The following is the video and transcript of the fifth “Critical Conversation”, a monthly Zoom seminar with advance registration sponsored by The New Polis and Whitestone Publications and involving indigenous and international scholars. The seminar took place on December 8, 2020.
Roger Green: Hi everybody, my name is Roger Green, and I’m general editor of the New Polis. Thank you for attending today. This is our largest critical conversation so far, so we’re really pleased. I’m also especially pleased because Tink Tinker is my former professor and I chat with Tink all the time — regularly — about the issues that we’re going to be talking about today, Tink and Barbara and I are all contributors to a new collection on colonialism and the dangers of colonialism to American Indian world views, so that’s this forthcoming book edited by Miguel De La Torre.
Today, I’m just going to give a couple of some introductory remarks about who Barbara and Tink are, and then we’ll get going from there. So, our presenters in this order today will be Barbara Alice Mann who’s Onondawaga, Bear clan and also “Seneca”. She is an associate professor at the Jessup Scott Honors College at the University of…
Barbara Alice Mann I’m a full professor, thank you.
Roger Green: Oh! Full professor! Okay, I pulled it from your bio on here.
Carl Raschke: Everyone Please mute yourself now.
Roger Green: Barbara Mann’s a full professor at the Joseph Scott Honors College at the University of Toledo. She’s published widely in the areas of Native American History, Women’s Studies, and Literature. She lives and works in her traditional Western Seneca homeland of Ohio at the western tip of Lake Erie. Her books include, Iroquois and Women, Native Americans, Archaeologists and the Mounds, George Washington’s War on Native America, The Land of Three Miami’s, The Tainted Gift, Spirits of Blood, Spirits of Breath, and most recently, President by Massacre. She’s got a lot more books in there too, and articles as well.
Tink Tinker is (wazhazhe / Osage nation) a citizen. For 33 years, he was a professor of American Indian Studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Colorado where he still holds the title of Emeritus professor. During most of that time, Tinker was the non-stipendary director of Four Winds American Indian Council here in Denver.
Tinker has abandoned Christianity as a colonialist and genocidal imposition on Indian peoples in favor of recapturing the traditional worldview of Native peoples. Although Tinker was trained in eurochristian theology and bible, he’s come to see the Native experience of the inter-relationship of all and our ideal of cosmic balance and harmony as totally incompatible with eurochristian colonialist imaginary or hierarchy one that sees reality as a Manichaean hierarchical struggle of good versus evil.
He’s the author of Missionary Conquest Spirit and Resistance, American Indian Liberation, and numerous scholarly articles including contributions to the New Polis. Tinker’s important article, “Redskin, Tanned Hide — a book of Christian History bound in the flayed skin of an American Indian” has importantly drawn attention to a book of Christian History found in the skin of a murdered Lenape man, gifted to the Illiff School of Theology, where it was proudly displayed for about 80 years- from the late 1890s into the late 1960s- and there’s more. You can read that article for more on that.
So today, Barbara and Tink are going to talk about American Indian world view and they know a lot more about it because, as Tink said before we logged on today, they both live it and deal with it in academia. So, there’s going to be some critique of identity politics and conceptions of American Indian worldview and I’m just not going to say any more about it because they can speak for themselves. Thank you all for being here, I’ll turn it over to Barbara.
Barbara Alice Mann: Hello everybody! Well, I got up this morning and I decided to go with the PowerPoint for you, I’ve got some screens that I think help illustrate the idea of how connected we are to land and and space. So those are two really important concepts- spatiality and land/water- are like a part of the hands of the cosmos, and it’s a lot easier to see it to talk about it.
So, if I can find what I did with my PowerPoint here…
Okay, alright, is that shared?
[And everybody said “yes”.]
Great! That’s good. Well, if I can get through it now… Oh, I don’t know how to get through it. Let me stop sharing because somehow or another it’s not advancing. I don’t know why not. Do you know why, Carl? Where’s Carl?
Carl Raschke: Right here. it’s probably not advancing because, well I mean, it should advance. I’m not sure why it didn’t.
Barbara Mann: I’m not sure either, because it was kind of important.
