[Documents menu] Documents menu

Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 23:10:01 -0600 (CST)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: A Native American Worldview
Organization: PACH
Article: 82227y To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.14773.19991118121605@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Article: 1050 of sgi.talk.ratical
From: dave@sgi.com (dave who can do? ratmandu! ratcliffe)
Subject: A Native American Worldview / Hawk and Eagle, Both are Singing
Summary: Oneida ancient understandings/comparison of western&indigenous science
Organization: Silicon Graphics, Inc.
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 1994 03:54:10 GMT

A Native American Worldview

By Paula Underwood Spencer, Noetic Sciences Review,
Summer 1990

[the indigenous wholistic complex-systems approach to understanding the natural world. The rule of six, the immersion of the observer in the observed, the flow/specificity dichotomy all reflect and long predate modern ideas in quantum mechanics. The reductionist vs wholistic, particle vs wave, hawk vs eagle, hierarchical vs mutual, monoculture vs diversity, indoctrination vs self-discovery, western vs indigenous ways of knowing. -rjw]

Indigenous science begins with an apprehension of the Whole, only very carefully and on close inspection reaching tentative conclusions about any Specificity.

Indigenous science is based on a profound immersion in and awareness of the whole circumstance. Rather than mistrusting personal experience, Indigenous science has learned to thrive on it. . . .

I don't want to give you the impression that this transmittal is based on automatic lineal descent. It's not. In this tradition, a man learns these things from a woman, if possible, and a woman learns them from a man. That way you keep things in balance. It gives you an understanding of the other half of life and prevents some of the competition that can often come in when you learn from someone who is also male, also female. . . .

One of the attitudes taught in my tradition is the Rule of Six. The Rule of Six says that for each apparent phenomenon, devise at least six plausible explanations, every one of which can indeed explain the phenomenon. There are probably sixty, but if you devise six, this will sensitize you to how many there may yet be and prevent you from locking in on the first thing that sounds right as The Truth. . . .

From an Indian perspective, the priesthood nature of Western science is anathema. My own tradition disbelieves in experts. That which enables, disables also means that a physicist will fail in understanding in many other areas, precisely because of the amount of time she/he spends on physics and therefore not on other things. Such people are not considered experts, but those extensively informed on part of the whole. They are listened to not on a priesthood basis, but on the basis of their having information others may not yet have—just as vice versa.

The search for greater wholeness—which has no room for expertise—is unending!

Any highly trained person will of course have a particular view—and therefore has a special responsibility to listen before speaking in any discussion of what the people may choose to do. Any person in a group who gets out of touch with his, with her community, is separated therefrom. Although I don't think there is the same negative connotation as there is in English, a shaman out of touch with her, with his community takes on aspects of the wizard—an isolated person who can inadvertently or on purpose do things that are harmful to the community. The process of Western expertise would be seen as a process of encouraging people to be isolated from the rest of their community in some way. . . .

The basis of learning, the basis of the pedagogy, is to cease preventing people from learning things for themselves. This way of thinking, what goes on in here, can really be taught from the inside out. When it's taught from the outside in, someone else comes between you and yourself, and that's not considered a wise idea. That's the tradition.

In one of your papers on Perennial Wisdom it says that the Native tradition is nature-focused. I would like to modify that a little. I would like to say that Indian traditions are nature-inclusive. You do not see man and nature as separate from each other, but you see yourself in the context of an interrelated whole instead.

. . . The idea is that everybody learns, but you need to figure out how a child learns in order to design a learning circumstance in which each individual can teach themselves. The idea is always to teach yourself. In fact there is no word teach, or there didn't used to be, in the fundamental language.