Re: Amerindian resistance mode (was: amerindian an offensive

Gerold Firl (
29 Aug 1996 20:11:49 GMT

In article <>, Steve Russell <> writes:

|> On 26 Aug 1996, Gerold Firl wrote:

|> > In article <>, "Stephen W. Russell" <> writes:

|> > |> On 21 Aug 1996, Gerold Firl wrote:

|> > |> > How many copies of _black elk speaks_
|> > |> > have been sold in the US? Millions? Why do you think people read it?

|> > |> Surely you must be familiar with the scholarship on how Neihardt shaped
|> > |> Black Elk into a less threatening posture for white consumption?>

|> > No, I don't know any of that history. If you can explain, I'd like to
|> > hear about it.

|> Today is the first day of school. Not a good day to dig through my back
|> issues of American Indian Culture and Research Journal to satisfy your
|> curiousity.

Don't trouble yourself. Whether or not the message of black elk was
reshaped to make it more palatible for white consumption is immaterial;
in fact, it serves to illustrate further the process by which US
culture learns from other cultures, including native american. I
repeat, mainstream US culture is not going to go 100% native. It won't
even go 10% native. But it has learned, it has adopted native views
which has had positive results.

It is simply not possible for american culture to absorb native beliefs
in such a way as to satisfy the requirements of a hard core
traditionalist; the viewpoints are just too different. However, certain
ideas and perspectives have been adopted, and american culture is
better as a result. That may not go down well for some, but that is
what has happened, and what is happening.

|> > > |> > Why is it a lie? >

|> > |> It is a lie when it is commercialized. Even reimbursement of expenses is
|> > |> problematic to some elders.

|> > That is one area where I wouldn't expect convergance with traditional
|> > views.

|> But don't you see this is the essence?

No, I guess not.

I would expect that reciprocal exchange would be a concept which is
found throughout indian culture. I know of many tribes where such
customs are found. In a potlatch, careful track is maintained of who
gives what to whom, and how much. Hunter-gatherer customs of generosity
are based on the assumption that reciprocity will be maintained.

Money is just a convenient means of maintaining reciprocity.

|> > How do you view the eradication of smallpox? Was that the act of people
|> > who were part of nature, or superior to it?

|> If they do kill off that last sample of the organism, it will be the act
|> of people whose stupidity and arrogance know no bounds. This is
|> different, please note, than saying we should continue to suffer the
|> disease. It is possible to explain to a medicine man in very traditional
|> terms how vaccines work--or to listen to him explain it to you.

I see too much of a good guy/bad guy dichotomy here. Saying that "part
of nature good, superior to nature bad" is too simplistic. A
hunter-gatherer lifestyle has advantages and disadvantages, just as a
high technology lifestyle does. We should try and extract the best
qualities of both.

A medicine man may be able to explain how vaccines work using
traditional concepts, but those concepts would never have led to the
creation of vaccines. Spengler, in _the decline of the west_, referred
to western culture as "faustian" culture; the metaphor is apt. The west
has gained enormous power by bringing reason to bear on ignorance, but
power is ethically neutral. There are many in the west who would undo
the faustian bargain, though they aren't willing to give up the fruits.

Wisdom consists not of railing against the dark, but in constructing a
suitible illumination source.

|> I do not question the scientific method as a way of knowing, but there
|> are other ways of knowing that I see as light and most Euros see as
|> darkness. Fine. I do not ask you to believe what I believe and do not
|> really care whether you do except in terms of survival of the species,
|> which I would prefer. This is another fundamental difference between
|> Indians generally and Euros generally. The messianic crazed drive to
|> stamp out the beliefs of others.

You're a little behind the times there. The messianic drive to stamp
out the beliefs of others is gone. At the same time that the west made
a commitment to end racism (roughly 30 years ago now) came the embrace
of multiculturalism; the idea that US culture will be stronger,
healthier, and truer as a result of encouraging other cultures to
coexist under the big tent. In effect, US culture, at that point,
committed to becoming a super-culture incorporating autonomous
subcultures. The key to making that work is tolerance, respect, and
appreciation for differences, which should make anthropology a key
discipline in creating the american superculture - assuming we can stop
yelling at each other about how my culture is better than yours. %^)

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf