Tag Archives: recovery

Shamanic Inquiry as Recovery of Indigenous Mind (PDF)












Toward an egalitarian

exchange of knowledge


Published in:

Schenk & Ch. Rätsch (Eds.), 1999, What is a shaman?,

Journal for Ethnomedicine, special volume 13, 125 – 140.

Berlin: VWB – Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung

[Page numbers inserted below as P125 etc.]



Jürgen W. Kremer

3383 Princeton Drive

Santa Rosa, CA 95405




[P125] Abstract




 [P126] Dreaming

A few years ago I had a dream which pertains to the issues at hand:

The location of the dream is Hamburg, the town where I grew up in Northern Germany. Sitting on the threshold in the doorway of a pre-war brick house beside my partner I overlook the river Elbe from on high. We are atop the ancient ice age rim of the river, the border of its once miles wide flow, thousands of years ago when reindeer roamed these latitudes. The reindeer now live much farther north, and the river moves in a much more narrow bed; yet it still spreads to considerable widths three hundred or so feet below us, where ferries criss-cross its course and ocean liners enter and leave the harbor. We are not just sitting atop an ancient river bed, but also very close to the old building where I went for Kindergarten shortly after the Second World War. At that time it was a place with a comforting huge tile stove and a garden with plants and trees inviting the imagination of children at play. I realize that there are achaeological excavations in process behind the old Kindergarten. Signs are put up all around it: No trespassing! Stay out! Not to be deterred, I leave my body at the moment of seeing these signs and enter the forbidden grounds. I hover over the ancient ruins which are uncovered thanks to the work of the archaeological team. A round, towerlike structure emerging from the depths of the ground is clearly visible. It appears to extend a good ways into the earth. I understand that this is an ancestral ceremonial structure, as are other similar ones right next to it. The name of the place where this dig into ancient cultural history occurs is Altona[P127] meaning “all-too-near.” Legend has it that an orphan was blindfolded when the burghers of Hamburg wanted to expand their overpopulated city. The idea was to place the new town where the orphan would stumble and fall. But what happened was unexpected. The boy had barely left the city gates, when he stumbled and fell. The attendant burghers exclaimed in surprise that this was all too near, in the local vernacular:  “All to nah!”  – thence the name for this part of the city – Altona. The place where I gain access to the layers below the contemporary city and old ancestral cultural memories is all too close in this dream, right there with my childhood, and fenced in by signs forbidding entry.


I wake up bringing with me not only the memory of the dream images, but its self-interpretation at the end. This dream contained an answer to the curiosity and spiritual hunger which I had tried to satisfy since adolescence through the study of native peoples and shamanism in particular.


This dream and the image of the abstract at the beginning define my approach to shamanic inquiry. They also point to the cultural struggle of “the west.” The key to shamanic inquiry in the eurocentered context is the remembrance in itself of what it seeks in other peoples – recovering indigenous mind. Cultural history and the prevailing definitions of scientific inquiry make such a project difficult, to say the least. Native American intellectual John Mohawk has put it thus: “I do not want people to adopt Indian rituals because I want people to own their own rituals. I want them to come to ownership out of experiences that are real to them. Then I’ll come and celebrate it with them.”


Let me circumlocute this dream by responding to the editors’ request to present my personal interpretation of shamanism. The following statements are purposefully succinct and provocative; they are presented in no particular order or hierarchy. A theorem is the result of something seen (Greek qewrew), whether as mental speculation or at a spectacle or performance. I offer what I have speculated and seen of proceedings shamanic as “conversation pieces” arranged around the dream and the image initially given. This is what I have learned from my work with Native Elders, shamans, medicine people, and noaidis. As such they are my personal contribution to an ancient immanent conversation. This particular conversation disallows artificial splits between the concrete and abstract, between the personal-biographical and the impersonal-general, between transcendent and immanent, etc. It is integral in the profoundest sense of the word. I have presented arguments for my approach elsewhere, references to these publications are inserted behind technical terms or statements warranting explication. Here I am describing my perspective in a personal way. I am doing this with awareness of my maleness, and my mixed Germanic ancestry. I am also quite conscious of my current location in the U.S., and the impact Native American intellectuals and spiritual leaders have had on me. I write for Europeans and people of European descent; others engaged in a eurocentered consciousness process need to see what useful things they may or may not glean from this. I paint black and white, what truly isn’t black and white at all – but all this may be a good starting point for a conversation.




Conversation Piece #1

Shamanism is a construct which mirrors eurocentric thinking.

The Ism of shamanism is the part “made up” or constructed by the early ethnographers and anthropologists serving the abstracting and universalizing pursuit of truth as defined in the western sciences. This definition of science is inherently imperialistic, as it relinquishes its participation in the phenomena in order to grasp and control what is left to be seen after the act of dissociation (1992b). Thus, as shamanism attempts to grasp the desired knowledge it may reflect more of itself in the mirror, than of the native peoples it is interacting with. In this sense the Ism of shamanism is all made up by eurocentric thinking. At this historical juncture I feel an obligation for specific cultural healing to the Tungus ªaman whose exposure to Russian visitors in the 17th century presumably led to the terminology of shamanism (see Voigt, 1984, for a discussions of the etymology and history of the word shaman); had ethnographers written in a similar vein about the yomtas of the Pomo-Miwok people, or the noaidis of the Sámi people, or the volvas of the Norse people, or the hataalis of the Diné people, we now might have the Ism of Yomtism, Noaidism, Volvism, or Hataalism. My interest is in the specificity of the immanent conversation, not just in order to pay hommage to cultural diversity, but to continue and affirm the specific indigenous knowledge (whether ecological, medical, astronomical, or otherwise) which can help us in our times of crisis. The most important questions to ask for any inquirer into matters shamanic is: What is the construction, what is the conversation I am participating in, if I am to inquire into what I am interested in? The Ism is the part where the labors of eurocentric social constructions are most visible, and where the loss of specific understanding of people, places, times, stories, and ceremonies needs to be recovered; the ªaman (or noaidi or yomta) is where the power of individual, cultural, and ecological healing rests through the specificity of the conversation.


Conversation Piece #2

Reflection upon and awareness of one’s own cultural viewpoint is a mandatory prerequisite for participation in the conversation.

I view shamanism as a particular aspect of an ancient, immanent conversation which indigenous people all over are continuing to this day (1996b, g, 1997e). This conversation is summarized in the graphic of the abstract. It is defined by its conscious participation in the phenomena (rather than a distancing view of the phenomena; 1992b). People of European descent or people who have entered the eurocentered process of consciousness have split themselves off from this ongoing interaction with place, ancestry, animals, plants, spirit(s), community, story, ceremony, cycles of life, and cycles of the seasons and ages. This dissociation has created a conceptualization of social evolution, in which a major shift has occurred from prehistory to history, from oral traditions to writing civilizations, from the immanent presence of spirit(s) to the transcendence of god(s). In my [P129] analysis, we engage in acts of imperialism – however subtle they may be – as long as we don’t understand our own shamanic and indigenous roots. I find it only legitimate to write about shamanism if what I write is true to my own shamanic tradition (even when and especially when writing about others). We can only be proper participants in shamanic exchange and dialogue if we know who we are as indigenous people. Otherwise we should take our hands off of other cultures. (1996a, 1994a, e).


Conversation Piece #3

The inquirer as partner in dialogue.

So, why do inquiry – even shamanic inquiry as recovery of indigenous mind? I can only think of one good reason: To resume an ancient conversation, which has balance as a goal (rather than control and progress), in order to be able to redress the ill effects wrought by an obsession with technological progress, an increase in population, etc. For me to become a partner in dialogue I need to recover my own indigenous roots, not to recreate a past long gone, but to move into the future in a complete, holistic conversation. If this is the context for dialogical inquiry, then there is no privileged access to knowledge nor a privileged preservation of knowledge; “Truth” has become truths or “temporary resolutions” to the issues at hand. As part of such conversation and dialogue it may become apparent that there are certain things to be said, and certain things which we need to be silent about (in our own tradition or in traditions we are exchanging with). (1997e, 1996a, f, 1994d)


Conversation Piece #4

If I don’t know who I am as an indigenous person, I should not write about other indigenous people.

Fundamentally, in my book there is no legitimate inquiry about shamanism unless I know who I am as an indigenous person. Of course, as a consequence of knowing that (or parts of that)  the need for inquiry and the nature of inquiry change entirely. If I know who I am as an indigenous or cultural person (however fragmented that understanding may be), then I may be able to relate to other native peoples (peoples still practicing shamanism) as an equal partner in dialogue, rather than arrive as an outsider intent on finding “Truth” (the implicit assumption of the eurocentered paradigm is that this “Truth” then ultimately should also become the tribe’s “Truth” as evolution continues, and the tribe investigated advances on the evolutionary ladder, thus presumably incorporating the “Truth” of self-defined more advanced civilizations). Of course, my guiding interests in shamanic inquiry are bound to change as I understand and remember myself as a person with indigenous roots. As long as we think writing about shamanism is about “them,” we remain unconscious of shamanism in us. (1996a, 1994h)



Conversation Piece #5

Shamanism is just one aspect of the immanent conversation of native peoples.

For me it is important to keep in mind that what is commonly understood as shamanism is just one aspect of a complex set of cultural practices. (It should be noted that the terms “shaman” and “shamanism” are problematic for many indigenous peoples, Native Americans in particular.) To split the indigenous conversation in such a way that healing endeavors become highlighted serves eurocentered research approaches and their knowledge construction, but distorts what is known by virtue of decontextualization. What appears as unusual, inexplicable or even bizarre through this lense may have entirely different connotations if seen as part of the holistic indigenous conversation. Thus we exaggerate the unusualness of phenomena, ultimately only trivializing it because it is denuded of what it is a natural part of. It splits individual healing from communal or cultural healing, it neglects that individual illness is situated in the context of a process of cultural balancing – history, place, story, ceremony, etc. For me this means that my shamanic inquiry requires that I participate in the entire conversation, and understand healing from that perspectve. “To heal” is etymologically connected with the German heilen, and the indo-european root *kailo-, referring to a state and process of wholeness (“whole” also being related to this root). But “to heal” is also connectect to “holy” (as is heilen to heilig), which gives an ancient root to the reemergent wholistic and transpersonal perspectives on healing. Lincoln (1986, 118) concludes his analysis of “healing” in the indo-european context by stating “that 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.” For what is stated here regarding the older layers of indo-european thinking we can find analogies in contemporary indigenous traditions, such as the Navajo chantways. (1997h, 1996a, b, g).


Conversation Piece #6

Recovery of indigenous mind is the appropriate contemporary definition of shamanism for people of eurocentered consciousness.

Shamanism is commonly defined as the practice of some form of “technology” (including intentional alterations of consciousness) for the benefit of individuals or a community, conducted by practitioners who have been endorsed by this community. It is my contention that the appropriate contemporary practice of shamanism for people ensconced in the eurocentered paradigm is the recovery of their indigenous roots (and this way their own “shamanic” traditions, “shamanic” being a word probably more appropriate for people of Eurasian descent than anybody else). This is the starting point from which all manners of shamanic healing may arise. This then is a healing process on behalf of the individual, family history, history, community; in short, it is the healing of the [P131] dissociative split and the recovery of participation in the phenomena. Physical and psychological healing are a particular aspects of this. Shamanic inquiry becomes recovery of indigenous mind, which becomes the resumption of the ancient, immanent conversation. Ecologist Wolfgang Sachs talks about the necessity to develop the social imagination for sustainability; it is my contention that we can develop such imagination through the restitution of the indigenous consciousness process, where we can inquire about and understand the needs of all participants in a particular place and time. Balance may thus be regained. To presume that any such project of recovery work can arrive within one lifetime at the level of immanent conversation still practiced by contemporary native peoples (even in the face of colonization) would by hubris – recovering the indigenous consciousness process after a prolonged history of dissociation is a multigenerational project.


Conversation Piece #7

We need to travel in a way which does not touch “the other” with the virus of progress.

How then are we to travel to other places and do inquiry about shamanic traditions? Maybe we are not to travel there. The minute we cease and desist the “othering” of shamanic cultures we have to question deeply why we are traveling and where we are going. If we aspire to be partners in dialogue, then any conversation requires mutual consent. Additionally, it requires the consent of all participants in the conversation. This means, for example, that I cannot travel without my ancestors. It also means that I need a welcome from the ancestors of where I want to go. Thus it takes an invitation from the partners in dialogue, but it also takes permission from ones own indigenous culture. Dreams are important here. Offerings and conversation with spirit(s) are mandatory. And more. I know that as long as I don’t travel within the framework of this immanent conversation I am bound to infect wherever I go with the virus of dissociation and progress. I can only travel once the other has ceased to be other for me. (See McGrane, 1989 for relevant discussions; Kremer, 1994a).



Conversation Piece #8

The hunger for shamanism is the denial of the indigenous roots from which eurocentered thinking originated.

The current interest in shamanism reflects more than just a “legitimate research field” (in the scientific view), which is finally receiving some acknowledgement (of course, the legitimacy of this interest is tautologically defined and justified by the scientific paradigm itself). With it comes a cultural hunger created by the loss of indigenous conversations in eurocentered societies. The fascination with exotic other cultures, the nostalgic yearning [P132] for something ideal in the past, or the romantic images of Native Americans riding the plains or retreating into kivas on remote mesas – all this originates from cultural starvation. Of course, there is an incredible amount we can learn from indigenous peoples in general, and shamanism specifically, which may benefit our modernist pathologies, provided this learning occurs in an appropriate context. And, of course, indigenous peoples have never lived in a perfect world, the ideal of balance is always and at best a fleeting achievement. Traditional Hopi stories describing situations where things are out of balance (koyaanisqatsi) are very educational in this regard; see the Hopi Ruin Legends (Lomatuway’ma et al., 1993). Our idealizations are the flip side of evolutionary thinking, and an expression of its shadow. The projection of our hunger onto other cultural traditions is not going to satisfy the emptiness in ourselves. In a sense it is junk food. Being nurtured by our own indigenous traditions and nurturing them in return is what will satisfy and stop idealizations, romanticism, and nostalgia. The research of other cultures and the incorporation of their practices without consent is only legitimate, as long as we act within a dissociative paradigm. Once we regain our own immanent conversation, inquiry and exchange of ceremonial practices need to await guidance from the conversation of all parties involved – ancestors, communities, plants, animals, stars, and all. Or, in the words of Jung: “Shall we be able to put on, like a new suit of clothes, ready-made symbols grown on foreign soil, saturated with foreign blood, spoken in a foreign tongue, nourished by a foreign culture, interwoven with foreign history, and so resemble a beggar who wraps himself in kingly raiment, a king who disguises himself as beggar? No doubt this is possible. Or is there something in ourselves that commands us to go in for no mummeries, but perhaps to sew our garment ourselves?” (1970, 49)



Converation Piece #9

The cross-cultural differences between indigenous and eurocentered peoples is qualitative, rather than quantitative.

Another way of saying this is: Cross-cultural differences between eurocentered peoples are of the same order, and cross-cultural differences between indigenous peoples are of the same order, but the differences between these two groups are of a different order or quality. I have defined the evolutionary trajectory of the so-called civilizing process as dissociative schismogenesis (1992b, c). This is a run-away pathological process, where the split from one’s origin increases in an addictive dynamic governed by progress ideologies, and where the loss of awareness of one’s root has tremendous power. Phenomena are seen as entirely external, and one’s participation in the phenomena is unconscious. – On the other hand, the immanent conversation of native peoples is aware of its active participation in the creation of the phenomena. The (explicit or implicit) goal of the conversation is not some transcendent state or some evolutionary goal set in the future; the goal is balance within each individual, between individuals, and among all participants of the conversation, balance within the cycles of the different world ages, balance as hunters, [P133] horticulturalists, gatherers or pastoralists, balance as sedentary people or nomads. – This qualitative difference between these two groups of cultures leads to tremendous interactive problems, which remain largely veiled for eurocentric folk. They are the proverbial apples and oranges. The dissociative inquirer can only approach the participative conversation qua dissociative means – resulting in an imperialistic acquisition of knowledge. The participative conversation, because of its values, usually welcomes dissociative inquirers, even when their pathology is apparent (the traditional worldview usually makes such open door policy practically mandatory, and frequently disregards the significant qualitative difference in paradigm, a difference which is also politically highly relevant). The truth generated by this approach (whether in one of the sciences or as new age spiritual practice) is, in final analysis, a validation for the conversation of the dominant paradigm. The indigenous conversation has no need for research other than the ceremonial and spiritual inquiry into what is needed for balancing in a particular place at a specific time in history. To my mind that is more research than most of us can handle. Exchanges with other indigenous cultures are guided by the contents of this conversation. – Wislawa Szymborska’s poem Conversation with a stone describes the distinction I am talking about aptly: ” “You shall not enter,” says the stone. // “You lack the sense of taking part. // No other sense can make up for your missing sense of taking part. // Even sight heightened to become all-seeing // will do you no good without a sense of taking part. // You shall not enter, you have only a sense of what that sense should be, // only its seed, imagination.” ” – These differences in paradigm can easily be illustrated in the area of physical healing, say with herbs: Within the eurocentered 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 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.


Conversation Piece #10

Dialog partners have the historic task of healing the history of projective identification in relation to indigenous peoples.

In relation to indigenous peoples colonialism is always an essential ingredient in the context of exchange, dialogue or research. The euro-centered, well-bounded ego frequently cannot see this deep structure of such encounters, which is present whether talked about or left unspoken or unconscious. It is this ego, which is likely to project from its personality make-up whatever it has dissociated from into its own past or onto indigenous peoples. In fact, projective identification may be the most apt clinical term to point to the [P134] psycho-emotional process eurocentered cultures are engaged in with contemporary indigenous peoples (this term also acknowledges that history is carried and handed down specifically in the process of socialization within each individual). Projective identification means that other people are made to feel the highly conflicted and split off material dominant cultures unconsciously injected into them – so that they feel and experience it as if it is their own. Natives feel the eurocentered dissociation from prehistory, ancestry, nature, etc. as self-hatred (“primitives”) which is destructive to their cultures. Of course, self-hatred as an effect of internalized colonization warrants a much longer statement than I can offer here. Notably, in individual psychotherapy projective identification is known to be a pathological process oftentimes quite resistant to change because of its strongly self-reinforcing nature; this would seem to imply that we can assume strong resistance to the healing of the history of colonialism in the relationship between indigenous and eurocentered cultures. I would think that the retraction of these projections is the first order of business; for this we need a different metaphor than “regression in the service of the ego”, which is appropriate for individual psychotherapy. I suggest that the integration of history and prehistory qua connection with indigenous roots (recovering indigenous mind) is an appropriate terminology. The reintegration of cultural shadow material presupposes the possibility of an ego – the indigenous ego in communal conversation, if you wish – which would be differently constructed than our contemporary ego can easily imagine. The revival of shamanic practices can be an aspect of the resolution of historically determined shadow material – or it may perpetrate the denial further.


Conversation Piece #11

Psychologizing spirit(s) misses the mark.

For Europeans and Euroamericans the easiest way – other than by anthropological means – to approach native peoples and their shamanism is probably via psychology, particularly transpersonal pyschology. This seems to be the current moving force within eurocentered societies, where the influence of psychological thinking has increased steadily over the years. Joseph Campbell’s approach to mythology and Jung’s archetypal psychology offer attractive avenues in this regard. While these and others can be extremely helpful for people of euro-centered consciousness, they easily become problematic projections when applied to native peoples. Jung himself had actually quite a good understanding of this when he looked toward alchemy as an earlier tradition in his own background or when he stated: “A spiritual need has produced in our time the “discovery” of psychology.” While various forms of psychology may open the door to the remembrance of an indigenous mind process for people of European descent, even transpersonal psychology is hardly identical with it. It is important to be aware that an archetype is not a spirit. Psychologizing spirit is a way of preserving and affirming eurocentered thinking. Faris (1990, 12) has summarized this succinctly in his discussion of the Jungian interpretations of Navajo traditions: ” Such motions … are still popular and [P135] 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.” To my mind the prerequisite for writing about shamanism is that spirits are or have been present to the author. Otherwise it seems more appropriate to be silent about a universe only partly seen.


Conversation Piece #12

Remembering indigenous roots is medicine.

It seems so much easier to see the “medicine” in a plant, a feather or a stone people lodge (sweat) – and it is so much harder to see the medicine offered by the confrontation with history. The land I live on now is not my ancestral land – it is the ancestral land of the Ramaytush-speaking people of the San Francisco peninsula, the first people of this particular land with a name we still remember, the original keepers of this land. The beauty of the land I live on has suffered from the devastating consequences of technological progress. I live in a society where the destruction of its aboriginal cultures is scarcely acknowledged and is not mourned by the majority of people; living in this society I am in a certain way complicit in the ongoing perpetration of racism and cultural genocide. Yet, I also live in a city which seems to be among the most comfortably and richly multicultural places in the U.S., with less pollution than in many other metropolitan areas. My Germanic ancestry puts me in the gateway of the Shoah. I recall Hitler’s perversions of mythology in the service of genocide; I will never forget the image of the Germanic goddess Nerthus cattle-drawn past Hitler, which I saw in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. I recall the aberrations of the Vikings, their vicious slaughters and conquering – another guardian at the threshold. Passing these and more guardians, witnessing what they hold, is to heal old collective wounds as they have been passed down to me as an individual, passed down consciously and unconsciously. These guardians don’t stand at the threshold simply to propagate guilt. The guardians are medicine for the collective shadow of the Western world. They are the medicine of remembrance with all that it entails, be it fear, pain, guilt, anger. Ancestry and stories of origins and homeland have been abused for various ideological purposes, usually right-wing and fascistic. The story of our cultural self-understanding is open-ended, necessarily. The exposure to the medicine of the guardians is mandatory in order to counter chauvinistic or nationalistic abuses. The healing power – for individual as well as collective healing – of the witnessing of history with all its perversions, twists, and contradictions, is a) a prerequisite for anybody of European descent as part of shamanic work, and b) in a profound sense more powerful than any animal bone or feather that one might want to pick up.


Boring Things

I am bored with the shifting fashions of shamanic inquiry and New Age appropriations – yesterday the Australian aborigines, now the Siberian tribes. I am bored with the fashions of charismatic figures and the disempowerment of seekers.


Exciting Things

I am excited about the possibility of the disappearance of the white man (‘white man’ in the sense of the masculinization of the phenomena through eurocentric consciousness). I am excited about the possibility of resuming ancient forms of knowledge exchange, where we all might mirror each other through the original instructions we all received (while taking care of the teaching circles or instructions from the tree of life). I am excited about developing evolutionary thinking which gets us off the linear trajectory through the remembrance of all of our traditional stories (the cycles of history as evolution). I am excited about the possibility to see the history of our planet spoken in multivocality, which respects not only different traditions, but takes care of each place and time to the best of our ancient understandings for today. I am excited about the possibility of universal connection through specificity of knowledge trade rather than dissociation and abstraction. I am excited about the possibility that the oppositions between cultural relativism and scientism may resolve itself into the universalism of the knowledge exchange among immanent conversations.


Shamanic Career

The outline of my “shamanic career” can be given briefly: During adolescence I developed a benign form of cancer, a bone tumor. The surgery and subsequent healing process prevented me from undertaking a journey which I had dreamed of since childhood: I had won a scholarship at my school to visit the northernmost part of Scandinavia – Sápmi – and to go to a place which lived most vividly in my imagination: Girkonjárga (which I knew then only as the Kirkenes of the Norwegian language). Many years later I had an unexpected experience which jolted me out of the life course I was on (the practice of clinical psychology), and – finally – led me to that very place in Sápmi: During an experience – commonly labelled “out of body experience” – I appeared as an agent in what seemed a healing for another person. This embarked me on an exploration of various alternate forms of healing, primarily those called ‘shamanic.’ I spent time with shamans and medicine people from various cultures, including Navajo, Cherokee, Pomo-Miwok, Japanese, Cambodian; I travelled incessantly to the tribes and archaeological sites of the Southwestern U.S. In addition to studying these various traditions I fasted, danced, and sweated. I also explored what various proponents of New Age shamanism had to offer – [P137] some of these people were native, some of them not so native or fake native, all of them were decontextualized in one form or another. As I listened to them and researched their claims the meaning of their decontextualization became increasingly apparent to me. After years of study with and of traditional, non-traditional, and anti-traditional people I realized that I could not be a participant in indigenous endeavors unless I knew who I was as an indigenous person. The work with my Oneida colleague, Dr. Pamela Colorado, was instrumental for this process; her conceptualization of “indigenous science” has impacted much of my work. The realization regarding my own indigenous roots led me to review my relationships with people who had taught me and who I had researched, and resulted in a deep exploration of my Germanic ancestry. I worked through some of the shame and embarassment which had prevented me in the past from looking at the older layers of Nordic history. I finally began taking trips not just back to Germany, but to the last remaining people in Europe living in an indigenous frame of mind, the Saami people of the far north of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula, the land they call Sápmi or Saami Eatnan. The meetings with the members of PRATEC from Lima, Peru – facilitated by Frederique Apffel-Marglin – were influential in my own conceptualizations of immanent conversation (particularly thanks to conversations with the late Eduardo Grillo). Out of the many Saami people who met with me during my travels the ongoing work with Biret-Máret Kallio is of particular significance for my recovery work and its conceptualizations. […] (See 1997a, c, 1996e for extensive autobiographical material.)



It seems customary to think about influences in terms of books and teachers. For me other storehouses, “libraries”, or “universities” for ancient knowledge have been at least equally significant, namely rock art and archaeological and sacred sites. On the continent where I live the rock knowledge of the Southwestern U.S. (Horse Shoe Canyon, and innumerable other sites), and sacred places like Chaco Canyon, White House Ruin, Spider Rock, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and others have been of tremendous importance for me. In Europe the rock knowledge of sacred sites in Bohuslän, Nämforsen, and Jiebmaluokta in particular, and places like Čeavceageađge have been of particular significance. Early on the work of Stanley Krippner and the contacts he provided were influential. Other than Colorado, Wilkinson, Kallio, and PRATEC the works by Pentekäinen, Valkeapää, Mohawk, Deloria, Churchill, McGrane, Faris deserve particular mention. The many native teachers who have generously shared their knowledge and ceremonies are gratefully acknowledged.




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

Churchill, W. (1995). Since predator came. Littleton, CO: Aigis.

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.

Colorado, P. (1996). Indigenous science. ReVision, Vol. 18 (3), 6-10.

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

Deloria, V. (1995). Red earth, white lies. NY: Scribner

Deloria, V. (1996). If you think about it, you will see that it is true. ReVision, 18(3), 37-44.

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

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

Jung, C.G. (1970). Psychological reflections. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Quote from collected works 10, 26f.)

Kallio, B.-M. (1996). Noaidi – jemand, der sieht. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(1), 59-77.

Krippner, S. & A. Villoldo. (1976). The realms of healing. Millbrae, CA: Celestial Arts.

Krippner, S. & P. Welch (1992). Spiritual dimensions of healing New York: Irvington.

Krippner, S. (1986). Dreams and the development of a personal mythology. The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 7(2-3), 449 – 461.

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.

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

Lomatuway’ma, M., L. Lomatuway’ma, S. Namingha & E. Malotki (1993). Kiqötutuwutsi – Hopi ruin legends. Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University.

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

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

Szymborska, W. (1995). view with a grain of sand. NY: Harcourt Brace.

Valkeapää, N.-A. (1985). Trekways of the wind. Guovdageaidnu, Norway: DAT.

Valkeapää, N.-A. (1991). Beaivi, Áh_á_an. Guovdageaidnu, Norway: DAT.

Valkeapää, N.-A. (1996). Poems from Trekways of the wind. ReVision, 18(3), 45-48.

Voigt, V. (1984). Shaman – Person or word? In M. Hoppál (ed.), Shamanism in Eurasia (part 1) (13-20). Göttingen, Germany: edition herodot.

Wilkinson, T. (1996). Persephone returns. Berkeley, CA: Pagemill.


Publications pertaining to my summary of shamanic inquiry

(1997a) Recovering indigenous mind. ReVision, 19(4).

(1997b). Transforming learning transforming. ReVision, 20(1); see also (1994k).

(1997c). BeFORe Gimbutas. ReVision, 20(1)

(1997d). Introduction to special issue on transformative learning. ReVision, 20(1)

(1997e). Editor of a ReVision issue (vol. 20, #1) on Transformative Learning

(1997f). Editor (with Joseph Prabhu) of a ReVision issue (vol. 19, #4) on Alternative Perspectives on Development

(1997g). Editor of a ReVision issue (vol. 19, #3) on Indigenous Science – Further Contributions.

(1997h) Die Schattenseiten evolutionären Denkens – Ken Wilber als Beispiel (Teil II). Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(2).

(1997i). Übersetzung des Artikels Noaidi von Biret-Máret Kallio. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(1), 59-77.

(1996a) The Possibility Of Recovering Indigenous European Perspectives On Native Healing Practices. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen , 5(2),149-164.

(1996b) The shadow of evolutionary thinking. ReVision, 19(1), 41-48.

(1996c) Lingering shadows. ReVision, 19(2), 43-44.

(1996d) The shadow of evolutionary thinking (enlarged article). In submission for reader edited by Rothberg and Kelly on Ken Wilber and the future of transpersonal inquiry – A spectrum of views.

(1996e) Mind on fire. ReVision, 19(3); at press

(1996f) Introduction to special issue on indigenous science. ReVision, 19(3); at press

(1996g) Die Schattenseiten evolutionären Denkens – Ken Wilber als Beispiel (Teil I). Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(1), 41-58.

(1996h). Editor of a ReVision issue (Vol. 18, #3) on Indigenous Science.

(1995a) Evolving into what and for whose purpose?. ReVision, Winter 1996, 18(3),27-36.

(1995b) Introduction: Indigenous science. ReVision, Winter 1996, 18(3), 2-5.

(1994a). Seidr or trance? ReVision, Spring 1994, 16(4), 183-191

(1994b). Trance postures (with Stanley Krippner). ReVision, Spring 1994, 16(4), 173-182.

(1994c). Foreword (with Jean Achterberg). ReVision, Spring 1994, 16(4), 147

(1994d). Shamanic tales of power. In: van Quekelberghe (ed.), Trance, Possession, Healing Rituals, and Psychotherapy / Yearbook of Cross-Cultural Medicine and Psychotherapy 1994(pp. 153-180). Mainz, Germany: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung.

