulties even in figuring out what was the problem.

Int the blundering around Raven the Scientist learned to be patient. Then, while casting about, attempting to understand the nature of the problem, Raven, from the corner of its eye, saw in the distance a small flash of light. Raven thought maybe it was something in the eye – trying so hard to see in the dark that – it created its own light. But rather than pass it off as something “in-the-head”, Raven focused on the spot where the light “may” have shown itself. Raven then, without rest, for fear of losing focus on the spot, moved slowly and carefully in that direction. This is the same way today’s scientists work. the little flash of light could mean a “flash of intuition”; something that the Scientist must have. Almost none of the important discoveries were made without it. Like Raven the Scientist, today’s scientist must focus on it and hold that focus, not letting anything interfere with it.

As Raven neared the spot where it seemed that the light had shown itself, instead of finding Light, it heard a small voice singing. This often happens in science, and if one is not careful, one misses important clues. You do not send off a large number of questionnaires, collect responses and find the answers in statistics. You have to go to that place, or, like Raven, a true scientist is “driven to respond”, though you do not know where it is taking you. You discover unexpected, and expected, things at totally unexpected places. And, listening to the “small voice” is all important.

The small voice was coming, Raven the Scientist later discovered, from an old man in a big, cedar-plank longhouse. He was singing:

“I have a box, and inside the box is another box, and inside it are more boxes, and in the smallest box of all is all the Light of the World. It is mine and I will never give any of it to anyone; not even to my daughter. Because, who knows, she may be as ugly as a sea-slug. And neither she nor I would like to know that.”

The old man, out of fear of the unknown, chose to keep himself in ignorance. You must understand one thing here. It was Dark, the daughter could be seen only indistinctly and, she might also have been as “beautiful as hemlock fronds against the Spring sky at Sunrise”. The “Dark” here may also mean “in doubt”. The old man must have had good reason to have become nasty, devious, stingy and lonely. He had all the Light of the World, but he did not want to share it with anybody; even deprived himself of the Light. One might suspect that the Darkness may be referring to the demented state of the old man’s mind. The Light may be intelligence, but he suppressed it deep inside the “box inside a box, which was inside a box, which was inside…”. People do this. They may have a beautiful thing in their minds, but keep it secret from everyone else. And, by doing so, they themselves do not see it either.

But, Raven the Scientist did not give up easy. He began planning his strategy for acquiring the Light for People. It would be difficult. According to the Haida story, Raven himself had doubts. Then, he noticed the old man’s daughter, the one in the song, who was living in the house with her father. He began to think about her. He could have been falling in love. But, it occurred also to him that she might be as “ugly as a sea-slug”. “on the other hand,” he thought, “she might just as well be as beautiful as a hemlock frond against a bright Spring sunrise.” The uncertainty of what her appearance might be kept Raven the Scientist in anxious ambivalence. And, like any young man who thinks he might be in love, the possibilities stirred Raven’s imagination. Science textbooks do not tell you, but this “stirring of imagination” is  a very important element of science. If you do not have it you cannot do science. You can do routine technical works and “fake-it” as if you are really doing science, but that does not create anything new.

The Haida story tells that “in idle speculation”, stirred by thoughts of the daughter, Raven formulated an idea. Other versions of the story tell that Raven the Scientist tried many tricks and failed each time. This is also important. In science, you fail 10 times before you succeed once. You try and fail. You think again and fail. But Raven the Scientist did not give up; he was persistent. Any young guy can be romantic, but persisting in Love is not a usual quality among that age group. “Romantic” ideas in science are the same thing. The one who is persistent will usually get results.

In many ways Raven was tricky. He often tricked people. But, we forgive Ravens for those times because even when Raven does not mean to do so, he does many good things for people. In this case, tricks or shortcuts would not work. So, Raven decided to put the plan he had formulated into action. He figured out a way to get inside the old man’s house where the “boxes” were kept.

Raven noted that at regular intervals the daughter would go to a small pool of water, fed by an underground stream, to drink. In doing so, she would kneel at the edge of the pool, put her lips to the surface of the water and suck the water into her mouth and swallow. By drinking in this manner, the daughter could not see what she was drinking and, she was blind to whatever might be happening around her. Armed with this knowledge, Raven waited for his opportunity. From this incident, Haida learned a number of lessons; rely on “underground” water for your water supply, it does not freeze in the winter; do not lower your head to drink but bring the water up to your lips (incidentally, if a Raven’s feather is dipped into the water and the water beads up and drips off, the water is pure. But, if the water clings to the feather, it should not be drunk); and, a woman (for the above and other reasons) is never supposed to get water after dark.

Raven, in carrying out the plan he had formulated, waited for the daughter to go for a drink. He waited until after she had knelt at the water’s edge and began lowering her head. He flew up to her, transformed himself into a hemlock needle and dropped to the water’s surface, directly below where her lips would touch the water. And, as anticipated by Raven, she sucked the needle up and swallowed it with the water. The hemlock needle is soft and pliant and easy to swallow.

The story goes on that Raven “slithered down deep into her insides and found a soft, comfortable spot, where he transformed himself once more. This time into a small human being, an went to sleep for a long time. During his long sleep he began to grow.” You can guess that he became a baby for the young woman.

She did not know what was happening to her; something was growing inside her and, later, she could feel the thing moving. the old man, because of the darkness, was unaware of what was happening to her body. But, in due time, Raven, preceded by a gush of water, was born as a human grandson to the old man. The story says that he was an ugly, noisy boy, crying all the time; like Ravens do. the grandmother, suspecting that this “baby” was Raven, made a bed for him from moss, like the Raven’s nest.

The old man grew to love this new member of the family; he made toys for the boy and played with him. Today, that same relationship is enjoyed by Haida grandparents and their grandchildren. But, whatever the old man’s reasons for shutting the Light “inside a box, inside a box…” and his refusal to share this gift of life were, the key to unlocking the old man’s heart was Love.

Raven is a powerful Supernatural being. He could have simply taken the Light by his power, or transformed himself into a powerful human and simply wrested the boxes from the elderly man. I would imagine, if Raven was a scientist of the Euro-American type, he would have used force and took possession of the Light. But he did not force the old man to give up the Light, even for the good of the World. Rather, Raven the Scientist went through an elaborate strategy of gaining the Love of the old man. Had Raven simply used Force, the gift to people would have been flawed. In any event, it took a very patient effort over a long time period. That is the way of Native science.

As the story goes, Raven the Scientist gained the love and trust of the old man, one box at a time. This is also the way of Science. You do not come to know the heart of things all at once. You study things and find out one level of understanding before moving on to the next. You may be happy for a while with the Discovery, achieved by much love and devotion, but there is the next box to discover. “Discovery” means, “Take the Cover Off”, that is, “Open the Box”.

Raven the Scientist, discovered a box inside a box one by one. The “learning” took a long time. And, eventually, only a few boxes were left. Finally, Raven was down to the last box. A strange radiance began to show from inside this last box, and it gave off a wondrous warmth. Raven the Scientist/Grandson begged his grandfather to let him hold the Light with the heat for just a moment. Of course, the old man refused Raven’s requests.

In a way, the old man was not consistent. If you remember, the old man actually let Raven the Scientist know the Light was in the box by his singing. He meant to give the Light, otherwise he would not have sung his song. Often the older generations are funny in giving wisdom to the younger generations. They wish to give all they have to the young, but it cannot be given. They have to let the young learn.

For example, just before his death, Chief Dan George wrote a poem which reads;

“My grandchild … you carry my blood

and shelter my Hope.

There is wisdom in youth and there is

wisdom in age. One is loud and seeking,

the other is silent and true.”

This is a near universal feeling of the older generation. But the many pains in life, humiliations, and disappointments make the old look “nasty”. And the youth cannot see what is hidden “inside the box”. We the young say, “that drunken old Indian don’t know anything, let alone science”. By that, instead of opening one box, we put it into another box. Eventually we put the whole thing in a coffin box and bury him six feet deep, not knowing what is in it.

Well, the story of Raven the Scientist, however, has a happy ending. Raven finally succeeded in his efforts to persuade his grandfather to give the Light to him. Raven the Scientist carried the Light to the people and removed the “blanket of darkness” from the world. He may have employed “tricks”, but his Science was for the people. That is how people came to have Sunlight, and we have the Daylight, Moonlight, and Starlight today.

Prologue

I think there was real astronomical phenomenon corresponding to the story, but the story of Raven the Scientist is not told for the purpose of asserting the truth of the matter. It is but one of the stories of Raven, which tells how people came to learn their Science. Incidentally, in the Light, the daughter turned out to be beautiful, as beautiful as a hemlock frond against a spring sky at sunrise.

Recommendations for Education in Native Social Work at the Bachelor of Social Work Level

Recommendations for Education in Native Social Work at the Bachelor of Social Work Level

A report submitted to Dr. Ray Thomlison, Dean

Faculty of Social Welfare, University of Calgary

by

Dr. Pam Colorado, Coordinator

Native Studies Development Project

November 24, 1987

Table of Contents

TERMS OF REFERENCE 1

TOWARD A NATIVE OPTIONS            1

NATIVE SOCIAL WORK PROGRAMS, DESIGN ISSUES   2

THE CONCEPT    3

HOW DO WE DEVELOP A NATIVE OPTIONS/   4

NATIVE SOCIAL WORK COMPONENT   4

SUMMARY OF MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NATIVE SOCIAL WORK COMPONENT TO THE B.S.W. DEGREE   12

APPENDIX 1     13

BIBLIOGRAPHY    13

Terms of Reference

The University of Calgary Native Options Program is committed to the development of scholarly and academic excellence in Native social welfare. To this end our definition of Native social work includes:

the education of Native and non-Native students who wish to work with a Native population.

the integration or infusion of Native content into the generic social work courses.

Neither the Native population nor the University of Calgary Faculty of Social Welfare want diluted course content or reduced requirements for a Native options track. Instead, Native course content, methods and field instruction will be subsumed under the generic course numbers. The goal and objectives of the Native Options Program will be to produce successfully synthesized, biculturally functioning social workers (Swenson).

2. Toward a Native Options

The University of Calgary is committed to establishing a Native Options Program. This commitment stems from six forces:

Native bands and people are a significant population in Alberta and have critical human service needs. The Faculty of Social Welfare is charged with the provincial mandate to provide social work education which would begin to address these needs;

There is no mechanism or process for eliciting or integrating Native knowledge into social work theory or practice;

Nearly ten years of fragmental intradivisional efforts have not produced the coherent, unified program hoped for;

The Collins report of 1986 recommended a Native concentration for the three Divisions, but was not funded beyond the two-year developmental phase;

Without additional or outside funding, the Faculty of Social Welfare has now hired and obligated one Native M.S.W. full-time sessional and one Native Ph.D. (one day per week) to begin meeting the needs of the Native community and to spearhead the drive for a Native Options Program;

Historically, only a few Native students have been admitted to the program. those who are admitted are unduly burdened with the lack of culture specific curriculum and the need to assume total responsibility for re-interpreting course content into a Native context. Moreover, the transition back into the Native world rests solely on the shoulders of our graduates.

3. Native Social Work Programs, Design Issues

The struggle to articulate and implement a Native Options Program is not unique to the University of Calgary. The firs decade of such efforts has produced a number of concerns. Dunbar-Ortiz, Ph.D., Sioux, catalogues these issues:

There are few Indian scholars;

Native social work programs remain unstable due to a lack of qualified Indian faculty to develop academically viable curricula and research;

The absence of Ph.D.’s, publications and research mean that programs flounder in instability. Indian faculty remain temporary, part-time and are eventually phased out in retention, promotion, and tenure procedures of the University;

Indian students are especially sensitive to the historical process of attempted acculturation — the educational system;

Native studies are essential for educating the non-Native majority and for the Nation building process of tribes;

The University is not an appropriate vehicle to learn one’s cultural values. Instead a profession is to be gained. Mastery does not mean acceptance of Non-Indian values. But the ability to analyze and assess problems and issues and date within an historical and larger socio-economic context requires substantial reading, research, writing, discussion and the acquired ability to assimilate and analyze information;

Funding and counseling should be based on the realities of Indian and non-Indian relationships, not on university realities;

Federal and foundation funding should be supplemental;

Indians should be encouraged to pursue substantial education;

Specialized programs in different universities should complement each other, not overlap; Ortiz punctuates her list of concerns with this advice: A sense of mission, despite limitations, could work miracles in transformation of Indian high education from a mechanical mass production to excellence.

This proposal follows close on the heels of Ortiz. The document that follows is a blueprint for developing a Native social work program with a mission. That mission is the creation of a program which will address and draw from the interface (relationship) between Natives and non-Natives; to create opportunities for the two cultures to cooperate, collaborate and communicate.

4. The Concept

The Ortiz analysis points to a developmental problem in Native social work efforts. This is, programs either attempt to mass produce “Native” social workers or to teach culture within the university. As Ortiz notes, both approaches are conceptually flawed and fundamentally confounded.

The University is not the appropriate locus of cultural education; such teaching requires a tribal context. Moreover, it is the right and responsibility of First Nations to provide such education. On the other hand, avoiding cultural issues adhering to the mono-cultural, European tradition also presents problems.

Reliance upon a monocultural tradition within a multicultural arena constitutes an essentially transparent form of intellectual domination, achievable only within the context of parallel forms of domination…. Churchill

The Native Options Project will learn from and move beyond this developmental conundrum. merely establishing the Project will address one critical problem – the recognition of the multicultural basis of social work and the destruction of the deadly myth of one truth in social work theory. Deloria, distinguished Sioux scholar, 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 universities is always correct and the beliefs or teachings of the tribe are always wrong…

Considering the present state of things, it is important for scholars…to begin to help us break the ice of ignorance and neglect which has been thrust upon our traditions for nearly half a millennium. Without the voices of respected white scholars, there is little chance we can get sufficient attention from the scientific establishment to plead our own case. But we should remember…(that this is) a call for each of us to enter into the exchange of knowledge…(and we, Native Americans are called) to offer our knowledge to the larger benefit of our species…

Churchill offers one final piece of incentive for a biculturally-focused grounded Native Options:

By pooling knowledge, resources and effort in a broad forum such as interdisciplinary studies, perhaps we can jointly seek to expand our knowledge of the world..the signposts point to a reconciliation of the two approaches. Western science must reintegrate human emotions and intuitions into its interpretation of phenomena; Eastern peoples must confront the physical world and the effects of technology. We shall understand as these traditionally opposing views seek a unity, the world of historical experiences is far more mysterious and eventful than we had previously expected. Such and achievement would be one from which all humanity would benefit…

5. How Do We Develop a Native Options?

The Native Options Project must be seen as an ongoing transcultural process. The components or mechanisms for initiating the process include:

an integrated curriculum

a Native Advisory Committee

a Native Options Track, consisting of optional courses which have been tailored towards Native social welfare issues.

6. Native Social Work Component

The Native Social Work Program will be an integral part of the existing B.S.W. programme, offered at the University of Calgary. The B.S.W. program will integrate “Native content” to specific required courses and also offer students a concentration of courses that are critical to working with Native people. As a result, all students will be offered critical components of the N.S.W. programme specific to their choice in the B.S.W. degree programme.

The Native social work component will provide appropriate prerequisite and field of practice courses in conjunction with the existing required methods/practicum courses of the B.S.W. programme. A Native Advisory Committee will assist in the development and operation of N.S.W. through prayer, teaching and advice.

The following are core courses required by all students enrolled in the B.S.W. programme; included are students pursuing the Native concentration.

SOWK 311 Human development: Childhood and Adolescence

SOWK 315 Communication and Social Work Interaction

*SOWK 325 Ideology and Social Welfare

*SOWK 341 Social Work: Its Social Science Foundations

SOWK 411 Human Development: Adulthood

SOWK 423 Canadian Social Policy

SOWK 432 Practicum I

SOWK 434 Methods I

SOWK 435 Groups in Social Work Practice

SOWK 441 The Scientific Base of Social Work Practice

SOWK 461 Social Welfare Administration

SOWK 532 Practicum II

SOWK 534 Methods II

Those marked with an asterisk will integrate the Native component to the course content. Thus, these courses will be made relevant to the Native situation and clientele. This can be accomplished by individual instructors who have had background to the Native situation, thus applying theory and concept to the Native situation (See Appendix 1). For example, the Canadian Social Policy course should include policy directly affecting Native people.

The following core courses will be developed specifically for the Native concentration. Native Science is the basis of knowledge and practice; therefore, a course equivalent to SOWK 441 is critical to the programme. Practice must also be made available in either Native communities or in agencies with a large Native client population.

N.S.W. 432 Practicum I

N.S.W. 434 Methods II

N.S.W. 441 Native Scientific Base of Social Work Practice

The Faculty of Social Welfare, University of Calgary, will decide whether N.S.W. 441 will remain as a core course and students may be exempt for another core course, or students with the Native concentration are expected to take one extra core course.

The Native Social Work component will include the above core courses plus five social work options. These courses are pertinent to the field of Native studies and practice.

SOWK 551.01 Intergroup Relations (Native Canadians)

SOWK 551.02 Alcohol and Drug Abuse

SOWK 551.05 Child Welfare

SOWK 555.09 Community Issues

SOWK 555.15 Integrative Approaches

The above courses with the core course will make up the Native Social Work component for the B.S.W. programme.

The following courses will be options for the students and may be made relevant to the specific situation to Native people.

SOWK 551.10 Social Work and Corrections

SOWK 555.07  Child Sexual Abuse

SOWK 591 Directed Reading

SOWK 595 Conference Course

6.1 Native Advisory Committee

A Native Advisory Committee be established with one-third of the committee being elders. The elders will be able to provide guidance through prayer, teach tribal tradition and give advice on tribal policy and law. Other Committee members will be represented from the various distinct cultural communities among Native people. This committee will advise the Faculty on all aspects of the N.S.W. programme, including curriculum, recruitment, admissions, appeals, policy and planning. It is recommended that the Native Advisory Committee be a subcommittee of the Undergraduate Committee. This Committee will also assist Native Communities with joint research projects.

6.1.2 Native Studies

These are courses in other university programs such as Native American Studies, Sociology, Political Science, Psychology and Anthropology which teach Native American history, culture and contributions. Where these courses exist, the Native social work component must utilize them in the two year prerequisite courses of the B.S.W. degree programme. Native organizations such as the Indian Association of Alberta, Metis Society of Alberta, Native Counselling of Alberta, and Nechi Institute on Alcohol and Drug Education must be involved in the developing of courses and research for viable solutions and programmes for the “myriad” of social problems facing their constituents.

The Native Social Work component is integrated into the core stream of the B.S.W. degree programme, because it is not sufficient to separate “Native content” to only those who choose Native studies, but is for those who work in the field of Social Welfare. (Recommended from Report to the Attorney General, Dec. 1984, by Assistant Chief Judge W. White, Provincial Court of Alberta).

6.1.3 Field Placements

Social work programs must have a full and direct involvement with Native communities. The practica for all students enrolled in the N.S.W. will be involved in both the non-Native and Native fields of work placements. It is critical for the students to access both practica and to integrate and synthesize their theory and methods in their respective practica. Where there isn’t a Native Community such as in an urban setting, agencies with large target populations that are Native may be the only suitable practica placements.

These practica placements are not only valuable learning experiences, but provide excellent opportunities for developing social work practicum placements in agencies that serve Native people. This can be done by demonstrating to agencies that professional Native people have the ability to perform at the same levels as professional social workers. Secondly, these agencies are a means of developing contacts and job placements for social work graduates.

6.1.4 Native Options Faculty

Native Social Work Programmes will have both Native and non-Native instructors. Non-Native instructors will be selected on the basis of their experiences and commitment to Native issues. Further these faculty will serve in the critical role of mentor for students in the Native Options component. Native instructors and elders must demonstrate a high level of knowledge, understanding and skills of Native culture. This is essential if we are to develop sensitivity to and an understanding of Native culture.

Faculty staff will include a Native Coordinator and two Native faculty members, sessional instructors, one counsellor and one clerical support. It is recommended that existing Non-Native Social Work faculty members who can be recognized as specialists in the field of Native Studeies can teach Native Social Work courses specific to their specialization.

6.1.5 Position Descriptions

The Coordinator will coordinate all activities of the Native Social Work Programme, including consultation with the university and First Nations’ communities and Native agencies, development of the curriculum, and coordinate meetings to ensure relevance in the Native concentration area.

The counsellor/tutor position will advise, support and recruit Native students and will also liaise with other faculty members, departments and practicum agencies.

Full-time professors will have full tenured positions with the Faculty and carry regular course load and research initiatives as it may take 5-10 years to develop a pool of Native Ph.D.’s. The full-time position may be entered at the M.S.W. level. Part-time sessional instructors with at least an M.S.W. will teach many of the courses in the Native Social Work Programme.

The core components of the Native Social Work Programe must be an integral part of the university budget. Provincial and federal governments special grants should be used to provide the support costs for development, remedial and support services that may not otherwise be available to the university.

6.1.6 Recruitment of Native Students and Support Services

Recruitment for Native students and their success depends largely upon the Native Social Work Programme. Active Native student recruitment must be extended to schools on reservations, Metis settlements, universities, colleges, Native agencies and other Native communities, to both public and separate off-reserve schools and to public welfare agencies.

The Native Social Work components needed to develop support services for Native students which include:

Financial security should be guaranteed for Native students;

Opportunities for individual and small group counselling and discussions. Native students, Native faculty and other qualified persons would be involved;

Socializing activities for staff and students;

Extensive tutorial assistance and remedial courses as indicated;

Special training in the use of libraries, writing papers, research, etc.; and,

Provision of Native-related library materials.

The Native Students’ Services at the University of Calgary, the Office of the Advisor on Native Affairs at the University of Alberta, and the Native American Studies Department at the University of Lethbridge successfully provide many of these services. The Native support services should be fully supported and further developed in close consultation with those programmes already established.

Funds required for these special services need to be negotiated with provincial and federal governments and foundations.

6.1.7 Admissions Criteria

The B.S.W. degree is often thought of as a four year social work programme when instead it is a two year programme completed after two years of general arts courses or after completion of a two year college Social Services diploma.

University undergraduate students planning to enter the B.S.W. degree are normally required to complete 20 university level semester courses (two years) chosen from a broad list of options. Once completed, students are eligible for admission to the B.S.W. programme, which is comprised of 20 social work semester courses (two years). Consideration will be given to N.S.W. students who speak a Native language or have taken Native Studies in these two years.

Graduates of an Alberta Community College two-year Social Services programme will receive, on admission, up to ten unassigned social work semester credits; and, in addition, credit for up to ten non-social work semester courses will be awarded on a course-for-course basis as indicated in The Provincial Transfer Guide.

Successful completion of 20 university level semester courses or a two-year college Social Services diploma does not mean automatic entry into the B.S.W. programme. Enrolment limits have been established on social work courses in relation to the number of students who can be accommodated in practicum settings. Admission decisions are based on academic standing and the extent of relevant work, volunteer and general life experience.

Appropriate methods must be developed for assessing the academic qualifications of prospective Native students whose background and grade point average might not accurately reflect their potential. These appropriate methods can be determined with the advice of the Advisory Committee. It is anticipated that giving a higher weight to life experience compared to grade point average need to be discussed.

6.1.8 Programme Networking

Programmes for Native social work students must be coordinated at all post-secondary levels to ensure that there is continuity in opportunities for Native people. Linkages between both the college and university level programmes should offer Native students a “career ladder” of opportunities since an individual may choose to enter the work force at either level.

Post-secondary levels must facilitate and support social work education. The community college here takes leadership in this role. It is felt that a two-year college social service diploma may initially be more attractive to many Native students than a four year university B.S.W. programme. All efforts should be made to enhance the credit recognition and transferability for these students. A word of caution is that many persons who may successfully complete Social Service diploma programmes at community colleges and then go onto very meaningful and successful careers in social services for whatever reason,

not able to successfully complete a university level professional programme, i.e., not all college graduates are adequately prepared or ready for university level study.

The following mechanisms and processes can be initiated to enhance the networking programme:

Better communication of the opportunities available to Native students who are interested in accessing the post-secondary system. Students should be able to enter the system at various levels according to their educational background and proficiency in basic academic skills.

More comprehensive articulation between programmes and post-secondary institutions must be initiated to ensure credit transferability or recognition, thus facilitating student educational mobility, culminating in a degree if so desired.

Intensified communication and cooperative links to be established between the post-secondary institutions and employers of social work graduates, with the intent of permitting students to leave the post-secondary system at various levels and seek employment, and yet ensuring that improved in-service training opportunities are made available for skill upgrading.

To ensure programme networking, there must be regular meetings with representatives of all the post-secondary education systems in Alberta to discuss the above programme networking issues. In the the last year, this has occurred with representatives of the community colleges and universities in Alberta. further networking meetings are planned.

6.1.9 Family and Community Involvement

Families must be encouraged to support their children in the education process. It has been observed that Native students from so-called “leadership families” continue further up the educational ladder than the vast majority of Native students. It seems that education and role-modelling are more actively supported by these leadership families.

Similar to the need for family support, it is very important that the Native community, including elders, friends and relatives support students’ efforts to obtain an education. Individual tribes and groups must be given the responsibility and opportunity to provide input into educational programmes for Native students. The Native community, students, and successful graduates need to be involved in the education process, not only for student support but also to keep the curriculum relevant to Native needs. It is stressed that Native elders need to be involved in any Native Social work education concentration developed in this faculty. Elder involvement may include representation on the Native Advisory Committee, possibly an Elder in residence and guest lectures.

7. Summary of Major Recommendations for Native Social Work Component to the B.S.W. Degree Programme

7.1.1 Programme Content

Native Curriculum developed;

Increased opportunities for Native Studies;

Increased opportunities for Native students in the field of Social Welfare.

7.1.2 Staff

Full-time Coordinator

Two full-time instructors/professors

Counsellor/tutor

7.1.3 Support

Internal support services

Tutorial service

Social activities

7.1.4 Networking (U. of C. N.S.W.)

Between post-secondary levels

Among Native communities/agencies

Among Non-Native communities/agencies

Non-Native to Native Child Care Services: Shifting Paradigms

Non-Native to Native Child Care Services: Shifting Paradigms

Pam Colorado & Don Collins

Assistant Professors

Faculty of Social Work

The University of Calgary

Lethbridge Division

28 September 1987

Published in Journal of Child & Youth Care 1990. 4(5) pp 47-57

Native Culture and Child Welfare

…when a child was born, an old person would talk in that baby’s ear a long time. As the child would grow, that voice would be like turning the pages in a book – as the child goes through life. Now, that has stopped among the Indian people and there is confusion. It could be done again… Donawaak (Respiritualization Project, 1985)

This paper presents the need for a paradigm shift from non-Native child care services to Native child care services. A major issue addressed is that a parallel child care service for Native people does not take into account traditional Native child development practices, yet a parallel Native child care system seems to be presently supported by the government. The present child care system is mono-cultural in that it does not address clearly different cultural needs. There is a need to shift from a mono-cultural model to a bi-cultural model.

In moving from a mono-cultural paradigm to a multi-cultural paradigm a number of important questions are raised. These questions addressed in this paper include: How should this shift occur? What processes and structures are needed? What kind of relationship should exist between the non-native and native child care services? Will native child care services be embroiled in a privatization battle that diverts attention from the native child’s best interests? Under whose auspices will native child care services be: provincial or federal? What are the historical, legal and ethical issues involved in this paradigm shift?

