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1 September 1988 Personal Correspondence on Cross-cultural Science Translation (PDF)

Sept. 1, ’88.

REf. Native Science Conf.

Dear Pam

Here is my suggestion for the “Frame” for the Native Science Conference. There is nothing I can say to you that you do not already know. I only attempt to write out some ideas that might make you feel assured. You are honoring me by taking the posture of asking for help. Whether I could help or not, I have to respond.

I gave you a picture of the Matrix. So this time I shall explain the Matrix and add notes. The picture is simple, but it has to be so. Once you get into discussions, however, the picture turns quite complex. Perhaps, it may be better explained in several “Levels”. As to the trick of “Simplicity” which constitutes the backbone of European “Science”, there are several philosophical problems. But I shall explain them later (see Appendix A).

Level I. Nominal Comparison

Imagine average North American White Male University students, and consider a task of explaining Native Science in contrast to European Science, such as;

(1) That Native Science is not “alienated” from its practice.

(2) Native Science/Counseling is more “Supportive” than “Clinical”

(3) Native Science is an integral part of Communal Living, not Individualistic Assertion of Knowledge. There is no Intellectual Hero in Native Science.

Having such a task in our mind, let us look at a “Comparison Table” (Map) such as below, and think about what questions the simple map might generate.

The basic idea here is to trace 4 items in relation, not just pairing comparison of 2 in antagonism. Dialectics of conflicts must be presented, but at the same time if we can shift our attention to the relational dynamics in looking at 4 items, that would be nice. I am trying “Quadra-lectics”.


[Table 1]

European Native American



Therapy Medicine

Ritual Healing



Medical Science Clinical


Medicine ( ? )

Social Sciences Social Works Community

Participation /


( ? )

– – – – – – –

I–1. The Question on the Existence of Native Science.

The first reaction of the students is to question “Does Native Science Exist?” They might say, “Science” has to be “documented” knowledge (book knowledge). Therefore, (in the nominal sense) Native Science does not exist.”

You have gone through the question thousands of times, and you even feel angry about the ignorance of the students. [Besides, for the participants of the planes conference, the answer is already clear. There is no need to go back to the rudimentary question.] But, be patient. The question is not trivial.

Let us look at possible questions/debates the table might generate. i.e.

a. “What example of Native Science do we have?”

b. “Where and how can one find Native Science?”

c. “What use does it serve to find Native Science?”

d. “Why do we need to elaborate/document on Native Science?”

“Does it help anybody?”

e. Do not Natives have/want “Wisdom”, not “Book Knowledge” sense of “Science”? Do they wish to be “Scientific” in the sense “Technical” or “Intellectual”?

If “Science” means “to reduce anything into simple mechanical routines”, is it not reducing Wisdom/Spirit into Machine?

f. “Suppose there is a set of basic ideas, guiding principles, metaphysics, or world-view, for the Native Praxis. Can we call it “Science” without modifying, correcting, or enlarging the European notion of Science?” “If so, on what ground can we justify the change?” “Is the change necessary?” “Does the change help anybody”? “Why do we need alternative sense of Science?”.


I-2. Questions on European Science.

But then, there are questions about European Science. The advantage of Quadra-lectics is that it makes easy to see there also exists conflicts/problems/antagonism/tension inside European Science. One has to look at every combination (there are 6 of them) of the 4 in relation.

a. There are problems in asserting that (European) Psychoanalysis is a “Science”.

European “Medicine” may be more of an Art than a Science.

How Scientific are the Sciences, such as Social Sciences or Physics?

b. What is the relation/connection between “Science” (Theory/Knowledge) and Practices?

What good does Theoretical Science provide to the Praxis? (What roles does “Theology” play in Religions as social/psychological phenomena?)

Is the theoretical sense of science only for edifying?

c. How relevant are “Social Sciences” to “Social Works”?

How useful is it to elaborate “Theory” for the people who practice routines which are nominally associated (subjugated) to the Theory?

What does the science of Economy say about the bureaucratic system/technique/procedure of the Social Work/Service/Welfare?

To be sure, it is reasonable to question if the Economics that we have in our academia today is a “Science”. It is sometimes said to be “Dismal Science”, but it may not be a “Science” at all.

Interestingly, by some strict definition, Physics is not a Science. Some physicists even “proudly” say that they are “Artists”.

d. What is wrong with being a “Non-Scientist”? Why should every good thing be a “science”? Is not being a “Humanitarian” enough?

Those questions have to be asked to make a comparative match with questions in I-1.