(1994e). Perspectives on indigenous healing. Noetic Sciences Review, Spring 1995, 13-18.

(1994f). 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.

(1994g).Traditional Knowledge Leads to a Ph.D. [Interview with Pamela Colorado and Jürgen Kremer, by Richard Simonelli] Winds of Change 9(4), 43-48.

(1994h). Euro-americans, retribalize! Printed in 1994k

(1994i). On understanding indigenous healing practices. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 4(1), 3-36. (1995)

(1994j). 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.

(1994k). Looking for Dame Yggdrasil. Red Bluff, CA: Falkenflug Press.

(1993a) 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. Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia. [In press]

(1993b). Co-guest editor (with Jean Achterberg) of a ReVision issue (Vol. 16, #4) on Trance and Healing – Psychology Biology and Culture.

(1992a) Culture and ways of knowing. ReVision, Spring 1992, 14(4), 167. [Foreword]

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

(1992c). Culture and ways of knowing – Part II. ReVision, Summer 1992, 15(1),3. [Foreword]

(1992d). Whither dark night of the scholar? ReVisions, Summer 1992, 15(1), 4-12.

(1992e). Prolegomena shamanica. Red Bluff, CA: Falkenflug Press.

(1992g). Guest editor of two ReVision issues (Vol. 14, #4 and Vol. 15, #1) on Culture and Ways of Knowing

(1992h). Memory Lightning Memory. ReVision, 1992, 15(1), backcover. [Story.]

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

(1990a) Vincent Van Gogh: “Great artist and failure in initiation?”. In R. I. Heinze (Ed.),  Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Modes of Healing (pp. 151-161). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1990b) Sacred crafts (with Debra White). In R. I. Heinze (Ed.),  Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Modes of Healing (pp. 176-185). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1989a) The shaman’s body. In R. I. Heinze (Ed.), Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Models of Healing (pp. 375-384). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1989b) Authentic traditions and their confrontations with Western knowledge. Journal of Navajo Education, Winter 1989, VI, 3-12.

(1988a). Tales of Power. In R. I. Heinze (Ed.), Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Models of Healing (pp. 31-49). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1988b). Shamanic tales as ways of personal empowerment. In G. Doore (Ed.), Shaman’s Path: Healing, Personal Growth, and Empowerment (pp. 189-199). Boston, MA: Shambala.

(1988c) Metanoia – Tales of power and epistemological learning. Journal of Learning, 1(1), 28-43.

(1987). The shaman and the epistemologer. In R. I. Heinze (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Models of Healing (pp. 7 – 21). Berkeley, CA: Independent Scholars of Asia.

(1986). The human science approach as discourse. Saybrook Review, 6,65-105.



Reconstructing indigenous consciousness: Preliminary considerations (PDF)

Reconstructing indigenous consciousness –

Preliminary considerations


Jürgen W. Kremer, PhD

3383 Princeton Drive

Santa Rosa, CA 95405




Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 8(1), 32-56.

[Page numbers inserted below as P32 etc.]


[P32] Introduction

This article addresses issues which do not have a clear domain in eurocentered thinking: they are neither psychology nor anthropology nor philosophy – while touching upon all these domains and using the discourses they offer. These prelimary remarks are intended to lay the groundwork for an indigenous discourse or conversation originating from eurocentered traditions and designed for eurocentered traditions; as such they use the tools offered by these discourses in a self-reflective and critical fashion. This point is crucial: No attempt is made to speak on behalf of indigenous peoples or to interpret their situation or needs or perceived historical trajectory. This contribution focuses on the indigenous roots of eurocentered traditions by way of a self-reflective look at their histories and the contemporary eurocentered situation.


My discussion is in contrast to concerns indigenous peoples might have. Issues of indigenous consciousness are quite different for people(s) who either have a living tradition or who have lost connection with their indigenous roots only during very recent times. The common genocidal threat to native peoples is a factor absent from the eurocentered traditions, who represent the colonizing forces. The significantly greater availability of oral traditions, ceremonies, indigenous healing practices, etc. is another difference. The latter point means that issues of indigenous consciousness within eurocentered traditions have to be largely reconstructive because of the multigenerational interruption of any practices resembling a native lifeway (this applies despite the fact that isolated remnants are surviving in various forms).


If we reject the option of imitating indigenous practices from other cultures, then we are left with the challenge of working our way through our own historical trajectory in reconstructive efforts to discover what it might mean for eurocentered folk to be present in their indigenous minds. Such endeavor certainly does not and should not preclude the learning from contemporary indigenous peoples – in fact, it is only wise to seek their help. But it means that the alternative to the imitation of existing indigenous traditions is the Wiederaufarbeitung of the historical development which brought us to where we are now – a critical Vergangenheitsbewältigung which also integrates, appreciates, and validates as it attempts to heal that which constitutes pathology from an indigenous perspective.


All traditions, whether indigenous or eurocentered, have always changed. However, the nature of change is different in either paradigm: the maintenance of an intact or somewhat intact indigenous discourse or conversation follows the course of a spiral as the circles of greater and lesser completeness move through time. The change in the eurocentered [P33] traditions has been an increasing distance from, denial of, and devaluation of their indigenous roots – the line of progress. Consequently, the critical review of the changes looks different in the latter case and has to confront whatever problems and advancement eurocentered history has wrought. We cannot leap out of our historical situation, we have to work our way through it, embracing the light and embracing the shadow material and the creative energies released in this fashion.


The crucial point here is, according to all the native and indigenous people (shamans, medicine people and intellectuals) I have spoken to, 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, particular the ecological crisis, rests. For example, Bob Haozous, 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). Reconstructing indigenous consciousness is, in a sense, about the remembrance of these original instructions and the indigenous conversation with all beings they guide in a particular place at a particular time. The concern of many of my past publications – as in this one – has been the demonstration that this process can be argued for within the eurocentered framework, not just from an indigenous perspective. While the current piece is an exercise in abstraction, I have also offered a more concrete application discussing the available material in the Old Norse traditions about the Vanir gods or spirits (Bjarnadóttir & Kremer, 1998).


Dion-Buffalo and Mohawk (1994) outline three choices which colonized peoples have in response to cultural colonization.

They can become “good subjects” of the discourse, accepting the rules of law and morals without much question, they can be “bad subjects” arguing that they have been subjected to alien rules but always revolting within the precepts of those rules, or they can be “non-subjects”, acting and thinking around discourses far removed from and unintellegible to the West [emphasis added, J.W.K.]… In a world composed of fewer than a dozen distinct civilizations (including the metropolitan West) plus 3,000 to 5,000 distinct indigenous societies, the range of possible experiences is very great indeed. These are the autochthonous peoples whom such luminaries as Arnold Toynbee wrote entirely out of history. Much of what remains of the range of human potential for creating versions of reality exists in the framework of the arts, stories, oral traditions, music and other cultural manifestations of these peoples. Their lived and dreamed experiences are the world’s richest sources of exploration of the human potential. – Gaining access to these experiences will not be easy. Not only are the voices of these distinct “others” remote, the channels of communication are practically non-existent. Few individuals from tribal societies write novels or history texts (p. 35).

[P34] If there are three choices for indigenous peoples, what are the equivalent choices for participants in the eurocentered discourses? The analogous choices would be to be good subjects accepting the given rules, to be bad subjects revolting against the precepts of the given rules (as critics within postmodern philosophy, transpersonal psychology, the new age movement, etc. are doing), or they could become non-subjects and recover a conversation that is not just removed from the current dominant discourses, but that questions their dissociative precepts. The latter choice is, as should be apparent, a difficult one, since it implies the radical deconstruction of the eurocentered individual who we are accustomed to be.


The choice of the good or bad subject are choices within eurocentered discourses, choices for the continuity of some form of dissociation from participation in the phenomena. The choice of the non-subject is the choice of the continuation of some form of original participation among indigenous peoples or the choice of recovery of indigenous mind and participation for the eurocentered discourses and for others who have lost connection to their native roots. The non-subject choice is the choice for participation in the phenomena, for a dialogical, nurturing knowledge creation. The current article endeavors to develop some basis for the latter choice.


I will present my considerations regarding the reconstructive efforts of indigenous consciousness in eurocentered context in the following fashion:

  • First I will establish a context for my approach in a fashion which is appropriate for indigenous presence.
  • Then I will discuss the nature of participatory consciousness.
  • Thirdly I will describe the historical process of the loss of or dissociation from particpatory consciousness.
  • Then I will highlight the differences between the worlds of participatory presence and the worlds of dissociative presence.
  • And, finally, I will discuss the epistemologies of recovering participation.



  1. Context

A few years ago I had a dream which pertains to the issues at hand:

The location of the dream is Hamburg, the town where I grew up in Northern Germany. Sitting on the threshold in the doorway of a pre-war brick house beside my partner I overlook the river Elbe from on high. We are atop the ancient ice age rim of the river, the border of its once miles wide flow, thousands of years ago when reindeer roamed these latitudes. The reindeer now live much farther north, and the river moves in a much more narrow bed; yet it still spreads to considerable widths three hundred or so feet below us, where ferries criss-cross its course and ocean liners enter and leave the harbor. We are not just sitting atop an ancient river bed, but also very close to the old building where I went for Kindergarten shortly after the Second World War. At that time it was a place with a [P35] comforting huge tile stove and a garden with plants and trees inviting the imagination of children at play. I realize that there are achaeological excavations in process behind the old Kindergarten. Signs are put up all around it: No trespassing! Stay out! Not to be deterred, I leave my body at the moment of seeing these signs and enter the forbidden grounds. I hover over the ancient ruins which are uncovered thanks to the work of the archaeological team. A round, towerlike structure emerging from the depths of the ground is clearly visible. It appears to extend a good ways into the earth. I understand that this is an ancestral ceremonial structure, as are other similar ones right next to it. The name of the place where this dig into ancient cultural history occurs is Altona – meaning “all-too-near.” Legend has it that an orphan was blindfolded when the burghers of Hamburg wanted to expand their overpopulated city. The idea was to place the new town where the orphan would stumble and fall. But what happened was unexpected. The boy had barely left the city gates, when he stumbled and fell. The attendant burghers exclaimed in surprise that this was all too near, in the local vernacular:  “All to nah!”  – thence the name for this part of the city – Altona. The place where I gain access to the layers below the contemporary city and old ancestral cultural memories is all too close in this dream, right there with my childhood, and fenced in by signs forbidding entry.


I wake up bringing with me not only the memory of the dream images, but its self-interpretation at the end. This dream contained an answer to the curiosity and spiritual hunger which I had tried to satisfy since adolescence through the study of native peoples and shamanism in particular.


This dream (and its implicit epistemology of recovery) can be seen as a description of my approach to inquiry of matters indigenous or tribal and my reconstructive efforts described below. It also points to the cultural struggle of “the west.” The key to such inquiry in the eurocentered context is the remembrance in itself of what it seeks in other peoples – recovering indigenous mind. Cultural history and the prevailing definitions of scientific inquiry make such a project difficult, to say the least. Native American intellectual Mohawk has stated: “I do not want people to adopt Indian rituals because I want people to own their own rituals. I want them to come to ownership out of experiences that are real to them. Then I’ll come and celebrate it with them” (quoted in Spretnak, 1991) When we extrapolate this statement to the area of ways of knowing (of which ritual is one) then we could say that participants in the eurocentered discourses need to recover and own their shamanic inquiry before natives will engage in and celebrate their ways of knowing with them.



  1. The epistemology of indigenous conversation or participatory concourse

If reality is not a simple given (since it cannot be accessed directly ) but emerges out of the subject – object interactions of specific, encultured human beings, then we have to conclude that the world we live in is created by us in some fashion. In representing the as-yet-[P36]unrepresented we create what we call reality. This should not lead to the superficial and voluntaristic conclusion that we can create any reality we want as our consensual reality. There are at least two major constraints bearing upon what we can create as reality: 1) There is something ‘out there’ – there is an external reality with which we engage. 2) What we can create and perceive is limited by what our embodiment provides (our sense organs, brain, gender, etc.). The reality we live in is created in interaction with what is ‘out there’, it is a co-creation with the external reality we engage in or are engaged by. We have constraints as specifically embodied-knowledge-seeking beings and these are limited and modified by an external reality. But within these constraints there are many different solutions to the problem of creating a world of phenomena to live in. These solutions are represented in the consensual practices of different cultures, with the embeddedness of knowing in culture and history constituting yet another stratum of constraints.


One helpful exposition of this epistemological view has been made by Barfield (1965) in his book Saving the appearances. He criticizes the Enlightenment project by tracing the different ways in which we are engaging in the phenomena throughout different stages of the evolution of consciousness. The term ‘phenomenon’ refers to the sensational and mental construction of the “unrepresented”, Kant’s noumena or Dinge an sich (Reilly, 1971). We always participate in the phenomena, but this participation may be conscious or unconscious, it may be directed by strict or loose ego boundaries, it can be reflected or unreflected. He argues that in the subject – object interaction between human beings and the ‘out there’ (external reality, the unrepresented), we may participate in what we consider phenomena in radically different ways.


Barfield distinguishes three major types of participation which are of epistemological relevance: original participation, the loss of or the unconscious participation of modernity, and final participation. The latter term is problematic (how do we know it is final?), and I prefer to call this process of regaining participation in the phenomena “recovery of indigenous mind.”


In short, Barfield 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 (cf. Detienne, 1996, for a discussion regarding these changes in archaic Greece). 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 participation can be regained – not as return to the previous process state, but changed by the historical experiences of the dissociation from the phenomena; this is the recovery of participatory indigenous consciousness. Let me add more detail to these three processes, however, before doing so I would like to clarify that I see this succession of processes as a valid perspective on the history of eurocentered consciousness and its future; but: I do not [P37] assume that these are necessary or inevitable stages or even that these are stages (rather than processes of a different quality); I also do not assume that they do or should apply similarly to peoples not of eurocentered consciousness.


In what Barfield calls ‘original participation’ (the interaction with the phenomena in past and present indigenous societies, for example), the embeddedness of human consciousness in nature is experienced and lived in a direct way with very permeable boundaries between self and phenomena. This synthetic type of consciousness allows an experience of our systemic connection with nature. “Original participation is … the sense that there stands behind the phenomena, and on the other side of them from [the human being], a represented, which is of the same nature as [the human being]” (1965, 111, Barfield’s emphasis). Barfield further assumes – mistakenly – that in original participation perception is undifferentiated from the whole, that the participation in the phenomena is unconscious, that there is little reflectiveness, and that thinking occurrs in images rather than concepts; as we will see below, there are many examples of cognitive feats by peoples who were arguably engaged in the process of original participation which contradict these assumptions (which stem from the unfortunate racist assumptions of early anthropological and evolutionary thinkers).


Oftentimes this process of original participation is discussed with racist implications which puts it in the pre-historic past of the European peoples and defines contemporary native peoples still engaged in this particpatory process – despite the history of colonialism – as backward and a prehistoric remnant. Let me give some contemporary descriptions of this process and de-mystify it by mentioning some of the accomplishments of peoples who – by all accounts – must have been in a process of original participation at the time.