Carl Raschke: One thing you might want to do is put each slide up and just then then take it down and put it back up for the next one, if you can do that.
Barbara Mann: I’m not sure how to do that.
Sarah Pessin: Barbara, are you sure, when you take your cursor and hover it around on the bottom, are you sure you don’t see any arrows? Sometimes you need to just like, hover the arrow around on the slide so that you can see where the advancing arrows are.
Barbara Mann: I am hovering. I do not see it.
Sarah Pessin: What about if you click on your computer the arrow that’s on the very bottom of the..
Barbara Mann: Oh yeah!
Sarah Pessin: Okay, good.
Barbara Mann: Okay. All right, well, the first thing I wanted to talk about was Ohio, because I know that westerners like to regard us as fly over country (as well as easterners), but that’s not what Ohio is. Oh shoot, now it’s really advancing when I don’t want it to. I’ve got pictures all over the right of my screen of participants, is there some way to move the PowerPoint? Can you all see all of Ohio, or not?
Carl Raschke: Yeah, we can see it.
Barbara Mann: Okay, because I can’t just now. I’m going to see if I can pull it up here, because I can’t see it, because picture…
Roger Green: If you just click on our pictures, you can move the whole bar of people wherever you want on the screen, so it’s out of your way.
Barbara Mann: Oh, I didn’t mean to do that. How do I click “Hide thumbnail”? Okay. Well, first of all, I wanted to explain what “the Woodlands” are, because most people who aren’t Indigenous and aren’t eastern, don’t know “Woodlands” refers to the Great Forest. The entire area that’s in green there, was forest, which the Europeans industriously took down, step by step, as they pushed west. Forests, of course, were very, very important to the ecology of the situation.
If you look at Ohio, what I’ve got here, is the 18th century layout of where people were. And people are still in those places, even though we don’t have the reservations that were promised to everybody in Ohio, in the Greenville Treaty of 1795, which, by the way, was not accepted by the majority of the Indigenous people. It was kind of put forward because Anthony Wayne was threatening to murder everybody if people didn’t sign.
All right, so you see up in the north, around the lake, you’ve got a lot of Seneca, some Onondawaga and Seneca people there. Ohio was the original eastern homeland of the Iroquois. A lot of people don’t know that. There’s Susquehanna there, you see? Up there near, [inaudible], Ohio. They met in the 18th century and we essentially gave them that land because they were no longer safe in the middle Atlantic area because of a group calling themselves the “Paxton Boys,” that were out on a murder spree trying to kill everybody.
So, they came running to Ohio and Susquehanna did ask for sanctuary, and we gave it. You’ll see the Lenape there in the middle of the state. The Seneca and Lenape came east together. We were traveling together as two very large groups with each other out there on the grass ocean prairie, and came east together, because there was safety in numbers.
When we came to Ohio, we took the northern half, and the Lenape took the southern half, especially the southeast. Later on, the Miami kind of encroached a bit on Ohio, but actually, Indiana was the site of uh The Great Miami Confederacy. Fort Wayne, Indiana is actually Kickianga, which was the capital of the Indiana Miyami (that’s how it’s actually pronounced — Miyami) Confederacy.
Cherokee and Shawnee were down at the bottom. Cherokee along the Ohio, the Shawnee, western Ohio, and they were like the border patrol for everybody. We did have a few Tuscarora.
Now, the land actually means something to us. The outline of the lakes means something to us. Lake Erie iridi is a Iroquois-Seneca word, a Western Seneca word, and it means “panther.” So, the Erie, who are Western Seneca, are the panther people. This is because Lake Erie is envisioned as a panther crouching to pounce on Lake Ontario. And you can see the Maumee river on the top northwest corner, that’s right where I live.
Maumee river, her tail, it’s twitching. She’s really eager to get pouncing, so that I think, is kind of an important visual of what is going on. When we look at a map, it’s not the same thing, I don’t think, as what Europeans see when they look at the map.
Ohio was the land of the Three Miamis, that was the Maumee. I don’t have a map of mommy in the top Northwestern area, and the big and little Miami’s (Miyamis), coming up from the Ohio river into Ohio. Ohio is a very watery state. It has a lot of swamps and water, so one of the reasons the mounds were created here was a living space that would be dry when the rivers flooded. So, Ohio was very much a part of a long, long, Indian tradition.
Let me see if I can get share screen here. Let’s see if I can share it. All right, let me show you this screen here? Okay, can everybody see the big map now? Is it sharing? (yes)
Okay, this is the map that Cyrus Thomas did in 1894 and I want you to notice where all the red clusters are. That was where the Great Mound Cultural Centers were. They went all the way from Lakota land, West down the lakes, all the way through to Upstate New York, and all the way down into Florida. And there’s an actual reason that they are going in that particular areas, following the rivers.
You can see that Ohio was right in the thick of it. Ohio is probably the most important central area for the old Mound cultures, that, by the way, are about five thousand years old. They’ve found remains of food — gourd foods — you know, various kinds of gourd vegetables, that were clearly partially eaten. And you kind of don’t do that- leave your [food] remains, unless you’re actually living there, raising it, needing those things. So, this shows that one of them was dated to more than 5000 years old. So, whereas archaeologists like to say “Oh Mound Cultures were recent, about 2000 years,” no, they’re more than 2 000 years. They go back about 5000 years.
You can see the interplay of the lakes here on this: Lake Erie which is the cat about to jump on Lake Ontario, which is farthest to the east. You can see that the Indiana area was heavily mounded as well, and that it was following down the rivers. By and large, all the mounds followed the rivers because having water to the east of the mound was very important for ceremonial space.
Now, the archaeologists like to say, “Oh, Ohio Valley Mounds and Mississippi Valley Mounds” and separate them out. We don’t separate them out. We see them as one thing, starting up there in Pennsylvania. This is where the Mississippi starts in Pennsylvania going in the Allegheny River, going down the Ohio River which connects to the, what’s called, “lower Mississippi” all the way down. That was the Mississippi river for us and it was actually the “Great Horned Serpent.”
Okay, so you know, I was talking about animal effigies. (Stop sharing for a moment). Okay, so the landscape is meaningful to the people, and I know that’s true for Tink too. It’s not just the land that you’re standing on, it’s the space above you as well. And that space above us is actually outer space. When we see the sky, we see outer space out there where the stars are, not necessarily blue atmosphere, because that belongs to the earth, that’s still part of her.
So, spatiality is an entirely different concept from what it is for Europeans, who see it as entirely connected to a plot of land. And in this world and that one, grabbing and saying they own that land — that’s not how it works at all. Land and water is connected to women through the water for various obvious reasons of amniotic fluid.
Air is heavily connected with men, because the speech making was something that was given to man, the sound vibration was given to the men. There’s an old story that women could pull new life out of their bodies and men couldn’t, and that was kind of disturbing to the men, because they could pull things out of their bodies, but it wasn’t life.
And so, the men were feeling kind of depressed about this, and women got together and said, “oh what can we do to give a man a heartbeat below their heartbeat below their heartbeat?” Because that’s what pregnancy is, a heartbeat below your own. And so, the women came up with a drum. And that was given to the men, so that they would be able to create a heartbeat below their own, same as the women could.
And so, that made the noise — drumming made the noise — and it’s always a heartbeat rhythm of some sort, and so the men acquired their own little boy and a lot of them call it “little boy” that the drum belongs to them. And if you put water in a drum, and then you beat it, that sound will carry for miles. So obviously, vibration in the air belongs to the men. That spatiality part of it belongs to the men.
So we see this as the two interactive halves. There’s no fight there’s no Manichaean dichotomy. One’s not trying to destroy the other. The whole point is, how do you cooperate with one another to make a better reality? So, space and land and water are very differently viewed where I come from the way Europeans view it as a resource. Tink, do you want to jump in?
Tink Tinker: Sure. Thank you. Very, very useful, Barbara. I want to say that what Barbara is pointing to, is something that I call a radical difference in world view between American Indians on the one hand, and Euro-Christians on the other, using the cipher ‘eurochristians’ as a more sociological, precise reference than the old, almost useless, color-coded “white people.”