A new child care paradigm would involve going back to traditional Native child care practices. Current native child care problems can be positively impacted if Natives and non-Natives will systematically and rigorously rely on Native Elders as a bridge between child and services. Implied in this thesis is the notion that resources-time, energy, funding, and concern will be devoted to the development of such an approach. Without this commitment, the evolution of effective tribal child care systems is imperiled. For example, the present transfer of control to tribes does not take into account the following: the historical disruption of the Native family calls for a major effort in parenting skills and the intervention of family alcoholism; young people are often unwilling and unable to listen to elders. Western trained workers must team with Elders to ease the identity crisis of the young and to help in the formation of biculturally functioning tribal people.

The figures are startling. During 1984 it was determined that between 35% and 40% of children receiving services in Alberta under the Child Welfare Act were of Native ancestry. Compared with the general non-Native population, about ten Native children to one non-Native child out of the province’s overall population required services under the Act. Thus the Native child has been strongly over-represented in child welfare programs, with an historical emphasis on the more intrusive rather than less intrusive care and services under the legislation (Alberta Social Services, 1985). Forty percent of Native children under care have been living away from their culture yet no provision is made for their reintegration or repatriation. Tribes lack residential and emergency care facilities as well as foster homes and trained child care staff. Specific allowance must be made.

A strong aspiration, encouraged by the government, on the part of Alberta’s Native people and communities to take care of their own children is being recognized. The process to move from aspiration to actualization has commenced and will continue. Throughout Alberta, Native communities and groups are developing initiatives to establish family support services to ensure that in future their children need not come into care. These initiatives are designed to progressively assume more responsibility for dealing with family problems within Native communities.

When we look at Native child care we see through a two paned window. Each view is a world, representing both Native and non Native worlds. The glass, symbolizing our professional training and values, enables us to see yet also separates us from the lives we impact. Today we stand on the threshold of a new era in Native child care work, an era which demands that the “window” be opened, that true communication occur between the community and the child care provider. Native Elders, silent for generations, are a bridge to the dialogue and direction we seek.

In the old days, prior to European intrusion, Native child care was a disciplined, structured development process involving extended family, community and Nation. This process was healed by elders so the child care system was based in love and kindness and grew from an understanding that all life is spiritual and related. Joy and living in a “Good Way” were hallmarks of a healthy Native family. Children were encouraged to “know what life is”, to “have an understanding”; each child “had a place in the community and was encouraged to find it.”

Self discipline was normally taught through example and discussion; rarely did it involve force. A Tlingit Grandfather explains:

…Love is more important than anything. My Grandfather used to say – “Grandson, go get for me.” Even though he could walk, his work “Grandson” comes to my spirit, so I run and get it. If I say to him, “Are you lazy?” I’m going to hurt him. “Grandson” is more important than anything…

A Blood Grandmother explains self-discipline from the woman’s side”

…When we talk to our children we say, “Niyeah, my child” quietly and lovingly…

Situations that called for a firm hand meant that the Aunt or Uncle would step in:

…The Uncle is obligated to train the nephew because he is of the same clan. The Uncle, because it is the nephew, pulls him out of bed and as the Nephew is getting dressed says, “Do this for a day; this is your work day.” And you do it…(Cyrus Peck, D.D.) (Respiritualization Project, 1985)

Sadly, this traditional way of child rearing has become disarrayed.

In this forge of neo-colonial confusion and conflict, child welfare work was born. Looking at the degraded Native culture and the harsh realities of Native life, the solution seemed obvious, “remove the children and help them assimilate into majority life.” This practice continued until a full 40 percent of children under care were of Native ancestry. Thus, the gentle hand of the child welfare worker created a new problem which called for a larger definition of child abuse.

…a case of social institutions in one culture abusing whole segments or classes of persons in another society…

The results of this practice are best expressed in the words of the People:

…where I come from…I run into a lot of younger generation my age, kids just getting out of school, who go to the city or college for a little while. They can’t make it so they come back and start drinking and causing problems…They are drinking because they can’t make it in the non-Native world and they don’t know how to make it in the Native world…

…Nobody talks about it so how would we know? We have a community across the river that is inter-marrying. I see they are destroying themselves; their kids are retarded…We are ignoring it; we don’t say anything.

…We got to stop our people from fighting each other…

…It is like a tidal wave, it will come toward you. The White people are moving…

…In March two French people came to our community. They were filmmakers who wanted to make a three hour movie…They are going to focus on the elderly and the younger generation. Their title is, “Is There Survival for Natives?”

Looking at Native family life today, Elders blame themselves:

…We (Elders) talked about how our younger ones live…It’s our fault. We are not talking to our grandchildren and our sons. Our land; what we used to know before we don’t tell. How are they going to learn? We got to tell them everything so they will learn to live. In these times, we just leave our children when they say it (our ways) are old-fashioned. We are scared to talk with them.

Young people feel that they are to blame.

…We don’t know where we fi in…the older people do not know how to approach us…They’ve never seen young people drink like we’re doing…sniffing glue, gasoline, pot…it was my impression they just gave up on us…

Non-Native child care workers also feel a sense of blame. As one worker recently put it, “I feel so bad about what has happened to Natives. A lot of us do. But we don’t know what to do!” Indeed the wholesale removal of Native children did not produce the healing or integration hoped for. So, privatization and tribal takeover seem a ready made solution. But what is it we are trying to solve? Will we settle for merely altering the appearance of institutional abuse? As it now stands, the issue of “best interest” of the Native child has narrowed to one word, “control”, and this definition carries danger.

While child care agreements occur in the political context of Provincial and First Nation legal agreements, Native and non-Native social workers must see that “control” does not end with shifting the unwieldy western child care bureaucracy onto Natives. Unless the definition of “control” is expanded to include intra-cultural controls, we risk creating a parallel (and equally destructive) Native child care system on the reserves.

So what can be done? Turning to the Elders we find clear direction.

Intra-culturally, Elders want to be connected with their grandchildren as the first order of business.

“We can’t give up with our Grandchildren.”

“I am willing to teach; we don’t have to give up.”

“With our feeling, our love, we have to teach them.”

“We got to set them down to listen; there is no old fashioned.”

Elders also want change in the Native/non-Native relationship:

Look into this. There’s going to be an interaction anyway, so why not try to go into something good…Lives are at stake if we (working together) can help that life to live, I think we have accomplished something.

“We are bashful to talk to our White brother. Some of them are good; some of them are not”

“Why not work with the White people? What they learn from us will help us too.”

As these comments illustrate, the Elders’ notion of “control” is much fuller than we understand in current legal agreements. Elders advocate control through respect.

A short traditional story for children makes the point:

There was a little bird who had a nest with eggs in it. The birds flew away. The eggs were left. One broke open. The little bird came out. It started walking around. It was looking for something. My grandfather asked me – “What is the bird looking for?” Finally, he came back to get the egg shells. He found a hole and buried the egg shell. He covered it with moss and dirt. My grandfather asked – “Why is he hiding the egg shell?” That bird had respect for the egg shell. If he left it, something would step on it He don’t want something to step on it so he put it away. That is when they tell me the egg shell is his Grandfather. The little bird respects the egg shell to put it away. Our people when they have a big potlatch say in the Tlingit way – “our eggshell”, that’s our Grandfather we talk to. This is what I was explaining to the children, to respect Grandfather and Grandmother. If you don’t have respect your life will be short, because you don’t listen to anybody. But if you listen to your grandfather, your life will be longer. (Donawaak)

Between the cultures we must be cognizant of the fact that we are emerging from an era of harsh racism and stark segregation. Elders tell us to prepare ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually for the new dialogue. And they caution us to watch our words.

My grandfather used to tell me, if you are going up the river, cut a pole so they can push your boat up. Before you give it to your partner who is going to help you, you got to run your hand over the pole. If you don’t sharp ridges on it will cut your hand. Then your partner will not help you. You have to run your hand over the words before you say anything. I tell my children. They are beginning to listen, how to respect each other.

In a context of respect, “control” involves tribal takeover of programs; developments of complete cultural models of child care services and establishing critical intercultural linkages.

New Child Welfare Act

The new Child Welfare Act allows for the delegation of responsibilities for child protective services to persons outside the Alberta Social Services and Community Health department. This will enable Native communities to develop their own child welfare services. This objective is being pursued in dialogue with many Indian bands and other Native communities. Yet without understanding and incorporating traditional Native child care practices, Native communities will only be developing a parallel child care system brought with the same problems existing in the present child care system.

The Province of Alberta has led the way in encouraging Native communities to take over their child care services when the first tripartite child welfare agreement was signed in 1973 with the Blackfoot Indian Band at Gleichen. Ten years later, a similar agreement was made with the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Council; a thrust supported by federal as well as provincial governments. Band children are cared for on the reserve, by and large, and nurtured in their own cultural environment. Very few children now leave the reserve for purposes relating to the need for child welfare services, whereas when the agreement began in 1973 almost 150 children were in temporary guardianship, most of them in non-Native foster homes off the reserve.

The Lesser Slave Lake Agreement promises to have a similar impact. This Indian Regional Council is currently readying itself to assume full authority and responsibility under the new Act. To date it has been occupied with developing community resources and training its staff. Yet a major question that needs to be asked is: Are we only creating a parallel child care system that does not understand or meet the unique cultural needs of the Native community but only mimics the present child care system.

Discussion & Recommendations

Alberta Social Services and Community Health is focussing on Native families and children in its child welfare services. The need for this special attention was verified by departmental statistics and by a growing awareness that Indian and Metis people want greater involvement in the case planning for Native children as well as in the actual administration of child welfare services. The 1980s will likely form an era in Canadian and Alberta history where Native communities seek a return of functions from government to the community with a special focus on prevention and early intervention, as well as on the utilization of Native resources which allow for incorporation of India, and Metis cultural values and customs (Alberta Social Services, 1985b). In December 1984 the Minister appointed a Working Committee on Native Child Welfare, a group of Native community workers and senior civil servants assigned the task of assuring that Native issues and Native families are considered in the implementation of the new Act and the evolving new service systems. Although the Provincial Government desires Native communities to take over their own child care services a major problem now arising in the province is budget cutbacks. The Government seems unwilling to put sufficient monies into the necessary dialogue process, consulting process and education for Natives to develop effective bi-cultural child care service. Instead the Government seems only willing to allow Native communities to take over the existing mono-cultural child care services that presently service Native children, complete with their existing budget problems.

Further, the push for privatization creates both challenges and problems for Native communities. Problems in terms of competition for limit funds and people resources. Challenges in terms of taking control and development potential of a bicultural paradigm. As privatization and tribal assumption of child care services is already underway, the following recommendations will focus on the development of a new bi-cultural Native child care paradigm:

I Development of Culture Based Child Care

Family Tree: The disruption of Native family life has resulted in a loss of traditional oral histories and family lives. One way to prevent further loss of family history and to mitigate against the danger of intermarriage is by creating and writing family trees. The children must know who they are.

Extended Family/Clan Networking: It must be openly acknowledged that anonymity does not exist in closely related Native communities. The western weakness is a Native strength when key Elders, Aunts and Uncles are identified and used as critical child care resources. These traditional experts should be compensated in some form for their services.

Elder Participation and Networking: Tribal child care workers need access to key Elders in a structured way. That is, Elders must be seen and used as policy makers, educators and quality control experts. Their roles should be clearly stated in tribal child care services and they should be compensated for their work on par with non-Native experts.

Inter-tribal Networking: Tribal child care workers must have the opportunity to meet with their counterparts in the tribes. Elders must also be encouraged to travel and enter into dialogue with Elders from other reserves. Finally, more audio-visual materials must be developed on the evolving Native child care services so that geographically scattered and isolated reserves may exchange information.

II Intercultural Linkages

Climate: The atmosphere of reconciliation exemplified in Catholic churches recent apology to Native people must be continued. Sometimes the best way to begin cross-cultural communications is with an apology. Those agencies dealing with large numbers of Native children may wish to follow suite as Native people complement these efforts following traditional practices of preparation.

Communication on appropriate levels: Leading non-Native child care experts and top agency administration must have the opportunity to meet with their counterparts – Native Elders. Tribal child care administrators may be a link in this dialogue. Communication amongst these Native experts will provide direction and guidance to the transfer and development of Native services. Working through the Elders will also promote strength and renewal to the original system of child care. this process will also halt the present destructive trend of using westernized Native child care workers as the benchmark for cultured people.

Creating opportunities for inter-cultural dialogue: Native people need the chance to meet and share with good non-Native people. Gatherings like Tiospaye in South Dakota provide a model for positive cross-cultural communication. Headed by Virginia Satir and Sioux Medicine People approximately 70 people from around the globe meet with an equal number of Indian people to spend four days each year working on family , spiritual and cultural communication issues. This could be done in Canada.

II Higher Education Level

The time is propitious for the universities and colleges to commit themselves to a more concentrated effort in training Native child care and social services workers. Native groups and organizations are keenly interested; government social services agencies (federal and provincial) are anxious to hire qualified Native practitioners. We must develop academically sound programmes which take into account a variety of training needs and methods, yet maintain credible standards (Collins, 1986).

It will be no easy task to develop education programmes and support systems for Native and rural students that will adequately compensate for major deficiencies in their early education as well as compensate for deficiencies in existing programs.

The following points need to be considered to enhance education opportunities for native people:

Native people see the need and value in tailored western training.

“Successfully synthesized (biculturally functioning) Indian people must receive human services training. They must be trained to consciously ease the transitions between the Indian and the non-Indian worlds, which must no longer be left to chance.”

Professional training has merit – “as you return certified, it shows people on the reserve that even though we want to get back to our traditional ways, we do realize there’s a white world out there and we’re arguing with a white problem.”

Credentialing is important, “it’s good for funding…it gives you a sense of accomplishment…it’s some credibility and helps if you want to move on.

Curricular must be modified to include Native content, screening of admission criteria must reflect the contribution Native people offer to social work programs.

III Creating Opportunities for Communication

Trent University Native Studies discovered that it is not enough to give advice, to tell the young “go back and talk to your elders” or “your culture is valuable”. People have trouble following such advice; we need to create opportunities to learn from each other. Universities can co-organize events like Tiospaye and can research models of positive cultural communication.

IV Inter-cultural Research

The university can play a vital role in identifying and creating materials, methods and structures that will lead to emergence of positive inter-cultural infrastructure. Examples include the identification of existing integrative and appropriate social science practices. Native social scientists are working alone in fields such as reality therapy, dream analysis, ethnomethodology and community organizing. University research efforts can link these Native social scientists with their western counterparts.

Further Considerations

Articulating a culture (Elder) based model of Native child care services brings together the secular and sacral. As a science, western social work does not include religion in its paradigm, yet spirituality is the foundation of Native science or truth seeking ways. Because of this difference it is important that the two systems remain discrete yet connected through an infrastructure that promotes understanding and unity. These considerations have been addressed in a number of Native projects. The Tlinget, Chilkoot Camp which provides a Native cultural/survival camp experience for children of all ethnicities is a good example. Chief Donawaak who established the camp concludes this paper.

“When you’re talking to the newborn baby, when that little baby listens, it stays there, everything we say. Anytime that child starts talking, its (the words you spoke to it) going to come out in front, like the tape recording when you play it. That’s the reason we talk to our babies so that what we try to teach will stay in its mind.

This is what I am doing with the children. These trees we see all around us, the roots are together. Spruce, hemlock, pine tree, birch, everything. All that is growing under some berries, salmonberries, raspberries, everything that is growing has roots. All the roots stay together. Then the grass grows and the flower grows. Right now you see the trees that are coming out, just like a newborn baby they start growing. Our grandchildren, they are just like a flower growing under the trees. Anyplace where you look there are different colors. When I opened the camp here, they asked me “What are you going to do? Are you going to teach just the Tlingit?” I told them, “No, this is for everybody.” They told me I am crazy. I told them maybe I am crazy. We used to be crazy ourselves. We used to fight with our white brothers. Now we adopt them, different colors. My son was married with white girl. My daughter was married with a white. Some of them are married with the Filipinos. They are all different colors. This is what the flower is. All different colors, what is growing. This is the children, they are growing as the grass and the flower. They are newborn babies, they have to learn.”

  

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

Introduction

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

Introduction

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.

Shamanic Initiations and Their Loss–Decolonization as Initiation and Healing

 

Shamanic Initiations and Their Loss —

Decolonization as Initiation and Healing

 

Jürgen W. Kremer

 

3383 Princeton

Santa Rosa

CA 95405, USA

jkremer@sonic.net

 

© 2000 by Jürgen W. Kremer

 

Published in:

Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, Band 9, Heft 1/2, 109 – 148

[Page numbers inserted below as P109 etc.]

 

 

Dedicated

to the students who

have shared this path with me –

in gratitude for the gifts

of learning they offered

 

 

[P109] I am a white man. White is short for “socialized into a Eurocentered frame of mind.” White is the name of forgetting. Forgetting so much of how we came to be where we are. I am a white man. Boxed into a box that likes to forget its name. I do not walk alone. Like other white men something walks with me. With me walks a shadow. Before me I project the shadow of forgetting where I came from. Behind me trails the shadow of the tears of native peoples. Below me I march on the shadow of the lands my peoples have raped. Above me looms the shadow of the spirits which I am blind to. All around me walks the shadow of domination, witchhunts, genocides, holocausts, sexism, racism. I do not walk alone.

 

When I walk into healing – how can I heal when these shadows walk with me? How can I heal when they obscure what lies beyond them? I hope to heal by remembering and seeing the shadows that walk with me so that I can become complete. So that I am not made of illusions. I hope to heal by purifying the shadow. So that I am not boxed in a box without names. So that I walk with the multitude, richness, and plurality that is me. Til árs ok til friðar – so that there may be fertility and peace. So that there may be friðr and heill before me – peace, wholeness, and health… may there be friðr and heill behind me… may there be friðr and heill below me… may there be friðr and heill above me… may there be friðr and heill all around me. So that, maybe, I can go on in beauty, friðr and heill. And so that, maybe, even we all can go on in beauty, friðr and heill. So that, maybe, I can walk with all my relations. So that, maybe, I get healed.

 

 

Who is the self that is getting healed?

So often people of the Eurocentered frame of mind are puzzled why indigenous people are upset when they see their healing approaches used in a context different from or alien to their traditional ways. Aboriginal people may then speak not only of abuse, misunderstanding, or appropriation, but also of the grave spiritual dangers ensuing as a consequence of healing done outside of what is defined as the proper practice according to indigenous beingknowing. This contribution attempts to address and clarify the significant [P110] differences in understanding the process of healing in the context of native (or indigenous) thinking vs. Eurocentered thinking.

 

Interest in Native American and other indigenous healing practices (and ceremonies in general) has increased quite dramatically in recent years. This surge in curiosity is fueled by the experience that the conventional western healing; paradigm frequently reaches its own limit and that the spiritual connections within one’s self, with community and with nature, have desiccated. While this yearning for holistic healing by way of indigenous healing practices stems from a valid desire and need, it raises not only ethical and political issues, but also epistemological questions: Is the Eurocentered way of knowing indigenous healing compatible with the native understanding and use of these practices?

 

Cosmologies are inevitably implicated in any healing activity, but our attempts to be aware of such cosmologies, and, even more so, our attempts to participate in them in an indigenous sense are a matter of choice, commitment, and presence. Two significant things follow from this: 1) If people engage with an indigenous paradigm in a non-indigenous fashion then they continue to act out the imperialistic nature of Eurocentered knowledge acquisition. 2) Healing endeavors offer a choice of the quality of conversation one wants to create for the future (indigenous vs. Eurocentered). This is true regardless whether one’s indigenous roots are present, recent, or have to be sought in the distant past amidst a crisscrossing entanglements of cultural, genetic, and other heritages.

 

A significant part of the unease and discomfort indigenous people have around the decontextualized use of native healing practices is the shadow material looming not just in the background of such endeavors, but becoming part of them. Using native healing approaches outside of an indigenous way of being means carrying the disease of the colonizing paradigm, in fact, perpetrating colonization. Removing the presence of these shadows means decolonizing for all of us ensconced in the Eurocentered paradigm (whatever the cultural roots). It means healing the diss-association from communal roots. It means recognizing the losses of our own cultures. It means recognizing the history of colonization, racism, and sexism. Only then arises the possibility of a knowledge exchange about indigenous healing practices that can be called equitable, instead of acquisitive, reifying, or appropriative. It may lead to the renewal of a more complete, holistic, and associative nurturing conversation.

 

My general framework is a discursive conversational stance of communal con-course, which resists the reification and ossification of what is usually described as “the other” (e.g., the Indian, the Sámi, the Aboriginal). It is an attempt to recover the traditional plurality of tribal or indigenous stories not only in the perception of other cultures, but particularly and foremost in the perception of one’s own roots. This means overcoming the denial of and separation from “the other” within one’s own self constructed in the [P111] Eurocentered fashion; it means discontinuing and healing the projective identification with indigenous peoples (the romantic colonization and containment of native life and history through Eurocentered sciences). The construction of indigenous peoples as “the other” is only possible as long as Eurocentered folk choose to forget their own indigenous roots, since out of this denial arises the legitimation of Eurocentered scientific dominance, progress thinking, and colonization. This approach is based on the recognition that the discontinuance of colonizing action is not just to cease outward acts of hostility, violence, and dominance, but just as much the internal abolition of the colonizer or the colonizing mind (the latter being a concept synonymous with the construction of the Eurocentered mind or consciousness).

 

I would like to be as clear as possible about the vantage point from which I am writing: The framework is a) decolonization and b) the healing of the masculinization of the phenomena of perceived reality. Any consideration regarding indigenous roots for people who are removed from them by more than a couple of generations needs to include such dimensions as politics, economics, law, cultural practices, ceremony, initiation, science, psychology. Healing the Eurocentered thought process from its dissociation or split from an embedded, nurturing, or holistic participation in the phenomena cannot be merely an individualistic process – it has to be a cultural, communal, and social process. I am writing as a man of Nordic-Germanic ancestry struggling with the depths of the scars of modern pathologies as they show themselves in individuals physically as such illnesses as cancer, addictions, chronic fatigue syndrome, and in social anomies (in Durckheim’s sense), ecological crises, continuing physical and cultural genocide of indigenous peoples, the crises of knowing, the persistence of sexism, institutionalized violence and racism, etc.

 

I am using the terms indigenous roots, indigenous consciousness, and the like not out of any presumption that this is something I have achieved for myself, or that I have reached closure to my personal process of decolonization (I do not believe that individual closure is possible without the healing of the communal, cultural contexts). These terms have been suggested directly and indirectly by Native American thinkers, Apela Colorado in particular (1994, 47):

The goal of the recovery of indigenous mind [is] to reunite people with their tribal minds. Each of the races of humankind was given a sacred circle or original instruction to live by. If our species is to survive, Euro-Americans must be supported in their effort to regain the Earth-based knowledge of their ancestors. Native Americans will help.

Churchill (1996, 386/7) spoke similarly when addressing an audience of Germans:

You must set yourselves to reclaiming your own indigenous past. You must come to know it in its own terms – the terms of its internal values and understandings, and the way these [P112]  were appplied to living in this world – not the terms imposed upon it by the order which set out to destroy it. You must learn to put your knowledge of this heritage to use as a lense through which you can clarify your present circumstance … You must begin with the decolonization of your own minds, with a restoration of your understanding of who you are, where you come from, what it is that has been done to you to take you to the place in which you now find yourselves.

Within the framework of his own indigenist approach he urges the expression of “German indigenism” (389). Mohawk (n.d., 17) speaks to the same issue when stating “I do not want people to adopt Indian rituals, because I want them to own their own rituals. I want them to come to ownership of experiences that are real for them. Then I’ll come and celebrate with them.”

 

According to all the native and indigenous people (shamans, medicine people and intellectuals) I have spoken to, the crucial point here is that indigenous roots are always recoverable. Indeed, indigenous leaders see such task as a historic necessity in our times. This is where their hope for the resolution of the current crises, particularly the ecological crisis, rests. For example, Bob Hazous, Chiricahua Apache, has stated: “Don’t come to Indian people and look for feathers and sweats and medicine men and stuff like that. Go back to your own history and find out who you are so that you can look at yourselves and see how beautiful you are” (1994). Implicit here is an assumption about “original instruction – words about purpose, words rooted in our creation, words that allow the human being an identity beyond the illusion of civilization,” as Native American writer Gabriel Horn puts it (1996, 49). Reconstructing indigenous consciousness is about the remembrance of these original instructions and the indigenous conversation with all beings they guide in a particular place at a particular time. While consciousness is a psychological term that has arisen from the individualism facilitated by the Eurocentered paradigm, it assumes quite a different meaning in an indigenous context: instead of being merely psychological it refers to a fluid and embedded awareness of and connection with all our relations – humans, ancestors, animals, plants, earth, stars, sun, and all others. And all this in the storied, imaginative, communal reflections of lived participation.

 

Even though the words “recovery of indigenous mind” have been suggested by Native American thinkers I have to admit to a certain degree of anxiety whenever I use words like these. So many concepts and terms have become superficial labels as they have entered mainstream or popular thinking that I am afraid a similar thing might happen with a romantic, nostalgic, or opportunistic appropriation of and identification with the word indigenous. This would be terrible and an outrageous misunderstanding of the process I am calling for. The remaining indigenous peoples continue to struggle for survival and recognition. Indigenous is a term with important political meaning. Any person of Eurocentered mind needs to assume (take it on!) this political meaning (together with all [P113] the other meanings the word indigenous connotes). Assuming it means a personal and social struggle for decolonization, it means fighting genocide, racism, sexism, and ecocide. Outside of that context the use of the word indigenous is abuse and devaluation of the struggle of aboriginal peoples and supports those who keep destroying indigenous cultures in conscious and unconscious ways.

 

The differences in healing paradigm between indigenous traditions and Eurocentered traditions can be understood as the result of different constructions of self (importantly, any self construction arises within a complex web of mutual causality; consequently, the perspective offered here should not be misread in a monocausal vein). There are multiple ways of identifying such differences; for the purposes of this contribution on healing I am using shamanic initiations as a marker to identify differences in self construction. This leads, in a sense, to the most fundamental questions:

 

Who are we healing? Which self are we healing when we attempt to relieve human suffering?

 

Are we attempting to heal the modern, Eurocentered, colonizing, or dissociated self? Or are we attempting to heal the indigenous self, the self embedded in community, land, and ancestry?

 

Are we attempting to heal the Eurocentered self, and make it more functional within the modern world of progress and dissociation? Or are we attempting to bring balance to the indigenous self by healing it from the source of creation as it is understood in the plurality of stories of traditions within which we are working?

 

The most succcinct way to describe my stance would be as follows: The exposure to Native American and other indigenous healing practices needs to be an occasion for people of Eurocentered mind to develop and remember their own indigenous healing practices. This process would include the integration of the western medical and psychological achievements from European indigenous perspectives – from the indigenous roots Eurocentered folk have recovered for a concursive construction of indigeneity for today and the future (not a folkloristic or retroromantic reènactment of things past).

 

In my attempt to clarify the issues I have just introduced I:

— describe and discuss what is usually seen as the classical shamanic initiation in Eurasia, the prequisite for the highest levels of healing in her indigenous traditions;

— discuss my understanding of indigenous healing;

— describe the historical loss of rites of passage and initiations leading to the construction of what can probably most accurately be called the Eurocentered self;

[P114] — contrast the modern paradigm of healing that arises from this self construction with indigenous understandings of healing;

— describe the process of decolonization as a rite of passage and initiation.