[See for the problems of European Medicine; Charles E. Rosenberg in The Care of Strangers, Basic Books 1987, talks of the inconsistency of “Vocation” and “Stewardship” which are nonetheless made into a “marriage of convenience” between Healers and Hospital. Illich, Foucault, et al likewise criticized the Medical Profession/Institution. And even our conservative governments are aware of some of the problems, because it costs too much.

I suspect the institutions of “Clinical Social Work” have similar problems with “Medicine”. The “Success” of Institutionalization/Professionalization always brings problems.

And, this leads to the question of the Social Cost (Pollution, Entropy) of the Mechanical Thinking that is worshiped as “Scientific”.]

I-3. Why bother making a comparison?

You might say; “I have made comparisons. So what?” In fact, you showed me many articles which are written on comparisons. Ones which attack European Science always carry some comparisons as the basis of attack.

On the basis of comparisons, one can go to

(i) Assimilation (Surrender) to European Science,

(ii) Rejection of Science without assertion of an alternative.

(iii) Rejection of Science, with assertion of Pure Humanism, Spiritualism, or Wisdom.

(iv) Compromise, Reconciliation, Integration.

(v) Construction of Strategy to deal with the Conflicts/Problems.

(vi) Emergence of Alternative Science, with a creative vision of World Community.

In terms of questions, students might ask

a. Is it not a step in assimilating Natives inot the Domination by European Intellect?

Just because European Culture/Civilization has a distinct fragment called “Science”, why should Natives have it?

b. Is not the show of difference a device to “demonstrate” the Intellectual inferiority of Natives?

c. When European Science itself is having troubles, if not in crisis, why should Natives look for “Science” to copy the troubles?

d. What are we going to do with the differences? Are we to eliminate the differences, say by making one of them extinct?

e. Are we not interested in Native Science, because we have troubles with our European Science? [Turning Point, et al]

II. Level II Case Studies at Level I

Here, we consider Graduate School level of talking/thinking. They presumably had exposure to the level I questions, at least some of them. You are a Professor supervising young Ph.D. candidates who are working on Native Science. What would you tell them?

 For Master’s Thesis, an articulation/elaboration on the Level I questions is a good exercise. They must do one. They must read and know a body of materials (book knowledge) and do at least one “Field Work” to see what the written materials are talking about. I point out here that even if one does work on one aspect, having awareness of the overall picture is helpful. That is the Table I is worth looking at repeatedly. The Map tells where one is.

This level of work is publishable in academic journals. In fact, many are published. But they are “academic” in that they are not intended to help people.

One might select a thesis that Native Communities (Culture) ought to reject European Science in totality and live in an “Ideal Isolation”. I concede that this might be a possible and viable strategy for some nations. When an African Economist proposed it as an answer to the problem of Economic Colonialism, I agreed. The Burmese Socialist Government, which is talked about in News Media today, tried this. Pol Pot Communists went to the extreme of even eliminating “science” along with “Intellectuals”. [Mao’s Red Guard was anti-intellectual, but respected “Science”. What Mao might have thought or hoped of “Science” — that is, there is a dialectics of “Destructive Technology/Constructive Science — may be a topic at Level III.]

I acknowledge the value of Warning Statements, pointing out problems of European Science. But I wonder what the writers are thinking as to what to do about the problems that they saw.

One can write and talk about “Rejection of European Science” and “Back to Traditional Native Medicine”. However, the comparison to European Science is there. Even if the comparison is rhetorically avoided, such works can hardly escape from being a “Reaction” to European Science.

What is worse, by the “angry rejection”, they may be taken as implicit acknowledgement that they cannot overcome European Science — i.e. acknowledgement of unquestionable superior “rationality”, “intelligence”, “power”, etc. of European Science. Saying “I cannot help Europeans from going down to Hell with their Science” may be taken as an equivalent of saying Native Wisdom has no capability to help.

That leads us into Level III. (Critical Reflection), and IV. (Creation of Alternative Science).

III. Critical Reflection

III-1. Supportive Counseling versus Clinical Operation.

As an example, let us take up the differences between “Clinical Therapy” and “supportive Counseling”. Native Healing is “Supportive”. It is not done in the sense of “putting a totally incapacitated patient, knocked unconscious, on a table to operate on it”. (The pardigmatic Metaphor of European Medical Science). Native Medicine often involve Family and Community. It was not done on an Individual basis. All powers (love relations and functions) are solicited for help. Medicine men/women are “Mediums” and “Facilitators” for the power to come together, not power itself.