The contemporary Andean peoples of Peru talk about participation in the phenomena as follows:

The ayllu is a group of related persons living in a particular place. The ayllu consists not only of a group of related humans but of other beings of that place: the animals, the mountains, streams and rocks and the local deities. The ayllu should therefore not be considered simply a sphere of kinship. Rather one could say that kinship in the Andes extends to the non-human realm. (Valladolid, 1995)

The conversations held between persons and the other inhabitants of the world are not primarily engaged in for the purpose of “knowing reality”. They are engaged in as part of the activity of criar y dejarse criar, of nurturing (raising) and letting oneself be nurtured (raised). The verb criar is used to speak of raising children, animals, plants, relationships, etc. It is the activity that fosters the growth and development of any potentiality or generativity. It is a fundamentally mutual or reciprocal activity: as one nurtures one is simultaneously nurtured. The action in the world does not leave the actor untransformed; acting in the world is being in relationship with that world, so the language of conversation is more appropriate than the language of knowledge. There is here no knower and known, no subject and object. Rather there are actors in relationships of mutuality. By acting one [P38] transforms not only the world but oneself as well. Therefore it is a fundamentally dynamic world, always moving, always changing, always in flux. There is, as it were, no simple act of knowing as we moderns understand the term, for such knowledge-acquiring activity presupposes that there is something to be known, irrespective of who knows it.

This is not to say that conversing with the world does not involve cognitive faculties, it of course does, but that the activity is not primarily and certainly not exclusively a cognitive one. Criar demands not only understanding but love, tenderness, patience. But it is to say that the point of conversation is not the attainment of knowledge through the interrogation of nature, it is rather to generate and regenerate the world and be generated and regenerated by it in the process. (Apffel-Marglin, 1994, p. 9)


These descriptions of the knowing and nurturing conversation in the ayllu are illustrations of the indigenous mind process or original participation. Valkeapää (1985, 1996, no p. #) has given a poetic description of Saami siida life and participation:

How I respect

the old Sámi life

That was true love of nature

where nothing was wasted

where humans were part of nature


Not until now have they realized

that the people who lived here

ten thousand years ago

melted to become the Sámi (…)


I see our fjells

the places we live

and hear my heart beat

all this is my home

and I carry it

within me

in my heart

I can hear it

when I close my eyes

I can hear it


I hear somewhere

deep within me

I hear the ground thunder

from thousands of hooves

I hear the reindeer herd running

or is it the noaidi drum

[P39] and the sacrificial stone


Of course, our modern eurocentered mind leads us to looki for words – stories, myths, descriptions, definitions – which evoke participatory conciousness. From an indigenous vantage point such profound “libraries” or records as Stonehenge, Newgrange, the rock carvings of Northern Europe and elsewhere, the Gundestrup cauldron are, in a sense, more accurate and more complete. Creation stories, as the Sámi Mjandasj story, may do something similar. (See also Colorado, 1988, for an Iroquois description of skanagoah, the great peace, the center of the indigenous conversation). This indigenous mind or consciousness process I am referring to here is not an essentialist understanding of tribalism or indigenism, but a discourse view in which individuals understand themselves in an ongoing conversation with the surrounding community, in which the local animals, plants, ancestors, and other spirits are a part (cf. Apffel Marglin, 1994; Rengifo, 1993; Valladolid, 1995); this conversation is carried on as a part of unfolding one’s own gifts while paying attention to the ceremonial and seasonal cycles as well as the larger astronomical cycles. (See Warrior, 1995 for a discussion of these positions; cf. Vizenor, 1989, 1994a, 1994b for an example of Native American discourse stance.) This is a worldview of total immanence which acknowledges that the social construction or conversation in one place is different from other conversations in other places, yet seeing this it stays grounded in the detailed observations of and conversations with animal, plants, and the various cycles of the specific place of conversation. This is not a mind process where egoic consciousness and transcendence stand in some form of opposition or tension to each other, but where individuals of the permeable, participatory consciousness live with spirits as much as part of their community as other human beings or plants. “El mundo es inmanente – the world is immanent” (PRATEC, 1996, 10).


These are descriptions of a process of an immanently present visionary socially constructed being, which is sustained without a need to progress to transcendence. They describe the immanent, ongoing conversation with everything, including spirits, which constitutes the community for human beings. Within this framework, if individuals do not know their ancestry, place in the community, the cultural stories, the land they live on, the cycles of the seasons, the stars, etc. – then these persons are lost to who they are, and pathology ensues – these individuals are in need of healing or balancing. These indigenous models allow for an alternate understanding of time, history, and the variety of cultures; they also allow to be in participation or conversation while exercising high level rational skills. Part of this conversation is the observation of the precession of the equinoxes and other larger historical cycles. This indigenous conceptualization allows each culture to understand its historic spiritual mission in its ecology, so to speak. It is not just that this type of model is preferable, I would suggest that it has greater accuracy because it is more complete and integral. It facilitates cultural exchange because it establishes equality among prospective partners of knowledge trade and avoids implicit or explicit imperialistic thinking.


[DP40] It is important to remember that the peoples active in participatory consciousness have done things which we can only regard as incredible and major acknowledgements. Whether this is star knowledge, travel, navigation, metallurgy or many other things – the range and depth of cognitive feats is frequently astonishing and difficult to deny despite the force of the continuing prejudices regarding the “primitivism” of early peoples. (I have discussed this issue at greater length in Kremer, 1998a, b; 1997c; 1996b, c, d) All this makes clear that some of Barfield’s assumptions regarding original participation (lack of reflection, unconsciousness, lack of differentiation from whole) are not tenable.


Gowlett (1992, 345) suggests

that through the past 30,000 to 40,000 years the brains of modern homo sapiens were similar to our own. Physical and cultural evidence points to lower levels of mental ability and craft skill in the earlier periods. Nevertheless, we may have to concede that the foundations of many basic human skills were laid 1 or even 2 million years ago, rather than at the origins of our own species.

Even Lévy-Bruhl, who wrote extensively about ‘primitive mentality’ stated in his last works that he no longer assumed a structural difference between contemporary Europeans and indigenous humans:

Let us expressly rectify what I believed correct in 1910: there is not a primitive mentality distinguishable from the other by two characteristics which are peculiar to it (mystical and prelogical). There is a mystical mentality which is more marked and more easily observable among ‘primitive peoples’ than in our societies, but is present in every human mind. (Les carnets, 1949, 131-2, quoted from Cazeneuve, 1972, 87)


All these points lead to a suggestion of what appears like a paradox on the surface: Peoples engaged in original participation may indeed have participated and continue to participate in the phenomena, yet they may simultaneously have been capable of cognitive feats requiring skills commonly associated in evolutionary thinking with the much later times of the egoic-rational processes. Mayan architecture, glyphs, mathematics and calendrics may serve as a surviving and continuing illustration (see recently Freidel, Schele & Parker, 1993) that participation in the phenomena and cognitive skills like formal-operational logic are a contradiction in the eyes of the dissociated, modernist ego only.



  1. The loss of participation and the pathology of dissociation

According to Barfield, by the seventeenth century the center of perception and thinking had changed 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 [P41] 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). I have termed this process dissociative schismogenesis (Kremer, 1992b) – the progressively and addictively increasing split from participation and one’s origins. give more definition


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 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 as follows:


  • In the Renaissance 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 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. While epistemological questions were certainly part of the philosophical discourse (we can trace them in eurocentered thinking to Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Empedocles), epistemology as a separate discipline had yet to arise.


  • 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”, a 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 superceded by the emergent medical and other sciences. The 19th century saw the height of colonialism and imperialism. It is during this time period (in 1856) that the word epistemology was first recorded to label “the theory or science of the method or grounds of knowledge” (OED). In Germany the word Erkenntnistheorie began emerging among the Kantians beginning in 1808, to be firmly established by Zeller in 1862 with his Über die Aufgabe und Bedeutung [P42] der Erkenntnistheorie (Klaus & Buhr, 1970). 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. Habermas (1997) makes this point clearly when he discusses the benefits and limitations of Cassirers Theorie der symbolischen Formen (a theory I could have used instead of Barfield’s to discuss the present issues): It is the logic of progress and the process of civilization – Aufklärung – which destroys and needs to destroy the impact of participation in the phenomena. (See Wilber articles for details, Kremer 1998 a, b)


Most models of social evolution (such as recently Wilber’s, 1995; cf. Winkelman, 1993, 5) are in the tradition of 19th century evolutionary conceptualizations. Julian Huxley is a good example for this thinking in the field of biology:

If we accept the doctrine of evolution, we are bound to believe that man has arisen from mammals, terrestrial from aquatic forms, vertebrates from invertebrates, multicellular from unicellular, and in general the larger and the more complex from the smaller and simpler. To the average man it will be indisputable that a man is higher than a worm or a polyp, an insect is higher than a protozoan, even if he cannot exactly define in what resides this highness or lowness of organic types. (Huxley, 1923, 10; quoted from Barlow, 1994)

Of course, if this type of evolutionist thinking is extrapolated into the field of evolution of consciousness and societies, then we can see how the prehistoric peoples of all continents and the contemporary remaining indigenous peoples – as McGrane has illustrated – can be classed as “lower” and the euro-centered as “higher” (even if there are yet higher stages to come).

The very identification of and naming of the non-European Other as “primitive,” as “primitive mentality,” as “primitive culture,” presupposed a theory (language) of rational progress, of progress in and by reason (Enlightenment) and/or progress in and by history (nineteenth century). The very possibility of the conception of “primitive” presupposed the prior commitment to a conception of progress. (McGrane, 1989, 99)

The notion of progress implies that there is something at least insufficient or even bad in the past and that the good lies in the future. It is the

powerful ideology of progress that proposes human history as a story of mankind’s inexorable advance toward a more perfect society and projects all changes with few [P43] exceptions as part of this process. The tradition of historical presentation in the West has had a strong tendency to select events in a way that constructs a story supportive of this largely unspoken thesis” (Lyons, in Lyons et al., 1992, 17).


From a native perspective, evolutionary thinking has always been problematic:

European utopian visions have been used to rationalize a range of criminal behaviors including the enslavement of millions of Africans and the annihilation of entire American Indian peoples as the (sometimes) regrettable but necessary consequence of the construction of some kind of future state of human perfection (Dion-Buffalo & Mohawk, 1994, p. 33).

This statement cannot be taken seriously enough and should be a clear warning signal to pay attention to the shadow of evolutionary thinking. (I have discussed some of this more extensively in Kremer, 1996b.) Unless we do so evolutionary thinking will remain misguided and dangerous because there is no reason to assume that it is outside of its history which – at least implicitly – justified (cultural) genocides. In order to step outside of that intellectual history it is necessary to address explicitly shadow material issues such as the ones Dion-Buffalo and Mohawk mention in their quote. Otherwise whatever is written is at least an unconscious continuation of eurocentered dominance and (cultural) genocide. McGrane (1989) in his critical analysis of the history of “the Other” and anthropology comments that

when the ‘sun’ of civilization dawns on the virgin forest of the Other, instead of nourishing him, it chars and blackens him. … at the very instant they (primitive societies) become known to us they are doomed (108, last sentence quoted from Bastian).

Or in the word of Lyons (Lyons et al., 1992, 17): “At the moment of contact and conflict peoples are spotlighted briefly and their images are frozen forever in time.” The historical connection between the arising of enlightenment philosophy and colonialism is not just accidental. Using Barfield’s terminology: The appearances had to become idols before Kant could call out Sapere aude! and before the colonisation of native peoples could be “scientifically” justified.

Anthropology has been an extremely subtle and spiritual kind of cognitive imperialism, a power-based monologue about alien cultures rather than, and in active avoidance of, a dialogue with them in terms of sovereignty, i.e., the untranslatability and irreducibility of one ‘culture’ to the being and language of the other (McGrane, 1989, 127).

Until we understand the impact of this connection the cultural shadow material will determine what eurocentered cultures are – to an extent difficult to fathom. As Adorno and Horkheimer have pointed out: that which is repressed inevitably returns through the backdoor – with increased power (Horkheimer & Adorno, 1944).  This would mean that one of the most important current historic tasks of eurocentered cultures is to retract its [P44] attention and periodic obsession with other cultures and to focus on its own history, including the shadow of its own history.


Postmodernity helps us to think about issues like “tribal” or “indigenous” or “participation” differently, yet it is still “us” thinking “them.” Despite the increasing breakdown of the grand narratives and the increasing multivocality in discourses, postmodernity is but yet another advance within the game of dissociative epistemologies. Even though postmodern epistemologies have split Truth into truths and we can conceive of an increasing number of epistemologies, the politics remain the same: it is eurocentered thinking as the game master, even as the margins increasingly encroach. Postmodernity can easily be interpreted as the yearning to regain participation in the phenomena. The concern with tribal epistemologies is part of this yearning. And historical need.



  1. The world of participation and the world of dissociation

Before discussing the epistemologies of reconstructing indigenous consciousness it is important to highlight the differences not just in world views, but in worlds between participatory and dissociative consciousness.


Barfield’s most important point is that the worlds of participation (whether ‘original’ or recovered) and the worlds of unconscious participation or dissociation are different. It is not just that we see things differently in each of these worlds – but the worlds are  different. We can apply this thinking not just to the different stages of evolution which he presupposes, but also to differences between cultures in general. At times our conversational language even admits that much:”The Navajos live in a totally different world.” Indeed, they do. It is not just that they see the world differently – their world is not ours! The Mt. Taylor we see is not the same as the Tsoodzil  the Navajos see. When we see this mountain while driving along the interstate toward Albuquerque, then we see all its beautiful physicality and sheer massiveness; we may see the snow on the mountaintop and gaze in wonder at the way the mountain rises rapidly from the valley floor. Its size and beauty might inspire awe in us. Traditional Navajos actively participating in their way of life (and not in contact with the Western paradigm) would see the physical mountain also, of course, but they would also be aware of the turquoise color and the blue wind which dwell in this mountain. They would participate in it as the South Mountain which helps to contain the sacred land which provides for them. First Man and First Woman

fastened [the South Mountain] to the earth with a great stone knife, … they adorned it with turquoise, with dark mist, she-rain, and all different kinds of wild animals. On its summit they placed a dish of turquoise; in this they put two eggs of the Bluebird, which they covered with sacred buckskin. … The Boy who Carries One Turquoise and the Girl who Carries One Grain of Corn were put into the mountain to dwell. (Wyman, 1967, unpaginated)

[P45] Seeing the mountain is seeing part of what it means to live in hózhó,  in beauty and balance. This is why soil from this mountain is present in the bundle for their foundational ceremony, the Blessingway. Participating in Tsoodzil is participating in part of the creation story. While our experience of seeing Mt. Taylor is that of seeing something out there, Navajos would participate in Tsoodzil (or Dootl’shii Dziil, meaning turquoise mountain) as a part of themselves necessary for walking in old age on a trail of beauty (sa’a naghái bik’e hózhó).  If we were to imagine a successful recovery of indigenous consciousness, then we could surmise that we would also experience the spirit of the mountain, and that we would enter its beingness in a way which makes it no longer ‘out there’, and we would do this in a way which allows us to be conscious of our movement of boundaries.