I’ve got a lot of students who come into my classes who, because Illif is a more liberal kind of school, who come in with these new age sensitivities and want to immediately claim, “my world view is just like yours.” And I want to say to them, “uh, no…sorry, but it’s not.” Because world view is something you’re born into, not something you choose, like becoming a Presbyterian or a Catholic or a Lutheran or a Episcopalian or other denominational choices one can make in the United States or even in Europe.
But world view is like a language that you speak. It’s deeply, deeply, inbred in the consciousness. More than that, as cognitive linguists would tell us, it’s also deeply physical. And for Indian people our worldview relates to the physical experience of being in the land, in a particular place. That’s what Barbara was pointing to, in terms of “mound culture,” in terms of Ohio Valley, and the larger Eastern Woodlands region, and the mounds that were there.
I want to suggest, to take it a step further, that there are there are a number of ways of getting at this worldview difference. One is that you know the eurochristian world is entirely temporal in its thinking. That’s the ordinary — spatiality is subordinate in eurochristian world.
Our thinking tends to be spatial first of all, and the temporal is subordinate. We see the world around us as in terms of place, and not in terms of time. So, we’re rooted in particular places. Our ceremonies are spatial. They are particular configurations of space that, in fact, eurochristians may have had 1900 years ago, 1800 years ago, when churches were built with the altars to the east.
Nowadays, of course, high churches like Episcopal churches, can sometimes refer to the altar as “liturgical east,” even though it’s actually north by northwest. Because they build the churches depending upon the urban configuration of the property that they’re building on, not in terms of any real physical spatiality or directions of the earth itself. That’s one example.
More recently, I’ve argued that a fundamental basic difference between the two, it can be determined linguistically between the languages of American Indians and eurochristians. eurochristians live in what cognitive linguists call, an ‘up /down image schema’. The cognitive metaphors build upon, again George Lakoff would say, the physicality of ‘being upright’, of standing up.
The problem is, he [Lakoff] imposes that nilly-willie on everybody, when it doesn’t work for Native Americans, for American Indians, because our basic imagery isn’t ‘up /down’ but what I call ‘collateral egalitarian’. It’s horizontal instead of vertical. Because for us, it’s that physical relationship, not just to the land, but to all living persons on the land. And by living persons, I mean to always include the non-human persons — the mountains here in Colorado, the trees the rivers, the lakes, the buffalos, and the squirrels, of course the eagles, and the sparrows.
All those people are part of this collateral egalitarian world that we share, so that the eurochristian up/ down image schema immediately develops a notion of anthropocentrism, where human beings are in charge. That doesn’t work in an Indian environment. Humans are not in charge, we’re just like everyone else — along for the ride and have our responsibilities back to the rest of the people who share the land with us.
Our responsibility is to the buffalo, who then in turn, fed us as Osages. Our responsibility is to the mountains, who in turn connect us — connect the land people with the sky people. The land people with the sky people, because the mountain is the go-between, between earth and sky.
When I present this to theologians, they think they got me between a rock and a hard place because they immediately say, “yeah, but Tink, your people had chiefs — certainly you did have an up-down image schema.” See, it works that way in the white world. You have a president, a congress, states, and eventually, you have all the people- the voters, right? So, it’s an up /down image schema-a hierarchy. A CEO, middle management, and the labor class. The bishop, the ministers, and the lay people.
That up / down image schema is there, whether we’re talking about politics, business, or religion. “And you Indian people had chiefs” [they say], and I tell them, “yeah, we were better than that. These people you call chiefs, we had two of them in every village. And they took turns every other day being in charge. It was like having Donald Trump on Mondays, and Hillary Clinton on Tuesdays.” That, of course, causes a ripple of laughter that you can’t get in a zoom meeting. But then they suddenly realize there must be something else going on in this person that we Osage just call gaihega, other than what the English word ‘chief’ seems to indicate.
How the role of the gaihega, or the two gaihegas, is to reflect back the consensus of the people. And the minute they stop reflecting back the consensus of the people, they out of a job. They’re no longer useful to the people. So, we don’t have that up /down hierarchy that results in an autocracy, that can even challenge the validity of an election, right?