— I conclude with I poem and overview table “summarizing” the issues discussed in this article.

 

Shamanic Initiation

Most indigenous cultures seem to have a variety of specialists engaged in healing endeavors. Their native labels express their work succinctly, distinguishing between e.g., herbalists, bone setters, shamans, seers, diagnosticians. Given my background, my focus is on the Eurasian cultural areas which, amidst their rich diversity, have certain connecting strands. Here the jajan, saman, noaidi, völva, or seiðkarl embody the highest or deepest forms of seeing and healing; they are holders of the deep knowledge of their cultures and keep it alive through their ceremonial practices; they have been initiated by spirits into the lived knowledge of their cultures.

 

My Nordic-Germanic roots connect me with the vast Eurasian cultural complex that has certain common strands (Pentikäinen 1989). Within this rich area I begin my discussion with descriptions from cultures that are less impacted by Christian influences, and move subsequently to the Old Norse material that is much more fragmentary and influenced by Christian thought.

 

A feature on Tuvan shamanism filmed by Belgian Public Television (Dumon 1993) contains a brief moment where the interviewer asks the shaman whether he had to go through the shamanic illness in order to become a shaman. “Were you also sick?” The question leads us to expect a long explanation of such a significant event, however, the old man only answers matter of factly: “Of course, I was sick.” The brevity of the answer indicates how obvious, necessary, and inevitable the so-called shamanic illness or albystar (in Tuvinian). It is what makes and defines a shaman, whether woman or man or hermaphrodite. All other shamans shown in this movie have undergone similar trials as they were called to shamanize.[1][1]

 

The common language for the call to shamanize and the initiation is ‘initiatory illness’ or ‘shamanic illness.’ The following are excerpts from descriptions among the Evenki (Tungus) of Central Asia:

…He became tormented and timorous, especially at night when his head was filled with dream visions. On the day when he had to act as shaman, the visions stopped, he fell into a [P115] trance and stared for hours at an object. The pale and worried man, with his piercing look, made a peculiar impression. After his dream, the chosen man became uneasy and timid, began to meditate, did not answer when he was addressed and frquently heard ‘words whispered into his ears’ which he had to sing, žarižačan (literally: ‘to repeat’). That was the moment when, in shamanistic terminology, ‘the spirits entered his ears and brain’, telling him the words of the song. … [The Evenki] believed that the choice itself and the transfer of the assistant spirits to the novice were directed by the master spirit of the upper world. The first words heard by the chosen person were instructions, such as: … ‘do not commit evil things, only cure the sick. … I shall be above you, and take care of you, and give you strength.’ In his dream, the young shaman could see the shaman ancestors who also gave him instructions. Then other spirits came ‘whispering into his ears’. (Vasilevič 1968, 345)

The last sentence of this quote speaks most clearly to the difference between a psychologizing Eurocentered perspective and indigenous perspectives: the ancestors and other spirits speak to the initiand, self construction is fluid and open enough to have intercourse with such realities; this is different from an internalizing self construction comprehending and apprehending ancestors as various aspects of the monadic self (whatever psychological theory we might use). The process leads from the initial visitation by spirits to the acquisition of the necessary shamanic accoutrements, as described in the following statement from the Tuva (Soyot) of Central Asia:

A shaman is recognized by typical attacks of a special ‘disease’ called albystar. The person in question ‘goes off his head’, utters inarticulate sounds, breaks dishes, leaves the house and roams about the taiga, twitches in hysterical convulsions, is seized with nausea and rends his garments, etc. The ‘invalid’ repeats that the soul of a shaman ištig irgäk has moved into his body, that the spirit urges him to take a horse (by which the drum düŋür is meant) and clothes (ala xujaq) and to become a shaman. (Vajnštejn, 1968, 331)

 

Even in the Old Norse traditions, where shamanism fell prey to Christianity more than one thousand years ago, we find remnants in the records describing an indigenous self construction of the practitioners. For example, at the beginning of the Eddic poem reaching most deeply into the older layer of the culture we read how the seeress was raised by ancestral spirits:

Ek man iötna / ár um borna, / þá er forðum mik / fædda höfðu. / Níu man ek heima / – níu íviðiur, / miötvið mæran – / fyr mold neðan. (Völuspá, stanza 2)

I remember the Jötnar who were born at the beginning of time and reared me in former times. I remember nine worlds beneath the earth, nine giantesses, and also the glorious tree of fate. (Pálsson 1996, 47 & 58)

The völva is raised by giants, reared with primal spirits of old, one of them called Burr, the bear ancestor. Personal and collective or communal time are indistinguishable in this [P116] incantoatory account of earliest Norse history. The giants are primal spirits, presences from before human beings (If we accept Pálsson´s interpretation of iötna as Sámi we still end up with the same understanding: the seeress was raised in the presence of spirits or with spirits.)

 

The connection with one’s dream or vision or medicine power or personal gift is part of native life, manifesting in all the multitude of cultural ways. Reinforcing that connection is the function of rites of passage. Shamanic initiation, in the indigenous sense, is deepening or reinforcing one’s presence to the spiritual realities within a communal framework. While spirit(s) are part of all indigenous conversations, the awareness of and presence to spirit(s) becomes intensified and heightened for shamans. Thus the völva in Völuspá is raised with spirit(s) in such intensity and to such depths that she sees through time, that she remembers the beginnings of things, the center of her traditions (the tree of fate). As the descriptions above indicate, such shamanic initiations are not mere psychological processes. They are a process always also resulting in actions capable of manifesting healing. Paula Gunn Allen (1998, 47) aptly describes the difference between the psychologizing of spirit – a temptation to which many alternate Eurocentered approaches succumb in our current culture of psychology – and the indigenous conversation:

In tribal cultures, ecstatic, mystical states don’t so much convert into emotive personal experience as into physical experience or experience with direct effect in the physical (that is, as a consequence of entering an ecstatic state, a practitioner can do something actual). Visionary experiences, in themselves, are either a direct requirement for some ritual activity in which the individual is engaging or are a prelude to a life as a holy person.

The shamanic self is not so much constructed as affirmed and confirmed during initiations; it is the rigorous confirmation of something which has already been in the process of construction from early on. It is worthy of note that the ‘shamanic illness’ is not something an individual chooses as an endeavor during a sequence of workshops, but that the spirit(s) come to them. The shamanic self is initiated from the ‘outside’, to speak in Eurocentered terminology. We might say more accurately that other aspects of the weave that the fluid, participatory indigenous self is connected into impinge their awareness onto the individual mind. Or, more plainly:

The Indian has achieved a particularly effective alignment of [the physical and imaginative] planes of vision. … The appropriation of both images into one reality is what the Indian is concerned to do: to see what is really there, but also to see what is really there. (Momaday, from Blaeser 1998, 26)

So, this is a self which has easy concourse with spirits and spiritual dimensions, or rather: instead of being unconscious or in denial about such presences and concourse, it is present to it. This is the work of the völva, noaidi, and the various other shamanic practitioners.

 

[P117] Eliade, in his classic book Shamanism – Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1951/1964, 42), complains that not enough “care had been taken to collect the confessions (sic!) of … Siberian shamans” so that they are “reduced to the meager common formula: the candidate remained unconscious for a certain number of days, dreamed that he was cut to pieces by spirits and carried into the sky, and so on.” He sees the following detailed description as a relief from such reductions. This example may be the one most frequently quoted in the literature (see Popov in Dioszegi 1968, 137-146;  Elidade 1951/1964, 38-42; Halifax 1979, 37-49; Vitebky 1995, 60-61), and it can also be found on the internet (see below). Repeating this report one more time may thus contribute to a reification and ossification of what shamanic initiation is. The ones who escaped the care of the anthropological collectors may be the lucky ones, since they have escaped the grasp of anthropology, “the natural enemy of natives” (88), or more elaborately: “Natives are forever studied, invented as abstruse cultures, and then embodied in motion pictues as the simulated burdens of civilization. … These adversities became more grievous and caused a turn in the notions, courses, and literary canons at universities, but the treacheries and dominance of anthropologism, the obsessive, unmerciful studies of natives by social scientists, have not been overturned…” (Vizenor 1997, 86). With the opening of the East Bloc, anthropological attention has turned more intensely on her aboriginal traditions previously more difficult to access. Here is an abbreviated version of the account:

At first he was descending somewhere, then he grasped that there was a sea beneath him. While walking by the sea, he listened to the voice of upper disease who told that he would acquire the shaman’s gift from the Mistress of water and his shaman name would be Hotarie. After that he reached the shore. A naked woman, who was lying there, suckled him. She was the Mistress of water. Her husband Frosty God gave an ermine and a mouse to guide him.  They led him to the hill in the lower world where he saw seven tents. Dyukhade entered the second tent. The Smallpox people were living there. They cut out Dyukhade’s heart and put it in the cauldron to boil. Afterwards Dyukhade visited other tents and got familiar with the spirits of diseases who lived there. Still preceeded by his guides, Dyukhade came to that place of the Shaman’s Land where his throat and his voice were strengthened.  Then he was carried to the shores of the nine lakes. In the middle of one lake was an island and on the island there was a tree, quite similar to the larch, only its top rose to the sky. It was the tree of the Mistress of the earth. Beside it grew seven herbs, the ancestors of all the plants on the earth. In each of the lakes swam a species of bird with its young. There were several kinds of ducks, a swan and a sparrow-hawk. While singing songs and telling incantations, Dyukhade walked round all of the lakes. Some of them were very hot, some were terribly salty. Thereafter Dyukhade raised his head and saw men of various nations in the top of the high tree. There were Nganasans, Russians, Dolgans, Nenetses and Tunguses. He heard voices: “It has been decided that you shall have a drum from the branches of this tree.”  Then he grasped that he was flying with the birds of the lakes. As he left the shore, the Lord of the Tree called to him: “My branch has just fallen. [P118] Take it and make a drum of it that will serve you all your life!” The branch had three forks and the Lord of the Tree bade him make three drums from it. “I let you have three wives, who will watch over your drums,” he said. “The first drum you have got to use for shamanising women in childbirth, the second for curing the sick and the third for finding men lost in the snowstorm.”  Dyukhade took the branch and flew away with the birds. On his way he met a demiman-demitree creature who told: ” If you will be asked to shamanise in the case of serious illness and your heart will not be strong enough, then you will take this,” and he gave him seven herbs. “Each of them has its lords. If you will meet an orphan girl or a widow, you will help them.”   Then Dyukhade reached the large sea. He saw seven cliffs on the shore. When he got close, one of them opened. There were teeth like from the bear inside the cliff. The cliff said: “I am the Heavy Stone. By the use of my weight I hold the fertile soil in its place. The wind would carry it away without me.” The second cliff opened and said: “Let all men melt iron from me.” So Dyukhade studied seven days near the cliffs.  Afterwards the ermine and the mouse led him to the marshland. They reached the hill with swampy slopes. There was an open doorway on the closest slope, and they went in. The interior, except for the ice around it, looked like the one of the conical tent’s. There was a hearth in the middle of the room. On the left side two naked women were sitting. Their bodies were furry and they both had antlers (one of them had green ones). Both of them bore him two reindeer calves destined for sacrifice and nourishment. They gave him some reindeer fur for the shaman costume and for good luck with reindeer.  Then Dyukhade came to a desert and saw a distant mountain. After three days’ travel he reached it and entered an opening. There was a naked man working a bellows inside the mountain. On the fire was a cauldron as big as half the earth. The naked man saw Dyukhade and caught him with a huge pair of tongs. Dyukhade had only time to think: “I am dead!” The man cut off his head, chopped up his body and put them in the cauldron. There he boiled them for three years. There were three anvils on the tundra side of this mountain. The naked man forged Dyukhade’s head on the third anvil, which was the one on which the best shamans were forged. Then he chilled his head in the cauldron, in which the water was the coldest (there were three cauldrons with water). He said: “When you will be called to cure someone, you will remember – if the soul of your patient will be warmer then water in the first cauldron, it will be useless to shamanize, for the man is already lost. If the soul will be as warm as water in the second cauldron, your patient is not very seriously ill and you will shamanize to cure him. Water in the third cauldron has the temperature of the healthy body.” Then the blacksmith poured Dyukhade’s bones and muscles out of the cauldron and separated flesh from bones. He said: “As you have three of them too many, you will have three shaman costumes too.” Afterwards he said: “Your spinal cord is a river now, look at your bones floating away!” He fished Dyukhade’s bones out of the river and put them together. The bones were covered with flesh again. Only the skull was still separated. Then the blacksmith told Dyukhade to read the letters inside the skull. And Dyukhade read. Then the blacksmith covered the skull with flesh and put it to its original place again. He changed his eyes and pierced his ears, making him able to understand the language of [P119] plants. Then Dyukhade found himself on the summit of a mountain. He entered a tent and awakened – in his own tent.   Afterwards he behaved like an insane person: daily he sung incantations and frequently swooned away, nightly suffered torments caused by spirits. During the seventh year of his illness he went far into the tundra and met there a man who gave him back his heart, cut out at the very beginning of his shaman’s sickness. (A. Popov “Tavgitsy” – Trudy Instituta antropologii i etnografii, t. 1. vyp. 5. Moskva-Leningrad 1936, pp 85 – 93. Abbreviated translation by A. Lintrop at http://haldjas.folklore.ee/~aado/vis.htm)

 

As all these descriptions should make obvious: the call to become a shaman is not a light matter; the initiation is a journey where the person’s life is on the line, where not getting something right can easily mean death (see Eliade 1951/1964, 38-42 in particular). The patterns of call, initiation and instruction vary from culture to culture in accordance with the form the nurturing conversation takes in a particular place (local knowledge), time, ancestry, and ceremonial tradition (See Vitebsky 1995 for a brief, comprehensive overview). However, common to all is pressure from spirits resulting in a heightened presence to them, and the imparting of healing knowledge in a way that makes it available to the personal repertoire of the initiand – the person is getting initiated into the deep knowledge of his or her culture. This is the crucial point: while this process certainly has a psychological dimension it functions, when comprehended as a whole, entirely outside of not just a psychological paradigm, but outside of the boundaries of the Eurocentered paradigmata in general. Psychologizing spirit amounts to the appropriation and containment of Eurasian ancestries. Especially since Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949) Eurocentered individuals are prone to interpret initiation in psychological terms, particularly in Jungian archetypal terms (initiation into Self). While such process has psychological validity (there is, of course, such a process as the psychological initiation into the Self archetype), it is a partial interpretation of the Eurasian indigenous process of shamanic initiation (the call from and invasion of spirits) as is, hopefully, apparent from the above statements.

 

An illustration of such contact with spirits can be seen in the story of Óðinn being initiated by fasting and hanging on the tree of life for nine days. While fragmentary, it clearly contains some of the elements described above for Siberian shamanism. We reasonably have to assume that Óðinn started out as the village master shaman, who later became hypostasized and patricarchalized in the course of the emergence of Eurocentered social constructions. In the following quotation Óðinn undergoes shamanic initiation, what is really there and what is really there, come together, the physical and imaginative, spiritual planes get aligned. He is wounded and sacrifices himself for nine long nights on the tree of life, at the center whence the female spirits Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld renew life continuously from the sources of creation. The giant spirit of Bölthorn’s son (ancestral spirit of his uncle) teaches him the shamanic song for spirit calling, he drinks the mead, the [P120] herbal drink of ecstasy and in-spiration, thus becoming full of spirit and being present to spirits he learns from various spirits, ginnregin, the mighty gods,[2][2] the tools of his shamanic trade (runes, not merely letters or symbols, but images to make spirit present for shamanic work, invocations; carving runes means creating spiritual presences).

  1. Veit ek, at ek hekk 137. I know that I hung in the windtorn tree

vindga meiði á

nætr allar níu                                 Nine whole nights, spear-pierced,

geiri undaðr Óðni,

sjálfr sjálfum mér,                        Consecrated to Odin, myself to my Self above me in the tree,

á þeim meiði

er manngi veit                               Whose roots no one knows whence it sprang.

hvers hann af rótum renn.

 

  1. Við hleifi mik sældu 138. None brought me bread, none served me drink;

né við hornigi,

nýsta ek niðr                                 I searched the depths, spied runes of wisdom;

nam ek upp rúnar

Ïpandi nam,                                   Raised them with song, and fell once more thence.

fell ek aptr þaðan.

 

  1. Fimbulljóð níu 139. Nine powerful chants I learned

nam ek af inum frægja syni

Bölþórs, Bestlu föður,                   From the wise son of Bölthorn, Bestla’s father;

ok ek drykk of gat                        A draught I drank of precious mead

ins dýra mjaðar

ausinn Óðreri.                               Ladled from Odraerir.

 

  1. Þá nam ek frævask 140. I began to thrive, to grow wise,

ok fróðr vera

ok vaxa ok vel hafask;                                   To grow greater, and enjoy;

orð mér af orði                             For me words led from words to new words;

orðs leitaði,

verk mér af verki                         For me deeds led from deeds to new deeds.

verks leitði.

[P121]

  1. Rúnar munt þú finna 141. Runes shall you know and right read staves,

ok ráðna stafi,

mjök stóra stafi,                            Very great staves, powerful staves,

mjök stinna stafi,

er fáði fimbulþulr                         Drawn by the mighty one who speaks,

ok gørðu ginnregin                       Made by wise Vaner,

ok reist Hroptr rjögna.                  carved by the hightest rulers.

(Evans 1986, 68-69)                     (Titchenell 1985, 126-127)

This is one of Óðinn’s shamanic journeys recorded in the Old Norse literature, where he learns what he needs for his craft. While this description seems to contain but remnants of a complete cultural practice, these ciphers direct our attention to a quality of indigenous conversation present beneath the layer of Christianized descriptions and patriarchal conceptualizations. In this nurturing shamanic conversations Óðinn consorts with spirits and feminine sources of creation, renewal, and healing. Hanging from the tree of life he has accessed the deep knowledge of his culture.

 

 

Indigenous Healing

Healing is intimately connected with seeing: the perception of spirits and spirits is an integral part of any healing endeavor. Without seeing spirit there is no healing. Understanding spiritually what is out of balance and how healing needs to happen requires seeing. We find this form of seeing described in Eiríks Saga Rauða:

Slógu þá konur hring um hjalling, en Þorbjörg sat á uppi. Kvað Guðriður flá kvæðið svá fagrt ok vel… Spákonan þakkar henni kvæðit, ok kvað margar þær náttúrur nú til hafa sótt ok þykkja fagrt at heyra, er kvæðit var svá vel flutt.

The women then cast a circle round the ritual platform on which Thorbjörg seated herself. Then Gudrid sang the songs so well and beautifully… The völva gives thanks for the song to her and said many spirits have come to us and are charmed by what they hear as the song was sung so beautifully. (Jones 1961, 136)

The calling of the spirits is done by means of varðlokkur, the spirit song, which has a similar function to the drumming and inspired singing or chanting in other Eurasian shamanic traditions (varðlokkur is oftentimes translated as magic song, Zaubergesang; warlock is a related word; vörðr is soul, fylgja, the familiar spirit who follows, the spirit of the home and hearth, guardian spirit; lúka is what encloses the spirits, binds them). It is the power and beauty of the song that brings the spirits. The völva cannot do her seeing and prophecying without the spirits being present.

 

[P122] The various techniques of spirit calling have led many to interpret indigenous spirituality in terms of the dichotomous pair immanence – transcendence used in religious discussions of “major religions,” for example. However, this represents, I believe, a fundamental misunderstanding of native beingknowing, where even the term “spirituality” creates a division reflecting more the impact of Eurocentered thinking and splitting than the practice of native realities: spirit is everywhere, spirituality is everywhere, everything is spiritual. Everything is immanent, spirit is immanent, not separate or transcendant (immanence and transcendence are more like poles on a scale with many thick and thin places of connection inbetween). While there are all kinds of aspects and levels to this, and while our awareness of these various presences and aspects may be clear or clouded, all these aspects and beings are nonetheless present to indigenous beingknowing. By contrast, the dissociated mind needs to transcend in order to conceptualize or even reach any of these aspects that are immanently present to the indigenous or primal or natural mind, when in balance.

 

Such immanent worldview can be found even at the roots of the Eurocentered traditions. (Historically, they first turned against their own indigenous roots, and subsequently projected this shadow material out; this led to all the colonial and genocidal violence against indigenous people.) We can trace it clearly in someof the central concepts: Within the oldest layers of the Indo-European traditions we find healing, holy, and wholeness all as aspects of such an immanent world view.

IE*kai-lo-, which occurs in Goth hailjan, OE hælan, OHG heilen, and OBulg celjo, all of which mean “to heal.” What is expressed most directly through these terms, however, is not just the establishment of a vague state of “health” or “well-being” but more precisely a state of “wholeness, totality, completion,” as shown in the nominal and adjectival formations from this root, such as Goth hails, ON heill, OHG heil, and OBulg cel, all of which mean both “healthy” and “whole”… So desirable was this state of wholeness thought to be that two common IE formulaic greetings and toasts express the wish that the one addressed may be “whole.” Such a state of well-being and wholeness might be lost through injury or disease, whereupon the healer’s task was to restore it. (Lincoln 1986, 100)

The centrality of this concept of healing is apparent. Hitler turned this very understanding of heil through his evil genius on to the dark side; from an indigenous perspective one could venture to say that the constant everyday use of a formula in older times spoken for the sake of healing, blessing, and greeting, but now spoken millions of times every day for the sake of destruction and genocide, gave the fascism of the Third Reich a particular power and created the mass of bystanders and willing executioners so much in the public debates since Goldhagen’s book. Ever since the word denoting the process of healing carries the shadows of history, and is thus collectively in need of purification and healing. Lincoln’s analysis of the old Indo-European understanding of healing and wholeness identifies magic not as idle superstition, but rather as a

[P123] system of non-Aristotelian, homologic causality, whereby items connected to one another in a relation of underlying constubstantiality are considered capable of acting on one another. And what is more, the precise terms of these homologies are drawn from cosmogonic and anthropogonic myth. (1986, 110)

Within this worldview healing by acts of magical speech is the highest form of healing (ibid. 101). Magical speech, sacred poetry, singing, chanting are part of this evocative context, in which physical accoutrements and interventions form adjuncts which would be less effective if not accompanied by the spiritual presences created through sacred sound. Many words in the Old Norse and other Eurasian indigenous traditions use terms for ceremonial endeavors that are etymologically connected to chanting (Old Norse blót, seiðr, Evenki jajan, etc.), and many words for chanting are connected with seeing (even the English ‘singing’ is). (Another important complex consists of the words for knowing, the-one-who-knows, and seeing.)

 

Lincoln concludes his discussion of “magical healing” by saying

In considering the IE (Indo-European, JWK) vocabulary for the act of healing I noted that one term commonly used in this context, *kai-lo-, signified “wholeness, integrity.” It now becomes apparent just how awesome a task the production or restoration of such integrity must be, for it is not just a damaged body that one restores to wholeness and health, but the very universe itself. I also noted that the verb used to denote “healing,” *med-, stressed the knowledge and authority that enabled a healer to create proper order in an ailing patient. The full extent of such knowledge is now revealed in all its grandeur: the healer must understand and be prepared to manipulate nothing less than the full structure of the cosmos. (Lincoln 1986, 117/8)

Kailo and heill are terms that need to be understood in a communal frame of mind which includes humans, ancestors, animals, plants, and others. To conceive of them or of friðr (peace or Great Peace) as individualistic pursuits (analogous to the “pursuit of happiness”) means not seeing the obligations which weave the individual’s contribution into the communal fabric. Such weaving has its origins in the place from which the possibility of healing and balance emanate: creation and creation story. Óðinnfasting on the tree of life puts him at the center of anthropogenesis where he receives crucial instructions for his way as a shaman or seiðmenn. The following story from Snorri’s Prose Edda (Sturluson 1987) speaks to the centrality of healing and in-spiration emanating from the oldest layers of the story of the people. The literature commonly talks about the mead of inspiration or the mead of poetry, however, as we have seen previously, to be in-spired by poetic song is making the spirits present, is becoming present to them. Such poetic inspiration is not just seeing, but also the foundation of healing, of manipulating the structure of the universe through the power of the magic words chanted. Of course, the power of such tremendous [P124] manipulation is not the shaman’s, but that of the spirits; the power of the shaman is the capacity of varðlokkur, spirit calling, and then the skill of his spirits traveling to where they must go for seeing and healing (the intensification of indigenous presence); the rest is the grace of spirit(s).

 

The story of Óðinn’s recovery of the mead that is given below, illustrates a variety of things important in shamanic work: we read about shapeshifting, wrestling with spirits, the recovery of medicine, and a spirit which has been held by illegitimate owners, spirit journey. Remembering that magical speech is the highest form of healing the significance of the rescue of the source of such magic from thieves and murderers becomes evident. It is important to notice how the nature of the medicine of the mead changes as the story unfolds from creation: from the power of truce between two groups of spirits (the Vanir and the Æsir) to poetic in-spiration from one group of spirits only (the Æsir; Indo-Europeanization is thus strengthened).

