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Indigenous Sacred Ways

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Jeanine Viau

on 20 May 2018

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Transcript of Indigenous Sacred Ways

Indigenous Sacred Ways
traditional lifeways
4% of the world’s population
Tremendous diversity
Oral Culture (note storytellers as one particular sacred role) and Tied to Land
Circle of right relationships: spirits, divinities, ancestors, and biosphere interconnectivity
Spiritual role specializations
Community centered – emphasis on kinship
Indigenous spirituality better characterized as a lifeway, rather than a separate part of life

models of the origins of the universe and their purpose within it, as well as working knowledge of their own bioregions
circle of right relationships
spiritual specialists
case studies
"descendants of the original inhabitants of lands now controlled by larger political systems in which they may have little influence" (33).
no beginning, no end
so circular rather than linear
life cycles.seasons.spaces
origins & kinship
ritual objects
Storytellers – keepers of oral tradition; memorize long and complex stories and songs
Musicians – Yoruba drummers create ‘rhythmic environments’ drawing people into the spaces between beats and closer to unseen powers
Poets and artists – “technicians of the sacred”
Others include clowns, dancers, priests and/or priestesses, warriors and leaders
now a generic term used to identify a distinctive type of spiritual specialist. Originally from the Siberian Saami from the Tunguistic herders of Northeast Asia, “one who is excited” or “who knows”
common characteristics
Not magician, sorcerer or spirit possession (spirits speak thru shaman but he controls)
Mediator, healer and a diviner
S/he can see and interact with the unseen worlds of the spirits, and intercede for members of the community
Masters “Techniques of Ecstasy” thru which s/he leaves her/his body and her/his soul travels through cosmos
Heredity and self-selecting are quite uncommon
Spirits chose—divine signs—shaman looks physically different, survives an accident, have visions and dreams and drawn to solitary places, gender non-conformance
Culminates in crisis/madness, which only acceptance of the shamanic vocation can heal
initiation - both public and private
“'When I was twenty years old, I became very ill and began "to see with my eyes, to hear with my ears" that which others did not see or hear; nine years I struggled with myself, and I did not tell any one what was happening to me, as I was afraid that people would not believe me and would make fun of me. At last I became so seriously ill that I was on the verge of death; but when I started to shamanize I grew better; and even now when I do not shamanize for a long time I am liable to be ill.”

Spend a period living and training with current Shaman
Cosmology and myths of the tribe, (values of tribe, how to live)
Learn various herbal and medicine lore
Study of dreams and vision
Proper rituals and meditative techniques designed to enhance their ability to travel and function in the spirit world
Drum and compose shaman songs
Need to meet and learn about the spirits: By their nature the spirits possess considerable knowledge about the inner state of the shaman-resemble humans in that don’t like to be forced into things against their will so they can use their knowledge of shamans doubts, fears and insecurities in any confrontation.

Spirits will not hear the voice of the shaman unless the right dress and implements are used

The drum has the power of transporting the shaman to the superworld and of evoking spirits by its sounds.

Other important items are the coat or cape, the mask, the cap, and the copper or iron plate on the breast.

The Yukaghir word is yalgil, which means 'lake', that is, the lake into which the shaman dives in order to descend into the shadow-world. The Yakut is tünür ‘ marriage’ bond of unity between the shaman and the community, as well as between the shaman and the spirits.
relationship ritual
Requires careful planning and proper ritual preparation for purity
Ritual space created to represent spirit world – movement through a threshold often through the putting on of a cape, mask, cap, drumming, dancing, drugs, etc.
Trance States
Contact the spirit: i. bribe ii. force
Feats of extraordinary strength and strange phenomena occur

Not primitive—it has its own inherent logic, proto-‘scientific’ cause and effect model

Shamanic religion is pragmatic-deals with ‘this-worldly’ concerns—illness, wealth, marriage, etc.

In some societies, shamanism acts as an alternative to dominant religion; in others it is absorbed into that religion

Despite being ‘premodern’ phenomena it is far from a dying phenomena-its ideology and practice is still very much a functioning element whether overt or covert in the new millennium.

It is the establishment and maintenance of colonies in one territory by people from another territory: sovereignty is claimed and expressed in social and political structure
Inherent to colonialism is an unequal relationship between the colonists and the colonized
The Colonial Period refers to an historic period between the 15th and 20th centuries when the European Nation States established colonies across the world

colonialism defined
Forced migration and land stolen
Banning of indigenous customs & religions
Children were taken from families and relocated
Native American population shrunk from 10 million to 2.4 million
Shaman was targeted as a symbol of chaos; superstition; trickery

devastating effects
for indigenous peoples
Cultural appropriation
Globalization and development
Adverse effects of foreign aid and intervention
Ongoing eurocentrism in education and research
1) True or False - Shaman are best described as magicians or sorcerers in the context of traditional lifeways.

2) According to Fisher, the circle of right relationships in indigenous lifeways refers to _________.
a. spirits b. ancestors c. all creation d. all of the above

3) True or False - Many individual observances within traditional societies are related to significant life events, such as vision quests which can mark the onset of puberty or specific sacred missions.
cultural appropriation
What “right” does one individual or culture have to selectively take the symbols and practices from another culture?
What makes something the “property” of one culture? Does it change over time?
What is the difference between mutual borrowing, shaping and influence between cultures and one culture stealing from another?
What are the differences between cultural appropriation and assimilation?

Appropriate (verb) – take something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.

"Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else's culture without permission.” – Susan Scafidi as cited in the Jezebel article

“consciously or unconsciously seeking to emulate concepts, beliefs, or rituals that are foreign to a particular framework, individual, or collective. It is incorporating language, cultural expressions, forms, lifestyles, rituals, or practices about which there is little basis for direct knowledge, experience, or authenticity into one's being.” – attributed to Unitarian Universalist Reverend Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley (www.uua.org)


Blackhorse said part of her reasoning for filing the petition with the USPTO was an experience she had while attending a Redskins game in 2005.

"These fans were very aggressive and they were very rude and very disrespectful, very racist and hostile, and just because we simply stood there and held a sign saying we don’t agree with Native American mascots," Blackhorse told Al Jazeera. "I also saw the way that they dress — the red face, the feathers. That’s basically mockery of our culture. That opened my eyes to all of this."


Robert Davidson
Oyster Catcher, Acrylic on canvas, 2008

“In nature, this unusual bird inhabits the sky but feeds and nests at the water’s edge. In its travels, the oyster catcher crosses the realms of earth, water, sky that make up the Haida universe. Because of its abilities in all these domains, it was a favorite helping spirit of shamans.”

(SAU, Abstract Impulse, 2013)

Eagle Giving Birth to Itself
, deerskin, wood, acrylic paint, 1992

Guud San Glans which means Eagle of The Dawn
Haida artist
Charles Edenshaw
Robert Davidson Sr.
Claude Davidson
Robert Davidson
Vancouver School of Art (predecessor to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design)
Robert Davidson
Art as spiritual specialization
Davidson’s work is characterized by Haida cultural retrieval – rebirth as a Haida subject or knower or culture maker

He calls the work that he does formline, although curators use the grammar of abstract art to name it. Formline uses two primary shapes or forms: u shape and the ovoid.

He understands "art" as a spiritual vocation – as a translation of knowledge of the higher powers, of the nature of the universe.

There is no word for ‘art’ in the Haida language. It is rather a “visible language.” Using this language, learning its vocabulary then expands the grammar.

Musa Dube
Strategies and methods?
How does Dube's account challenge our assumptions about history, progress, etc.?
any Tolkien fans?
below is the cosmogony of early Germanic culture and the one that inspired Tolkien's famous novels -
The Hobbit
and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
What does Fisher say about the effects of globalization on indigenous peoples?
(***Hint: This will be on the quiz.)
life(way) saving responses
Survival in life-threatening circumstances
Resistance to colonial regimes (both overt and subversive strategies)
Assimilation to the colonizing culture
Retrieval (a later reclaiming of original traditions)

Religious responses: (i) conversion (ii) syncretism (iii) preservation

Indigenous peoples responded to European colonialism in a variety of ways. These strategies were often overlapping.
In the field of religious studies, syncretism refers to the conscious or unconscious fusing of religious traditions and practices. Religious and cultural fusion is a common characteristic of indigenous societies as they have both accommodated the colonizing culture in the interest of survival and, through acts of resistance and retrieval, saved or revived the original culture.
What are some other examples of cultural and religious fusion mentioned in the textbook?
is a catchall "other" category that does not reflect the great diversity of First Peoples and cultures worldwide.
**for example, there are more than 700 tribal nations in the U.S. alone.
However, this term does reflect the common experience of oppression and exploitation during and after European colonialism.
types of ritual
Rite of passage
Rite of renewal
Rite of purification
which one of these corresponds to the Sun Dance?
physical preparation
Efé children of the Ituri Forest in Zaire (Rep. of Congo, central Africa) begin the Osani game sitting in a circle, feet touching, all connected.

Each child in turn names a round object like the sun (oi), the moon (tiba), a star (bibi) an eye (ue) and then goes on to name a figurative expression of “round” like the circle of the family, togetherness, a baby in the womb, or the cycle of the moon. As players fail to come up with a term that is “circular” they are eliminated from the game. Eventually, only one remains. Tradition has it that this player will live a long and prosperous life.
ancestral spirits of the Pueblo peoples, including the Hopi and Zuni, in the form of animals, plants, or humans, perfected beings
Holy Wind
Navajo sacred force that inhabits every element of creation
Great Spirit
the Lakota teach that all elements of creation - animate and inanimate - contain this spiritual essence
the Cherokee myth of the Corn Woman...the closeness of life and death
Lakota leader Black Elk's child's play
the trickster or sacred clown
in narrative, the voice or wisdom and/or foolishness
in ritual, represents human imperfection and carelessness, or even makes fun of the ritual itself, reminding practitioners of the mystery and importance of the sacred
Navajo chantways
the Ghost Dance
Wounded Knee, SD
Maasai warrior
rite of passage can involve competitive jumping
must survive circumcision
shaves hair and discards possessions in preparation
requires interior purification
Samburu name for [air-quote] God [end-air-quotes]
not an individual, rather a family group

Standing Rock Protectors 2016
African folk tale
biblical narrative about the hemorrhaging woman from Mark
African women's experience of colonialism and the aftermath - globalization, development, HIV/AIDS, Western intervention
Using storytelling as a traditional mode of African teaching and knowledge-making, rather than conforming to colonizing forms of research and scholarship
Combining sources from the colonizing culture (Bible) and indigenous knowledge (folk tale)
Prioritizing women's experience
To show how African women are the best "experts" to consult about their experience and healing
To problematize the solutions offered through Western intervention (For example, globalization and development have led to urbanized wage-earning economies that have eroded traditional economies based on strong kinship systems.)
To give a more accurate account of Africa's history
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