There’s a whole lot more to this. I can talk about other things going on in our languages that just don’t cross those worldview boundaries. Early on, two decades ago, Barbara in Iroquoian and Women pointed to the fact that Indian languages don’t have any word for ‘evil’. We don’t experience evil, until the Christians bring it with them. That’s when we begin to experience evil in the world, is through the missionaries, the Christians, and their armies, of course..and the genocide that they bring with them…and the notion of the Canaanite, the invasion of the land of Canaan, that they bring with them, from the Old Testament, that allows them to kill us willy-nilly in order to take our land.
We have no word for ‘sin’. The worst thing you can say in Osage about anything is, “Bii, bizhi.” I say it all the time to my dog, my daughter’s dog, when I walk the dog, when she goes into a neighbor’s little front garden area, “biz hi, shunge bizhi…bad dog, bad.” So, I stubbed my toe, “bizhi”– “That’s bad.” My father died, “bizhi,” that’s bad. Or “bizhi on,” That’s really bad. That’s too bad.
That’s the closest we can come to your word ‘evil’ in our languages, and that’s critically important because it begins to spell out the distinct worldview difference that we, and this is what I said to Barbara before we got on air, which she and I live — both in our day-to-day world and our academic lives.
We live that reality, of there not being any evil. In the eurochristian world of course it’s deeply embedded in the worldview. Not — and I don’t mean eurochristian in a religious sense, I mean it sociologically. The cosmic struggle between good and evil is deeply embedded in U.S. foreign policy. That’s clear, right? There’s always an evil that the U.S. foreign policy is focused against. It’s never us because the U.S. government and the U.S. people are kind of like Christ, sinless in the rest of the world.
It’s the Communists that are evil. And before them, the National Socialists were, the Nazis in Germany. And after the fall of communism in 1990, suddenly it’s Radical Islam. And suddenly, you know, the old cyphers that elevated Euro-Christians to the apex of human worth didn’t work anymore because ‘radical monotheism’, ‘ethical monotheism’ it was called, suddenly came up against a brick wall, because the new evil in the world is radical Islam, which is after all, monotheist.
And as Barbara assures us already, 20 years ago, the number ‘one’ is dysfunctional. So this is the last word I’ll leave you with — for us, the big distinction between world views is that you all are focused on the number ‘one’, whereas for us, the key number is always ‘two’. What I’ve always called ‘reciprocal dualism’ and Barbara calls the ‘twinship principle’. So that we have to have both sky and earth, male and female, light and dark. And the fruition of the earth depends upon the balance and harmony of that pair of sky and earth, light and dark, male and female, always in all of its different manifestations.
So that there’s never this cosmic collision between good and evil, struggling for the life of the planet or the life of human beings. But rather, we struggle in communities, to maintain the harmony and balance of life around us. That’s our responsibility, back to all of those relatives that live on the land with us, those non-human people, who are doing their part to preserve harmony and balance as well. That’s 20 minutes worth of a 10-week seminar, and we never finish in 10 weeks in a university setting, covering all those bases. Kakunah!
Barbara Mann: No, we sure don’t. Yeah, it’s quite true, and I think that if you understand land the way that we see it, you’ll see that the whole point, the whole responsibility of people, and that includes everything, is to maintain the balance, to keep the twinship always in the right balance. And there’s a tension there, so we’ve got to make sure that it’s coming together, whereas eurochristians are just describing constantly trying to explode it and break it apart.
So, I’ve got some more screens that I think are a little more meaningful. (come on, all right, hopefully I’m in the right one here, yeah okay). What I want to do was talk about the way that we have a government, and that’s quite right that you’ve got the dual chiefs, and in fact, it’s not just one set of twin chiefs, you’ve also got the women, who have their own chief system. So you got the we personal [inaudible] kind of clan and national-national means this spatial clan needs the blood so you got blood and breath going on there. So, men have their two, and women have their two, and the whole point is that grandmothers and grandfathers [are] exchanging information to make sure we’re on the same page.
One of the things that are going on, are the mountain structures here. There are a lot of effigies and they’re pretty important for understanding the way that things are seen. You’ve got symbolic designs and you’ve got effigies and they, the whole purpose of those is to connect space and land that’s the whole purpose of everything.
So, you see effigies animals and i put uh this beautiful eagle mound effigy on the cover of “Blood and Breath” book. The eagle himself is made of stone which is absolutely earth-based, it’s about as “Earth” as you get. But he’s inside a circle, and that’s always a circle of sky, because he flies. He flies. He connects. One of the reasons eagles are so important, is because they can walk around on the ground, or they can walk into the sky. And you and I can’t do that, or at least I can’t.
Actually, we could. What we had in the woodlands was balloon flight. Only certain of the more powerful of the “shaman” / medicine people could take flight. And there’s even a Shawnee tradition that describes how to make it airballoon and somebody taking off. And you end up holding the corners of the edges of this balloon part with your hands, so it was pretty dangerous. He could look down, you could see designs like this, because this eagle is enormous. He’s an enormous line effigy.
We also have the symbolic designs of the square and circle complex. This was part of that complex, and there’s a little road there, that would have led to the square nested circles and nested the half circles. And I want to show you some of the designs, earliest designs. I’m pretty sure the traditions also here were the earliest designs, were the effigies. And this eagle, because he’s in a circle, would actually have been one of the later effigies.
And he’s a ‘he’, because he’s connected to sky. And you can see people on the causeway here. We always had these very wide streets, holding things together — causeways they were, and we would pile up the sides of them pretty high. In this area they would be like 10, 15 feet high. Why? Because, if you’re going to ceremony, you got grandma, kids, and the kids are running all over the place, and it kept the little kids from getting lost. And everybody’s getting lost, you couldn’t miss where they were going — kind of like the modern interstate system.
So, this guy is in Putnam County, Georgia. He’s not an early [inaudible] in the early period we also have a lot of blood designs. He was an air design, space design, there’s a blood design. This is the canals. These are Hokum Canals. In Arizona, women always built canals and mounds. The women piled the dirt. The men might have come up with some of the designs, but the women piled the dirt because the women are connected with dirt and water.
So, somebody noticed that this was already available with river. Okay. And then you’ve all these little lines coming off these, are all the canals that the women built. This is more than just a series of canals coming off the river. This is actually a complement to the Cygnus constellation in the sky. And if you turn them into both the same direction, somebody here highlighted the star patterns, but you can see Cygnus.
And you can see, as somebody did back in the Hokum area, that this looks important — like the earth herself. Mother earth provided the replica of the sky. And the women helped her out, because she got tired before she finished. So, the women helped her make the wings, and the wings are all the canals. This is about as close as you can get to water and breath connecting.
And part of the job of humans to keep things going on is to make these connections. See, on the right, you’ve got blood in the breath…and on the left, you’ve got breath in the blood.
Let me see what’s going on here. I also got the great horned serpent. He is really important in the east, well, I think he’s pretty important throughout the Americas. This is the Great Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio. It was saved in 1900. They were going to plow it under. At one point, all of the effigies had their twins connected.
The Great Horned Serpent is earth. He’s about as ‘earth’ as you can get. Men are better off not messing with them. But man, you can see that he’s about to take a little trip. Have you ever seen a snake running out of his coils? This is what he’s doing. He’s running out of his coils. He’s embarking on a journey, right?
Archaeologists like to say that this thing off the edge here, “oh it’s an egg! He has an egg and a wife and a swamp.” No, no, no, no, no. That is medicine bundle, for heaven’s sakes! Everything, every person, and that includes the mountains of rocks, as we discussed, has a medicine bundle.
Women actually carry a permanent medicine bundle in their wombs, right? You’ve got your medicine bundle going on, and if you’re a snake, that’s a little bit of a trouble, because where do you carry your medicine? How do you carry it? Well, if you’re the Great Horned Serpent, you extrude your horns when you’re going to travel, and you sling your medicine bundle between the horns. And he’s got his own smoothing stone right in the middle.
That is a crystal, usually a stone that women use in ceremonials. So, you can see that he’s running out of his coils, and he’s about to take a trip. By the way, I mentioned the nested semicircles. Here’s a couple. We’ll look at those a little bit later.
Those are also sky and earth, the smaller one underneath, is the earth. This comes, the schematic, and all the schematics come from the Squire and Davis, Mounds of the Ancient Mississippi Valley. I think Mounds of the Mississippi Valley came out in 1858. The survey of all the mounds they could find, and the schematics, are some of the only information we have left, because so many of these mounds were utterly destroyed.