But what about the concrete, the things we can touch and presumably all agree on? I would argue that the pragmatic, ‘real’ stuff which for which the Western enlightenment paradigm would like to provide agreements is nothing but the least common denominator (arrived at and agreeed to by dissociative perception and conceptual language). In holding a bead of turquoise in our hand we will probably be able to agree with any Navajo on its shape, color, the beauty of its veins, how we might polish it further, how it could be embedded in silver jewelry, how heavy it is, etc. (We would presumably be unable to agree, for exmple, on the question whether this is a semi-precious stone, since it is the most highly prized stone within the Navajo culture.) But what is meeting in such a conversation are two tips of icebergs, overlapping to a minimal degree. Of course, the tips of two icebergs cannot physically overlap — we can only make them overlap by way of lining them up in our perceptual field; the overlap thus created is the least common denominator which the Western enlightenment paradigm pursues. Below the eurocentered tip of the iceberg is the monstrous denial of our participation in the phenomenon ‘turquoise bead’ (which only imagination can recover). Below the Navajo tip of the iceberg is “the grand cosmic scheme of ‘hózhó’ ” and how turquoise ” functions as a lubricant to enhance this scheme or to restore it when it is disrupted… It is special because it is a means of harmonious communion with the other[s] … in the universe” (Witherspoon, 1987, 73-74). Thus we find that the tip of the Navajo iceberg is, in fact, the tip of a mountain, and that this mountain is only submerged for participants in the epistemology of modernity. We could say it is the tip of Tsoodzil. It is also the tip of all the chantways which maintain and restore beauty, happiness, health and harmony. We arrive at our supposed concrete, realistic view of the world at the expense of dissociation. For the Navajo a turquoise bead is a piece of art and as such “not divorced from subsistence, science, philosophy or theology, but is an integral part of both common activities and cosmic schemes” (Witherspoon, 1987, 60). While the tips of icebergs and mountains cannot physically touch at the top, they can touch at the bottom. Below the tips of the least common denominator we find the conscious or unconscious cultural practices which lead to differing participation in the phenomena. Yet  even further below we may enter unitive states of consciousness and find, among the silent spaces, realities where cultures and their peoples touch in ways which are yet to be fully explored (cf. Forman, 1990).



[P46] 5. Epistemologies of reconstructing indigenous consciousness

Barfield termed third epistemologically relevant process of ‘final participation,’ however, I prefer to talk about it as recovery of indigenous mind or consciousness. It allows us to regain participation and to participate intentionally in the world of phenomena. Barfield looks to Rudolf Steiner, Goethe and the romantic poets for guidance toward the synthesizing process of future participation in the phenomena among eurocentered peoples. He saw them as consciously and actively participating in the construction of the very world itself. Since Barfield overlooks contemporary indigenous peoples, he disregards the help they might have to offer for the recovery of participation. He suggests that the tension between the original participation of our ancestors and the modern Western consciousness can be resolved in the conscious experience of participation through our imaginative and creative faculties. I would add that it can also be resolved through the integration of those aspects of living and knowing from which the eurocentered discourses split themselves off: Ancestry, prehistory, nature, the feminine, etc. “Some say that evolution has now reached a stage at which [the human being] is becoming increasingly responsible for it. … I think the same; but I do not see that responsibility at all as others see it. … I am certain that our responsibility will only be discharged, if at all, not by tinkering with the outside of the world but by changing it, slowly enough no doubt, from the inside” (Barfield, 1979, 92). This internal work is the integration of all those processes which have followed the eurocentered discourse as its shadow.


This brings me to the viewpoint from which I am writing this article as somebody who is remembering his indigenous roots without any claim to being native or having shared native experiences of discrimination and colonialism; I grew up as part of the dominant culture in Germany (see Kremer, 1994, 1995 for further discussion of my stance). The endeavor which I call ‘recovery of indigenous mind’ is nothing nostalgic or romantic – it is a painful process of remembering back in order to go forward. There is no going back. There is no innocent or naïve recovery of participation. My way into the future moves through the integration of historical wounds, painful memories and apparently senseless events in order to work out a future based on the conversational model of the Andean ayllu and its European equivalents, based on an ecologically specific notion of balance.


At this point it is important to review specifically the epistemological issues relevant for a recovered participatory conversation within eurocentered discourses. I will do so by discussing notions of truth, participatory discourse, and the relationship between the recovered aspects of participatory knowing and being.


So what happens to the notion of truth when we allow for the validity of different worlds? If truth is no longer capitalized – does that mean anything is as good as anything else? Is there any way left to speak about things being true, any means of evaluation? Are we thrown into a groundless abyss of endless relativism? If truth is no longer the eternal verity [P47] that science purports to achieve, then it assumes the status of narrative. Then, how do we evaluate narratives of truth, different stories about the phenomena?


Instead of talking about truth, a term associated with the certainty and absoluteness as defined by the logocentric worldview, I prefer to talk about the resolution which different worlds provide in their interactions with the phenomena. Von Frantz (1970), in discussing psychological interpretation as a way of telling a story, asserts that we should never presume to have arrived at the truth. In assuming finality in our interpretation we cheat ourselves. Once we have an interpretation which “clicks”, we nevertheless still “crave the renewal that comes from understanding archetypal images” (p. 32). Resolution is never permanent, it is always temporary. The eurocentered notions of truth try to shirk their mantle of impermanence by dissociating from the participation which is its foundation. However, no dissociative state is ever safe from the play, the trickery and the chaotic invasion which ‘the other’ is prone to stage. The subcultures of Western technological societies, wilderness or nature, the feminine, the arts, dreams, the body are among the domains through which ‘the other’ continues to make itself known. Resolution aims at healing breaches, while truth needs anthropocentric dissociation from the phenomena.


Habermas (1984) has described five forms of rationality, five ways in which validity claims and their concomitant form of argumentation can be made:

  • The propositional truth or efficacy of teleological actions can be argued in theoretical discourses about cognitive-instrumental expressions; this is the domain with which the scientific, positivistic paradigm concerns itself to the exclusion of the other four dimensions; the positivistic research paradigm can be seen as the examplary mode to dispute propositional truths.
  • The normative rightness of statements can be argued in practical discourses about moral-practical expressions. This is the realm of ethical debates.
  • The comprehensibility or well-formedness of symbolic constructs can be argued in explicative discourses (this would include the ability to engage fellow scholars in dialogue). From this perspective we can dispute how clear, compelling and even evocative the different expressions of our relationship to the phenomena are.
  • The truthfulness or sincerity of expressions can be argued in therapeutic discourses. (Habermas uses the Freudian psychoanalytic discourse as the exemplar.)
  • The adequacy of value standards can be argued in aesthetic discourses.


While the positivistic approach to knowledge would like to make us believe that it is only the propositional truth of claims which matters, Habermas’ model implies that each utterance, considered in context, lays claim to acceptability in all the above five ways (Kremer, 1986; Wood, 1985). The five forms of rationality integrated constitute reason. What began with the Western enlightenment movement allowed us to distinguish these five forms of rationality; these distinctions are differences in the knowing process which Kant and others helped us make. Yet, as these distinctions become more significant and absolute, they also become more problematic.


[P48] The postmodern condition is the fragmentation and reification of these shimmering facets of reason into separate domains which are only minimally engaged with each other. While the rationality of the propositional truth is cherished throughout scientific inquiry, the other four dimenions of reason are relegated to ‘the other’, to the shadow. In the ordeal of the postmodern dark night the scholar is challenged to integrate what has been thought asunder. We are unresolved in our relationships to wilderness, the feminine, the body, the spiritual – ‘the other’ is what we cannot resolve.


Most theories of truth are concerned with the correspondence between what is asserted in scholarly discourse and what is considered ‘out there’, the phenomena. What is the goodness of fit? Habermas (1971) proposes a discourse model of truth to transcend the problems other models have encountered. Here the knower engages in dialogues with the community of knowing subjects in order to determine whether the truth ascertained can be defended in discourse and critique; this would be a dialogue in which we are challenged to engage in all five dimensions of reason. I would ascertain that this consensus model of truth is the only one appropriate for the epistemological approach I am describing and allows us to develop a eurocentered analogue to the Andean conversation in the ayllu. If worlds or realities are understood as intended, then it is no longer meaningful to look at the correspondence between the world described and the phenomena (die Dinge an sich). However, it is meaningful to dispute whether the facts described in the consensual narrative are consistent with the descriptions. Do we actually succeed in making the world which we are purportedly creating qua our narratives? The dark night experience of the scholar is the realization that the world which the epistemology of modernity claims to create is falling apart in the process.


It now becomes apparent that the truths consensually agreed upon by an integral use of rationalities can only be temporary and historically grounded resolutions. As cultures and knowledge change, so does truth. What reason accepts as truth is, in fact, the best resolution to a question or problem we can provide at the time. The limits of today’s resolution may only  become apparent tomorrow. Feyerabend (1984) has presented many critical discussions which affirm this point. Gregory (1988) describes at length how physicists invent a physical world. If these arguments are valid, then it will indeed be useful to think about reality in terms of the conversational model suggested by Andean people like Rengifo (1993), Valladolid (1995, 1997), Grillo (PRATEC, 1996), and others.


Resolutions which are – at least temporarily – satisfying because what they propose is efficacious, morally defensible, an expression of shared values and comprehensive aesthetics, sincere and beautifully expressed are what make up intentional worlds. We can see the Andean world of the ayllu as just such an intentional world. Or the recovered fridhr community of the Vanir times. Or the siida groups of the Sámi people. These resolutions are not subjectivistic or voluntaristic as long as they engage a community in discourse. (This is not to claim that resolutions which are experienced as satisfying cannot contain distortions related to power structures ). And as long as ancestry, place, history, and ecology are part of the discourse. The Truth with a capital T is the death threat to [P49] resolution. Truth does not allow for the conscious participation in renewal of intentional worlds, because it has to be dissociated from important aspects of reason. In renewing worlds we may strive for better and better resolutions or we may find that the resolutions which constitute our intentional world are quite satisfying and successful (on their own terms!).


Obviously, within the model of intentional worlds or community conversation which I have presented the evaluation of truth claims does become problematic. This is a crucial issue for the change in the quality of the eurocentered discourses. Is there any way to look at claims to resolution and to compare them? Is there a way of saying that one intentional world is better, more resolved than another? That the present is better or worse than the past? If we move from the evaluative stance which gives grades for worldviews, then we can begin to look at ways in which we might compare worldviews without consciously or unconsciously annexing them. Such comparison can reasonably only happen within the discourse model of resolutions previously discussed. Comparisons then become dialogical encounters and are then part of an effort to make cultures speak to each other, rather than a quest for a singular model containing all (at the expense of diversity).


Conversations about different resolutions or intentional worlds address what I have called alignment issues. When aspects of the participatory conversation are not aligned it means that the participants have dissociated from parts of the conversation. Alignment means that there is an open dialectic or exchange possible between all the different dimensions which make up participatory or indigenous conversations. Resolutions which involve splitting or dissociation are out of alignment, so to speak, and lead to anti-thetical results (with the dissociated parts floating about in the individual and social unconscious); resolutions which avoid splitting and dissociation lead to greater alignment and synthetical resolutions. Obviously, alignment is not a static or mechanical issue, but an issue of the openness of various processes toward each other. The questions of alignment can  be asked within the following domains which pertain to the openness of the participatory conversation:

  • How does a resolution affect the alignment of the different aspects within the human being (i.e., the state of the dialectic between cognition, emotion, the body, the numinous and the sexual, and between the individual understanding of ancestry, history, place, and cycles)? How are these aspects boundaried, how are they valued and how are they made to speak to each other?
  • How does a resolution affect the alignment between human beings? How is the relationship between genders defined? Does it facilitate the establishment of constraint-free and sincere interactions? Does it facilitate interactions which include all aspects of the human being? Do our socio-cultural creations support sincere, mature, and open communications? Does it facilitate the discussion of shadow or deviant aspects of society, history, economy, ancestry, etc.?
  • How does a resolution affect the alignment between human beings and wilderness or nature? In this domain we would raise all the issues which ecologists have begun to address.

[P50] • How does a resolution affect the alignment between different elements of nature (which has become a critical issue only since the the human intervention in our wilderness has proved to be severely destructive)? (cf. Kremer, 1987)


It is easy to jump to conclusions about a certain normativeness inherent in the way I am asking these questions about alignments and their domains. However, even the questions, boundaries of domains, terminologies (such as ‘mature’) need to be potentially part of any alignment conversation. Whatever implicit normativeness is or seems to be present can always be raised as an issue for conversation and exploration.


I have described the notion of participatory or shamanic “concourse” as a way of having knowledge exchange based on equity in a framework in which all participants are free to choose participation (Kremer, 1992a &b). The change from discourse to concourse is intentionally somewhat provocative. In reviewing the etymology of both words it becomes apparent that the embodied running of the Latin currere has become the disembodied movement of the mind in current academic discourse. Currere also connotes the running of waters or the circular movement of wheels. Instead of the antagonistic dis of the critical review of reality models (or truth claims), where scholars and others dispute conclusions reached in relative isolation by moving from premises to consequences, I am suggesting the con of communal, social reality creation (this is based on the presupposition that there is no genuine community without conflict and agonistic moves). Participatory concourse would be a circle where the communal reality creation is reviewed through talking as well as ritualistic embodiment; this circle would have space for silence, stories, humor, theater, dancing and other arts.


The shamanic coming together in a circle is the idealized prototype to which the term ‘shamanic concourse’ alludes. This would be a circle where the communal reality creation is reviewed through talking as well as ritualistic embodiment; this circle would have space for silence, stories, humour, theatre, dancing and other arts. The name ‘shamanic concourse’ seems appropriate as an acknowledgement of the fact that shamans appear to be the primary model of practitioners actively engaged in world creation and world maintainance; these are people who appear to be conscious (although not in the Western sense) of the relationship between knowing and creating and who are constantly engaged in dealing with issues of alignment; they are, frequently, aware of other cultural worlds, respect them and find ways to engage with them without abandoning the world which they are intent on maintaining. For them knowing is a practice of living. Living is the practice of knowing. They seem to have tools which can help us to be more conscious of the knowing process. Bean and Vane point out that “shamans, having control of ‘altered states of consiousness,’ were religious specialists in charge of the relationship between [human beings] and the supernatural…, in effect philosophers” (1978, 662, emphasis added). They can serve as models on how to participate in the phenomena while remaining conscious (in a new way) of that participation.


[P51] If scholars were to engage in participatory concourse, then this would mean that they are resuming an ancient conversation – the recovery of their indigenous roots and participatory consciousness. They would understand that consensus about a particular truth claim is not something which can be achieved by means of the rational mind alone. The knowing of the body, the knowing of the heart, the knowing which comes from states of shifted awareness (including the dialogue with the ancestors) are all valuable processes. Storytelling, star observation, conversations with plants, animals and ancestors are equally valuable. Even though every consensus will have to withstand the challenges posed in verbal, rational discourse, the words and stories of resolution will have to withstand the challenges from all other human dimensions of experience – somatic, sexual, emotional and spiritual as well as ancestral, historical and ecological. Such an embodiment of knowing can heal the various splits, such as between body and mind. Any resolution has to include the explicit, verbal expression of agreement as well as the felt sense of common understanding. Any resolution needs to be open not just to be questioned through the pragmatics of testing propositional truths; it also needs to be open to moral and aesthetic (in the Batesonian sense [1991]) investigations. Somatic knowing and intuition need to see the light of the rational mind, while the mind needs to see the light which is in the body. While it is true that we are always challenged to reflect our resolutions in language, this does not mean that language is the sole arbiter of truth. It is in the open and fluid interaction of the different dimensions of the participatory concourse that we can discover how our resolutions of truth address the alignment issues we are faced with. To deny science is foolish; not to acknowledge its participation in the is dangerous (as our current crises illustrate all too vividly). Participatory concourse allows us to appreciate scientific achievements without denying the body, the heart, sexuality, gender differences and the divine, without denying ancestry, place, history, and astronomical cycles.