In the beginning, I said “North American White Male Students”. Female students are excluded, because in the “Macho Science”, they may not talk/think/behave in the “typical” ways. There is usually considered to be a weakness and “unscientific” tendency in Females. they do not like to play the role of (Male) God in cutting up people on the operation table, even if the ultimate aim is to help the guy. Females tend to see “People” being sick or in trouble, rather than entertain the glorious mission of fighting a War against Disease (Evil) as Male Doctors often do. Male Doctors do acknowledge “Will To Live” in patients, but such “help” is solicited in “their” Fight against Disease. “Conquer the Disease” is the main paradigm of Male Medical profession. “Care of person” is the job of nurses, not doctors.

It is not that Females are dysfunctional in Clinical situations. In fact many are engaged in Clinical Social Works — except that they tend to take a posture of either (i) “being told” what to do, alienating them from personal involvement/responsibility, or (ii) like the case of the Big Nurse, identifying themselves with the Power Structure. they are more at home with “Supportive Counseling”, if not merely “Comforting”.

That makes interesting “observation” what Native Healing (Medicine, Science) is “Feminine”. Calling upon the help of the Power Spirit is not the same thing as having a sense of Power within oneself.

In the context of Social Works, what are the role/function of the workers? And what kind of Science would be helpful for them?

For the Clinical works, there Power Science justifies, and even what they do is a false sense of compelling workers to do.

Is there any “Science” behind supportive Counseling?

Evidently, the Support is needed, appreciated, and recognized as effective. But “Science”?

European Science came from “Fighting”. Humans, faced With Fear, either get aggressive or regress into inability. In that “Science” is “empowering” — to make humans assertive, aggressive, active —. “Love Play” has always been in Science, particularly in creative works, but it has always been “subservient”, “secondary”, “helping side” of the Power side. There have been many talks by great scientists about “Love” in science, but texts in Science do not intend to “teach” about that.

I would imagine even Clinical Social Works is motivated by “Love/Care”. But “Love/Care” is not the main “Operational Principle” of the Clinical Social Work, but the “Power of Technical Routines” is the main concern. Having or seeing Problems, the Clinical Operation set itself up as the means to Fight — the “War” to eliminate the problem —.

“Supportive Counseling” may be seen as “weak”; some might perceive it as “ineffective”, if they do not know the performance, say in terms of quantified “Success Rate”. This is because the Support gives an impression that it leaves the problem unresolved. It is not attacking the problem directly, but merely caring for the person.

The separation/dichotomy of “Being” and “Problem” is a heritage from Ancient Atomism. Being is a Dynamics and Problem is a Dynamics. Although the “level” of Dynamics may be different they are both Dynamics (Interaction). The Mechanical Science whch sees “Beings” as “Objects” is totally inadequate. There exists the awareness of such an inadequacy in some sciences, but it is far away from the “Science” of the Clinical Social Works. And because the majority in Social Works is Clinical, the Social Works as a whole has not yet come to construct “Science” for the “supportive counseling”. It is left for a few brave (or rather bleeding) souls to practice on ad hoc basis.

It is not only Native Science that is unrecognized and repressed, but all “Love Sciences” are.

This is a topic for the Level III works.

III-2. The Difficulty of Translation

Another possible topic at Level III is that of “Translation”, “Cross Cultural Understanding”, “Bridging”, “Interfacing”.

It is understandable that the Native Community entertains an Ideology of Separation/Rejection. After all, it has been European Culture that separated, rejected Natives. European Domination accepts only total Surrender of Natives, territory, culture, bodies, souls, and even history.

Therefore, naturally any attempt in the direction of “understanding” is suspected or viewed as “Compromise”, “Betrayal”, “Sell Out”, “Contamination”.

In many Colonized countries, a certain portion of natives became “Translators” for the European Power. They enjoyed somewhat privileged positions in the power structure, while others were mercilessly exploited, oppressed, killed and even sold as slaves. East Indians were often imported into other colonies to serve as lower class officers for European Administrators. Even after these colonies gained independence, the “Class Distinction” remained. [Japan narrowly escaped that owing to the late coming of Europeans to the Far East.] Native Americans have never developed such a “Class Distinction”, but nonetheless there are resentments against those who sell services to Europeans.