 

The mead Óðinn recovers by means of his shamanic work is spiritually of eminent importance: Its origins lie with the truce between the Æsir and Vanir groups of gods/goddesses or spirits. They had spat into a vat to seal the agreement, and then decided to create the wisest of humans, Kvasir,[3][3] out of it. Kvasir travelled through the world teaching his wisdom. He was killed by dwarves who preserved his blood, mixed with honey in three containers. The mead was passed on as recompense for the drowning of a giant. His son kept the mead putting his daughter in charge of it. This medicine, which was ceremonially created by the Æsir and Vanir spirits, and which became manifest in the wandering wise person Kvasir, then gets rescued by Óðinn during a shamanic recovery process, but changes its character significantly in the process – instead of being medicine mediating and balancing between the Æsir and Vanir spirits it now ends up in the possession of the Æsir as the mead of poetry (poetry is also known as Kvasir’s blood), from the seal of truce making between two aspects of spirits it turns into the in-spiration from [P125] and for one group of gods and goddesses; the magic of healing words and inspired song is now in the hand of the Æsir, spirits of Indo-European cultural context:

Óðinn told him his name was Bölverkr (“worker of trickery or evil”); he offered to take over the work of nine men for Baugi (“the bent one”), and stipulated as his payment one drink of Suttungr’s mead (Suttungr is probably “heavy with drink”). Baugi said he had no say in the disposal of the mead, said that Suttungr wanted to have it all to himself, but he said that he would go with Bölverkr and try whether they could get the mead. Bölverkr did the work of nine men for Baugi during the summer, and when winter came he asked Baugi for his hire. Then they both set off. Baugi told his brother Suttungr of his agreement with Bölverkr, but Suttung flatly refused a single drop of the mead. Then Bölverkr told Baugi that they would have to try some stratagems to see if they could get hold of the mead, and Baugi said that was a good idea. Then Bölverkr got out an augur called Rati (“drill, augur”) and instructed Baugi to bore a hole in the mountain, if the augur would cut. He did so. Then Baugi said that the montain was bored through, but Bölverkr blew into the auger-hole and the bits flew back up at him. Then he realized that Baugi was trying to cheat him, and told him to bore through the mountain. Baugi bored again. And when Bölverkr blew a second time, the bits flew inwards. Then Bolverk turned himself into the form of a snake and crawled into the auger-hole, and Baugi stabbed after him  with the auger and missed him. Bölverkr went to where Gunnlöð (“invitation to fight”, giant spirit) was and lay with her for three nights and then she let him drink three drafts of the mead. In the first draught he drank everything out of Óðrærir (“the one stimulating ecstasy”; originally the mead itself, but also the vessel containing it), and in the second out of Boðn (“vessel”), in the third out of Són (probably “blood, reconciliation, atonement”), and then he had all the mead. The he turned himself into the form of an eagle and flew as hard as he could. And when Suttungr saw the eagle’s flight he got his own eagle shape and flew after him. And when the Æsir saw Óðinnflying they put their containers out in the courtyard, and when Óðinncame in over Ásgarðr (the home of the Æsir) he spat out the mead into the containers, but it was such a close thing for him that Suttungr might have caught him that he sent some of the mead out backwards, and this was disregarded. Anyone took it that wanted it, and it is what we call the rhymester’s share. But Óðinngave Suttungr’s mead to the Æsir and to those people who are skilled at composing poetry. Thus we call poetry Óðinn’s booty and find, and his drink and his gift and the Æsir’s drink. (Sturluson 1987, Skaldskaparmal, 63-64)

This seems to be a very old shamanic story that finds clear resonances within the Eurasian complex, for example, in the Rig Veda of 1200-900 BCE: Here Indra, in the form of an eagle or with the eagle as helper spirit, steals the elixir of immortality, soma (which Wasson [1968] identifies with the fly agaric mushroom), the plant spirit of in-spiration and seeing. Verse 4.27.5 offers an interesting conjunction between “overflowing cow’s milk, the finest honey, the clear juice” (all presumably words connoting soma; see Wasson for [P126] extensive discussions), which, by bold Indo-European generalization, brings Óðr, the drink of in-spiration, to the milk the primal cow Auðumla offers as nourishment. Modern Icelandic óður (adj.) means not just “furious,” but also crazy and mad, which originally presumably would have been the “madness” of spirit possession or religious trance of in-spiration. Doniger O´Flaherty (1981, 128) comments that “Soma is the ‘fiery juice’, simultaneously fire and water”, and Auðumla feeds the primal giant spirit Ymir who was born at the place from which the world arises, Ginnungagap, the conjunction of fire and ice (cf. Gylfaginning, Sturluson 1987). Óðrærir is commonly translated as mead (German Met), considered the oldest spiritual drink; it is the drink of fermented honey (but also berries[4][4]), and a word which points to an old connection between Indo-European and Finno-Ugric cultures: Saami miehta (originating from Proto-Finno-Ugric of ca. 4000BCE; Sammallahti, 1998, 119), Finnish mete, etc. are related to the Pre-Aryan Indo-European language layer. In the words soma, mead, and óðrærir we find a constellation of the primal forces of creation, spiritual seeing, renewal, mantic poetry, nourishment from the center of creation and spirit(s), as well as atonement and peacekeeping.

 

The discussions of varðlokkur, kailo, and the mead of in-spiration serve to show that what so many of Euro-centered mind are looking for in Native American and other indigenous traditions can truly be found in their own roots, e.g. the Germanic-Nordic traditions. Healing is not a mere technology, but a spiritual activity which, while using certain pragmatic interventions such as herbs, is embedded in the deep structure of cultural beingknowing and the prerequisite initiations and lifeways. In my case healing can and needs to arise from the place where the Old Norse ancestors were created into their precise cultural identity. Just as it does for Native American tribes and other indigenous peoples. LaPena (1999, 18) comments beautifully: The elders “learn the earth’s secrets by quietly observing. It is a secret language called knowledge that releases the spirit from stone and heals by tone of voice and by changing sickness into elements that flow instead of blocking life.” This is what it means to follow our original instructions in a particular place and time. “Sacred names, dreams, and visions are images that connect the bearer to the earth; shamans and other tribal healers and visionaries speak the various languages of plants and animals and feel the special dream power to travel backward from familiar times and places” (Vizenor 1981, XVII). This is what the völvas, the seeresses, and the seers of the Nordic Germanic traditions did and do. The importance of the connection between language and place is described by Pinkson (1995, 127) based on his initiations into the Huichol tradition:

The original language of the people indigenous to a specific area on Mother Earth’s body grows directly out of the land itself. The vibratory essence of the natural forces in a given area grow upward from the bowels of the land and surrounding elements to form the plant life and vegetation of that area. The indigenous people live, eat, and breathe these natural elements. They die back into them and new generations birth back out again in the passage [P127] of generations. The land literally teaches them how to live in harmony with it through this ingestion process. They take it into their bodies. It “speaks” to them. Then it comes out of their mouths as language. They speak the vibrations of that land. Their language and creation myths are embodied vehicles for for the wisdom of that place. I could now understand why maintaining the original language of indigenous people is important not just to their survival but to all of humanity. Original languages contain within their vibratory sturcture the operating rules for how to live in their home territory in a harmonious manner. The indigenous language is a nierica [gateway, JWK] by which to access the intelligence of place. Lose the language and you lose its vital instructions about right relationship.

This visionary insight finds its reflections in the Nordic Germanic indigenous traditions where the power of the word arising from the lands is used in spells and runes, where the language of the Poetic Edda speaks an ancient wisdom from creation. But this statement does something else also: It clearly identifies the initiatory challenges for those who no longer live in the place of their ancestors, who have forgotten their language, and who may now live in places where the indigenous language has disappeared eating food that predominantly is not indigenous to their area of residence.

 

 

The Loss of Initiations

A dramatic and succinct description from Leslie Marmon Silko’s book Ceremony (1977, 132ff.) captures the rise of the Eurocentric story out of its Indo-European origins. Her use of the words “witch” and “witchery” is clear: it refers to the working of evil and imbalance. In its origins (Indo-European root weik-) it had religious connotations, the working of magic. These and similar words originally seem to have been rather neutral, although always holding the potential not just of good, but also of abuse of magical powers; however, the predominant identification of such words with evil and the devil clearly seems to be a consequence of the rise of Christianity. Before awareness of the medieval European witchhunts had a chance to infuse Native American use of the English language, workers of excess and evil were frequently called “witches” in Indian vernacular, thus assuming the Christian, pejorative use of the term. The word evil is connected to the Indo-European root upo and upelo-, meaning: exceeding the proper limit. And it is this that Silko talks about: It is the story of imbalance, the story of certain aspects of being exceeding their proper limit. It is in this sense that the sustained, thus pathological, dissociation of the Euro-centered endeavors from their balancing aspects can be understood as evil. (During the more than 20 years since the publication of Ceremony the word “witch” has re-established in pagan discourse as a positive and affirmative term.)

 

 

Long time ago

in the beginning

there were no white people in this world

[P128] there was nothing European.

And this world might have gone on like that

except for one thing:

witchery.

This world was already complete

even without white people.

There was everything

including witchery.

 

Then it happened.

These witch people got together. (…)

They all got together for a contest

the way people have baseball tournaments nowadays

except this was a contest

in dark things. (…)

 

Finally there was only one

who hadn’t shown off charms or powers.

The witch stood in the shadows beyond the fire

and no one ever knew where this witch came from

which tribe

or if it was a woman or a man.

But the important thing was

this witch didn’t show off any dark thunder charcoals

or red ant-hill beads.

This one just told them to listen:

“What I have is a story.”

 

At first they all laughed

but this witch said

Okay

go ahead

laugh if you want to

but as I tell the story

it will begin to happen.

 

Set in motion now

set in motion by our witchery

to work for us.

 

Caves across the ocean

in caves of dark hills

white skin people

like the belly of a fish

covered with hair.

 

Then they grow away from the earth

then they grow away from the sun

then they grow away from the plants and animals.

They see no life

When they look

they see only objects.

The world is a dead thing for them

the trees and rivers are not alive

the mountains and stones are not alive.

The deer and bear are objects

They see no life.

 

They fear

They fear the world.

They destroy what they fear.

They fear themselves.

 

The wind will blow them across the ocean

thousands of them in giant boats

swarming like larva

out of a crushed ant hill. (…)

 

Set in motion now

set in motion

To destroy

To kill

objects to work for us

Performing the witchery

for suffering

for torment

[P129] for the still-born

the deformed

the sterile

the dead.

Whirling

whirling

whirling

whirling

set in motion now

set in motion.

 

So the other witches said

“Okay you win; you take the prize,

but what you said just now –

it isn’t so funny

It doesn’t sound so good.

We are doing okay without it

we can get along without that kind of thing.

Take it back.

Call that story back.”

 

But the witch just shook its head

at the others in their stinking animal skins, fur and feathers.

It’s already turned loose.

It’s already coming.

It can’t be called back.

 

 

It is important to underscore that this process of the creation of imbalance is effected not with the help of shamanic paraphernalia, but by means of words, the power of words, the abuse of words, the imbalance or evil of the story – a story that inexorably grinds along, leaving many dead in its wake. The socialization of millions of people in conformity with this story of imbalance and its daily performance and reènactment as individual and cultural injunction constitute its power. As a story which pervades cultures, tribes, civilizations, and societies it cannot just be called back or counteracted with some medicine item as antidote. This requires words of balance, stories respecting proper limits, narratives healing the excessive dissociation from a self construction that acknowledges ourselves as whole and indigenous – the recovery of indigenous consciousness.

 

This story of the development of Eurocentrism from its Indo-European origins can be told in an alternate form using the information from scholarship which continues to be marginalized because it refuses to be part of the creation of imbalance (Silko’s “witchery”). The story is, of course, a complex one with many twists and turns, multiple currents and many voices to be heard. What I present in the following paragraphs is a mere outline of some of the major shifts that are relevant for the discussion of healing and cosmology.

 

— I postulate that the various Indo-European peoples had, at one point in their histories, an understanding or ideal of balanced living, a detailed understanding of their place in the cosmos and its cycles based on detailed ecological understanding, and reflected in their stories and communal ceremonies. The remnants of such understanding are reflected in etymological and other analyses, such as the ones provided from Lincoln above. We can possibly see them most clearly in the images of the tree of life, the anthropogenesis beginning with the nurturing cow Auðumla, and the presence of the feminine in the oldest [P130] stories preserved.[5][5] How and why these peoples changed from a cultural practice of balancing themselves with each other and their environment to a cultural practice of invasion and patriarchy (ultimately linear progress) remains mysterious, as Gimbutas achnowledges when she states that “this is a very serious question archaeologists cannot answer yet, but we can see that the patriarchy was already there around 5,000 B.C.” (n.d., 17). It is reasonable to assume that these oldest Indo-European layers had cultural practices similar in ideology and practice to those who have retained their indigenous ways to this day, although the specifics of their socio-cultural practices were, of course, unique in accordance with their location, specific histories, and local indigenous science inquiries.

 

— According to Gimbutas, beginning at about 4300 BCE the earliest inhabitants of Europe, the “civilizations of Old Europe” become Indo-Europeanized as three waves of Kurgan invasions effect a blending between the indigenous and indo-europen populations. The matristic, matrifocal or matriarchal cultural practices become obliterated in the process as the indigenous peoples are destroyed or assimilated. (In the Nordic-Germanic stories this is reflected in the conflict between the Vanir and Æsir resulting in partial cultural assimilation, the increasing importance of Óðinn and the lessening importance of Freyja and other Vanir goddesses and gods.) We observe the rise of patriarchy, hierarchy, abstraction, dissociation, as well as increasingly larger scale violence and invasions. Healing now becomes an endeavor increasingly shifts into masculine, priestly contexts, with rigidly ritualized forms eclipsing shamanic seeing and inspiration; some of the original healing interventions become marginalized as woman’s work as patriarchal forms of dominance gain strength. The Eurocentered medical sciences find their origin in Greece during the 5th century BCE with Hippokrates.

 

— The rise of monotheistic Christianity through its appropriation of the shamanic Jesus figure and the alliance between Christianity and the Roman Empire in 390-391 by Constantine constitute a major turning point toward increased patriarchal power and the rise of Eurocentrism. The descriptions in Tacitus’ Germania (ca. 98; 1967) reflect the relationship between the “barbarous,” indigenous Germanic (and other) tribes north and east of the Roman Empire from the viewpoint of “civilized” Rome. “They even think that there is a prophetic quality in women, and so they neither reject their advice nor scorn their forecasts” (67). With the end of the East Germanic and Slavic migrations, and the formation [P131] of various royal empires (Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Francs, etc.) anything resembling communal tribal or indigenous practices disappears rapidly in most of Europe as Eurocentrism progresses in the form of Christian missionization and colonization. The reign of Charlemagne (crowned as emporer in 800) represents a major shift, most apparently with the felling of the world tree Irminsul and the massacre of 30,000 Saxons refusing conversion to Christianity in 772 CE (Gimbutas 1999, 190).

 

— The oldest Nordic-Germanic knowledge about indigenous balanced living is recorded in sacred places, rock carvings, monuments, and artefacts accessible to the practice of indigenous science (cf. Kremer 1996). Most of what we know verbally is written down by Christians after Iceland’s voluntary conversion to Christianity in the year 1000 (with Snorri Sturlusson, 1178/9-1241, as central recorder and interpreter). Other written sources can be found in poetry, inscriptions, place names, folk customs, fairy and folk tales, as well as language etymology (the work of the Grimm brothers is seminal in this regard). Just as indigenous peoples have been identified as the Other, their practices getting reified in the process, so have the pre-Christian traditions been reified and safely othered under the gaze of the various Eurocentered human sciences (creating a textual and artefactual museum of Nordic-Germanic self-otherness equals to the dissociation from its origins, thus obscuring the potential of balanced cultural practices within an indigenous Nordic-Germanic worldview). In the oldest writings, healing practices are usually merely alluded to, either because the recorder was no longer initiated or because initiation prohibited the dissemination of such information to the uninitiated. We find much focus on spells and the power of runic knowledge, again with an increasing tendency toward rigid ritualization under the sway of men, increasingly eclipsing women.

 

Beginning with the Renaissance this story becomes the story of the rise of eurocentric sciences. Anthropology can serve as a particularly good illustration for the increase in Eurocentered dissociations and splits from indigenous origins. McGrane (1989) has done an admirably lucid job of tracing the history of the relationship between euro-centered cultures and the Other, the alien, the different – an “archaeology of anthropology”, so to speak. His analysis is helpful for understanding the loss of participation and presence to spirit(s) in greater detail. One of his fundamental premises is that “a culture that discovers what is alien to itself simultaneously manifests what it is in itself” (McGrane 1989, 1). He sees anthropology as an endeavor which is “fundamentally involved in the reproduction of Western society… It manifests and highlights that egocentric tendency of our Western mind to identify itself as separate from what it perceives as external to itself” (1989, 5). Using McGrane’s conceptualization we can break down the process of loss of participation or loss of initiation as follows:

 

— In the Renaissance (14th to 16th century) Christianity came between the European and the non-European; demonology determined that the Other, the fallen, was in need of naming, christening. Trances (and the concomitant healing practices) were seen as a practice which [P132] maintained the contact with demons and christianization meant the termination of such evil proceedings; killing or arrests of tribal members during ceremonies, the destruction or confiscation of artifacts (even during recent history, such as potlatch masks in Canada) are a result of this paradigm. The remaining old knowledge and practice are severely reduced during the three centuries of witchhunts, beginning around 1500. Much of the old knowledge is restricted to midwifery and herbalists. Indigenous cultural practices remain vital along “the margins” of Eurocentrism, particularly in the north and northeast (with the Baltic peoples and the Sámi people of the Arctic North the last be christianized).

 

— During the Enlightenment ignorance was the fundamental coordinate around which the understanding of the Other was constituted: indigenous peoples were living with the errors of superstitution. Trances and alternate modes of healing were seen as superstitious practices which could not provide any true help or serve a healthful function. The 17th and 18th century saw the beginning of colonization.

 

— The evolutionary thinking of the nineteenth century used the coordinate of time to understand natives as “primitives”, or as “fossilized developmental stage” from the prehistory of European civilizations. Thus trances were conceptualized as contemporary remnants of an outmoded, primitive human potential; their usefulness was seen as superceded by medical and other sciences. The 19th century saw the height of colonialism and imperialism. Dion-Buffalo and Mohawk (1994, 33) comment that “the psychological and social foundation of this period of conquest and colonization is found in the ability to coerce the peoples of the world to accept the rules by which European politics and ideologies claimed the power to determine what is legitimate about the human experience.” It is no coincidence that this was also the time in which evolutionary theories were first proposed. Epistemological and evolutionary thinking emerged out of the increasing split from the participation in the phenomena in order to understand and legitimize this dissociative logic of progress: Peoples participating in the phenomena become uncivilized with no possibility to discern truth because of insufficient dissociation. For example, Habermas (1997) makes this point clearly when he discusses the benefits and limitations of Cassirers The Theory of Symbolic Forms: It is the logic of progress and the process of civilization – Aufklärung, enlightenment – which destroys and needs to destroy the impact of participation in the phenomena, the presence to spirits, and the desire for a balanced, meaningful existence. Indigenous healing practices have been relegated to the realm of anecdotes, folklore, fairy tale, to be marginally investigated by Euro-Centered sciences outside of the major trajectory of Eurocentrism (see Kremer 1998 for details).

 

The process of Eurocentered progess and domination seems to impact indigenous peoples at this historical moment most significantly through a process which takes its analogy from the individual psychological process of projective identification (somebody is made to feel the shadow material of somebody else as if it were his or her own). The intra-Eurocentric denial of their own indigenous roots, the persecution of the Other in themselves (witchhunts, etc.), [P133] transforms the bloody and murderous colonizing forces into equally effective, albeit less physically lethal weapons: instead of killing people indigenous cultures get eradicated as natives begin to feel the bad feelings individuals constructed in Eurocentered fashion have about themselves; the devaluation of who they are pressures them to re-create themselves in the likeness of Eurocentered ideals. The ill feelings they have about themselves – expressed in the negligence of traditional ceremonies, pervasive alcoholism and violence, etc. – originated not from within themselves, but have their roots in the denial and projection of what Eurocentered minds have constructed as their “primitive,” “ignorant,” and “filthy” roots from which they have dissociated through the construction of so-called civilization, in contrast to the presumed savagery of their origins. Indigenous peoples carry the burden of the dissociative relationship of Eurocentered peoples to their own ancestries. They take on the such shadow material, as the following quote indicates:

Our stories help us to deal with shadow material individually and collectively; they connect the dark and the light sides of life. The predominant Eurocentered idea of goodness implies suppression and control of what is regarded as not good; this seems to be a behavioral pattern that can lead to genocide when taken to the extreme (when an extreme valuation of certain “good” traits is used as a way to scapegoat and then kill people who are seen as not sharing these traits). People of European descent are frequently surprised when their niceness is not experienced as such by Indians.  I feel this particular collective delusion of what a good human being is in the European sense has become part of our collective Native American delusions leading us to participate in our own genocide. It is an individualistic and profit-centered view of humans. By taking on this image that focuses so strongly on the light side we are led to the denial of genocide, since the Native American genocide is relegated to the shadow side of the good Western person. Consequently, we do not allow sufficient knowledge that genocide is still occurring, and that perhaps we are participating in it ourselves. This reminds me of our tribal children who have been attending Western schools since contact. There they are taught inferiority, linearity, and the objectification of the universe. They internalize this today, just as I did as a child. Growing up, the racism and the notion of humanity from the perspective of Western imperialism became a part of me. I took on the identity of a victim and lost my power. This is how I have taken on the collective shadow by identifying with the self-construction of the dominant culture. How can anyone really grieve when there is the delusion that genocide is not really occurring today? (Bastien 1999)

This process of internalized colonization continues to perpetrate cultural and even physical genocide. Another aspect of this process is captured in the following words by Silko (1977, 132):

They want us to believe all evil resides with white people. Then we will look no further to see what is really happening. They want us to separate ourselves from white people, to be ignorant and helpless as we watch our own destruction. But white people are only tools that the witchery manipulates.

[P134] It attempts to contain ossified, categorically identified remains of indigenous cultures in museums, universities, books, conferences – all endeavors that Vizenor identifies with the end of imagination or what has been called the nurturing conversation with all relations:

Traditional people imagine their social patterns and places on the earth, whereas anthropologists and historians invent tribal cultures and end mythic time. The differences between tribal imagination and social scientific invention are determined in world views: imagination is a state of being, a measure of personal courage; the invention of cultures is a material achievement through objective methodologies. To imagine the world is to be in the world; to invent the world with academic predicaments is to separate human experiences from the world, a secular transcendence and denial of chance and mortalities. (Vizenor 1984, 27)

Internalized colonization manifests also in ways other than alcoholism or violence:

They think the ceremonies must be performed exactly as they have always been done… That much is true… That much can be true also. But long ago when the people were given these ceremonies, the changing began, if only in the aging of the yellow gourd rattle or the shrinking of the skin around the eagle’s claw, if only in the different voices from generation to generation, singing the chants. You see, in many ways, the  ceremonies have always been changing. … At one time, the ceremonies as they had been performed were enough for the way the world was then. But after the white  people came, elements in this world began to shift; and it became necessary to create  new ceremonies. … Things which don’t shift and grow are dead things. They are things the witchery people want. … That’s what the witchery is counting on: that we will cling to the ceremonies the way they were, and then their power will triumph, and the  people will be no more. (Silko 1977, 126)

It is only under the pressures of continuing genocide that ceremonial renewal finally may disappear, and that the definitions of what is traditional or indigenous may be remade in the images developed by anthropologists or the desperate rigid repetition of what are considered the final live aspects of a culture. However, whatever the temporary victories of genocide may be, renewal remains always possible as the land, even if abused, and the ancestors, even if neglected, continue to be present.

 

 

Contrasts in Healing Paradigms

The contrasts between indigenous healing paradigms and Eurocentered approaches can be made visible by looking at how each attempts to explain how healing happens. Within indigenous worldviews healing occurs within the narrative weave of the lived culture as it unfolds imaginatively from creation. Within the Eurocentered worldview healing is researched and understood within a paradigm of Truth, of cause and effect, singularity of [P135] story, and the objective records of experimental observations. This leads to two forms of inquiry which are qualitatively distinct.

 

The skeptical Eurocentered researcher would be primarily interested in the efficacy of Native American healing and would try to isolated the elements considered efficaceous or a necessary condition in healing ceremonies. Maybe the rattle or the drum or a particular herb or the temperature in the sweat lodge. The sympathetic researcher would also, in addition to this analytical approach, pay attention to the “set and setting” as it were, and would attempt to validate native approaches or find similarities, for example via psychotherapeutic approaches such as NLP (neurolinguistic programming) or Rogerian counseling, or via biochemical research of curative agents in herbs. The Eurocentered scientific approach commonly entails a stripping away of what is considered extraneous and the isolation of what is considered effective. Through this process it makes Other what is essential for native understandings.

 

Inquiry into native healing practices by way of what has been termed indigenous science, on the other hand, would begin with the culturally specific, ecologically and historically grounded indigenous understanding of friður or the “the good mind” (Colorado 1988), the balanced way of living in community on a particular land. Healing is needed when the “good mind” is out of balance, when the proper limits are exceeded; the cultural stories and myths then provide explanations. Indigenous healing practices then are based in a synthetic, integral approach to what is out of balance. Native science guides the healer to the point in the fabric where it is rent and where wholeness needs to be reèstablished. The ceremonies done are the precise knowledge and practice designed to create balance on all levels and from all levels (within the person on the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual levels, and by doing so on the level of spirits, community and nature which hold the individual); they are indigenous science. Their efficacy is established through the integrity and the wholeness of the healing ceremony.

 

The different motivations for understanding healing in the case of Eurocentered and indigenous sciences are of note: The researches of the native healer are done to increase the integrity and wholeness of the communal fabric and to benefit the individuals that are part of it. Eurocentered researches of native healing practices rarely seem to benefit the peoples researched directly, but they are a way to address the limitations of the western healing paradigm and to come to terms with events which Eurocentered scientists commonly consider anomalous, inexplicable or nonexistent; they are attempts to better an individualistic paradigm without fundamentally leaving or changing it.

 

Whether an image in a rock carving is perceived as symbol or as spirit marks the difference between indigenous knowing and Eurocentered knowing. The rock carvings in Bohuslän, South Sweden, for example contain extraordinary images from the Bronze Age northern European times. The Eurocentered mind understands them as an assemblage of symbols [P136] which represent certain beings which are significant in the world of the Old Norse and their ancestors; they are commonly seen as ‘symbols of healing’, or ‘symbols of initiation,’ where each piece of the rock carving stands for something else. This interpretation reflects the split in the dissociative Eurocentered mind: the different parts of the rock carving point to something which is elsewhere, outside of the representation. The participatory tribal mind relates entirely differently to the rock carving: The spirits are in the rock carvings, they are the rock carving. The making of the rock carving is the creation of the presence of these beings. The beings are not at all separate from what the carving looks like. Once the rock carving is there, they are there. And then they can be ceremonially honored and renewed by tracing the carving with red ochre or other pigments, by making offerings of amber, axes, etc. Blót, the Old Norse ceremonies of offering, bring rock carving spirits and the people present to each other. This simple distinction marks worlds of differences: Whether a rock carving is a symbol for something or whether it is a certain being indicates the consciousness process we are engaged in. In one case we have symbolic healing, in the other spirit heals. There is no simple technique which can bridge this difference. Each understanding reflects a different way of being in the world. There is no such thing as a simple switch from one to the other. Whether we use trances for symbolic work or to seek healing with and from spirit(s) is an indication of the consciousness and reality in which we are participating.

 

Jungian interpretations of rock carvings (or sandpaintings and other images), myths or healings do not reflect tribal mind. They reflect the process of the Eurocentered mind. Jungian psychology and related transpersonal approaches are certainly the closest to indigenous ways of being in that they validate the seminal importance of participation mystique and spiritual experiences. However, they are only accurate as long as they deal with the Eurocentered mind. There they can be very helpful. If such a psychology gets projected onto indigenous peoples, then grave misunderstandings result. What may be a good starting point for the Eurocentered mind means engaging the indigenous mind in a process of splitting and dissociation.

 

Within the western paradigm we pick an herb for its curative properties known to relieve a certain ailment. Herb collection is an entirely different event within an indigenous context. Here it is a ceremonial event which involves spirit and, especially the spirits of the plant to be collected. It is a participatory event with the plant relations which presupposes detailed knowledge, including knowledge of their language; it requires knowledge of cycles and the preparations necessary for gathering. It means understanding plants like any other intelligent people.

Prayer accompanies all plant use on the Navajo Reservation. … Plants are not picked randomly or wastefully. Rather, they are picked as needed, and then, no more than are necessary. An herbalist finds two of a particular species that she wishes to pick. To the largest and healthiest plant, she says a prayer and explains why she must pick its neighbor. [P137] An offering of shell, pollen, or other sacred material is deposited with the first plant. Then she picks what she needs. Afterward, the plant remains are buried with a final prayer. (Mayes & Lacy 1989, 2-3)

This is no longer the collection of an herb, but an engagement and appointment with spirit to help heal. What heals is more than the beneficial chemical ingredient in the herb.

 

Knowing the medical benefits of a sweat lodge purification or the effective chemical agents in an healing herb is certainly useful. But if this knowledge is not integrated into an indigenous science framework, then we fail to understand indigenous approaches to healing. If what we are doing is healing our Euro-centrically minded selves within the existing paradigm, then iatrogenic diseases which are an expression of the continuing dissociation; are the result (which is one of the reasons why natives are disturbed about the decontextualized use of their healing approaches). The correct technique used in a dissociated way is dangerous because it allows the appearance of a deeper healing that did not occur (individual benefits notwithstanding). Combining indigenous approaches with modern techniques on the basis of the story of excess and imbalance is not the same as integrating the knowledge from psychology and other sciences on the basis of indigenous beingknowing. If we are healing our indigenous selves through the remembrance of indigenous healing ways, then individual healing is also the healing of community and paradigm.