In the Native American ceremony of the rock people lodge (sweat lodge) the medicine person evokes and invokes a world which is different from our consensual Western world. We are specifically engaged on levels which include the feminine, which invoke all aspects of nature, which shift our awareness of the body, and which open and invoke a spiritual dimension normally not present for those initiated in the Western technological worldview. In this process of ritual knowing we participate in the phenomena as they arise in a way different from those of the masculinized Western scholar. The way we are aligned within ourselves, with others and with nature is part of this process of knowing. It is also something we can engage with in participatory concourse to understand and explain its claims to resolution.


The model Western enlightenment ceremonial of experimental verification of propositional truth engages the masculinized scholar with the phenomena in a different way. Here the scholar is trained to focus attention on just one aspect of experience and rationality: the mind and truth as defined by a positivistic criterion. It is these operations which define the ground of ordinary reality as seen in societies invested in the Western technological worldview. The resolutions which these operations of knowing provide as a world to live in can be discussed in a participatory concourse engaging all domains of alignment.


[P52] Once the Western scholar has been defined as a ritualistic practitioner of world renewal, we can begin to regain consciousness about our participation in the phenomena. The dissociation between the ‘out there’ and the knowing act can be synthetically resolved into the conscious participation in the phenomena. Here scholars are the Western analogue of the shaman. As such they have responsibilities which exceed by far what the positivistic paradigm calls for. The inclusion of the different domains of knowing and alignment might engage the academy consciously with the practice of world renewal. Education then becomes transformative learning and the continuous practice of world renewal. The boundaries between cosmos and psyche are redrawn and redefined. The conscious experience of the world as intentional allows us to participate in change and renewal. The participatory concourse can save us from the aridness of Habermas’ discourse model without throwing us into the postmodern abyss of fragmentation, irresponsibility and cynicism. The epistemological framework I have presented uses participatory concourse in order to review claims to truth and resolution. Such process includes silence, shifts in awareness, the body and the remaining dimensions of ‘the other’, thus modulating language as words and grammar intend worlds.


Thus we may reconstruct what indigenous consciousness might be for eurocentered peoples today.



Die Dialektik von Bejahung und kritischer Negation eurozentrierter Zugänge zum Wissen wird in diesem Aufsatz in der Möglichkeit einer Affirmation des rekonstruierten indigenen Bewußtseins aufgelöst. Dieser Ansatz wird anfangs mittels eines Traumes vorgestellt, der die im Nachfolgenden dargestellte rekonstruktive Epistemologie enthält – eine indigene Darstellung dieses Wissensansatzes. Partizipatorisches, teilnehmendes Bewußtsein – der Geistesprozeß vergangener und gegenwärtiger indigener Völker – wird dann anhand von Barfields Begriff der ursprünglichen Teilnahme (original participation) diskutiert. Eine kritische Untersuchung seiner Definitionen erlaubt ursprüngliche Teilnahme als wechselseitig ernährendes und bereicherndes Gespräch zwischen allen Gesprächsteilnehmern gegenwärtig zu verstehen. Die Trennung oder Dissoziation von dieser Qualität des teilnehmenden Bewußtseins wird dann in historischer Sicht beschrieben. Der Verfasser betont, daß die Unterschiede zwischen teilnehmendem und dissoziativem Bewußtsein nicht nur einen Unterschied in der Weltsicht darstellen, sondern in deutlich unterschiedlichen Welten oder Realitäten resultieren in denen die Gesprächsteilnehmer leben. Die Schlußabschnitt diskutiert einige Problematiken der Rekonstruktion indigenen Bewußtseins unter Zuhilfenahme einer kritischen Benutzung des Diskursmodells der Wahrheit, das Habermas beschrieben hat; vorgeschlagen wird das Konzept des participatory concourse (teilnehmender oder schamanistischer CONkurs). Verschiedene Dimensionen des alignments, der synthetischen oder nicht-synthetischen, integrierenden oder nicht-integralen Aufeinanderausrichtung, werden als [P53] vielversprechender Ansatz zur Einschätzung von Projekten der Wiedererinnerung und Wiederherstellung indigenen Bewußtseins angesehen. Damit wird die Möglichkeit der Integration und Beibehaltung der Beiträge der Moderne und Postmoderne geschaffen – bei gleichzeitiger Praxis des indigenen, nährenden und bereichernden Gesprächs. Repräsentanten indigener Kulturen betonen die Notwendigkeit, daß sich eurozentrierte Menschen an ihre eigenen indigenen Wurzeln erinnern; der vorliegende Artikel unterstützt diese Vorstellung mit Argumenten, die sich aus den eurozentrierten Diskursen der Moderne und Postmoderne ergeben.



Transcending the dialectic between an affirmation of eurocentered approaches to knowing and their critical denial, this article suggests the affirmation of reconstructing indigenous consciousness as a third way – the indigenous path for eurocentered peoples. This approach is first introduced in an indigenous way by recounting a dream which contains the reconstructive epistemology outlined in the subsequent sections. The nature of participatory consciousness – the mind process of past and present indigenous peoples – is then discussed using Barfield’s term original participation. A critical review of his definitions allows the reframing of original participation as mutually nurturing conversation among all participants. The split or dissociation from this quality of participatory consciousness is then traced in a historical outline. The author subsequently emphasizes that the difference between participatory and dissociative consciousness is not just one of world view or epistemology, but leads conversation partners to live in distinctly different worlds or realities. The final section discusses some of the problematics of reconstructing indigenous consciousness by reviewing Habermas discourse model of truth and suggesting the notion of participatory or shamanic concourse. Various dimensions of alignments are seen as a promising way to assess projects of recovery of indigenous mind thus allowing the retention and integration of the contributions of modernity and postmodernity while engaging in a nurturing indigenous conversation. Native Elders have emphasized the necessity for eurocentered peoples to remember their indigenous roots, and this article supports this notion by using arguments available from eurocentered modern and postmodern discourses.





Apffel-Marglin, Frederique (1994). ‘Development or decolonization in the Andes,’ Daybreak, 4(3), pp. 6-10.

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

Barlow, Connie, ed.(1994), Evolution extended, MIT Press: Cambridge, Mass.

Bateson, Gregory (1991), (R.E. Donaldson, ed.), A sacred unity, Harper: NY.

Bean, Lowell John & Sylvia Brakke Vane (1978), ‘Cults and their transformation,’ in R. F. Heizer (Ed.), Handbook of North Americn Indians: California, pp. 662-672. Smithsonian Institution: Washington, DC.

Bjarnadóttir, V. H. & J. W. Kremer (1998). The cosmology of healing in Vanir Norse mythology. In: H. Kalweit (ed.), Yearbook of Cross-Cultural Medicine and Psychotherapy 1997 (at press). Mainz, Germany: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung.

Cazeneuve, Jean (1972), Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Harper: NY.

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

Detienne, Marcel (1996), The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece, Zone Books: NY.

Dion-Buffalo, Yvonne & John Mohawk. (1994), ‘Thoughts from an autochtonous center,’ Cultural Survival, Winter, 33-35.

Forman, K. C. (1990) (Ed.), The problem of pure consciousness, Oxford University Press: New York.


Gowlett, John (1993), Ascent to civilization, McGraw-Hill: NY.

Gregory, B. (1988), Inventing reality, Wiley: New York.

Habermas, Jürgen (1971a), ‘Vorbereitende Bemerkungen zu einer Theorie der kommunikativen Kompetenz,’ in Jürgen Habermas & Niklas Luhmann, Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie, pp. 101-141, Suhrkamp: Frankfurt, W. Germany:

Habermas, Jürgen (1984), The theory of communicative action (Vol. 1),  Beacon: Boston.

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

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

Horkheimer, Max & Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (1944)  Dialektik der Aufklärung, Fischer: Frankfurt, Germany.

Horn, G. (1996). contemplations of a primal mind. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Klaus, Georg & Manfred Buhr (1970), Philosophisches Wörterbuch, VEB Bibliographisches Institut: Leipzig.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1986), ‘The human science approach as discourse,’ Saybrook Review, 6, pp. 65-105.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1987), ‘The shaman and the epistemologer,’ in Ruth-Inge Heinze (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on the Study of Shamanism And Alternate Models of Healing, pp. 7 – 21, Independent Scholars of Asia: Berkeley, CA.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1992a). The dark night of the scholar. ReVision, Spring 1992, 14(4), 169-178.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1992b), ‘Whither dark night of the scholar?’ ReVision, Summer 1992, 15(1), 4-12.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1994a), ‘Seidr or trance?’ ReVision, 16(4), 183-191

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1994b). ‘Shamanic tales of power,’ in: van Quekelberghe (ed.), Trance, Possession, Healing Rituals, and Psychotherapy / Yearbook of Cross-Cultural Medicine and Psychotherapy 1994, pp. 153-180, Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung: Mainz, Germany.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1994c), ‘Perspectives on indigenous healing,’ Noetic Sciences Review, Spring 1995, pp. 13-18.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1994d). ‘On understanding indigenous healing practices,’ Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 4(1), 3-36.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1995) ‘Evolving into what and for whose purpose?’ ReVision, 18(3), pp. 27-36.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1996a) The Possibility Of Recovering Indigenous European Perspectives On Native Healing Practices, Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen , 5(2), pp. 149-164.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1996b), ‘The shadow of evolutionary thinking,’ ReVision, 19(1), pp. 41-48.

Kremer, J. W. (1996c) Probleme mit Ken Wilber’s evolutionären kognitionspsychologischen Annahmen. Teil I. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(1), 41-58. (Enlarged translation of 1996b,d)

Kremer, J. W. (1996d) Lingering shadows. ReVision, 19(2), 43-44.

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1997a), ‘Recovering indigenous mind,’  ReVision, 19(4), pp. 32-46

Kremer, Jürgen Werner (1997b), ‘Transforming learning transforming,’ ReVision, 20(1), pp. 7-14.

Kremer, J. W. (1997c) Probleme mit Ken Wilber’s evolutionären kognitionspsychologischen Annahmen. Teil II. Ethnopsychologische Mitteilungen, 6(2), 132-158. (Enlarged translation of 1996b,d)

Kremer, J. W. (1998b) The shadow of evolutionary thinking. In D. Rothberg and S. Kelly, Ken Wilber in Dialogue (237-258). Wheaton, IL: Quest. (Reprint of 1996b)

Kremer, J. W. (1998b) Lingering shadows. In D. Rothberg and S. Kelly, Ken Wilber in Dialogue (391-393). Wheaton, IL: Quest. (Reprint of 1996d)

Lyons, Oren, John Mohawk, Vine Deloria, Laurance Hauptman, Howard Berman, Donald Grinde Jr., Curtis Berkey, & Robert Venables (1992), Exiled in the land of the free, Clear Light Publishers: Santa Fe, NM.

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

PRATEC (1993), ¿Desarrollo o descolonizacion en los Andes? Pratec: Lima.

Reilly, R. J. (1971), Romantic religion, University of Georgia Press: Athens, GA.

Rengifo Vasquez, Grimaldo (1993), ‘Educacion en Occidente Moderno y en la Cultur Andina,’ in ¿Desarrollo o descolonizacion en los Andes? , pp. 163-187, Pratec: Lima.

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

Valkeapää, Nils-Aslak (1985), Trekways of the wind, DAT: Guovdageaidnu, Norway.

Valkeapää, Nils-Aslak (1996), Poems from Trekways of the wind. ReVision, 18(3), pp. 45-48.

Valladolid Rivera, Julio (1995), ‘Andean peasant agriculture: Nurturing diversity of life in the chacra,’ Interculture, # 126, pp. 18-56.

Valladolid Rivera, Julio (1997), ‘Andean agrostronomy,’ ReVision, 19(3), pp. 4-21

Vizenor, Gerald (1989) (Ed.), Narrative chance, University of New Mexico Press: Albuquerque, NM.

Vizenor, Gerald (1994a), Manifest manners, Wesleyan UP: London.

Vizenor, Gerald (1994b), Shadow distance, Wesleyan UP: London.

Von Frantz, Marie-Luise (1970), Interpretation of fairytales, Spring Publications: Dallas, TX.

Warrior, Robert Allen (1995), Tribal Secrets, U of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Wilber, Ken (1995), Sex, ecology, spirituality, Shambhala: Boston.

Winkelman, Michael (1993), ‘Evolution of consciousness?’ Anthropology of Consciousness, 4(3), pp. 3-9.

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

Wood, A.W. (1985), ‘Habermas’ defense of rationalism,’ New German Critique, 35, pp. 145-164.

Wyman, Leland (1967), The sacred mountains of the Navajo, Museum of Northern Arizona: Flagstaff, AZ.


Remembrance: An Intercultural Mental Health Process (PDF)

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

The Genocide of Native Americans: Denial, Shadow and Recovery (PDF)

The Genocide of Native Americans:
Denial, Shadow, and Recovery

A Conversation with
Betty Bastien,
Jürgen W. Kremer,
Jack Norton,
Jana Rivers-Norton,
Patricia Vickers

Published in:
ReVision, Summer 1999, Volume 22, Number 1, pp. 13 – 20
[Page numbers inserted below as P13 etc.]

[P13] Betty Bastien is a Blackfoot Indian from Alberta, Canada. She teaches at Red Crow Community College on the Blood Reserve in Alberta. Jack Norton is of Hupa (Northern California), Cherokee, and Dutch descent. He is a retired professor of Native American Studies from Humboldt State University, and is a recent apointee to the Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian History at the University of California, Riverside, and an Indian Education Consultant. Jana Rivers-Norton is an American of Swiss, German, and Celtic descent. She holds a Masters degree in English, has taught courses in literature and creativity at Humboldt State University, and is currently an adjunct faculty member at National University. She is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology at Saybrook Graduate School. Jack and Jana live in Southern California. Patricia Vickers is of Tsimshian (British Columbia) and English descent, and lives in British Columbia. She is a Ph.D. student at the University of Victoria and practices as clinical counsellor and mental health consultant in British Columbia. Jűrgen W. Kremer has been a settler in the US since 1982; his known ancestors are Germanic and Celtic from the Rhine Valley and the Baltic. He co-directed a graduate program for Traditional Knowledge, dedicated to the continuance and recovery of indigenous knowledge. He edited or co-edited ReVision issues on indigenous science, narrative explorations of culture, roots, and ancestry, healing and transformation, trance and healing, and culture and ways of knowing.

JÜRGEN: As an immigrant to this country I feel complicit with the continuing genocide and destruction of Native American tribes. My choice to be in this country makes me complicit even though I have no known ancestors from this continent — but I am participating in its ongoing history of genocide. This is what motivates me to facilitate a discussion on this important topic.

PATRICIA: One of the first things we need to address is our understanding of the word “shadow.” The term “negative energy” has also been used colloquially, although “energy” is more specific than “shadow.” A shadow is something that is cast when light shines on something. When I walk in the sunshine, my shadow is cast onto the ground. When I walk in the darkness, there is no shadow.