Eber Hampton in “The Sweat Lodge and Modern Society” mentions the destruction of Native Agriculture, which David Riesman missed in his Harvard lecture. Indeed, that is a “deliberately forgotten history” (The Big Brother erased it). But many Natives themselves seem to have erased the history when they refer to “Traditional Fur Trade”. The Fur Trade, when Iroquois Nations became addicted, destroyed their Agriculture and Community Craft Industry that they had. Hunting to provide for their own community needs is Traditional. Hunting to sell furs is not. I say this not as an accusation, but as an example of how easy it is for History to be destroyed by “Translators”.

And one thing which caught my attention is that Eber Hampton appears to be proud of “Indian English”, but it is strange for a guy like me who never learned English enough to develop “my own English”. I only manage to read an write in English as a “Foreign Language”. To me Indian English is not a Native Language. However, that betrays a tragic reality of Native Life today. Namely, without Translation into Academic English, Eber could have gotten nowhere.

You might say “Live with Native Language!” That is easy to say, as long as one is not going to do it in real life. Even without European Languages, what will Natives today do? What about the rifles that they use in their hunting? What about power boats? TVs, refrigerators, Trucks, Supermarket, Hospitals and Alcohol? The pens and papers used to apply for European Welfare? They are not “Languages” in the formal sense, but, they are the kind of idioms and vocabulary by which Native Living is spelled out.

There are millions of “Non-Reserve Indians” whose homes are on the streets of Whitemen’s Cities. Thousands of Native children were adopted by European families. Even if “Pure Blood Indians” opted for total separation in some Indian Territories (Nations, Reserves), there would be millions who will be “Outsiders”.

And what will the pure-blood Nations do about dealings with the rest of the World? A Closed State in political rhetoric is easy, but the problems of actually Living Life cannot be wiped off by the inflated hot rhetoric. Much as I admire and sympathize with the sentiment which might say, “Fuck European Science”, I cannot imagine any other way but to come to terms with European Science in one way or another.

And to come to terms with the other Science, one needs to have one’s own Science, or equivalent thereof. Ideally, the Native Science is so much better in that it can understand European Science, including its limitations, weaknesses, and faults, as well as strength and power. One cannot get that by closing the door and watching T.V. while drinking beer and liquor from European stores.

Let David Riesman be alone. He can rot in his ignorance. As far as he is concerned, he is doing very well without knowing about Natives. Even if he happened to know about Natives, he is not obliged to restore Native Farming for Education. Therefore criticizing David Riesman is a waste of time. It can only be done by Natives.

The atrocities, sufferings and pains inflicted on Natives, pureblood or otherwise, inside reserves or outside, are Real. They are there, whether one likes it or not. They cannot be ignored. Europeans imposed them on Natives, but if Natives do not remove them, Europeans would not. That makes dealing with European Science unavoidable. There, Translators have very important roles to play. If European Science is the Enemy, one has to know it to fight it. One might even think about the possibility of “Beating the Enemy at his own Game”.

Righteous indignation is natural, and there ought to be more of it. That is the Passion needed. I would venture to say that is the Fire Way. However, sooner or later, one has to come to the question of “What To Do About The Problems?”

To face the question of “What To Do About the Problems?” is a Science. Describing the problems, so that many people come to know the problems and can start building basis of co-operation, is the important first step in the Science. But one cannot let one’s passion be exhausted by that. There is a next step, which is harder.

If we attempt Science, we need

(1) The “Science of knowing what problems are, and

(2) The Science of knowing what to do about them.

The second step has to be persistent. I would characterize it as the Water Way.

[There is the Earth Way to make things concrete, and the Wind Way has to help with Creativity needed. Then must come the Tree Way to Integrate and gently embrace the whole. But that is the topic of Level IV.]

Let me try here my armchair psychoanalysis. Natives are brave, and they are not afraid of European Science. What they Fear is not that. They are not “running away” from European Science under the disguise of righteous indignation — though European Science is indeed horrible —. The psychological trouble is that any Learning involves Love. Learning of Science is “Erotic”. Traditionalists may indeed Fear this “Love Affair”. They are afraid of “Seduction” by European Science.

Education can be “Sweet”. Yet my grandfather rioted against the Japanese Government when it imposed the school system on his village. He said, “It is bad enough that peasants are forced to pay high Tax, but now the Government is taking our children away”. He appeared to stand against Education. That is strange for one who learned to read and write on his own. He was not afraid of Science, but eagerly read and learned. Besides, he often took care of “troublesome kids” from villages around, and was known as a great educator (Therapist/Counselor). But his sense of Education was not “School Education”. Being a peasant himself, he knew what was needed to be learned. He never lost his Peasant Spirit. I have known a Scholar in the same village who was reading works of French Linguist in 1945 when most Japanese did not have any more than one pair of shoes, in the aftermath of WWII. In 1945, the life of Japanese was worse than that in, say, Nigeria then, a lot less than “Bushmen” in Canada. He did not become a Frenchman but stayed as a Peasant even after he became the president of a college. He was entirely self-taught. It is unfortunate that Japanese Peasants are not well known as “Samurais” who constituted less than 10% of the Japanese population.