 

 

Decolonization as Initiation

Silko’s poetic evocation of the colonial process of Euro-centered thinking contains a crucial point: the most powerful creatrix of imbalance is not using shamanic accroutrements to wield her power, she uses words, a story. Her imbalancing is the story made of words that splits people more and more from participation, words developing a dissociative world view, where the fluid, participatory process of verbal descriptions turns into the categorical grasp of nouns attempting to wield control via reality definitions they create. This story has many names: we can call it the loss of participation; or the loss of the nurturing conversation with all our relations; or the shift from oral to written traditions; or the loss of sacred writing (rock carvings, runes, hieroglyphs, ideographic, etc.) to the linearity of alphabetical writing; or the change from sacred (cyclical, linear-cyclical, spiral) to linear secular time; or the rise of colonialism and imperialism; or the split of story into its aspects of history, personal story, scientific stories, and others; or the rise of patriarchy from its Indo-European roots to Euro-centrism; or the rise of Christianity; or the rise of the masculinized version of the evolutionary story. These and other vantage points provide ways of coming to terms with the story Silko tells so powerfully: creating imbalance by exceeding the proper limits, by focusing on certain elements at the expense of others (i.e., pathological dissociation).

 

[P138] When the competing workers of imbalance ask her to call the story back she shakes her head and answers: “It’s already turned loose. It’s already coming. It can’t be called back.” The story continues to be told the world over, and impacts every aspect of our lives, from the increasing dominance of the noun-oriented English language (most lately via the internet) to economic globalization. It is clear that the story has not been called back, and continues to dominate the majority of educational systems: more and more young citizens are unconsciously made willing participants and co-narrators in this story. If the story can’t be called back – what to do?

 

As we have seen in the brief discussions above, the story of imbalance and excess of proper limits was not told all of a sudden, but became more powerful over time as its addictive nature exerted a centrifugal force. The increasing literature on early human history and story attests to the various layers through which the telling has shapeshifted. Healing the story would mean peeling back through these layers, not merely for the advancement of the sciences, but to recover a quality of storytelling that is communal and participatory. Euro-centered thinking frequently misconstrues such endeavor as search of some sort of Eden or other paradisical original state of being (it is worthy of note that paradise has its roots in Greek paradeisos, a walled in garden or park, and related terms). Instead of linearly conceptualizing recovery as the reconstitution of a particular state or point of origin, I suggest that it is the reconstitution of a particular process or quality: the recovery of the indigenous quality of storytelling. Healing the imbalancing story of Euro-centrism means beginning to tell the story differently. The evocative power of the word is clearly understood by contemporary indigenous peoples, and it was just as clearly understood by the early Indo-European traditions (most obviously, perhaps, in the use of the Sanskrit mantras). Óðinn’s quest for the mead of mantic poetry, the search for the words of seeing, and his initiation into the sacred, healing use of runic letter carving share this understanding. The word story finds its root in Indo-European weid-, to see; here we find story connected with the wisdom of the prophet(ess) and seer(ess) (an element that, of course, continues to be present in the creativity of contemporary novels and their best authors).[6][6] The story cannot be called back, but it can be changed and told differently if we make ourselves whole again.

 

Telling a story in a participatory frame of mind instead of dissociated consciousness may sound simple enough. But just as the Indo-European healers of old needed to be able to be with spirit(s) in such a way that the entire cosmos was impacted, so does a different telling of the story change the cosmos we are living in. Changing the story is impacting the cosmos (as the cosmos impacts it). Instead of evoking and maintaining dissociation and splitting from an indigenous nurturing conversation, such telling would evoke participatory being. This is no small matter: it is the healing ceremony of the Euro-centered self, the [P139] reconstruction of who we are. Such an endeavor finds its parallel not in “a bandaid on a cut, but in heart surgery.” It is not a mere change in identity, but a foundational, qualitative shift in the process of how we construct our identities. This means we need to deconstruct ourselves as the beings we are so that there can be renewal from the creative source of our origins. While such healing clearly means the return, to use the language of the Old Norse, to the well of memory, Urðr, such remembrance is not for the indulgence of nostalgic or retro-romantic splits (dissociative endeavors indeed), but for the righting of the story for the future. Indeed, just like Óðinn, and other women and men before him, we need to be capable of transforming our selves so that we can drink oðrærir, the mead of in-spiration.The dissociated self commonly gets but very diluted sips from such powerful substance. Aspiring to drinking a higher percentage of mead means having our language fall apart so that the words of seeing can re-emerge, so that words can become in-spirited and healed, so that word, chant, and seeing are part of our lifeworld. And our language inevitably comes apart when we of Euro-centered mind confront the shadows that walk with us.

 

Placing ourselves (those of Eurocentered or Nordic-Germanic mind) at the creative source Ginnungagap is not possible as a direct, unmediated act, since we have divested ourselves from the self capable of getting there with immediacy. Recovering the self that can enter Ginnungagap, the maw of Miðgarðsormr, the world snake, means purifying ourselves from the self construction that is incapable of entering such a place, because dissociation disallows it to be present to the continuing reality of Urðr, Ginnungagap, Miðgarðsormr, oðrærir, and the other spiritual powers of the Norse universe of old. How this universe is to appear today will only become apparent to the self which has initiated itself into participating in its continuing creative, regenerative, and imaginative story. Putting ourselves into the presence of such powers of creation is only possible through the cathartic mediation of the grieving shudder over the story of imbalancing (“witchery”), the confrontation and ownership of the shadow material. As a consequence, what our story evokes may become different. Instead of the story of exceeding the proper limits, we create the possibility the contemporary celebration of indigenous healing stories even among peoples who like to contain their indigenous roots at a safe distance by putting them in museums, and various other reifying and distancing places.

 

 

Recovery of Indigenous Mind and Healing

The following poetic statement is modeled on Eddic poetry, particularly the rhetoric of the völva in Völuspá. It is an attempt to capture the change of the ages about that so many indigenous peoples talk about in a language appropriate to my own cultural background and ancestry. It also serves as an appropriate summary and evocation to what I have said about healing and cosmology. It is the voice of the seeress, the völva, speaking as she looks through the ages, from the past into the future.


[P140] I.

Heilir æsir!

Heilir ásynjur!

Heil sjá in fjölnyta fold!

Hail to the gods,

hail to the goddesses,

hail to the allgiving earth!

Mál ok mannvit

gefið okkr mærum tveim

ok læknishendr, meðan lifum!

Wisdom and lore,

as long as we live,

grant us, and healing hands! (from Sigrdrífumál)

 

I remember the giants who were born

at the beginning of time and

who reared me in former times.

I remember the Sámis who were born

at the beginning of time and

who reared me in former times.

I remember nine worlds beneath the earth,

nine giantesses,

and also the glorious tree of fate.

 

I remember towards the beginning of time

at the place where the giant Ymir lived,

there was neither sand nor sea, and no cool waves.

The earth did not exist at all,

nor heaven above:

only a yawning gap

and grass nowhere.

 

I remember when the sons of

grandfather and grandmother Bear

raised the lands,

they who made the great Middle World. (Free after Völuspá)

 

I remember the world of spirits,

I remember the world of giants,

jötun,

the world of dwarves,

álfar.

I remember the time when humankind was created.

 

I remember the three spirits

who found ash and elm

fragile and fateless.

 

I know an ash tree call Yggdrasill;

it is a tall tree

sprayed with white clay.

From there comes the dew

that dabbles the dales.

The evergreen tree towers above Urðr´s Well.

 

From the same place

come three knowledgeable maidens,

who emerge from the lake

that lies at the foot of the tree.

People call one Urðr,

the second Verðandi,

and the third Skuld;

they carved sacred markings

on pieces of wood.

They laid down the laws,

the fates of the people,

and chose life

for the children of humankind. (Free after Völuspá)

 

II.

And I remember

the beginning of a new world age,

when the stars changed places,

and I remember

when the tree of life

[P141] was fastened to the new pole star.

 

Yes, I remember

the world of spirits of the previous world age,

but I also remember the new age

when spirits turned into symbols,

and humankind thus became more lonesome.

And I remember

that even spirits and ancestors

felt more lonesome.

I remember the age

when language was sacred,

when words brought spirits,

when language was filled with spiritual energy.

And then I saw

how language,

how words

lost their powers,

and how the husks remaining

helped humankind to forget

how they are woven

into the world.

And then I saw

how language and writing

helped humankind to forget

how they are

intimate

participants in everything

that surrounds them.

And then I saw them

looking at reality

from the outside.

And I saw how

language became poorer

and poorer,

and reality moved farther

and farther away.

And I saw humankind

greedily grabbing

what remained as reality,

and how they forgot to

evoke the world, and

to chant it into being.

 

And I remember how

human beings slowly forgot

what their medicine gifts were,

how they forgot their totems,

how they forgot their clans,

and how they forgot that

they all were related

as red, black, white, yellow and people of mixed color.

And I remember how they

struggled to reconstruct their

relationship and similarities

through abstract models,

because they had forgotten

the specificity of their relationships.

And I remember how they sought their

universal connections through more and more

abstract thoughts

in order to find each other again.

 

And I remember the age when Óðinn

was a shaman still, seiðkarl,

when he was called Óðr,

when he used the drum on Sámseyja and elsewhere, and

honored women.

Two ravens sat on his shoulders

helping his seeing.

And I remember the new age when Óðinn

took knowledge away from women

and began to reign as patriarch.

 

And I remember the new age

when human beings were reared

[P142] separated from their ancestors,

separated from their stories and histories,

separated from their places of power and spirit,

separated from the healing arts.

And I have seen how they forgot

that happiness depends

on initiations into the higher self

and the world of spirit.

 

I remember seeing lonely humans

in search of completion and wholeness,

even though their ancestors

stood right by them.

I remember seeing lonely humans

blinded by symbols

so that the spirits remained hidden.

 

And I remember human souls

roaming the collective unconscious without bearings,

unable to see their own guardian spirits.

 

And I remember human beings

delving deeply into psychology,

getting trapped on the personal side

of the gateway to spirit,

and when they would chance to encounter

a spirit

they would feel nothing but fear.

 

III.

And I remember the times when the bridges

to spirit went up in flames and collapsed,

and the ancestor boats ceased

to shuttle across the milky way.

 

And I see now

how this world age

is coming to an end,

and that yet another

new age is about to begin.

 

And I see now

souls making the journey home

seeking the roots of their creation.

And I see how these souls

sit in ancestor boats

crossing the spirit bridges

purifying the abuses of the word “heil!”,

seeking healing for the innermost

of their cultures.

And I see humans

once again courageous enough

to sit at the center of their creation

for the sake of healing.

remembering

root meanings

 

kailo

healing holy

 

turning

to the root

kailo

source of wholing

clay of healing

kailo

root memories

reaching into riches

returning

nurtured

returning home

returning from home

healing

 

kailo

[P143] the good omen

from creation

 

issuing

from the fingers

of the woman of memory

white clay

smeared

over the body

wholesome clay

healing

fertilizing

the human tree

 

at the root of healing

is the remembrance

of the center

is the celebration

of the center of our world

 

at the root of healing

is placing ourselves

at the center of our world

the place of balance

 

at the root of healing

is the celebration

of the original instructions

are the prayers

for our courage

to step into the maw of the snake

ginnungagap

the abyss of creation

is the open mouth of the world snake

miðgardrsnake

the snake holding our world

the snake creating our world

through the fire and ice of ginnungagap

created from her mouth

 

healing is the courage

to step into the simplicity

of creation

the simplicity

of the original instructions

instructions for balance

 

purifying the abuses of the word “heil!”,

seeking healing for the innermost

of their cultures.

 

And I see how the past

becomes hotter and hotter,

and how humans find the courage

to warm themselves

at the fires of their ancestors.

And I see how humankind

remembers the conversation

with all relations.

 

And I see how woman and man

are willing to be taken apart

and ask the fire to consume

their addictions to civilisation

and progress.

And I see how woman and man

deconstruct their modern identities

to become aware that they are still

interwoven with their fellow humans,

the plants, the animals, and the rocks.

 

And I see spirits

once again

stepping out

of symbols.

 

And I see humans

remembering

that not only they need nourishment,

but that their relations

need nourishment also.

 

[P144] And I see how humans

find their balance

in the great cycle

of nurturing

and being nurtured.

 

Heilir æsir!

Heilir ásynjur!

Heil sjá in fjölnyta fold!

Hail to the gods,

hail to the goddesses,

hail to the allgiving earth!

Mál ok mannvit

gefið okkr mærum tveim

ok læknishendr, meðan lifum!

Wisdom and lore,

as long as we live,

grant us, and healing hands! (from Sigrdrífumál)

 

 

 

Summarizing Table

The following table gives a visual display of the major distinctions I have talked about throughout this article. The terminology used below is defined in its narrative context above. It may help to recall the broad outlines that underlie the detailed discussions.

EUROCENTRIC DISCOURSES                             INDIGENOUS TRADITIONS

MODERNITY AND ITS CRITICS                                  OUTSIDE EUROCENTRIC DISCOURSE

 

OPPOSING PAIR                                        THIRD PROCESS

MODERN CONSCIOUS-NESS CRITIQUES OF MODERN CONSCIOUS-NESS   RECOVERED INDIGENOUS CONSCIOUS-NESS INDIGENOUS CONSCIOUS-NESS
good subject

                                 

bad subject

 

  developing non-subject non-subject
unconscious participation breakdown of un-conscious participation   regaining conscious participation conscious participation
singular Truth

 

                                 

multiple truths

 

 

  re-contextualizing truths and Truth locally & historically locally & narratively contextualized truths and Truth
[P145] his-story

 

 

 

                                

her-stories

Story revealed as his-stories

 

 

  recovering female aspects of stories; remembering multiformous gender identities multiply engendered stories: Freyja-Freyr, Nerthus-Njörðr, twins, metamorphoses, spirit marriages
objective reality

 

                                

narrative realities

 

 

  recovering ancestral narrative realities & anchoring them in present ecology & historical moment communally & locally anchored narrative realities
rationality recovery of reasonableness   reasonableness reasonableness
imperial self non-imperial self   re-connecting self connected self
individualism

                                

individualism

 

  intentional communities natural communities
progress progress (albeit  questioned in appearance)   linearity struggling for balance balance
linearity variegated linearity   cyclical linearity cyclical linearity
dissociation suffering from dissociation   recovering participation participation
colonialism

       

post-colonialism

 

  decolonization beside, outside & inside of colonization

[Chart by Jűrgen W. Kremer, inspired by Mohawk & Dion-Buffalo. From Kremer 1999, Bearing Obligations.]

 

 

[P146-148] References

Bastien, Betty. “The genocide of Native Americans: Denial, Shadow, and Recovery” (with Kremer, Norton, Rivers-Norton, and Vickers). In ReVisionI, Vol. 22, #1, 13-20 1999

Campbell, Joseph The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Bollingen. 1949.

Churchill, Ward. From a native son. Boston: South End. 1996.

Colorado, Apela. “Traditional knowledge leads to Ph.D. “ (Interview with Pamela Colorado and Jürgen Kremer, by Richard Simonelli). Winds of Change, 9, #4, 43-48. 1994.

Colorado, P. “Indigenous science.” In ReVision, 18(3): 6-10, 1996.

Colorado, P. “Bridging native and western science.” In Convergence, XXI, 2/3: 49-67, 1988.

De Vries, Jan. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Leiden: Brill. 1977.

Dion-Buffalo, Y. & J. Mohawk. ‘Throughts from an autochtonous center.’ Cultural Survival, Winter, 33-35. 1994.

Dumon, Dirk. 1993. Shamans of Tuva. Feature of BRT, Belgian Public Television. 1993.

Eiríks Saga Rauða In Íslendinga Sögur (CD-ROM). Reykjavík: Mál og menning. (Transl. by Gwyn Jones as Eirik the Red. Oxford: Oxford. 1961)

Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism. Princeton: Bollingen. 1951/1964

Evans, David (Ed.). Hávamál. London: Viking Society. 1986

Gimbutas, Marija. The living goddesses. Berkeley: University of California. 1999

Gimbutas, Marija. “An interview with Marija Gimbutas.” (With David Jay Brown & Rebecca McClen Novick). In Magical Blend, 13-20. No year given.

Gunn, Allen, Paula. Off the reservation. Boston: Beacon. 1998.

Habermas, Jürgen (1997),  Vom sinnlichen Eindruck zum symbolischen Ausdruck, Suhrkamp: Frankfurt/M, Germany

Haozous, B. (1994). Interviewed in The Native Americans, pt. 4, TBS.

Horn, Gabriel. Contemplations of a Primal Mind. Novato, CA: New World. 1996.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner. “Introduction.” In ReVision, Vol 18, #3, 2-5.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner. ‘The shadow of evolutionary thinking.’ In Ken Wilber in Dialogue, edited by

Donald Rothberg and Sean Kelly, 237-258. Wheaton, IL: Quest. 1998.

Lapena, Frank. ‘In Vision We Can Balance the World.’ In News from Native California, vol. 12, #2, 18-19. 1998.

Lincoln, Bruce. Myth, Cosmos, and Society. Boston, MA: Harvard. 1986.

Mayes, Vernon & Barbara Lacy. Nanise’. Tsaile: Navajo Community College. 1989.

McGrane, Bernard. Beyond anthropology. NY: Columbia. 1989.

Mohawk, John. ‘Indigenous Creation-Centered Spirituality’ (interview with Charlene Spretnak). In Creation, 16-18. September/October. No year given.

Pálsson, Hermann. Völuspá. Edinburgh: Lockharton. 1996.

Pentikäinen, Juha Y. Kalevala mythology (trans. R. Poom). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1989.

Pinkson, Tom Soloway. Flowers of Wiricuta. Mill Valley: Wakan. 1995.

Rig Veda (Transl. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty). NY: Penguin. 1981.

Sammallahti, Pekka. The Saami Languages. Karašjohka, Sápmi: Davvi Girji. 1998.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. NY: Penguin. 1977.

Sturluson, Snorri. Edda (trans. Faulkes). London: Everyman. 1987.

Tacitus. Germania (Transl. Herbert Benario). London:University of Oklahoma. 1967.

Terry, P. 1990. Poem of the Elder Edda. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Titchenell, Elsa-Brita. The masks of Odin. Pasadena, California: The Theosophical UP. 1985

Vajnštejn, S. I. “The Tuvan (Soyot) shaman’s drum and the ceremony of its ‘enlivening’.” InPopular beliefs and folklore tradition in Siberia (Ed. Dioszegi). Bloomington: Indiana University. 1968.

Vasilevič, G. M. “The acquisition of shamanistic ability among the Evenki (Tungus).” InPopular beliefs and folklore tradition in Siberia (Ed. Dioszegi). Bloomington: Indiana University. 1968.

Vitebsky, Piers. The shaman. NY: Little, Brown, and Co. 1995.

Vizenor, Gerald. Earthdivers: tribal narratives on mixed descent. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 1981.

Vizenor, Gerald. The people named the Chippewa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 1984.

Wasson, R. Gordon. Soma. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1968.

 

[1][1] The available sources on Siberian shamanism are not without serious problems, and need to be discussed in the context of the history of Soviet ethnography, etc.

[2][2] Titchenell translates ginnregin as Vaner, the older layer of Norse gods or spirits, relating Óðinn’s wisdom thus to the deepest and more clearly woman-centered base of Norse mythology (with Freyja as the great goddess and primal shamanic spirit).

[3][3] ‘Kvasir’ is an interesting word: It is connected to Norwegian kvase and Russian kvas, denoting the fermented berry drink created through the communal chewing of the berries which were then spat into a vat. The mead of the skalds, the Old Norse poets, is also known as kvasis dreyra, Kvasir’s blood (De Vries 1977). English ‘quash’ and German (dialectical) quatschen are related. The latter word leads me to surmise an interesting etymology for this word, which can also mean ‘to talk nonsense, to babble’: talk in-spirited by the mead, by kvase, was increasingly considered nonsense, as it became unintelligible as people lost their ongoing and ceremonial presence to the world of spirit(s) – what people claimed to come from that world was increasingly considered Quatsch or nonsense, while before it had been the wisdom of Kvasir. (Just as the seeresses of the Delphic oracle increasingly appeared to babble nonsense, thus “necessitating” the interpretation by men, and resulting in the patriarchal control of intercourse with spirits.)

 

[4][4] It is beyond the scope of this article to display the rich web of connections in its entirety. However, it is worth mentioning that the berry, especially in its form as elderberry (Hollunder) is also the sacred blood from the female spirit or goddess (Frau Holle), and that we find lines leading us back into the Nordic culture at the times of Old Europe (cf. Gimbutas 1999).

[5][5] Within the Euro-centered frame of mind exists a strong tendency to read words like “traditional” or “indigenous” in a reifying fashion, postulating some stable, Edenic original state. While such projections of unfullfilled needs and desires may be momentarily satisfying, they reinforce the dissociative movements of progress thinking and the projective identification with indigenous peoples (making them feel our own shadow material as if it was theirs). We have to understand that whatever we are capable of identifying as beginning, original, traditional, indigenous, etc. immediately is always already imbued with history, and, whatever we manage to recover of it, we have to understand as the imaginative stories of communal truths, and not categorical statements of absolute truths.

[6][6] The Indo-European root weid- is connected to story and wisdom, while the root skei- (to cut, split) is connected to the word conscious; knowledge is connected to the root gno-, which has narration and normal in its wake.

On Understanding Indigenous Healing Practices

 

 

On Understanding Indigenous Healing Practices

 

Published in:

Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen,1995, Vol. 4, #1, 3-36

[Page numbers inserted below as P3 etc.]

 

 

Jürgen W. Kremer

3383 Princeton Drive

Santa Rosa, CA 95405

jkremer@sonic.net

 

[P3] Introduction

Interest in the healing practices and ceremonies of Native American and other indigenous peoples has increased quite dramatically in recent years. This surge in curiosity seems to be fueled by the experience that the conventional western healing paradigm frequently hits its own limit and that the spiritual connections within one’s self, with community and with nature have desiccated. While this yearning for holistic healing by way of indigenous healing practices is valid and important, it raises not only ethical and political issues, but also epistemological questions: Is the euro-american way of knowing indigenous healing compatible with the native understanding and use of these practices? What are the implications if it is not? And if the euro-american way of approaching indigenous healing practices is incompatible with their ways of knowing, what is the possibility of developing a compatible approach?

I am raising these questions to promote a self-reflective look for euro-americans from an indigenous perspective. Born in Germany, I have been trained as a clinical psychologist in the western paradigm of research and scholarship. My experiences with Native American people have not only been humbling as to the extent of their indigenous scientific knowledge, but they have also taught me the limitations of euro-american epistemologies when it comes to the understanding of native ways of knowing, ceremonies and healing practices (Kremer, 1992a & b). As a consequence, I am trying to write this paper as an “indigenous Teuton” about the healing practices of peoples working within a related native paradigm, rather than as a Western researcher interested in what is Other.The provocative term “indigenous Teuton” signifies the problem (from the political to the very personal dimensions) as well as the potential.[1][1] I hope to be able to explain how I have arrived at this stance, which satifies my standards for intellectual consistency and, secondly, provides a credible way for me to be engaged with as well as to research indigenous healing practices, and, finally, allows for the personal, emotional resolution of historical issues (stemming from German and European history and the history of colonization [P4] and imperialism in particular). All this makes it possible for me to teach in a graduate program entitled “Traditional Knowledge” which gathers native peoples for academic study based on their own ways of knowing (interfacing with western knowledge from that perspective).

The most succinct way to describe my stance would be as follows: The exposure to indigenous healing practices should be an occasion for euro-americans to develop and remember their own indigenous healing approaches. This would lead to an exchange of knowledge about native healing practices within the same paradigm and based on equality. This process would include the integration of the western medical and psychological achievements from indigenous euro-american perspectives. While this approach may seem provocative, it is necessitated by the profound paradigmatic differences between indigenous and western sciences. Looking at my  personal experience I would have to say that I was forced to take this stance as I have moved into a deep exploration of my own indigenous consciousness;, rather than that I am electing to take this viewpoint.

Increasingly, scientists are stressing the importance of indigenous knowledge for the resolution of the various crises or limitations of the conventional western paradigm (for examples see Durning [1992] and Inglis [1993] for ecology; Achterberg [1985] for the healing arts, Bohm [1993] and Bohm & Edwards [1991] for social issues). This new valuation is reflected in decisions at the Earth Summit Rio Declaration (Principle 22; see Rogers [1993: 196) as well as articles 8 and 10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and statements by the Canadian Polar Commission (Polaris Papers [1993]). Almost all of these and similar declarations are somewhat problematic from the perspective of traditional indigenous peoples (meaning: those who are not assimilated into the eurocentric world view). They commonly disregard what I have termed a deep structure of cross-cultural differences, meaning differences between all the various (sub)cultures who are or are trying to become part of the eurocentered paradigm on the one hand, and all the (sub)cultures who are struggling to maintain ancient indigenous practices on the other hand. This difference in world view seems particularly significant when native healing ways and their use of traditional ecological knowledge (including traditional medicines) are concerned. Berkes (1993: 4) has summarized the paradigmatic differences between scientific ecological knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge (including herbal knowledge) as follows:

  1. TEK (traditional ecological knowledge, J.W.K.) is mainly qualitative (as opposed to quantitative;
  2. TEK has an intuitive component (as opposed to being purely rational);
  3. TEK is holistic (as opposed to rationalistic);
  4. In TEK, mind and matter are considered together (as opposed to a separation of mind and matter);

[P5] 5. TEK is moral (as opposed to supposedly value-free);

  1. TEK is spiritual (as opposed to mechanistic);
  2. TEK is based on empirical observations and accumulations of facts by trial-and-error (as opposed to experimentation and systematic, deliberate accumulation of fact);
  3. TEK is based on data generated by resource users themselves (as opposed to that by a specialized cadre of researchers);
  4. TEK is based on diachronic data, i.e., long time-series on information on one locality (as opposed to synchronic data, i.e., short time-series over a large area).

This quote adequately summarizes (exceptions notwithstanding) central paradigmatic differences which, to my mind, need to be resolved if there is to be a clean break with the history of colonialism; this history, from the perspective of indigenous peoples, is continuing to this day with unrelenting force. Traditional peoples see the research of the various sciences (including anthropology and psychology) as an expression of a colonial desire, unconscious or submerged and implicit as it may be. Native peoples increasingly talk about the “extraction” of their healing and spiritual knowledge (e.g., Churchill; [1992: 215-228]). “‘Today,’ says Adrian Esquina Lisco, spiritual chief of the National Association of Indigenous Peoples of El Salvador, ‘the white world wants to understand the native cultures and extract those fragments of wisdom which extends its own dominion'” (Durning, 1992: 36). Medicine people and elders from Amazonian tribes have made equivalent statements in regards to the recent surge of interest in their traditional medicines and the swell of shamanic and eco-tourism in their lands (Dobkin de Rios, 1994). Shiva (1993) has presented a thorough critique of prevalent approaches to biodiversity and biotechnology from an ecofeminist perspective (a perspective which is in many aspects related to indigenous approaches).