JACK AND JANA: For us the shadow is psychic energy that may take on negative qualities which manifest outward as acts of violence and fear when inner knowing and responsibility fail. Acts of genocide and oppression can be seen in this light. As psychic energy the shadow is a part of the human condition and exists in each of us as a potential psychic force.

PATRICIA: The reason that we are joined together as victim and victimizer is because we are human beings; “bad or evil energy,” or whatever one calls it, is separate from the one who is victimized and the one who victimizes. In Tsimshian belief, as I understand it, the negative energy is likened to an evil spirit that approaches us. We give it space or refuse it. We may know we are giving the negative energy space, or more often than not, we unconsciously choose to give it space. This unites both parties involved in the loss of an option that would facilitate goodness and life. Life involves this struggle with the “destructive energy.” Many aboriginal cultures share the belief that this energy exists here in the world and is separate from us as human beings. We have a responsibility to cleanse our hearts and spirits through dance, song, and ceremony that keep us “in the light”; keeping this responsibility of cleansing ourselves helps us to honor others. We are all struggling against negative energy and working toward balance and connection with our past, present, and future.

JANA: The American Holocaust (1992) by David E. Stannard provides an excellent analysis of the historical roots of the genocide of Native Americans from 1490 to 1890. At the heart of Stannard’s thesis is the claim that European cultures were obsessed with the annihilation of those individuals [P14] categorized as life-unworthy. An illustration of this type of thinking is the Christian concept of “Contemptus Mundi” or “contempt for the world” that gained prominence in Europe during the Middle Ages. It means that earthly existence, and hence the earth itself, is impure, suspect, and devoid of divine grace. Thus the flesh must be denied to rid the soul of earthly contamination in order to earn eternal bliss. Individuals associated with the earth (such as non-Christians, women, and the native populace of the Americas) needed to be subdued and converted, if not eliminated.

The genocide of Native Americans is especially marked by silence regarding the suffering endured by native peoples. Unlike the Jewish Holocaust, the genocide committed against the native peoples has not been acknowledged even though the historical facts clearly point to the genocidal intent enacted by the United States government and the private citizenry. Instead, native cultural groups are often denigrated or romanticized. Their demise is depicted and commemorated during many of America’s celebrations marking its success at colonization. This demise is linked to the collective American mythos of western dominance, and exalted under the principle of Manifest Destiny. In these facile assertions of national pride, which hide the price in native lives, Americans do not seem to comprehend their own complicity in the legacy of death and destruction.

For instance, the death of thousands of innocent native people is often depicted as “inevitable” or “necessary” for Western expansion (Rawls 1984) — an all too familiar concept of spatial superiority echoed in the Nazi doctrine of Lebensraumpolitik (Costo and Costo 1995). The native people, it is argued, were heathens, incapable of utilizing the vast stretches of fertile soil that beckoned to various European interests (Castillo 1978).

The contemporary impact of this genocide on native cultures remains horrific. Patterns of intergenerational dysfunction within native family systems have damaged the resolve of many to adhere to traditional values and religious practices. In addition, re-traumatization occurs when native people witness the disrespect and misguided perceptions exhibited by an insensitive and ignorant mainstream society regarding its own history.

JACK: Genocide is an assault on spirit. It is a disease of the human psyche, whether it is called an expression of the “collective shadow” or labeled otherwise. Yet even such a negative force can be transformed. If we recognize the shadow through our own commitments to change and transform, and through a sense of responsibility, we may become better human beings. It is important to take responsibility for one’s destiny.

For example, as America was celebrating its Bicentennial, I became energized as a Native American person to reflect upon thoughts that had accumulated all my life. My parents were products of Indian boarding schools. They were taken away from their parents, their loved ones, from family support systems and cultures, and put in Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kansas. My father was away from Hoopa, located in Northern California, his place of being and tradition, for eighteen long years before he came home. My mother who was Cherokee had come up from Oklahoma, and they met at Haskell. My family history was one of the factors which motivated me to look at California Indian history more deeply. I was amazed and outraged at what had happened and continues to happen in California. In 1976 I was galvanized to write a book entitled Genocide in Northwestern California (Norton 1979).

Since that time, I have tried to educate people about what happened in California. It is important to get the information out for all to see. The information has always been in the records of state and national legislatures as well as in the federal reports that were sent from California agencies to Washington. The information on the California genocide was also reported in the local newspapers.

For me personally, learning of the attacks upon the children was the most devastating aspect of facing the genocidal shadow. While testifying, for instance, on early California history in Siskiyou County, I related detailed information about the many massacres that took place. As I stood on the witness stand and began to cry, I could relate to the pain of the native people of those times. What, for example, would I do as a husband or father living in 1850 as my wife was raped or my child was sold into slavery? Worse yet: What would I do as an infant was picked up by the heels and its skull smashed against rocks? I was able to personalize the pain despite 150 years of elapsed history. I felt the sorrow and the attack upon innocence. California, for example, passed what was euphemistically called “The Act for the Governance and Protection of California Indians” in 1850, but most historians call it the Indian Slave Law (Heizer 1974). By that law Indian people could be sold into slavery for varying periods, usually from 20 to 25 years. Then in 1860, the California legislature made it easier for slave hunters, and by 1860 4,000 Indian children had been sold into slavery. Indians were also denied protection by the law. They could not bring any charges against a white person until the 1890s. In addition, thousands of Indian people were killed outright. Professional killing squads formed by citizen groups were funded by the state for the sole purpose of murdering Indian people. In fact, two of California’s governors, Peter Burnett and John McDougal, called for a war of extermination against the California Indians (Carranco and Beard 1963).

PATRICIA: You have mentioned that Native American genocide has arisen out of a long history of Eurocentered cultural processes. I believe that one of the main problems here is the departure from authentic spiritual belief, which has been and continues to be important amongst Tsimshian people. I was raised with the Christian teaching that the condition of the heart is vital to our well-being. [P15] And through my Tsimshian culture I have learned that it is crucial to keep my heart clean. The shadow needs to be confronted within my “self” first. I need to identify ways in which I am disrespectful or abusive to myself and others around me. When I speak rudely to my children or my partner, I need to make amends. When I am dealing with my negative energy in the moment, then I can face the shadow with “power” in society. I think it is important to acknowledge that the shadow already existed before European contact, and yet it certainly has increased in our communities through cultural oppression by those of European descent.

JANA: The impact of shadow material on American society is a complicated topic. Our sense of alienation and bewilderment regarding the condition of the American psyche is clearly visible in an obsessive need for possessions, material wealth, sexual gratification, and escapism. It seems as if American society is unable to integrate the personal aspects of the collective shadow due to delusional practices which are passed on to our children through family systems that in many ways train us to ignore inner authentic voices. In response, many of us strike out at our children, at the world, and one another, and therefore deny our own inner beauty and worth. Various forms of collective disease are masked, yet they materialize through various forms of acting out (racism, scapegoating, national chauvinism), and intrapsychically as shadow material, revealing itself in projection, avoidance, and refusal to face our own personal and planetary decline. Personal traumas lead to collective traumatization, and in turn, collective traumatization (oppression, repression, etc.) impacts personal trauma.

JACK: A crucial beginning in transforming the shadow is examining how children are treated, and how this treatment affects the way in which we feel about ourselves and others. Professor Sam Oliner, who is a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust and author of numerous sociological accounts of the Holocaust (S. Oliner 1991, S. Oliner and P. Oliner 1992, S. Oliner and Lee 1996) has often reiterated that the primary factor which determines whether individuals will become perpetrators, bystanders, or rescuers is their upbringing. If one is raised to respect life, choices concerning others are often guided by compassion. Those who are abused and neglected, however, are often ruled by hatred.

JANA: My heritage, for example, is German and Swiss. I remember visiting my grandfather who came directly from Germany shortly before the outbreak of World War II. He was a religious man and I always felt a certain spiritual affinity with him. However, he hated the Jews and would speak badly about them. I was puzzled and hurt by the contradiction that my grandfather represented and was determined to resolve any familial responsibility for the Holocaust. From what information I can gather, my family members were guilty of being bystanders, letting the atrocities occur, lacking the moral courage to stand against Nazi tyranny. I wrote a collection of short stories for my Masters thesis (Rivers-Norton 1991) on the genocide of native peoples in California, from the perspectives of perpetrator, bystander, rescuer, and survivor, in an attempt to understand the human condition through narrative. What motivates a people to attack another in such a cruel and inhumane way? What role did self-hatred play, as well as our own alienation from the planet? At that time I felt that by taking responsibility for genocidal acts, I was somehow transforming my own family system by disallowing the energy of the bystander to continue.

JÜRGEN: When I came to the US people usually responded to my feelings of shame and guilt about the Shoah by pointing out that I was born after the Second World War and therefore should not feel guilty. On the surface this made logical sense, but it was not what I was feeling in my body. It took me a long time to realize how the everyday complicity of “ordinary Germans” during the Nazi period had been communicated down to me, the way in which I “socially inherited” it, so to speak. It was during a fasting ceremony that I suddenly saw all the unspoken historical “stuff” that had been there as I was growing up, literally sitting with me every day at the dinner table while bombs were being fished out of the river in front of the house. It was this silence that made it impossible to discuss the Nazi paraphernalia that I found in the attics of the houses of my playmates as a child.

JANA: We seem to share a common need to resolve our own relationship to genocidal trauma, perhaps due to our shared Germanic heritage. Others, such as Dan Bar-On (1993), attempt to address the need to heal of descendants of those who experienced the Holocaust. His work involves both the descendants of Holocaust survivors and of Nazi perpetrators. It centers on the importance of reconciliation through addressing one’s own familial link to the Holocaust. The process Bar-On describes is arduous and at moments almost unbearable for those whose family members either survived or perished under Hitler ‘s rule; descendants met over a several month period to share the pain, anger, and outrage at the past through dialogue. For the descendants of the survivors, this process of retrieving banished memories which had been held psychically captive for years, became an overwhelming experience. At the same time, however, descendants of Nazi perpetrators had to face the truth about their own fathers, grandfathers, and countrymen, and had to be with often overwhelming shame and disbelief. Through the sharing of stories, one [P16] common thread surfaced: a pattern of silence between the generations was experienced by both survivors and perpetrators within their respective family systems. The survivors’ ancestors either refused to or could not speak about the atrocities because of the pain involved, and they did not want to burden children and grandchildren with their agony. For the descendants of perpetrators, the silence was of a different nature; their ancestors refused to speak either out of a deep sense of regret and guilt or because the original perpetrators felt that they had been falsely accused and denied any wrongdoing whatsoever. Bar-On’s work, utilizing what some psychologists refer to as narrative forms of healing, represents baby steps but healing steps nonetheless (Pennebaker, Glaser, and Kiecolt-Glaser 1988; Caruth 1995).

JÜRGEN: One of the things which has always struck me about the ways in which we address issues of genocide is that cultures are generally very inept at doing so. We don’t know how to promote social learning or grieving on a collective level. I grew up in Germany with the book The Inability to Grieve by Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich (1967). This title seems an apt phrase to describe the ongoing denial of Native American genocide in the U.S. and Canada. Areas such as personal wounding, family history, community history, politics, economics of land, racial ideologies, and the legal system are rarely brought together to develop a powerful and effective process for integrating something as overwhelming as the history of genocide of Native Americans. Of course, to raise the issue of how history is written and taught on this continent, is also to question the very construction of American, Canadian, and Mexican selves.

For me it seems crucial to connect the historical memory of genocide, striving for accuracy and completeness, with the personal wounds as they are carried by the survivors and those who are in one form or another complicit in the ongoing perpetration of genocide. I believe that Goldhagen’s (1996) book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, had such a dramatic effect in Germany because responsibility-taking and grieving had been insufficient. I remember reading the book when it first came out. Despite misgivings about some of his overgeneralizations, I had an immediate sense of recognition — he was describing an aspect of Nazi Germany that I had grown up with after the war, that had been passed on to me unconsciously. A split had been made in public consciousness between the “common citizen” who “happened” to live during the Third Reich, and the perpetrators who served as projective screens for all Nazi evils. In this way the complicity of the “common citizen” was never addressed and grieving was avoided. With the publication of Goldhagen’s book, such projection of “ordinary” citizens’ shadows was made so much more difficult, and continuing complicity in shadow maintenance had to be confronted. I believe that the denial of the current continuation of the genocide of Native Americans allows for an analogous split: whatever minute acknowledgment of the horrifying past is given furthers the denial of contemporary complicity.

In my view, all the theories, predictions, and fantasies about global consciousness, as well as the popular revival of shamanic approaches outside of their original contexts, require awareness of the cultural and physical genocide of indigenous peoples as a consequence of Indo-European history, and European history in particular. For me any of these ideologies or movements are not authentic if their awareness does not include what is currently going on with native peoples all over the world. Global consciousness, however we understand it, needs to make collective shadow work part of its process.

JACK: Today we have the opportunity to face the collective shadow by first acknowledging the truth about our history as Americans. Once that history has been acknowledged, once accountability is demonstrated, then it is necessary to take steps toward reconciliation. Americans can demonstrate a will for reconciliation and responsibility by demanding the return of Indian cultural artefacts, such as bones and regalia, which still belong to Indian people. A re-evaluation of the museum mentality is an opportunity for them to demonstrate their commitment to healing the consequences of genocide. (Even Hitler had plans to build a Jewish museum after the war.) Yet, the Indian people did not perish. Therefore we must be given the opportunity to determine what will be done with the remains of our ancestors, and what the proper use of other cultural items will be. A commitment to return Indian cultural items would greatly enhance healing and the setting aside of generations of bitterness and distrust. Most Indian people recognize when actions are taken that affirm decency and respect for Indian cultures. We cannot categorically blame all non-Indian people for the histories of the past. Yet, where in American history and where in California’s history has a process of collective accountability been evident? Who shall take the first step toward reconciliation?

BETTY: I believe that tribal people must begin to make sense of the recent past of colonialism and genocide based on their own tribal cultural paradigms. Power and strength can only come from one’s heart. Remaining within the framework of the dominant Eurocentered interpretations and Eurocentered educational systems means fostering an identity that is in final analysis dedicated to a world view aimed at the control of the natural and human world, rather than to an understanding of interconnection and living in relatedness. Accepting this framework means remaining dependent. So where do we go for solutions and interpretations?

My answer is: spirituality, ceremony, and traditional values, which lead us back to who we are concretely as indigenous people, who I am as a Nistiapi woman. “Nistiapi” can be translated as “Real People.” We are made real by the interconnections with all our relations. However, genocide, for those of us living in this world, will continue to affect the cosmic world balance. The difference [P17] between the abstracting, dissociating world of genocide and the concrete world of interrelationship of indigenous peoples is revealed when we acknowledge that every single participatory activity can counteract the effects of genocide. Indigenous people are finding balance through their traditional life based in relationship to each other, place, and the surrounding world.

JACK: When the miracle and beauty of life that comes from the spiritual realm is denied, then processes by which we perceive the world are limited or even distorted. A loss of innocence and wonder results. Any loss of respect for life is a tragic occurrence because it divides human beings into victims and victimizers. Victims have been brutalized. They have suffered injustices and betrayals. But a day comes when victims must find their own relationship to that betrayal and victimization. They have the choice between placing themselves within their own patterns of life, despite the things that have happened to them, and continuing to hate. This is a choice that can be made once conscious awareness of suffering surfaces. But humans need to be loved and cared for in order to gain such awareness (Miller 1988).