I am not saying the Japanese are any better in comparison with Native Americans. They have a lot of problems. But the point is that learning European Science without selling our souls is possible. One jus has to remember that accumulation of “knowledge” is not of any value, but how much help one can offer to others in community is the measure of Science.

Level IV. Tree Science

This is Pam’s Science. I am not qualified to talk about it. The Conference hopefully comes to the Vision of it. Or better yet, Pam will bring a Prophecy. I am merely guessing at your dream. By introducing “Quadra-lectics”, you are overcoming the antagonistic paradigm in European Dialectics and introducing “relational science” which is a better Format for Healing/Love. You suggested the idea of 4-in-Relations not by so much words, but by dream-pictures.

I imagine you would talk about concrete, real, direct and personal experiences in Community Counseling. It is always good that talk is made “concrete”. But, You are “Counseling” the World Community by the same talk. If you can help the Healing of a Native Community, the very same Science can heal the World Community.

You might talk about your Science that you are raising.

There was one thing You said that was something to the effect of “in some cases there may not be a cure”. I do not know what you were referring to. Therefore I may be totally off the mark. But if you mean by “cure” in the “Clinical” sense, there is no cure for any case. The community has to recognize its own problem. The community has to do its own healing. Agencies from outside can only be helpers. Suppose the agencies of the dominant culture find a situation in some native community is a “problem”, then it is likely that the “problem” is, by a large measure, caused by the dominant culture. [If a child is behaving badly, it is likely that the family is in trouble.] And if so, then Clinical Therapy ought to be applied to the dominant culture, first of all.

If the Clinical Therapy is either not workable or not acceptable to the dominant culture, it is silly to expect the same would work for, or be acceptable to, the Native Community in question. One cannot apply the Principle of “Do as I tell you, not do as I do”. Science ought, at least, to be honest.

One of the advantages you have is that you are in a position to practice the therapy of the dominant culture, though yours is not the “clinical” kind. If you remember, that is where I met you, namely in Peace Research which is a science for “counseling” the World, in particular the most powerful of European Nations. It is what I might call “Social Therapy”.

Here, I like to tell you that Newtonian Mechanics was a very powerful “Therapy” (Brainwashing) which “empowered” Europeans to Industrialize. Yet, Newtonian Mechanics is made of nothing but “Words” and “Metaphors”.

You might think about why the “Story” called Newtonian Mechanics was so effective, so powerful. If you were in the Europe of the 16th century, you might have said that there was no “cure”. Germany did not come into the “Scientific Revolution” until the 19th century. In the beginning of the 20th century, Russians and Italians were no more ahead of the Japanese who started to learn European Science some 20 years before that time. And the learning of European Science in any country came at a horrendous cost.

Your Native Science (or Tree Science) may appear powerless. Because the only thing you can do at this moment is just make up “stories”. You may not foresee the consequences of what you are making up, any more than Galileo, Descartes and Newton did about their “Stories”. But, that does not mean there is no consequence, no effect. You might get a big surprise. It is not defending the traditional Native Culture that I am concerned about, but rather I am interested in Native Science as a Creation of Alternative Science which works for the World. It is a gift from Native Culture.

That brings me to say a few things about “Science”. “Science” is not an object of Archeological Study of some Dead Knowledge. It has a life, dynamic, development, creativity. At least, Science responds to the problems of community of the time. Or rather, Science is created and manifested as the response of Community to its problems. Just as Love takes a particular form of expression in a particular relationship, Science is particular to the situation; The Vision that one seeks is particular to the one who is in the particular circumstance. I respect ancient Wisdom. but Wisdom is wisdom, only if it is alive in the minds and souls of people today and functioning. That is why the learning of wisdom takes creativity. And I hope all the suffering Natives have had to go through was not vain.


This is incomplete, but I send this to you for now. The Appendix A shall follow.


Sam K.

P.S. Thank Chyna for me. I appreciated her patience. She is an impressively well-behaved, happy child. Her mother must be a very loving person. I wonder if I am wrong in saying “Looking at a Child is looking at Parents”.