If we take Lisco’s statement and similar comments by other indigenous persons seriously, then – if we are sympathetic to their situation and well intentioned – what are we to do? This article attempts to address this complex issue using the following basic argument:

  • If we take the resolutions from the Earth Summit (and other similar statements) about the validity and importance of indigenous knowledge seriously, then we have to reflect on the appropriate and respectful ways of doing so.
  • Part of taking indigenous knowledge (including knowledge about healing and medicines) seriously is taking its ways of knowing seriously and attempting to understand them on their own terms (empathically, so to speak).

[P6] • If such an analysis shows that indigenous ways of knowing are qualitatively different, then we have to look critically at our own ways of knowing and their inherent qualities and values (provided we want to pay attention to statements by Lisco and other elders).

  • If we find that the eurocentric qualities and values are inherently problematic and not or not entirely respectful of indigenous ways of knowing, then we need to find an alternate stance from which to conduct scientific inquiries.
  • It is my suggestion that this alternate stance should be the recovery of indigenous roots for peoples inquiring within the framework of eurocentric paradigm(s).
  • This allows the critical review and integration of past scientific accomplishments (in the broadest sense), and to approach indigenous (healing) knowledge of other peoples within a comparable epistemology and value perspective. The result would be a relationship between inquirers of a recovered indigenous framework and inquirers living now in indigenous cultures, where knowledge is explored and exchanged based on equality (rather than some (post)modern form of inherent colonialism).

This argument contains more complexities and intricacies than this paper will allow me to explore. However, I will attempt to explain it first by presenting an extensive conventional discussion based on my reading of the literature as well as exchanges with traditional people on this topic. In a second move I will try to engage the reader in a thought process which is someplace between a scholarly explication and genuine indigenous explications.

 

 

Part I: Two Perspectives on Indigenous Healing Practices

Using the language and terminology of the eurocentric paradigm, I am trying first to explain the paradigmatic differences between indigenous and western sciences and the differences between indigenous and (post)modern consciousness. I will subsequently apply these distinctions to examples from the Diné culture, the Native American sweatlodge and native ways of gathering medicinal herbs. The final sections of this part are dedicated to paradigmatic differences in the understanding of health and the position of the inquirer.

 

[P7] Indigenous and Western Science[2][2]

The term ‘indigenous science’ has been coined by Colorado (1988, 1989) to validate the detailed and intricate knowledge which the indigenous peoples of this planet have accumulated over the millenia (see Kidwell [1991] for a summary for Native American tribes). We find extraordinary examples in Pacific navigation (Hostetter 1991; Kyselka 1987; cf. also Vebæk & Thirslund, 1992 for Viking navigation), archaeoastronomy (Williamson & Farrer 1992), agriculture and herbal knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge (Inglis, 1993). The construction of Stonehenge and Newgrange (Burenhult 1993, 96-97; Wernick 1973, 114-115) or the markings on Fajada Butte or the alignments of the kiva Casa Rinconada in Chaco Canyon are exquisite examples of ancient knowledge (Sofaer & Sinclair 1983; Carlson 1983; Williamson 1983). Hopi dryfarming or the survival of Australian Aborigines in areas generally consider uninhabitable are others. Canoe journeying between Tahiti and Hawaii requiring detailed navigational knowledge is another astonishing example (Kyselka 1987) which indicates why ancient indigenous knowledge should be considered on par with the scientific knowledge of the modern era; additionally, this approach avoids the continuing euro-american denigration and takes it seriously. However, the paradigmatic differences between these two forms of science are not only significant, but they are highly relevant for our topic. Let me explain the differences between indigenous science and western science, primarily with reference to the healing arts (Colorado 1988; Deloria 1993).

The skeptical euro-american researcher would be foremost interested in the efficacy of Native American healing and would try to isolated the elements considered efficacious or a necessary condition in healing ceremonies. The sympathetic researcher would also, in addition to this analytical approach, pay attention to the “set and setting” as it were, and would attempt to validate native approaches or find similarities, for example via psychotherapeutic approaches such as NLP (neurolinguistic programming) or Rogerian counseling, or via biochemical research of curative agents in herbs. The western scientific approach commonly entails a stripping away of what is considered extraneous and the isolation of what is considered effective. It is through this process that western science makes other what is essential for native understandings. (While these statements apply particularly for conventional understandings of western science, they are also applicable to alternate approaches which are on the verge of bridging to native ways of knowing. Chaos theory (Gleick, 1987), various human sciences approaches (e.g., Polkinghorne, 1983; [P 8] Giorgi, 1970), and narrative psychology (e.g., Polkinghorne, 1985; Deslauriers, 1992) are among the examples of approaches which expand the conventional paradigm without leaving it.)

Indigenous science, on the other hand, would begin with the culturally specific, ecologically and historically grounded indigenous understanding of “the good mind” (Colorado 1988: 52), a balanced way of living in community on a particular land (“balanced mind” would be an alternative term); the Iroquois people call this skanagoah, literally “the great peace.” Healing is needed when the “good mind” is out of balance for reasons which the cultural stories and myths can provide. Indigenous healing practices then are a synthetic, integral approach to what is out of balance. Native science guides the healer to the point in the fabric where it is rent and where wholeness needs to be reestablished. Indigenous ceremonies are the precise knowledge and practice designed to create balance on all levels and from all levels (within the person on the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual levels, and by doing so on the level of spirits, community and nature which hold the individual); they are indigenous science. Their efficacy comes through the integrity and the wholeness of the healing ceremony.

Colorado gives some coordinates for indigenous science:

Just like western science, indigenous science relies upon direct observation; there are tests to insure validity and data are used for forecasting and generating predictions. Individuals are trained in various specializations, for example, herbalism, weather observation, mental health and time keeping. Unlike western science, the data from indigenous science are not used to control the forces of nature, instead, the data tell us ways and means of accommodating nature. Other critical distinctions include the following:

  1. The indigenous scientist is an integral part of the research process and there is a defined process for insuring this integrity.
  2. All of nature is considered to be intelligent and alive, thus an active research partner.
  3. The purpose of indigenous science is to maintain balance.
  4. Compared to western time/space notions, indigenous science collapses time and space with the result that our fields of inquiry and participation extend into and overlap with past and present.
  5. Indigenous science is concerned with relationships, we try to understand and complete our relationships with all living things.
  6. Indigenous science is holistic, drawing on all the senses including the spiritual and psychic.
  7. The end point of an indigenous scientific process is a known an recognized place. This point of balance, referred to by my own tribe as the Great Peace, is both peaceful and electrifyingly alive. In the joy of exact balance, creativity occurs, which is why we can think of our way of knowing as a life science.
  8. When we reach the moment/place of balance we do not believe that we have transcended – we say that we are normal! Always we remain embodied in the natural world.
  9. Humor is a critical ingredient of all truth seeking, even in the most powerful rituals. This is true because humor balances gravity. (Colorado, 1994: 1-2)

[P9] The different motivations for inquiry in the case of western and indigenous sciences are of note: The researches of the native healer are done to increase the integrity and wholeness of the communal fabric and to benefit the individuals that are part of it. Western researches of native healing practices rarely seem to benefit the peoples researched directly, but they are a way to address the limitations of the western healing paradigm and to come to terms with events which western scientists commonly considered anomalous, inexplicable or nonexistent.

As the voice of the indigenous other emerges within industrialized nations – however limited and distorted – through neo-shamanic techniques and the alternative interpretations which transpersonal psychologies and holistic medical approaches have to offer, a profound question arises: Are (post)modern people trying to heal their western, euro-american selves or are they trying to heal their indigenous selves? This question is of utmost importance to indigenous peoples. If what they are doing is healing their euro-american selves within the existing paradigm, then iatrogenic diseases which are an expression of the continuing dissociation from holism and indigenous roots are the result (this is one of the reasons why natives are disturbed about the decontextualized use of their healing approaches). The correct technique used in a dissociated way is dangerous because it allows the appearance of a deeper healing which did not occur (individual benefits notwithstanding); natives would also talk about spiritual dangers which imperil any attempts of healing (as opposed to curing). From an indigenous perspective, if western people are healing their indigenous selves through the remembrance of native healing ways, then individual healing is also the healing of community and paradigm.[3][3]

 

Indigenous And Modern Consciousness

The discussion of differences between indigenous and western sciences is an indicator of the significant differences between indigenous and modern (or postmodern) consciousness. Without understanding these differences we cannot adequately explore the use of trance narratives. Barfield (1965) offers distinctions which are helpful for our purposes (Kremer, 1992a, b). He argues that in the subject – object interaction between human beings and the ‘out there’ (external reality, the unrepresented), they may participate in what they consider phenomena in radically different ways.[4][4]

Barfield distinguishes three major types of participation which are of epistemological relevance for euro-american traditions: 1) original participation, 2) the loss of or the unconscious [P10] participation of modernity, and 3) final participation. I call these three types of participation 1) indigenous consciousness; or mind, 2) modern / postmodern consciousness, and 3) recovered, remembered or retribalized indigenous mind. I am using these distinctions outside of the evolutionary scheme which Barfield represents (his linear, monocausal approach to evolution is quite contrary to indigenous perspectives).

Indigenous consciousness;: In what Barfield calls ‘original participation’ (the interaction with the phenomena in shamanic hunter-gatherer societies, in particular) , the embeddedness of human consciousness in nature is experienced and lived in a direct with very permeable boundaries between self and phenomena, and with a language structure and narrative reflectiveness which expresses this engagement with reality (Müller, 1981: 241ff.[5][5]). Precise observation and accurate visual descriptions are usually of utmost importance. This synthetic type of consciousness allows an experience of a systemic connection with nature and here perception is integrated into the whole. Thinking occurs more in images than concepts.

Barfield’s descriptions are not free from the prejudices which his inspirateurs Lévy-Bruhl and Durkheim espoused. The archaeoastronomical, navigational, agricultural and healing knowledge of native peoples indicates the level of cognitive functioning they have been capable of for millenia. Spirit is part of the considerations of indigenous science. Indigenous consciousness; or original participation defines itself at the intersection of the seasonal and astronomical cycles, the ecology, the ancestral heritage, the community and the gifts or medicine of the individual (these are necessary conditions for the presence of indigenous mind). Trance narratives are particularly relevant in this cultural context for the understanding of personal medicine or gifts and healing. The individual narratives are contextualized within tribal stories, ceremonial structures and communal interpretations (with the guidance of elders and shamans). Prime examples of such oral cultures could and can be found among the egalitarian hunter-gatherers (Lerner1986: 15-53; Mason 1993: 50-90). Napaljarri, a clan elder of the Australian Warlpiri, describes this consciousness as follows: “Each person is related to other people, to their jukurrpa [dreamtime, J.W.K.] ancestors, to the places they own and are responsible for, to the narratives and songs concerning the places and ancestors, and to the gestures, dances and designs that belong to the places” (Napaljarri & Cataldi 1994, xix).

While it is true that individuals are (or are not) in their indigenous minds, it is also true that the indigenous mind is not individual. Individuals are in their indigenous minds if they [P11] understand how they stand in the weave of their ancestry, community, nature, spirit(s) and cycles. The individual gift from spirit(s) (medicine, endowment) of a person comes to life if, and only if s/he recognizes where s/he stands in this weave. Individuals embody the indigenous mind, which encompasses more than their individual self. Indigenous consciousness; is participatory in reality. Reality is not out there and opposed to the individual, they are part of each other and each individual is challenged to maintain balance and harmony in this weave. It is important to emphasize that the indigenous mind is thus grounded both in spirit and matter. While it is a potential for every human being, this potential can only be realized if it is specifically grounded in the necessary conditions just mentioned (which means that it, ultimately, cannot be realized in an individualistic paradigm).

My previous descriptions and quotes have focused on describing indigenous science using euro-american coordinates. From an indigenous or native perspective it is

often understood through the imagery of the tree, is holistic. Through spiritual processes, it synthesizes information from the mental, physical, social and cultural/historical realms. Like a tree, the roots of Native science go deep into the history, body and blood of the land. The tree collects, stores and exchanges energy. It breathes with the winds, which tumble and churn through greenery exquisitely fashioned to purify, codify and imprint life in successive concentric rings – the generations. Why and how the tree does this is a mystery, but the Indian observes the tree emulate, complement and understand his or her relationship to this beautiful life-enhancing process (Colorado 1988, 50).

The language of this quote reflects indigenous mind more accurately than the descriptions which may be more accessible and palatable for western scientists.

Let me emphasize two presuppositions about original participation or indigenous consciousness; which are of tantamount importance for our contemporary situation:

1) The indigenous mind is a human potential which can be actualized by anybody and everybody – past, present and future.

2) The indigenous mind is not something of the past, but a consciousness present among various contemporary indigenous peoples.

Indigenous mind is thus understood as a human potential for all and everybody, and it is also understood as a world view, or rather a particular way to participate in the world and to experience reality. The indigenous mind as a world view does not so much signify a particular set of beliefs as it refers to a pragmatically, experientially grounded and validated way of being in the world. While this mind appears to rest in individuals (and needs their intentionality to be present), [P12] it only emerges when the individual rests in the weave of the ancestral heritage, the community, nature and spirit(s).

Modern and postmodern consciousness;: According to Barfield, by the seventeenth century the center of perception and thinking had changed in Europe from the phenomena to the self, with the mind moving outward toward the unrepresented and the phenomena (rather than from the phenomena inward) — thus the mind had severed itself from its connection with nature. This second epistemologically relevant process internalizes meaning and treats the phenomena as existing independently. “… A representation, which is collectively mistaken for an ultimate — ought not to be called a representation. It is an idol. Thus the phenomena themselves are idols, when they are imagined as enjoying independence of human perception, which can in fact only pertain to the unrepresented” (Barfield, 1965, 62). This is why his book title calls out to save the appearances from the idolatry of modernity during the next process.

The underlying drive of modernity (with the beginning of the Enlightenment) is the creation of a tight mindweave (shrinkwrap) of control over all which is not considered part of the rationalistic aspects of mind. I have termed this dis-ease process in the knowing of Eurocentric cultures ‘dissociative schismogenesis’ (Kremer, 1994d); this process is the abstract core of the empiricist and rationalistic world view, which is an attempt to align the world to man’s will (needless to say, an imperialistic endeavor on all counts) and an increasing split from its origins. The consciousness process of the modern mind is thus labeled as an escalating process, which not only will lead to intolerable stress, but because it has continued relatively unchecked, to the possibility of cultural breakdown (cf. Bateson, 1958/1972, 171ff.). This whole process of dissociation could also be interpreted as the eradication of indigenous consciousness; in people subscribing to the modernist paradigm of progress. Dissociative schismogenesis is the stilling and killing of those aspects of being human which an indigenous person would consider necessary in order to be whole or in balance. The modern scientist frames healing primarily in terms of disease control (rather than the maintenance of balance) while trances and other altered states are likely to find themselves in the company of psychopathological descriptions. Dissociative schismogenesis is the increasing unconsciousness of human participation in the perceived phenomena. The search for universal, abstract concepts (even when used in the context of cultural relativism) is part of this external (other cultures and nature) and internal (the body, the unconscious, the feminine, etc.) scientific colonization. All this indicates how the history of colonialism and the history of modernity and science are intertwined not only on the obvious, crude and cruel levels, but also on [P13] subtle levels which affect our understandings to this day. (Cf. Ani, 1994 for a comprehensive indigenous African discussion of these issues.)

Postmodernism can be seen as the chaotic breakup of this shrinkwrap or net of control (unsuccessful as it may have been). The emergence of an increasing interest in trance experiences and narratives, indigenous modes of healing, mythology, goddess cultures, archetypes and symbols appear to be a part of this epistemological crisis as the euro-american cultures are searching for what Spretnak has called ecological postmodernism (1991) or what Swimme and Berry (1992) have described as the emergence of ecozoic consciousness. Postmodernity and deconstructionism establish the possibility of ending the idolatry of representations.

Recovery of indigenous consciousness; is what Barfield terms ‘final participation’ (and what I have called also ‘future participation’, Kremer 1991, 4). I view neo-shamanism as an indication of the desire for the recovery of indigenous ways of knowing within (post)modern societies. Such recovery would reconnect modern consciousness; to the seasonal and astronomical cycles, specific ecologies, the remembered ancestral heritage, community and the individual’s medicine. Then spirit would be, once again, part of science (see especially Spretnak, 1991, 196ff.). (See Kremer (1993 & 1995) for important distinctions between tribal shamanism and neoshamanism.)

Even this very brief discussion should make the answer to the following question obvious: “If the indigenous mind is lost – can it be recovered?” From an indigenous perspective the answer to this question is an emphatic “yes!” The reasons for the possibility of the recovery of the indigenous mind can be grouped in five major dimensions of 1) the continued presence of cycles, 2) the continued presence of ancestral spirit(s), 3) the presence of artefacts and spiritually significant places, 4) the continued presence of nature, and 5) the psychological capabilities of the individual human mind:

Barfield thus describes the rise of Western consciousness as the rise of human consciousness from nature leading to high levels of conceptual reasoning and reflections without conscious participation in the phenomena, even with the denial of the involvement in them. This is also the masculinization of the phenomena. This process can be seen as an explanation why it is so easy to deny nature in human consciousness. This antithetical, dissociative process between human beings and the phenomena has found its acme in the Western enlightenment movement. It is out of the dark night of the masculinized scholar that a future and new type of participation may arise through the use of trance narratives in modernist societies. For indigenous peoples this would be the end of the Dark Sun era (according to Mexican prophecies; Colorado, 1991, 22), or [P14] the time when, according to the Kogi prophecies, younger brother has remembered who he is (Ereira, 1992, 113-114).

Barfield’s most important point is that the worlds of the indigenous mind (original participation), the loss of participation of the modern Western mind and future participation (recovery of indigenous origins) are different. It is not just that humans see things differently in each of these worlds – but the worlds are different.

The Sami people of Norway, Sweden and Finland are a good example for the changes from indigenous to modern consciousness;. The follow quote gives a clear illustration of the perils of linear progress thinking. The hunting and fishing Sami of old clearly fit the descriptions for indigenous mind.

The traditional Sami order makes clear the culturally provisional nature of an active self in the contextually shifting references of the crucial term siida. In every situation, from the most “everyday” organizations of domestic life and productive activities to the most “extradordinary” occasions of ritual sacrifice, the term siida refers to a diffuse unity of humans, animals, and the land. Traditional Sami believed that at the birth of a child, a new siida was created. This unit consisted of the human child, its particular “animal guardian spirit,” and a particular “land spirit” (represented by the “birth stick” that marked the spot where the placenta was buried). A higher-level siida unit, foregrounded in the summer months of intense productive acitivity, included the separate domestic household (usually all those living in one tent), its summer territory, and the animals within that territory. Still more generalized was the winter siida assembly, including the entire human community, the total band territory, and all the animals. … The most general siida unit – operative only in the most important and carefully controlled ritual contexts – consisted of both this world and the other world of the gods, the dead, and the generalized animal guardians. At this level, the siida was identical to the all-encompassing female earth god, the Stem-Mother (Maddarakka, J.W.K.) (Stephens, 1986, 212-213).

This world was reflected on the traditional Sami drum of these times, which allowed the shaman or noaidi to shift their attention to the higher level siida. However, “the drum’s cosmic map was not simply a picture of the universe as it existed at any given time. Rather, drumming could effect transformations in siida levels and corresponding changes in siida actors and their objects” (Stephens, 1986, 217; cf. Pentikäinen, 1984, 144-145, 147). Growing older meant acquiring the capacity through transformative learning to stay at the center of increasingly generalized siida units.

All this changed significantly with the advent of pastoralism and the migrations with the herds of domesticated reindeer (after about 1600C.E.): Maddarakka becomes a minor deity and the male gods are seen as “controlling the powers and actions of their female consorts in order to [P15] prevent any far-reaching female transformations of the existing order” (Stephens, 1986, 219). The siida units are given a more restrictive and more clearly boundaried meaning, and linearity enters the migration pattern (substituting for the clover leaf like traditional four-directional pattern). The drum now shows a linearly layered world instead of the ovoid world outlined around the central goddess Maddarakka (Ahlbäck & Bergman, 1991; Kjellström & Rydving, 1993 for clear illustrations; also Lommel, 1965). Previously the drum had been an instrument by means of which the Sami participated in the ongoing creation of the universe, now it has become a picture of a certain cosmic order. The journey to the more generalized siida units becomes increasingly a matter of specialists and the boundaries between siida units become more impermeable. The relationship to the divine is now defined by sacrifices governing the symmetrical exchanges between male gods and men (cf. Bäckman & Hultkrantz, 1985). A process of dissociative schismogenesis from the loom of life has set in with the consequences of a threatening ecological catastrophe. What once was a concern with a continuing balance becomes part of a linear model of progress. The Warlpiri people of Australia talk about this same shift, which came with the arrival of the Europeans, as “the end of the Jukurrpa” (Napaljarri & Cataldi, 1994, xx), the end of the dreamtime.

 

Understanding Native American Healing Ways (Examples)

Let me explain the differences in paradigm a little further through the use of an example from the Diné people (Navajo).[6][6] I am choosing this example not because they may be the most popularized native tribe of this continent or because of the beautiful drypaintings which have drawn attention to their healing ceremonies (such as ma’iijí hatáál or Coyoteway, Luckert 1979) have been widely heard of because of the drypaintings. I am using this example because the Diné people seem to have exchanged knowledge with nordic tribes during ancient migrations west (Ashley, 1993). It is in this context of relationship that I as an indigenous Teuton have sought to learn from Diné traditions.

Whether an image in a sandpainting is perceived as symbol or as spirit marks the difference between Diné knowing and euro-american knowing.[7][7] The drypaintings show beings which are significant in the world of the Diné people. The western mind understands them as an assemblage of symbols which represent certain beings [P16] which are significant in the Diné world; they are commonly seen as ‘symbols of healing’, where each piece of the sandpainting stands for something else. This interpretation reflects the split in the dissociative western mind: the different parts of the sandpainting point to something which is elsewhere, outside of the representation. The participatory tribal mind relates entirely differently to the sandpainting: The deities and other beings (ye’ii) are in the sandpainting. The making of the sandpainting is the creation of the presence of the beings. The beings are not at all separate from what the sand looks like. Once the sandpainting is there, they are there. This simple distinction marks worlds of differences: Whether a sandpainting is a symbol for something or whether it is a certain being indicates the consciousness process we are engaged in. In one case we have symbolic healing, in the other spirit heals. There is no simple technique which can bridge this difference. Each understanding reflects a different way of being in the world. There is no such thing as a simple switch from one to the other. Whether we use trances for symbolic work or to seek healing with and from spirit(s) is an indication of the consciousness and reality in which we are participating.

Jungian interpretations of tribal sandpaintings, myths or healings (see Sandner [1979] for an example) do not reflect tribal mind . They reflect the process of the western mind. Jungian psychology and related transpersonal approaches are certainly the closest to indigenous ways of being in that they validate the seminal importance of participation mystique and spiritual experiences. However, they are only accurate as long as they deal with the western mind. There they can be very helpful. If such a psychology gets projected onto indigenous peoples, then grave misunderstandings result. What may be a good starting point for the western mind means engaging the indigenous mind in a process of splitting and dissociation (amounting to psychologizing spirit, McNeill 1993). Faris (1990: 12) has made a pertinent summarizing statement about Jungian interpretations of Navajo traditions:

Such motions … are still popular and continue to be attractive to both romantics and humanists who seem interested in fitting Navajo belief into some variety of universal schema – reducing its own rich logic to but variation and fodder for a truth derived from Western arrogances – even if their motivations are to elevate it. And thus, while often paraphrased in terms of a challenge to Western scientific tradition (Sandner, 1979), these motions nevertheless maintain the “classic ratio” (Foucault, 1973) with such traditions by its interpretation rather than acceptance of Navajo truths at face value.

Now we can make further distinctions not only in the research of, but also the use of Native American healing approaches in a euro-american framework. Sweatlodges are a well-[P17]known healing approach also used by non-indigenous people. The western mind can easily grasp the benefits of the sweat experience via the knowledge about saunas, for example (the effects of the heat on the immune system, etc.). Achterberg (1985) summarizes as follows:

The sweat lodge or saunalike structure is a commonly used vehicle for inducing an altered state of consciousness. … A sweat lodge without ritual is just hot; but even with ritual, it can induce a masive systemic effect that includes rapidly increased pulse rate, nausea, dizziness, and syncope (fainting) – in short, the warning signs of the impending medical condition we call heat stroke. … From a physical standpoint, there is a biochemical component of high body temperatures during fevers that reflects the natural reactions to toxins, and is correlated to the immune system in action. The artificially induced high temperatures of the sauna may mimic or induce this activity (as does sustained aerobic exercise). Furthermore, the sweat or sauna may act as a sterilization procedure, killing bacteria, viruses and other organisms that thrive at body temperature, but are susceptible to heat. The growth of tumors may also be inhibited when core body temperature is significantly elevated. (pp. 33-34)

However, the name ‘sweatlodge’ was coined by euro-americans; each tribe has its own specific name for this ceremony which embeds it in the deep structure of the specific culture (such as inipi among the Lakota). It is certainly true that many westerners have received tremendous benefits from sweatlodge experiences. And it is also true that their healing is not the same as a sweat lodge healing for a tribal person. The healing which the symbolic journey into the womb of the Mother Earth affords (as many euro-americans have described it) is different from the healing which a native person might receive through the encounter with spirit during these ceremonies. Decontextualized healing continues our cultural malaise of dissociation from interconnectedness and spirit; if we begin to remember our own indigenous minds, then we can understand the indigenous science which went into making of these exquisite healing ceremonies. The usefulness of the sweating technique is different from the integral balancing within self, community, nature and spirit which a traditional native person would expect.

The rite of the onikare (sweat lodge) utilizes all the Powers of the universe: earth, and the things which grow from the earth, water, fire and air. The water represents the Thunder-beings who come fearfully but bring goodness, for the steam which comes from the rocks, within which is the fire, is frightening, but it purifies us so that we may live as Wakan-Tanka wills, and He may even send to us a vision if we become very pure. (…)

When we leave the sweat lodge we are as the souls which are kept, as I have described, and which return to Wakan-Tanka after they have been purified; for we, too, leave behin in the Inipi lodge all that is impure, that we may live as the Great Spirit wishes, and that we may know something [P18] of that real world of the Spirit, which is behind this one. (Black Elk, 1971, 31 & 43)

The contrast between Achterberg’s summary and Black Elk’s descriptions is instructive and illustrates the paradigmatic differences. Most recently, Kripppner (1995) has advocated to take indigenous narratives about their ceremonial endeavors  more seriously. The depth of native descriptions of sweat lodge and other experiences is commonly at least partially obscured by the filter which (post)modern consciousness represents; it is also, most obviously, obscured by the understandable native distrust of researchers who are approaching them from within a different paradigm (this affects the type and quality of information communicated). The recovery of indigenous consciousness (plural) among eurocentric peoples would create a different relationship between current scientific knowledge (as represented by the Achterberg quote) and native narratives from other cultures.