As a survivor of genocide, I have been fortunate for many reasons. I have come to realize that participation in the sacred ceremonies of my people is essential for maintaining a balance between the sacred and the profane. We Hupas of northwestern California, for example, still reside within our ancestral lands.

I am a spiritual dancer. I have purposefully sought responsibility and relationship to place. During our sacred ceremonies, the movement from profane to sacred is a time in which we re-create ourselves and our communities as the cosmos itself is re-created. In essence the Hupa are participating in the renewal and affirmation of the patterns of life by coming together as a community to stand upon sacred ground and ritualize our ancient connections to the earth. Living a profane existence tends to allow for the loss of the sacred — or our universal and essential relationship to creation. Once we lose sight of the sacredness of creation, we lose ourselves and may fall prey to evil.

JANA: When I first began to recover an embodied memory of the sacred potential of the earth, natural environments began to penetrate my personal awareness through a shift in energies that awakened in me a sense of inner knowing and connection to the land. As a displaced Indo-European, actively seeking my sacred roots to the earth, these realizations and revelations about the nature of reality and its interconnection were at first startling. But these experiences have demonstrated that the recovery of ancestral memory (e.g., cultural roots, indigenous teachings about land) is not impossible. In fact, it may be vital in the healing transformation of the shadow. This process, however, is not an easy task.

JÜRGEN: I use the term “recovery of indigenous mind” to label a process of coming to reality as late-coming settlers on these lands. Inherent is the memory that all peoples had at some point in history, a connected or participatory way of knowing and being. The process of remembrance has to include the painful process of confronting the horrifying aspects of American history as well as our disconnection from ancestral traditions and sacred places as the positive aspects of ancestry are recovered. Any aspect of this work is difficult to carry out, as is obvious from our discussion.

The confrontation with the reality and concreteness of genocide is particularly difficult. I find so often that the specific suffering of actual people is lost in discussions of genocide. Recently, I went to an exhibit of Pomo baskets from the turn of the century and earlier in Ukiah, California. I was appalled by the way the exhibition texts were obviously trying to be sensitive to the individuals whose pieces were on show, but included nothing about the destruction, killing, and suffering of the tribe. Only one small part of each basketmaker was permitted to be seen. The genocidal historical context in which these extraordinary baskets were created had been abstracted as if it had happened removed from actual people, and was not part of the relationship of basketmakers and the traders purchasing their baskets. Each of the Pomo basketmakers included in the exhibition had become decontextualized, thus facilitating idealization and romanticization in the spectators.

JANA: Jack and I recently went to the Museum of Tolerance, at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which is dedicated to the remembrance and the lived significance of the Jewish Holocaust as well as more current forms of social prejudice in the United States. It was terribly hard for me to be there and watch historical footage of innocent women and children being murdered during the Holocaust. Before me was the glaring testimony of my ancestors, whose eyes were filled with such coldness as they killed and maimed others. It affected me deeply. The tears seemed to flow involuntarily at the catastrophic loss. I also realized that we have an opportunity to reach out to each other no matter how wounded we are.

JACK: Being a California Indian and knowing that genocide against Indian people resulted in a death toll of 94% due to the consequences of violent contact and diseases, knowing that these diseases were at times introduced on purpose in order to decimate the native populace, knowing the entire history of California genocide, I was disappointed that the museum had no material addressing these issues. Building a Museum of Tolerance in downtown L.A. [P18] on native ancestral lands, without including the voice of the suffering that had occurred on this continent and within the state of California, is from my perspective a huge oversight.

A California mission, for example, could be constructed so that visitors could walk through a series of interactive displays and encounters with Native American victims, thus bringing historical data to life. Visitors could bear witness to the harshness of the Padres, the rape and brutality perpetrated against the Indian women and children, the shackled feet and hands, and a steadfast refusal to allow Indian ceremonials. For example, in 1771, when the mission San Gabriel was being built, a soldier molested an Indian woman. Her husband protested by firing an arrow at the soldier. The husband was shot and killed. His head was cut off and was placed on a pike outside of the mission walls (Phillips 1975) . This information is all well-documented and attests to the brutality of the mission system, and yet most of us do not know this history or perhaps refuse to acknowledge it.

I was impressed, however, at the Museum of Tolerance when each visitor was given a card with a picture of a Jewish child, together with a brief personal history. At the end of the display the card was inserted into a computer and a printout was generated telling the visitor whether or not the child had survived the Holocaust. The horror of the experience from the survivor’s perspective was a vital teaching tool that diluted any attempt to be rational or distant about what one was witnessing.

JANA: The work of Henry Krystal on massive psychological trauma (1968, 1988) immediately comes to mind. According to his research, as well as other more recent researchers such as Van Der Kolk, McFarlane, and Weisaeth (1997) and Herman (1997), genocide is often viewed within the psychological literature as the most devastating and debilitating form of traumatization, because it causes enormous physiological and psychic overload, shock, numbing, and grief. It involves the severe devastation caused by cultural destruction, enslavement, relocation, and massive loss of life.

Research suggests, however, that through a narrative process, through sharing the stories of suffering, individuals may begin to organize, structure, and integrate emotionally charged traumatic experiences and events (Krystal 1988, Pennebaker 1995). In contrast, efforts to suppress or silence thoughts and feelings of these experiences create continual and long lasting problems, which may in some instances be transmitted intergenerationally (Sigal and Weinfeld 1989). Some individuals, for example, who attempt to put trauma out of their minds only increase self-negating thoughts and gestures. Efforts to distract actually appear to increase the frequency, intensity, and number of external stimuli that will trigger a memory or re-enactment of trauma (Niederland 1968). If an individual’s voice of trauma is not heard or is discounted or ridiculed, or if one’s pain is not acknowledged, then isolation, fear, anxiety, and psychological disease may dramatically increase. The research, therefore, suggests that by telling the story of trauma and survival, the survivor creates both a relational dialectic with other human beings as well as an internal symbolic encounter between self and other (Tedeschi and Calhoun 1995; Pennebaker 1993; Bucci 1993)

PATRICIA: When I look at our responsibility as aboriginal people, I am simultaneously speaking to non-aboriginal people. However, it is not necessary to have non-aboriginal people’s acknowledgment of their ancestors’ wrongs in order for us aboriginal people to heal. Because we are raised to remember our responsibility we offer non-aboriginal people our knowledge of life and how we are connected, our knowledge of negative energy, cleansing, balance, and the privilege of life. Our cultures call us to this responsibility of teaching others what we have learned, and I am thankful for people like yourselves, as participants in this discussion, who are working to bring about this reconciliation and restitution.

BETTY: I believe a further question we need to ask ourselves as Native Americans is: How do we participate in our own genocide? And how does this participation show up in our everyday interactions and relationships?

Perhaps we can begin by facing our collective delusions. In every culture there is the idea of what makes a good human being, and it seems to me that the idea of “controlling” both others’ lives and nature is what makes a good person according to pervasive assumptions in the Western world of imperialism. With it comes an image of niceness and goodness that provides no easy place for shadow material. The expected social image of niceness and the good person require the suppression of shadow issues. From a native perspective such a person is not nice at all, because the not-so-nice shadow material is apparent and part of our daily experience. 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 goot; 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 that 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 [P19] 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?

PATRICIA: Just recently here in British Columbia the Nisga’a treaty, the first treaty in British Columbia’s history, was initialed. The Nisga’a people have ratified the agreement. to give them jurisdiction over their own hereditary lands, something they have been working toward for over 100 years. The agreement is now going to the provincial government for debate by the elected representatives. As this act of meager restitution is being debated amongst the politicians, I am asking myself: What is important about this? Our losses are so great in comparison to what the treaty might offer. For example the Indian Act from the 1870s defined aboriginal people as wards of the government and no longer owners of territories that had belonged to our ancestors for thousands of years. The treaty gives the Nisga’a self-determination, which means they will no longer depend on the government to determine their affairs. But while the Nisga’a have been struggling for freedom, their resources are being depleted with government approval and their social well-being has being tended to by professionals who are not trained to deal with the overwhelming issues that have developed as a result of residential schools, and other attempts at cultural genocide by the provincial and federal governments.

My rage subsides as I sit in silence. The things that Betty, Jack, Jana, and Jűrgen have said come back to me. Our spirit and our heart are what is important. Those are the teachings that my mother encountered when she went to the Tsimshian village of Kitkala which is located on Dolphin Island on the Northwest coast of British Columbia. She encountered family feuds that were generations old, and negative energy, but what she passed on to me were the positive attribute of the Kitkatla people regarding spiritual balance and integrity. As I look to the elders to help us heal in the aboriginal communities on the Northwest coast of British Columbia, I am saddened. I am not without hope, but I feel and see the impact of genocide in the cloak of Indian Affairs attempts to assimilate aboriginal people. I see Indian day schools, residential schools, burning of ceremonial regalia, segregation, isolation, and land appropriation. At the same time, our people are on a slow journey to recover our collective soul. What is our part as individuals in this process of recovering our collective soul?

First, I think that it is important for those who are elected to federally imposed political positions in our villages or reserves to acknowledge ways in which we are now oppressing ourselves. How are we continuing the genocide? As we examine our own hearts as leaders and work toward the high standards our ancestors established, we will be able to ask ourselves questions such as: What are we doing to destroy the trust that we need in each other, our culture, and ourselves? And those of us who are providing services to our people, what are we doing to create positive change? The genocide of our culture is now being perpetuated by us in actions such as Band and Tribal employees favoring their family members when providing the current housing policies, employment, education benefits, and health needs. Or community members excluding specific families because of jealousy, envy, and even hatred. We have forgotten our traditional healing ways and have taken on the “us versus them” mentality when conflict occurs.

Secondly, we have forgotten that when violence occurs in our communities two mothers are saddened, the mother of the violated and the mother of the one who has violated. We have forgotten that when violence occurs there are two families and a community that need the sacred presence of healing. We must first look at ourselves and admit what we are doing to our brothers and sisters.

Thirdly, but not finally, we need to take responsibility for our actions. When we are wrong we need to admit it. If the wrongful action was in public, then there are traditional ways in which we as Tsimshians can make amends for our mistake. When we are willing to identify our oppressive actions, admit they are wrong, and bring about resolve and restitution in culturally appropriate ways, then we can move away from this place of oppression. When we manage to take responsibility for ourselves we will be able to climb out of, rise out of, walk out of this hell that has entrapped us and our ancestors. Then we have the opportunity to escape this energy that works only to consume all who participate in these acts of oppression. The colonists’ teachings categorized aboriginal people as inferior in their schooling, law, and religious teachings. It is our responsibility to forgive, and seek restitution through the treaty process, compensation, and negotiation with the governments, courts, and churches.

JACK: We must remember that all Indian societies, or more broadly all aboriginal societies, always managed to find the best possible means by which to live healthy and productive lives in a particular time and place They cultivated the land, built fish dams, and worked out means by which to express the values of society. The challenge is no different today. We must find those same elements, take that same responsibility, and find those means. For this we must first look at ourselves and know who we are. We need to find relationship to ourselves and to those around us — our families, our tribes, and the world around us. It is always that reciprocity and the interactions of all those elements that matter.

A good illustration of this process is what has happened recently among the Karuk people of Orleans, in northwestern California. There was a period of 100 years in which there were no strong religious ceremonies. Then in 1993 a group of young traditional people got together and said, “We know where the dance ground is.” There were also elders who knew where the dances used to be held. The land was still there, and the ceremonial dance grounds still existed. So the people of Orleans re-created the traditional sacred patterns of the Jump Dance ceremony. This has re-vitalized the culture and spiritual ways of knowing that have been dormant and neglected for years due to genocide, cultural hatred, and fear. One interesting aspect of the Karuk Jump Dance is that the dance makers have utilized a traditional healing ceremony to heal the pains and wounds of oppression and the consequences of genocide — making an ancient spiritual process vital for today.

[P20] References
Bar-On, D. 1993. Holocaust perpetrators and their children: A paradoxical morality. In The collective silence – German identity and the legacy of shame, ed. B. Heimannsbert and C. Schmidt, 195-208. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Bucci, W. 1993. The power of narrative: A multiple code account. In Emotion, disclosure and health, edited by J. Pennebaker, 53-72. Washington, D.C.: APA
Carranco, L. and E. Beard. 1963. Genocide and vendetta: The Round Valley wars of Northern California. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
Caruth, C. 1995. Trauma: Explorations in memory. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Castillo, E. (1978). The impact of Euro-American exploration and settlement. In Handbook of north american indians, vol 8: California, edited by R.F. Heizer, 90-127. Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution.
Costo, R. and J. Costo 1995. Natives of the golden state. San Francisco, CA: Indian Historian Press.
Fisher, R. 1992. Contact and conflict: Indian-European relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890. Vancouver:UBC Press
Goldhagen, D. H. 1996. Hitler’s willing executioners – Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Knopf.
Heizer, R.F. 1974. (Ed.) The destruction of California Indians. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.
Herman, J. 1997. Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence–from domestic abuse to political terror. NY: Basic Books.
Krystal, H. 1988. Integration and self-healing: Affect–trauma–alexithymia. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.
Krystal, H. 1968. (Ed). Massive psychic trauma. NY: International Universities Press.
Miller, A. 1990. The untouched key: Tracing childhood trauma in creativity and destructiveness. NY: Doubleday.
Mitscherlich, A. & M. Mitscherlich. 1967. Die Unfähigkeit zu trauern – Grundlagen kollektiven Verhaltens. [The inability to grieve – Foundations of collective behavior.] Munich, Germany: Piper.
Niederland, W.G. 1968. The problem of the survivor: The psychiatric evaluation of demotional disorders in survivors of Nazi persecution. In Massive psychic trauma, edited by H. Krystal, 8-22. NY: International Universities Press.
Norton, J. 1979. Genocide in Northwestern California. San Francisco: Indian Historian Press.
Oliner, S. 1991. Altruisim: Antidote to war and human antagonism. In Politics and psychology – Contemporary psychodynamic perspectives, ed. Offerman-Zucherberg. NY: Plenum Press.
Oliner, S., and P. Oliner1992. Toward a caring society. NY: Free Press.
Oliner, S., and K. Lee 1996. Who shall live: The Wilhelm Bachner story. Chicago, ILL: Academy Chicago Publishers.
Pennebaker, J. 1993. Emotion, disclosure and health. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Pennebaker, J., J. Glaser and J. K. Kiecolt-Glaser. 1988. Disclosure of traumas and immune system function: Health implications. The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56 (2), 239-245.
Phillips, G.H. (1975). Chiefs and challengers: Indian resistance and cooperation in Southern California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Rawls, J. 1984. Indians of California: The changing Image. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
Rivers-Norton, J. 1991. Where Streams Collide. Unpublished Masters thesis, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA.
Sigal, J.J., and M. Weinfeld. 1989. Trauma and rebirth: Intergenerational effects of the Holocaust. NY: Praeger Publishers.
Stannard, D. E. 1992. American Holocaust. New York: Oxford.
Tedeschi, R.G., and L.G. Calhoun. (1995). Trauma & transformation: Growing in the aftermath of suffering. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Tennant, P. (1995). Aboriginal peoples and politics: The Indian land question in British Columbia, 1849-1989. Vancouver:UBC Press
van der Kolk, B., Mcfarlane, A. C., and Weisaeth, L.1997. Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body and society. NY: The Guilford Press.