Within the western paradigm we pick an herb for its curative properties known to relieve a certain ailment. Herb collection is an entirely different event within a native context. Here it is a ceremonial event which involves spirit and, especially the spirits of the plant to be collected. It is a participatory event with the plant relations which presupposes detailed knowledge, including knowledge of their language; it requires knowledge of cycles and the preparations necessary for gathering. It means understanding plants like any other intelligent people. This is no longer the collection of an herb, but an engagement and appointment with spirit to help heal. What heals is more than the beneficial chemical ingredient in the herb. But in order for such healing to occur a certain protocol (which is expressive of the traditional ecological knowledge of a particular healer and tribal tradition) needs to be observed:

Prayer accompanies all plant use on the Navajo Reservation. Prayers are said when Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata) is gathered for stew, when yarrow (Achillea lanulosa) is picked to cure skin disease, when a sacred plant is gthered to treat a horse’s sore leg, when a variety of plants are picked to make a rainbow of soft, long-lasting wool dyes.

Plants are not picked randomly or wastefully. Rather, they are picked as needed, and then, no more than are necessary.

An herbalist finds two of a particular species that she wishes to pick. To the largest and healthiest plant, she says a prayer and explains why she must pick its neighbor. An offering of shell, pollen, or other sacred material is deposited with the first plant. Then she picks what she needs. Afterward, the plant remains are buried with a final prayer. (Mayes & Lacy, 1989: 2-3)

Lake, a northwest California native expresses the indigenous relationship between healer and healing plants as follows:

Plants are “people” in the same ways we are people. They are born into certain families; they have extended families, tribes, and nations; they also [P19] have friends and even enemies. Some work individually, but most prefer to work cooperatively. They have individual personalities which are influeced by physical chemistry and mental-spirituall thinking. A happy plant is a healthy plant. A plant in its indigenous source of power is more potent and “powerful” than a domesticated species that has been cultivated. A natural plant gathered from its natural environment is more powerful in healing, especially if it is gathered in the right and proper way and at the right and proper time. Harvesting plants with prayer, ritual, and knowledge (communication formulas) will insure that the spirit of the plant stays with the body of the plant, and the plant will also be more effective in treatment for an illness. (Lake, 1991: 147)

The detailed herbal knowledge of Native American tribes has been collected in various publications of differing quality (e.g., Balls [1962], Chesnut [1902], Densmore [1928], Jones [1972], Mayes & Lacy [1989], Weiner [1972], Stammel [1986], Hutchens [1969]). Of course, related publications, some of them more reliable and less fanciful than others, about old plant knowledge can also be found in Europe (examples are: Grimm [1966/1888], vol.III; Golowin [1973]; Thiselton-Dyer [1889]).

Knowing the medical benefits of a sweat lodge purification or the effective chemical agents in an healing herb is certainly useful. But if this knowledge is not integrated into an indigenous science framework, then we fail to understand indigenous approaches to healing.

 

 


Healing Means “Nothing Less Than Manipulating the Full Structure of the Cosmos”

Within the conventional western medical paradigm, as indicated earlier, the therapeutic focus is on a clear identification of the symptom and the monocausal, linear analysis of its cause. Holistic medical approaches have expanded this approach to include a systemic understanding of causes as well as spiritual dimensions (beyond the emotional dimensions added by health psychology approaches). The conventional paradigm focuses on pathology, while the holistic medical approaches begin to focus more around notions of health (Kremer, 1982), thus putting themselves closer to indigenous sciences (on the far end of modern approaches, so to speak, but without truly bridging the deep structure of cross-cultural differences defined above). From my survey of the literature it seems accurate – albeit dangerous in this generalizing language – to say that indigenous peoples understand illness and healing in a cultural context which calls for a balancing of afflicted persons within their own cultural universe. Different indigenous cultures use different valid stories to explain the incident of illness; they address all aspects of the ill person (mental, emotional, physical, spiritual as well as communal), and they use a multifaceted approach in order to re-balance the sick within the indigenous cosmos. Indigenous approaches to [P20] healing imply a quality of control (i.e., balancing) different from the western monocausal, linear model of control. Let me use the Diné chantways as an exemplar for what I am talking about (without making the case why chantways are appropriate as exemplars).

The various chantways (Water Way, Coyote Way, Great Star Chant, Night Way, Mountaintop Way, Wind Way, Flint Way, etc.; cf. Wyman 1983a, b) use singing, praying, sweating, herbs, impersonation, bathing, sandpainting, etc. among their components (the ceremonies last up to nine days). Each of the chantways connect the healee to the Diné creation story, also commonly giving the origin of the chantway in use (Spencer, 1957). Thus the healees can be balanced within the Navajo world by being put, literally (not metaphorically or symbolically) at that point in the universe where balancing (healing) becomes possible. This place of balance is defined by an intricate system of diagnosis, the understanding of the creation story, and various detailed procedures. Accomplishing all this requires extensive ceremonial knowledge. The complexity of these chantways and their use is such that their learning can easily be compared to the acquisition of one PhD per chantway. They reflect a very detailed understanding of the world the Diné live in. Much of what is recorded in anthropological texts has little to do with Navajo practice and philosophy; when Diné practitioners share with other indigenous people facets of their world emerge which anthropology, in particular, has misrepresented or failed to fathom. Faris (1990: 13) criticizes anthropological understandings of “how Navajo belief works: that it reflects and symbolizes rather than constitutes, that actions “express,” that illness is cured “through symbolic manipulation.” Anthropologists are still “interpreting ritual.”” Faris (not a Navajo himself) describes his understanding of Diné causality in relation to illness as follows:

From my conversations with Nightway medicine men there has emerged a distinct concept of Navajo command over their universe – a personal and individual responsibility which, certainly in Nightway causality in any case, is not explained by the productions of the ‘natural world’ or events external to human agencies. Indeed, all ‘natural’ phenomena (lightning, fire, snakes, and so on) are only dangerous if there is a sacrilegious attitude toward them, or mistreatment of them, or in failing to observe the proper relationship toward them. (…)

Thus, Holy People do not themselves ’cause’ illness.[The Holy People are no more ‘supernatural’ than rocks or trees – they are simply invisible to humans. {p. 23}] It is violation by humans of prescribed order and proper ceremonial observances and attitudes, conditions of balance, beauty, harmony, and peace that brings about illnes. This order, these ceremonial observances, these proper social relations have been set down by the Holy People in Navajo history. Illness is disorder, unbalance, uglines. Violations may, of course, sometimes be unintentional or committed through ignorance; re-balance and re-order come through appropriate and proper [P21] appeal to the Holy People. In the attempts to re-order, there are supplicating features addressed to Holy People, of course, but their attendance at the healing ceremonies is, it such ceremonies are done properly, very compelling – indeed, they cannot resist attending. And if all is done properly, this attendance and this healing and this blessing and these offerings and these expressions of rigid propriety, beauty, and order bring about and restore a condition of hózhó, literally, holiness that is the harmony sought – a beauty, a balance in an order set out in navajo history and recapitulated in ceremony. (…)

This detailed command, so overwhelmingly impressive in its intricacies, say, of a nine-night Nightway, is what attracts holiness, what commands the attendance of the Holy People, and what balances. Indeed, it is only in observing such details, that one comes to see how sketchy, in fact, are the very best of accounts…(Faris, 1990: 14-15)

 

The reader may think that this perspective is entirely alien to the eurocentric cultural worlds. But this is only the case as long as we restrict our glance to contemporary medical practices. Once we go back only one hundred years, we find traces and tracks of a very similar cultural understanding of healing, health and illness in the older indo-european cultures (the very cultures which developed later on a dissociative approach to these issues). A review of the pertinent literature (which I began just recently) yields data, which quickly guide us toward the older indo-european and even pre-indoeuropean understanding of health and balance (see below for a number of references). Additionally, the continued existence of indigenous people culturally relevant for the indigenous roots of German and Scandinavian peoples, for example, easily adds to the possibility of recovery indigenous roots (the Saami people in the northern Scandinavian countries and the Kola Peninsula, and the various Siberian cultures, so far as they have survived Soviet oppression).

The following quote is an indication of the richness of information which can guide the development of a new relationship to indigenous peoples – neither based on the dominant eurocentric paradigm nor New Age or other fantasies, but based on a thorough personal and scholarly examination of what already is and what can be known. The Diné still practice an extraordinary healing system. But their practices and understandings are not alien to an older indo-european understanding of healing:

The nature of the order a healer established is also spelled out in the semantics of another verb applied to the art of healing, particularly within the Germanic languages: IE *kai-lo-, which occurs in Goth hailjan, OE hælan, OHG heilen, and OBulg celjo, all of which mean “to heal.” What is expressed most directly through these terms, however, is not just the [P22] establishment of a vague state of “health” or “well-being” but more precisely a state of “wholeness, totality, completion,” …

It now become apparent just how awesome a task the production or restoration of such integrity must be, for it is not just a damaged body that one restores to wholeness and health, but the very universe itself. … The full extent of such knowledge is now revealed in all its grandeur: the healer must understand and be prepared to manipulate nothing less than the full structure of the cosmos. (Lincoln, 1986: 100, 117-118)

Some of the parallels with Diné culture should be all too apparent. Pieces of knowledge like this represent a spark of hope for traditional indigenous peoples who live in continuing fear of genocide and the total loss of their culture. They represent the possibility of recovery of indigenous roots for people living in the eurocentric paradigm.

 

Who are you?

To traditional people western researchers commonly look very lost, “they don’t know who they are.” When indigenous peoples ask the question, “Who are you?”, then they are seeking to understanding a person’s place in the weave of blood relationships, ancestry, traditions, place, etc. The significance of this question is difficult to overestimate. If there is to be a relationship of equality between inquirers and indigenous peoples, then it needs be answered in depth and to the satisfaction of the traditionalists. The challenge is that a satisfactory answer has indigenous consciousness as a prerequisite. Seeking the answer leads back to indigenous mind. One of the requirements during this process is a deep look at the history of imperialism.

If indigenous healing occurs in the context of a complex cultural weave, then we need to know where we stand in our own weave and in relation to the other weave we are approaching – provided we want to do so with respect. Answering the question “who are you?” in all its depth opens the possibility to step out of colonial relationships. Until such time, colonialism is the frame for the knowledge given and the knowledge received; this means that the western sciences commonly define for indigenous peoples what is reality and which aspects of their “purported reality” are valid and significant. Of course, it is by now well known that many inquirers have taken answers seriously which were, in fact, given to distract and protect knowledge from the intrusive eye of western science (joking, teasing, and entertaining stories are part of this). Colonialism, of course, is a context of utter inequality, where internalized colonialism plays as much a significant part as the contemporary cultural threats: Indigenous knowledge (if it is shared) is commonly given based on the assumption of cultural and personal inferiority, a consequence of the relentless onslaught of the dominant paradigm. Because of all this the quality [P23] of eurocentric knowledge is seriously questioned (not to speak of the ethics and politics of all this).

When indigenous peoples meet they commonly introduce themselves by stating their kinship affiliations (in the broadest sense) in one form or another. The Australian aboriginal Warlpiri social arrangement may illustrate this:

This kinship system relates the people to each other, but its central importance for the Warlpiri world view is that is also relates the people to the Jukurrpa (the Dreaming, J. W. K.) and the land. That is, for Warlpiri people the relationship between each person and the world is mediated by their kinship subsection. Each jukurrpa, and each place, belongs to one (or possibly two) of four pairs, Jupurrurla-Jakamarra, Jungarryi-Japaljarri, Jangala-Jampijinpa, Japangardi-Japanangka, and the female counterparts. These pairs also mark the relationship of father and son. That is, through their particular subsection, each person is related to other people, to their jukurrpa ancestors, to the places they own and are responsible for, to the narratives and songe concerning the places and ancestors, and to the gestures and designs that belong to the places. (Napaljarri & Cataldi, 1994: xix)

Understanding indigenous healing sufficiently can only occur in this context. In order to enter this context, the inquirers need to know who they are, which then puts them in relation to the indigenous culture they are visiting; the context of the visit now is not colonialism, but a shared way of knowing. The following, more personal statement gives a tiny slice of my own process of addressing the question “who are you?”

 

Part II: Struggling to recover indigenous roots

Although the format of this part II reflects indigenous thinking to the extent that it emphasizes a process orientation and has a certain circularity, it nevertheless presents a compromise: Euro-american scholarly discourse shapes the way thinking and writing are framed. The hearing of the indigenous voice depends on finding a way to speak through the dominant discourse – and in spite of it. Thus it is most important to remember that this paper is not written in an indigenous language.

The best approach to reading the following paragraphs may be that of an initiation: I am asking the reader to engage with patterns of thought which are contrary to habit. The intention is, literally, to boggle the mind. This may lead to confusion and dark night experiences along the way. However, it is hoped that this initiatory journey ends in a place where all the threads may come together in a new weave, maybe a new approach to native healing ways.

[P24] Writing about indigenous healing practices is always situated in a specific socio-cultural, ecological, historical, gendered and autobiographical context. This is asserted in the face of those euro-american schools of thought which give us ways to think otherwise; from an indigenous perspective these need to be understood as routes of denial. I am voicing what is commonly considered “OTHER” – outside the shrinkwrapping strictures of the dominant euro-american conversations and discourses. OTHER is defined by the rationalistic discourse. OTHER is what the splitting from our indigenous origins is continuing to colonize and control in a rationalistic paradigm of dissociation: the beingknowing of the body; creative, artistic, crafting beingknowing; emotional beingknowing; spirit and spiritual beingknowing; nature, wilderness, environmental, ecological beingknowing; the beingknowing of all that which is commonly labelled feminine or female or woman; cyclical beingknowing; narrative, storied, integral beingknowing; the beingknowing of community. OTHER has always been systemic and understood itself as systemic in nature. Speaking, writing from OTHER (and as OTHER) I voice my beingknowing not in any of these categories, but I am trying to weave myself being woven into a fabric which is refusing such seductive categories as epistemology or ontology.

In the indigenous voice it is illegitimate to split knowing from being – thus ‘beingknowing’. I OTHER am playing with the language in order to create a fluid fuzziness which is illuminating about transforming learning transforming processes of indigenous minds. By twisting conventions of grammar and vocabulary I allow myself to say things more precisely and genuinely than I could otherwise (hoping that the reader will gradually relax into the flow of consciousness of indigenous beingknowing). I am running words together, weaving them into a process which should not be thought asunder.

Odin’s sacrifice on the tree (as described in the Elder Edda) was a fast for words and deeds, beingknowing, for chants which would put him at the center of beingknowing, becoming the tree of life himself, drinking from the Source (Urd, Wyrd), knowing the fateful runes of his life, thus he became empowered. “I know that I hung in the windtorn tree // Nine whole nights, spear-pierced, // Consecrated to Odin, myself to my Self above me in the tree, // Whose root no one knows whence it sprang. // None brought me bread, none served me drink; // I searched the depths, spied runes of wisdom; // Raised them with song, and fell once more thence” (Tichtenell, 1985: 126). It is not easy to quote these powerful stanzas, since they so clearly represent the Nordic worldview after the invasions of the indo-europeans. Odin is the grand patriarch who sees himself as the center who contains everything. But the Eddic poetry can be used to discover older layers hidden in them. It has been said that “most egalitarian societies are to be found among [P25] hunting/gathering tribes, which are characterized by economic interdependency. … Most evidence for female equality in societies derives from matrilineal, matrilocal societies” (Lerner, 1986, 29 & 30). Understanding the indigenous mind and its relationship to transformative learning and healing in a context of equality thus requires that we look through what Odin is trying to make us believe. The tree of life was female before the Kurgan invasions (Gimbutas, 1991). But even in the later Eddic texts we find the female spirits, the norns, by the names Origin, Becoming and Debt spinning fates with their waters under the tree. These waters nourish the tree of life, which is also the human being. Its guardians are feminine spirits, dísir. Indigenous peoples know how words create worlds, words are a weave. They often have clear guidelines on when to say and when not to say certain things (Witherspoon, 1977, 1987). They are unhappy with the language pollution the dominant cultures foist upon them; for them the indo-european languages create careless worlds which are out of balance.

Healing is transforming, and the learning of transforming healing is an aspect of transforming learning transforming. If I were to write about healing solely within the common discourse of modernity, then I would leave parts of my indigenous mind behind in order to join the dominant discourse (an easy and safe move, given my academic training). In writing about healing from an indigenous perspective I am struggling to be true to a process of consciousness, a process of community and a process of beingknowing which is a potential for all humans. It is not just that the surviving indigenous peoples have access to this process, but all euro-americans have potential access to this. While I am struggling to keep communicative doorways to the dominant discourse open, my primary concern is voicing my indigenous mind. As I am standing in a communal circle of people who are fighting to live, know, and speak the indigenous minds of their endangered traditions, the only honorable thing I can do is living, knowing, and speaking my ancestral indigenous mind – a mindprocess rejected, “for good”, a very long time ago. “Indigenous Teuton” seems a surefire provocative term, since it posits the possibility of indigenous beingknowing for a contemporary German living in the United States, and since it evokes a mythological realm which is part of the history of genocide and continues to be used for anti-indigenous ends. In choosing between dissociating from what is a living history and my ancestral roots or living in and acknowledging an indigenous mind which weaves me into the spirits of my ancestral lands, the spirits of the place where I am living now (California), the large cycles of the earth, my current community and family – in choosing between these two alternatives I am left with no real choice. In seeing the alternatives the choice is made. In seeing the alternative my fate becomes transparent and the only honor I have is to be true to that fate.

[P26] For every German the gateway to the indigenous mindprocess is a concentration camp. Hitler’s barbaric abuses of Teutonic mythology have made this entry to the old indigenous mind of Northern Europe unavoidable. Without taking this painful walk understanding my fate is relegated to shadow material and my indigenous mind would contain wishful fantasy and perpetrate an unhealthy split. Fate was a central coordinate for the Nordic peoples (Bonnefoy, 1993b). They dedicated their children to the dísir, the female guardian spirits connected with the land, the powers of fate which determined their individual máttr ok megin, their personal capacity and possibility of success. Thus they dedicated to the source and the Yggdrasils – springs and trees being so important for them. Rites of passage later on allowed for a conscious dedication and commitment to this destiny. It was the work of the mature adult. It is my work as I speak my indigenous mind. Walking through the gateway of the German holocaust is one of my rites of passage. I was born German, I grew up in Germany shortly after the Second World War and I left – or fled – the Federal Republic of Germany to live in the United States of America. Contained in this is, no doubt, my destiny, my máttr ok megin. My torment has been the realization that I personally could only recover by delving into my feelings of shame and by walking through Auschwitz past Hitler, past Neonazis, past Wotan, past Heidegger, past Jung, past Christianization to whatever lies beyond. My feminine dísir has helped me many times in my transforming learning transforming. Máttr ok megin is not an abstract category, it is my story weaving amidst the stories from the past into the German story of the present into the genocide on this land into the stories of different indigenous minds. For the old Nordic peoples sacredness was experienced in the certainty of their destined endowment; this notion has since been thoroughly perverted by the Nazis. Part of my fateful challenge has been to build an internal (if not external) bridge from Northern Germany to the United States, especially California, and to its native cultures. Part of my fate and challenge has been to be in my indigenous mind when with people who are commonly called ‘tribal.’

‘Honor’ is a word that is almost inextricably tied to the masculine. The German Ehre is etymologically connected to grace and gift (Mitzka, 1960). The old Norse folks called their feeling of connectedness to the sacred and the certainty of their endowment honor. They took pride in justifying their destiny, made it known, and wished to be recognized by it. This meant that they had to know and accept themselves with their destiny and that they would work to manifest the nature of what they understood their fate to be. (Self-acceptance, when not balanced, may result in femininized or masculinized narcissistic inflations, with the Vikings representing a masculinized heroic inflation.) Thus they would commune with the sacred. The rite of passage [P27] during adolescence would strengthen the commitment to their fateful endowments (German Schicksal, a late Christian word; the old words are wurd, wyrd, weird and urdr). The fates of the tribe would be the weave of the individual fates. One would honor one’s tribe by honoring one’s individual destiny. I cannot but write as a German. As such I am also writing for Germany. In order to reestablish my personal honor I need to recover my feeling of sacred connectedness and destiny. To live on this land honorably means beingknowing my indigenous mind. Honor and integrity means struggling not to create OTHER inside and outside.

Germany and the Nordic heritage lost its honor during the Third Reich. The understanding of fate and destiny was perverted. The honor of Germany can only be reestablished through a profound connection with the sacred weave of its ecology. This is not a grandiose act; it is a humbling confrontation with the ashes of burnt people. I have an obligation to honor my personal destiny in order to reestablish my personal connection with the sacred. In so doing I am also confronted with a tribal obligation, “the honor of Germany.” This is as disgusting a thought as it is inevitable. Honor has been masculinized – men are concerned with their honor. This is alien for most women who view life fundamentally from a relational perspective. The honor of old may have been just like that: I honor the land because I understand my relationship to her; I honor my community because I see how I am part of its weave and story; I honor my friends because I affirm their destiny; I honor my destiny, and thus I affirm my relationship with the sacred. Maybe honor was never this; but maybe it was at one time affirmative, relational and connected to love and self-love. Willy Brandt was in his woman when he fell to his knees in Warsaw; he honored relationship. The female side of honor would mean that it is honorable to cherish the feminine and nature. My honor is my connectedness. I have no honor without wholeness. Honor is in walking in Dachau and Neuengamme. Dishonor is walking around these places of pain, grief and shame. The ancient ones can only speak again once we have listened to them there. Honor is in facing the torture of the Jewish, gay and gypsy spirit. Honor is in transforming learning transforming in the indigenous mind.

Over the painful process of the recovery of my indigenous roots circles the raven; it goes by the name of Munin, memory. In one of the Eddic poems Odin, oftentimes pictured with two ravens on his shoulders, remarks how he fears more for Munin than for Hugin, the raven of intentionality and consciousness. Maybe this reflects an old, prescient knowing about the diffulties indigenous minds would have in the future, our contemporary struggle. But then, recovery of indigenous roots and the validation of this knowledge works in curious ways: I recently received an article by Kenin-Lopsan (1995) from the Republic of Tuva for a journal [P28] issue I am editing. In it he wrote about kuskun, the raven: “The raven was the shaman’s faithful and favorite informant. The raven was always attributed with a magical quality. Wooden figures were often carved of the black raven. As a rule, shamans wore two figures of ravens on their shoulders, due to the bird’s vigilance, keenness, and wisdom” (p. 2). (An initial survey of the literature on Siberian shamanism has yielded many surprising, and oftentimes very specific parallels with the Nordic literature, an article waiting to be written.)

My personal need for transforming learning transforming is constellated by the necessity for further rites of passage and ceremonies of healing my indigenous mind; the destructions of the San Francisco Bay Area ecosystem and the near extinction of its first peoples; my grieving remembering of the Nordic fabric before herding patriarchs, Vikings, Christianity, witchhunts and Nazi perversions; my confrontations with the genocidal histories of this and other continents.

Indigenous consciousness is specifically grounded in a story of pastpresentfuture which aligns the people in the seasonal and larger cycles while grounded in a particular environment and spiritual life. For me it is grounded in the source of the shamanic tree Yggdrasil. If this is indeed a story woven in balance, then it affords the possibility of comprehending not just the deep story of the particular community, but consciousness of other communities, Mother Earth consciousness and questions of origin and indigenous science way beyond what the euro-american dissociative narrative would acknowledge. There are many examples of this. Among the popularized ones are the Hopi prophecies (Kaiser 1991) and the Kogi prophecies (Ereira, 1992), which represent an uncanny knowledge of the dymanics of European history.

‘To heal’ is etymologically connected, as mentioned earlier, with the German heilen and the indo-european root *kailo-, referring to a state and process of wholeness. But to heal is also connected to holy (as is heilen to heilig), which gives an ancient root to the reemergent wholistic and transpersonal perspective on healing (needless to say, ‘whole’ is also related to *kailo-). In order to stay healthy (whole, holy) we need to learn how to transform ourselves continuously so that we renew our place in the weave (Mitzka, 1960; Shipley, 1984).

‘To learn’ is connected with the German lernen, and, further back, with the Sanskrit root leis, meaning track, footprint or furrow (Shipley, 1984). ‘Track’ and ‘footprint’ would seem to be the older meaning given that ‘furrow’ would require the existence of agriculture and domesticated farm animals (thus the root leis could thus be seen to hold both, the older connections with foraging gatherer and hunting communities as well as the new agricultural societies). Learning is tracking – the wild animal, the stars, the cycles of the seasons, etc. In order to track we have to [P29] know our natural environment. If we can’t track natural events, then we don’t learn. If we can’t track, then we don’t stay whole and fail to honor what is holy – we loose our health.

‘Transforming’ is connected to the Sanskrit root merbh, to shine, appear or take shape (which becomes the Latin forma and the Greek morfh, ‘morph’); the water emerges from the source and takes shape as it moves from stream to creek to river. Morfh implies not just any form, but a form which is free from the accidental and incomplete; it alludes to beauty and grace, to harmony and balance. By changing form we presumably change toward something which reflects a process of greater balance (although the direction of transformation is never assured).

The Kogi Indians of Colombia have an understanding of their craft of the loom which pertains. As the Kogi Indian works on his loom, he works the loom of life; spinning is thinking and thoughts are threads, and by weaving he interlaces individual thoughts with the social web. When the heart thinks, it weaves. Thoughts make a blanket. The fabric of life is a garment, a web of knowledge made of thoughts. It is life’s wisdom that envelops us like a cloth. The earth is a loom on which the sun weaves the fabric of life. The loom is the person, with different parts of it corresponding to human anatomy. The loom is also the ecology in which the Kogi live as well as the different ceremonial centers as well as different spirits. A garment woven on such a loom is more than the garment which meets the euro-american eye (Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1978). In the northern European countries, it is the fabric which the norns weave from Urd under the tree of life, which contains the destiny of people. Knowing the weaving is knowing the thought of spirit. The craft (die Kraft, power) of weaving is a spiritual practice which requires a particular moral stance (Kremer & White, 1989). Odin fasts for nine days and becomes the tree of life; through this act he looks deeply into the mystery of Source where his roots lead. If I fast and honor the tree which I am, then I see the pattern into which the women at the Source are weaving me (Bauschatz, 1982). In indigenous consciousness these correspondences are neither just metaphorical nor idle word play: They reflect the awareness of us weaving being woven on earth as our individually and communally destined lives.

If we are to ask what is being healed or transformed, then the answer is: It is the transforming of a smaller or larger part of the weaving; what is transforming is relationship. The weave is always changing. We are always changing. Where we are in the weave is always changing. Transforming learning transforming is how we live and experience ourselves in the changing weave as part of the weave being woven. It is knowing where we stand so that we can be properly woven – which is the illusion of weaving. It means tracking the weaving of the system and knowing when transforming is needed. I have the option of dropping out of the [P30] ongoing process of staying healthy (or transforming learning), in which case I will become increasingly out of balance with the possible consequences of ill health, misguided ratiocinations, dysfunctional emotional patterns, denial of the spirit of the weave and various other dissociative pathologies. If I remain true to the capacities for tracking then my form of balance will continuously transform itself into new forms of weaving being woven in the fabric.

As an indigenous Teuton I can understand the healing ceremonies of indigenous peoples from the perspective of the tree of life Yggdrasil which is so central not only in the nordic traditions, but also in many Asian shamanic traditions (Davidson, 1993; Bonnefoy 1993a, b). Knowing the trunk, the roots, the branches and the leaves of this tree teaches me about balance. The descriptions are precise in that they reflect a way of balance which the indigenous peoples of northern Europe had come to. Yggdrasil teaches about relations and healing. Using my indigenous science I can approach the indigenous science which, say, the Native Americans of this continent have developed in their healing practices. What I learn now is different from what I learn when I do western science. (It also gives me a way to review and integrate the results of the western sciences in a new way.) What I try to heal now is not my euro-american self, but my indigenous self.

This perspective is the result of 25 years of personal and academic work (Kremer, 1994b)[8][8]. One way of labeling this would be to call it a re-socialization. The shift in consciousness and paradigm which I have alluded to in this paper consists not in the use of various tribal or shamanic techniques, but in the labor to make the world appear differently before my eyes – a process far from closure.

 

References

Achterberg, J. (1985). Imagery in healing: Shamanism and modern medicine. Boston: Shambhala.

Ahlbäck, T. & Bergman, J. (Eds.). (1991). The Saami shaman drum. Åbo, Finland: The Donner Institute.

Ashley, H. (1993). Personal Communication.

Bäckman, L. & Hultkrantz, Å. (Eds.). (1985). Saami Pre-Christian religion. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Balls, E. K. (1962). Early uses of California plants. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Barfield, O. (1965).  Saving The Appearences. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Bauschatz, P.C. (1982). The well and the tree. Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press.

Benviste, E. (1993). Indoeuropäische Institutionen. Frankfurt, Germany: Campus. (Originally published in 1969)

Berkes, F. (1993). Traditional ecological knowledge in perspective. In: Inglis, J. T. (ed.) (1993). Concepts and cases (pp. 1-9). International Program on Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Canadian Museum of Nature, P.O. Box 3443, Station D, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 6P4.

Black Elk. (1971). The sacred pipe (E. Brown, Rec. & Ed.). New York: Penguin.

Bohm, D. & Edwards, M. (1991). Changing consciousness. San Francisco: HarperCollins.

Bohm, D. (1993). Science, spirituality, and the present world crisis. ReVision, 15(4), 147-152.

Bonnefoy, Y. (1993a). Asian Mythologies. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Bonnefoy, Y. (1993b). American, African, and Old European Mythologies. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Burenhult, G. (1993). Newgrange: temple of the sun. In G. Burenhult, People of the stone age (96-97). San Francisco: Harper.

Carlson, J.B. (1983). Astronomical markings at three sites on Fajada Butte. In: John Carlson and James Judge, Astronomy and ceremony in the prehistoric Southwest. Albuquerque, NM: Maxwell Museum of Anthropology (71-88).

Chesnut, V. K. (1902). Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California. Mendocino Historical Society (1974 reprint). (Originally published as part of [pp. 295-422] Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, Government Printing Office.)

Churchill, W. (1992). Fantasies of the master race. Monroe, ME: Common Courage.

Colorado, P. (1988). Bridging native and western science. Convergence, XXI, 2/3, 49-67.

Colorado, P. (1989). “Indian science” from fire and ice. In J. Bruchac (ed.), New voices from the longhouse. New York: Greenfield Review Press.

Colorado, P. (1991). A meeting between brothers. Beshara, 13, Summer 1991, 20-27.

Colorado, P. (1994). Indigenous science and western science – a healing convergence. Presentation at the World Sciences Dialog I. New York City, April 25-27.

Davidson, H. E. (1993). The lost beliefs of Northern Europe. New York: Routledge.

Deloria, V. (1993). If you think about it you will see that it is true. Noetic Sciences Review, 27, 62-71.

Densmore, F. (1928). How Indians use wild plants for food, medicine & crafts. NY: Dover.

Deslauriers, D. (1992). Dimensions of knowing: Narrative, paradigm, and ritual. ReVision, 14(4), 187-194.

Dobkin de Rios, M. (1994). Drug tourism in the Amazon. Anthropology of Consciousness, 5(1), 16-19.

Durning, A.Th. (1992). Guardians of the land: Indigenous peoples and the health of the earth. Washington, D.C.: Worldwatch Institute.

Ereira, A. (1992). The elder brothers. New York: Knopf.

Faris, J.C. (1990). The nightway. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Foucault, M. (1973). The order of things. NY: Vintage.

Gimbutas, M. (1991). The civilization of the goddess. San Francisco: Harper.

Giorgi, A. (1970). Psychology as human science. New York: Harper & Row.

Gleick, J. (1987). Chaos. New York: Penguin.

Golowin, S. (1973). Die Magie der verbotenen Märchen. Hamburg, Germany: Merlin.

Grimm, J. (1966). Teutonic mythology (4 vols.). New York: Dover. Originally published in 1883-1889.

Halifax, J. (1994). The relativity of knowledge. Presentation at the World Sciences Dialog I. New York City, April 25-27.

Hostetter, C. (1991). Star trek to Hawa-i’i. San Luis Obispo, CA: Diamond Press.

Hutchens, A. R. (1969). Indian Herbalogy of North America. Windsor, Ontario, Canada: Merco.

Inglis, J. T. (ed.) (1993). Concepts and cases. International Program on Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Canadian Museum of Nature, P.O. Box 3443, Station D, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 6P4.

Jones, D. E. (1972). Sanapia – Comanche medicine woman. Prospect Heights, Ill: Waveland.

Kaiser, R. (1991). The voice of the Great Spirit. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

Kenin-Lopsan, M. B. (1995). The cult of birds among Tuvinian shamans. Manuscript for publication in ReVision.

Kidwell, C.S. (1991). Systems of knowledge. In: A. M. Josephy, Jr., America in 1492 (pp. 369-403). NY: Vintage.

Kjellström, R. & Rydving, H. (1993). Den samiska trumman. Stockholm: Nordiska Museet.

Kremer, J. W. (1982). Plädoyer für eine Debatte um einen Gesundheitsbegriff. Musiktherapeutische Umschau, 3, 21-28.

Kremer, J. W. (1991). Contemporary shamanism and the evolution of consciousness – Reflections on Owen Barfield’s Saving the Appearances. Open Eye, 8(3), 4-5,9.

Kremer, J. W. (1992a). Whither dark night of the scholar? ReVision, Summer 1992, 15(1), 4-12.

Kremer, J. W. (1992b). The dark night of the scholar. ReVision, Spring 1992, 14(4), 169-178.

Kremer, J. W. (1993). The past and future process of mythology. In R.I. Heinze (Ed.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism and Alternate Modes of Healing (pp. 21-34). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

Kremer, J. W. (1994a). Practices for the postmodern shaman? In R. I. Heinze (Ed.),  Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Modes of Healing. Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia. [In press]

Kremer, J. W. (1994b). Indigenous science for euro-americans, In R. I. Heinze (Ed.),  Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Modes of Healing. Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia. [In press]

Kremer, J. W. (1995). Shamanic tales of power. Trance narrative in traditional and modern settings. In R. van Quekelberghe & D. Eigner (Eds.), Jahrbuch für transkulturelle Medizin und Psychotherapie. Trance, Besessenheit, Heilrituale und Psychotherapie. Berlin:VWB.

Kremer, J. W. and White, Debra (1989) Sacred Crafts as a Shamanic Discipline.  In R. I. Heinze (Ed.), Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism and Alternate Models of Healing. Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

Krippner, S. (1995). The use of altered conscious states in North and South American Indian shamanic healing rituals. In R. van Quekelberghe & D. Eigner (Eds.), Jahrbuch für transkulturelle Medizin und Psychotherapie. Trance, Besessenheit, Heilrituale und Psychotherapie. Berlin:VWB.

Kyselka, W. (1987). An ocean in mind, Honolulu: U. of Hawaii

Lake, M. G. (1991). Native healer.Wheaton, Ill: Quest.

Lerner, G. (1986). The creation of patriarchy. NY: Oxford University Press.

Lincoln, B. (1986). Myth, cosmos, and society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lommel, A. (1965). Schamanen und Medizinmänner. Munich: Callwey.

Luckert, K. W. (1979). Coyoteway. Tuscon, AZ: University of Arizona.

Mason, J. (1993). An unnatural order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Mayes, V. O. (1989). Nanise’. Tsaile, AZ: Navajo Community College.

McGrane, B. (1989). Beyond anthropology. NY: Columbia.

McNeill, B. (1993). Institute for Noetic Sciences. Personal Communication.

Mitzka, W. (1960). Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter.

Müller, W. (1981). Neue Sonne — Neues Licht [New sun — new light]. Berlin, Germany: Dietrich Reimer.

Napaljarri, P.E. & Cataldi, L. (1994). Yimikirli – Warlpiri dreamings and histories. San Francisco: HarperCollins.

Pentkäinen, J. (1984). The Sámi shaman. In M. Hoppál (ed.), Shamanism in Eurasia. Göttingen, Germany: edition herodot.

Polaris Papers (1993). Moving the indigenous knowledge agenda ahead. Vol. 1(1), 1-13.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (1983). Methodology for the human sciences. Albany: State University of New York.

Polkinghorne, D.E. (1985). Narrative knowing and the practicing psychologist.  Unpublished manuscript, Saybrook Institute.

Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. (1978). The loom of life: A Kogi principle of integration. Journal of Latin American Lore, 4: 1 (5-27).

Rogers, A. (1993). The earth summit. Los Angeles, CA: Global View Press.

Sandner, D. (1979). Navajo symbols of healing. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Shipley, J.T. (1984). The origins of English words. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins.

Shiva, V. (1993). Monocultures of the mind. New Jersey: Zed Books.

Sofaer, A. & Rolf Sinclair (1987). Astronomical markings at three sites on Fajada Butte. In: John Carlson and James Judge, Astronomy and ceremony in the prehistoric Southwest. Albuquerque, NM: Maxwell Museum of Anthropology (43-70).

Spencer, K. (1957). An analysis of Navaho chantway myths. Philadelphia: American Folklore Society.

Spretnak, C. (1991). States of grace. San Francisco: Harper.

Stammel, H. J. (1986). Die Apotheke Manitous. Reinbek, Germany: Rowohlt.

Stephens, S. (1986). Ideology and everyday life in Sami (Lapp) history. In P.P. Chock & J.R. Wyman (eds.), Discourse and the social life of meaning. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Thiselton-Dyer, T. F. (1889). The folk-lore of plants. London: Chatto & Windus.

Titchenell, E.-B. translator (1985). The masks of Odin (translations from the Elder Edda). Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press.

Vebæk, C.L. & Thirslund, S. (1992). The Viking compass. Copenhagen: Gullanders Bogtrykkeri.

Weiner, M. A. (1972). Earth medicine – earth food. London: Collier Macmillan.

Wernick, R. (1973). The monument builders. New York: Time-Life.

Williamson, R.A. & Farrer, C.R. (eds.) (1992). Earth and sky. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico.

Williamson, R.A. (1983). Astronomical markings at three sites on Fajada Butte. In: John Carlson and James Judge, Astronomy and ceremony in the prehistoric Southwest. Albuquerque, NM: Maxwell Museum of Anthropology (99-119).

Witherspoon, G. (1977). Language and art in the Navajo universe. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.

Witherspoon, G. (1987). Art in the Navajo universe. Diné Be’iina’, 1(1), 59-88.

Wyman, L. (1983a). Southwest Indian drypaintings. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico.

Wyman, L. (1983b). Navajo ceremonial system. In: A. Ortiz, Handbook of North American Indians: Southwest (Vol. 10) (pp. 536-557). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

 

 

 

[1][1] I have explored some of the political issues of this stance in Kremer (1994b).

[2][2] This and the following section have been taken primarily from Kremer (1995).

[3][3] I have discussed the historical changes in the relationship between the western paradigm and indigenous consciousness in Kremer (1995) based on McGrane (1989).

[4][4] I am amending Barfield’s descriptions by deleting eurocentered prejudices in my summaries of his work.

[5][5] Halifax, Lomax and Arensburg came to similar conclusions about thirty years ago at Columbia University, NY; Halifax (1994: n.p.).

[6][6] A more extensive discussion of differences between the Diné and euro-centric worldview can be found in Kremer (1995).

[7][7] I would like to acknowledge the helpful discussions with Hanson Ashley, David Begay, Avery Denny, Jim Faris, Nancy Marybody and others on these issues. I have tried to represent the Diné perspective as accurately as I can, any misrepresentations should be attributed to me.

[8][8] Intense grief work is part and parcel of undergoing such a process; see Kremer (1995) for a discussion.

Discovering Indigenous Science: Implications for Science Education

Discovering Indigenous Science: Implications for Science Education

Gloria Snively
Department of Social and Natural Sciences, University of Victoria
John Corsiglia
Consultant on First Nation’s history and culture, British Columbia

Abstract: Indigenous science relates to both the science knowledge of long-resident, usually oral culture peoples, as well as the science knowledge of all peoples who as participants in culture are affected by the worldview and relativist interests of their home communities. This article explores aspects of multicultural science and pedagogy and describes a rich and well-documented branch of indigenous science known to biologists and ecologists as traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Although TEK has been generally inaccessible, educators can now use a burgeoning science-based TEK literature that documents numerous examples of time-proven, ecologically relevant, and cost effective indigenous science. Disputes regarding the universality of the standard scientific account are of critical importance for science educators because the definition of science is a de facto “gatekeeping” device for determining what can be included in a school science curriculum and what cannot. When Western modern science (WMS) is defined as universal it does displace revelation-based knowledge (i.e., creation science); however, it also displaces pragmatic local indigenous knowledge that does not conform with formal aspects of the “standard account.” Thus, in most science classrooms around the globe, Western modern science has been taught at the expense of indigenous knowledge. However, because WMS has been implicated in many of the world’s ecological disasters, and because the traditional wisdom component of TEK is particularly rich in time-tested approaches that foster sustainability and environmental integrity, it is possible that the universalist “gatekeeper” can be seen as increasingly problematic and even counter productive. This paper describes many examples from Canada and around the world of indigenous people’s contributions to science, environmental understanding, and sustainability. The authors argue the view that Western or modern science is just one of many sciences that need to be addressed in the science classroom We conclude by presenting instructional strategies that can help all science learner negotiate border crossings between Western modern science and indigenous science.

INTRODUCTION
One of the intense philosophical debates in education literature focuses on the inclusion of multicultural science in mainstream science education, as evidenced by the number of papers submitted to this and other science education journals. For some, multicultural science is seen as important because it can function as a pedagogical stepping stone — especially for multicultural students of science (Atwater & Riley, 1993; Hodson, 1993; Stanley & Brickhouse, 1994). Certain other science educators who champion modern Western science as the last and greatest of the sciences tend to dismiss multicultural science as faddish or heretical (Good, 1995a, 1995b; Gross & Levitt, 1994; Matthews, 1994; Slezak, 1994; Wolpert, 1993).
Suspending consideration of the intrinsic importance of multicultural science Ogawa (1995) stresses that all science students must work through both individual and indigenous science understandings in the course of constructing their knowledge of modern Western science. Ogawa proposes that every culture has its own science and refers to the science in a given culture as its “indigenous science” (Ogawa, 1995, p.585). Westerners freely acknowledge the existence of indigenous art, music, literature, drama, and political and economic systems in indigenous cultures, but somehow fail to apprehend and appreciate indigenous science. Elkana writes: “Comparative studies of art, religion, ethics, and politics abound; however, there is no discipline called comparative science” (Elkana, 1981, p. 2). Thus, in many educational settings where Western modern science is taught, it is taught at the expense of indigenous science, which may precipitate charges of epistemological hegemony and cultural imperialism.
It would seem that the dispute over how science is to be taught in the classroom turns on how the concepts “science” and “universality” are to be defined. The debate rages over the nature of reality and knowledge, definitions of science, and the so-called universalist vs. relativist positions. Sometimes the debate appears to be at least as culture-centric as it is rational. Replying to a Stanley and Brickhouse (1994) suggestion to include examples of multicultural science in the curriculum, Good (1995a) challenged opponents to be specific with their “few well-chosen examples of sciences from other cultures”:

What are these few well-chosen examples that should be included in our school science curriculum? Additionally, it would be very nice to learn how these examples of neglected “science” should change our understanding of biology, chemistry, physics, and so on. Just what contributions will this neglected science make in modern science’s understanding of nature? (p. 335)

As one example of how far the universalist vs. relativist debate can be pushed, the authors have learned that Richard Dawkins is fond of saying: “there are no relativists at 30,000 feet.” No doubt that without an airplane of conventional description, a person at 30,000 feet is in serious trouble, but when universalists take off and land on vulcanized rubber tires they make use of a material and process reportedly discovered and refined by indigenous Peruvians (Weatherford, 1988, 1991). Without multicultural science contributions enabling airplanes to land and take off, there would be neither airplanes, nor for that matter, universalists at 30,000 feet.
While science educators have been fighting epistemological battles that could effectively limit or expand the scope and purview of science education, events on the ground appear to have overtaken us — working scientists have themselves been involved in wide ranging exploration and reform. Especially during the last 25 years, biologists, ecologists, botanists, geologists, climatologists, astronomers, agriculturists, pharmacologists, and related working scientists have labored to develop approaches that are improving our ability to understand and mitigate the impact of human activity upon the environment. By extending their enquiry into the timeless traditional knowledge and wisdom of long-resident, oral peoples, these scientists have in effect moved the borders of scientific inquiry and formalized a branch of biological and ecological science that has become known as the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), which can be thought of as either the knowledge itself, or as documented ethno-science enriched with analysis and explication provided by natural science specialists. The interested reader can find numerous detailed examples of TEK (Andrews, 1988; Berkes, 1988, 1993; Berkes & Mackenzie, 1978, Inglis, 1993; Warren, 1997; Williams & Baines, 1993). Additionally, the present bibliography provides the reader with a number of specific examples of TEK in Canada and worldwide.
Thus, we face four related questions: First, is science an exclusive invention of Europeans, or have scientific ways of thinking and viable bodies of science knowledge also emerged in other cultures? Second, if WMS is taken to be universal, what is the status of the vast quantities of local knowledge that it subsumes, incorporates,and claims to legitimize? Third, what is the proper role of science educators as leaders in the process of refining and clarifying the current definitions of WMS? And fourth, when viable bodies of useful scientific knowledge emerge in other cultures, how can science educators develop programs that enable all students to cross cultural borders — in this instance, between the culture of Western modern science and the cultures of long-resident indigenous peoples?
Because TEK is being used by scientists to solve important biological and ecological problems and because problems of sustainability are pervasive and of very high interest to students and others, it becomes increasingly important for science educators to introduce students to the perspectives of both WMS and TEK. The availability and varies nature of TEK examples will be useful to proponents of multicultural science (Aikenhead, 1995, 1996; Atwater & Riley, 1993; Bowers, 1993a, 1993b; Hodson, 1993; Ogawa, 1989, 1995; Smith, 1982, 1995; Snively, 1990, 1995; Wright, 1992).
In this article, we argue the view that since Aboriginal cultures have made significant contributions to science, then surely there are different ways of arriving at legitimate knowledge. Without knowledge, there can be no science. Thus, the definition of “science” should be broadened, thereby including TEK as science. The intention is not to demean WMS, but instead to point out a body of scientific literature that provides great potential for enhancing our ability to develop more relevant science education programs.

TERMINOLOGY: WESTERN MODERN SCIENCE, INDIGENOUS SCIENCE, AND TEK
Since the phrases “Western modern science,” “indigenous science,” and “traditional ecological knowledge” all have multiple meanings it will be useful to linger briefly with definitions. For clarity, we shall distinguish between “Western modern science” which is the most dominant science in the world and “indigenous science” which interprets how the world works from a particular cultural perspective. This paper focuses on a subset of indigenous science referred to as “traditional ecological knowledge,” which is both the science of long-resident oral peoples and a biological sciences label for the growing literature which records and explores that knowledge.
What is Science?
As is well known, there are numerous versions of what science is, and of what counts as being scientific. The Latin root, scientia, means knowledge in the broadest possible sense and survives in such words as omniscience and prescience. Terms such as “modern science,” “standard science,” “Western science,” “conventional science,” and “official science” have been in use only since the beginning of the twentieth century. For some, scientific abstractions began with Sumerian astronomy and mathematics; for others, scientific theorizing began with Greek atomism; and for yet others, it began toward the end of the nineteenth century when scientists began to grapple with abstract theoretical propositions — for example, evolution, natural selection, and the kinetic-molecular theory. What confidence could one have in theoretical statements built from or based on unobservable data? Care was taken to develop logically consistent rules outlining how theoretical statements can be derived from observational statements. The intent was to create a single set of rules to guide the practice of theory justification (Duschl, 1994). Science can also refer to conceptual constructs approved by logical empiricism (positivism) which, in addition, has the capacity to carry science beyond the realms of observation and experiment. Also, we have come to refer to WMS as officially sanctioned knowledge which can be thought of as inquiry and investigation that Western governments and courts are prepared to support, acknowledge, and use. Some authors have represented “science” with the acronym WMS, which either means “Western modern science” (Ogawa, 1995) or “white male science” (Pomeroy, 1994). Striving toward comprehensive definitions, certain sociology of science scholars have described WMS as institutionalized in Western Europe and North America as a predominately white male, middle-class Western system of meaning and symbols (Rose, 1994; Simonelli, 1994).
In sharp contrast to the exclusivist definitions of science in the previous paragraph, Ogawa (1995) points science educators toward a broadly inclusive conceptualization of what science is by defining science rather simply as “a rational perceiving of reality” (p.588). The merit of the use of the word “perceiving”gives science a “dynamic nature” and acknowledges that “science can experience a gradual change at any time” (p.588). Another point put forward by Ogawa s that “rational” should be seen in relativistic terms, as discussed in the previous section.
The present WMS philosophical climate would require some reconfiguration if TEK, which takes a generally pragmatic approach, is to be properly received as science. Approaches to science seem to have proceeded along two fundamentally different courses — by the timeless procedure of relying on observation and experiment, and, during this century, by the theoretical examination of queries and assertions. By examining the methodology and logic of assertions, questions, and concept, logical empiricism (positivism) has come to function as a vigorous “gatekeeper” that has certainly succeeded in screening out metaphysical, pseudo-science during this century. In fact, logical empiricism (positivism) may have become so powerful a gatekeeper that even experimental science itself appears to have become diminished. Experiment cannot prove the [absolute] correctness of assertions, it can only help to rank or disconfirm theories. Hacking refers to the general difficulty in Boyd, Gaspar, and Trout (1991):

No field in the philosophy of science is more systematically neglected than experiment. Our grade school teachers may have told us that scientific method is experimental method, but histories of science have become histories of theory. (p.247)

Certainly, we may rejoice that logical empiricism (positivism) has been able to screen out historically destructive pseudo-science by exposing the meaninglessness of its metaphyscics, but there are problems. As poet Robert Frost put it, “Before I built a wall I’d ask what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offense.” As an expression of Western culture (or even as a system of pure, value free, universal truth), WMS must inevitably swim in a sea of cultural assumptions about progress, self-interest, winning/losing, aggressiveness, attitude to time (the purview of meaningful history), and the benefits of immediate advantage as opposed to the importance of long-term consequences.
Until the past two or three decades, the gatekeeper’s performance appears to have been generally celebrated. More recently, however, sociologists of science have been vigorous in identifying implicit values and assumptions that can be said to tacitly structure the gatekeeper’s activities. At the same time, a considerable number of working scientists, no doubt mindful of both the gatekeeper’s power to exclude and the real possibility of worldwide environmental collapse, have set up pragmatic TEK science shops. The fact that working scientists are increasingly acknowledging TEK suggests that there are sound reasons for changing the formal definitions of “science” so as to include such important forms of multicultural science as TEK.
Our position on “science” is closely aligned with that of Ogawa (1989) who prefers Elkana’s (1981) understanding of science, which argues that “every culture has its science,” … “something like its own way of thinking and/or its own worldview” and gives the following definition: “By science, I mean a rational (i.e., purposeful, good, directed) explanation of science of the physical world surrounding man” (p.1437). WE agree with Ogawa (1989) when he asserts that “Western science is only one form of science among the sciences of the world” (p.248). Also, the people living in an indigenous culture itself may not recognize the existence of its own science, hence, it may be transferred from generation to generation merely by invisible or nonformal settings (Ogawa, 1989).

Indigenous Science
According to Ogawa (1995), we must distinguish between two levels of science: individual or personal science and cultural or societal science. He refers to science at the culture or society level as “indigenous science” (p.588).
Although we all participate in indigenous science to a greater or lesser degree, long-resident, oral culture peoples may be thought of as specialists in local indigenous science. Indigenous science, sometimes referred to as ethnoscience, has been described as “the study of systems of knowledge developed by a given culture to classify the objects, activities, and events of its given universe” (Hardesty, 1977). Indigenous science interprets how the local world works through a particular cultural perspective. Expressions of science thinking are abundant throughout indigenous agriculture, astronomy, navigation, mathematics, medical practices, engineering, military science, architecture, and ecology. In addition, processes of science that include rational observation of natural events, classification, and problem solving are woven into all aspects of indigenous cultures. It is both remembered sensory information that is usually transmitted orally in descriptive names and in stories where abstract principles are encapsulated in metaphor (Bowers, 1993a, 1993b; Cruikshank, 1981, 1991; Nelson, 1983).
We may note that indigenous science includes the knowledge of both indigenous expansionist cultures (e.g., the Aztec, Mayan, and Mongolian Empires) as well as the home-based knowledge of long-term resident oral resident peoples (i.e., the Inuit, the Aboriginal people of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, Micronesia, and New Zealand).

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)
Although the term TEK came into widespread use in the 1980s, there is no universally accepted definition of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in literature. The term is, by necessity, ambiguous since the words traditional and ecological knowledge are themselves ambiguous. Dictionary etymology shows the Latin roots of “traditional science” to be “knowledge” scientia of the world that is “handed across” or “traded” (from the Latin traduare) across generations of long-resident oral traditional peoples. “Traditional” usually refers to a cultural continuity transmitted in the form of social attitudes, beliefs, principles, and conventions of behavior and practice derived from historical experience. However, as Berkes (1993) points out, “societies change through time, constantly adopting new practices and technologies, and making it difficult to define just how much and what kind of change would affect the labeling of a practice as traditional” (p.3). Because of this, many scholars avoid using the term “traditional.” As well, some purists find the term unacceptable or inappropriate when referring to societies such as native northern groups whose lifestyles have changed considerably over the years. For this reason, some prefer the term “indigenous knowledge” (IK), which helps avoid the debate about tradition, and explicitly puts the emphasis on indigenous people (Berkes, 1993). The term “ecological knowledge” poses definition problems of its own. If ecology is defined narrowly as a branch of biology in the domain of Western science, then strictly speaking there can be no TEK; most traditional peoples are not modern Western scientists. If ecological knowledge is defined broadly to refer to the “knowledge, however acquired, of relationships of living being with one another and with the environment, then the term TEK becomes tenable” (Berkes, 1993, p.3)
TEK generally represents experience acquired over thousands of years of direct human contact with the environment. Although the term TEK only came into widespread use, the practice of TEK is ancient (Berkes, 1993). The science of long-resident peoples differs considerably from group to group depending on locale and is knowledge built up through generations of living in close contact with the land. Figure 1 show one way of attempting to describe TEK within an indigenous science framework and of emphasizing its importance to contemporary environmental issues. Examples of indigenous and TEK science may be accessed through living elders and specialists of various kinds or found in the literature of TEK, anthropology, ethnology, ethnobiology, ethnogeography, ethnohistory, and mythology, as well as in the archived records of traders, missionaries, and government functionaries.
TEK information is sometimes cherished as private or belonging to one family only. Also, in many traditions, oral information may only be shared under particular circumstances, for example, when it is clear that no one intends to use the knowledge for gain.