In 1905, I believe it was, there were still 12,000 mounds and mound complexes in Ohio. By 1950, that was down to 5,000. So, that’s how quickly Americans just destroyed the mounds.
Okay. Now, Great Horn Serpent is connected to a sky. You can see his solstice alignment, and you can see his lunar alignments. People have worked these out. This isn’t a matter of speculation. Depending on where you stand during ceremony, you can see winter solstice equinox, summer solstice sunset, and that’s sunrise. Very important times of the year, and not the least because if you’re a farming culture, you kind of got to know when to start planting.
Here, you’ve got the most important sight line is right through the middle of his medicine bundle, and right through his smoothing stone, which would have been right in the middle. Okay, and you can also see all of different moon rises going on. Moon rises were really important. In fact, the people that built most of the animal refugees in Ohio, their name was actually “the moonlight people” because they spent most of their time looking at night sky to construct this thing.
All right, I told you that we do not see the Mississippi River the same way the Europeans do. In fact, we see it starting at the Allegheny river, which is right up here in what’s now Pennsylvania. You can see him running here, see it running, and then it connects with the Ohio River, because the Europeans gave them all these names, separated them out, and that connects with what’s called the “Lower Mississippi.”
Except, we see it as all the same. And look at it, you can see it on the map here — the Indigenous Mississippi starting way up here in Pennsylvania, going all the way through here, and all the way down to the delta. Right? That’s the Great Horned Serpent, you know. Saw him running out of his coils in Ohio- this is the trip he’s making.
He’s coming down, all the way down to the sea. So, he’s traveling south, and his horns are the Mississippi delta, and that so-called ‘egg’, this medicine bundle, winds up being the Caribbean Sea. We know what the landscape looks like. Here is an actual area of Mississippi here, and here, and here you see this little shallow area.
Okay, look at what’s going on here. In Ohio, you’ve got his horns, and you’ve got this shallow area indicated — that’s the opening of this medicine bundle- where the ‘egg’ is emerging. That’s what they’re calling it, but it’s emerging and so you could throw the stones into the water, that was really important. Okay. Are the troops getting restless? We can stop sharing for the day if the troops are feeling restless. All right, do you see the how…
Cleo Kearns: The troops are riveted, not restless!
Roger Green: And folks, now I think at this point, anybody who wants to can start kind of putting questions into the chat. And I want to draw attention to a couple of other native folks who — in chats — who gave some of the worst things that you can say in Cheyenne or in Lakota, so I’ll just draw your attention there. And I’ll just take questions as like, kind of first come, first serve. And I’ll turn them over to people, and then maybe we can cut some of the talking over of people. But Tink, maybe — Barbara just talked for a while — did you want to expand on any of that stuff, Tink?
Tink Tinker: Yeah, I’ll say a little more, but I am looking forward to getting people involved in the conversation too, and hearing especially from other natives who happen to be participants in this. I suggested the first time I spoke, that were special people, and Barbara in both of her talks, has underscored that dramatically with her maps of, you know, mounds and the mound culture.
And it’s interesting that for us, relationship to the land is really key. Harmony and balance with the land is key. Marking the land is key. I hear this part, you know, a lot of this stuff has been erased by the eurochristian invasion.
The mounds were dismantled, so the invaders used rocks from the mound to build fences, and build houses, and simply, you know, took them apart, so that they could level the ground out and use it for planting. Or, they were destroyed in order to do minerals extraction, but in this part of the country, here in the west, we still have the most dramatic representation of that as the medicine wheel up in Wyoming.
But even though the attempt has been made to erase that part of our living, our relationship to the earth, it still exists in the deep structure of our minds and our behavioral patterns so that when we create ceremonies, when we go out to a make ceremony, we have particular ways that we do that. In 1978, I started going into San Quentin Prison, in Bryn County here, one of the roughest California State Penitentiaries, to visit with Indian inmates.
And already, there, natives were beginning to argue about what direction the sweat lodge should face. It’s so serious in many federal prisons, that they’ve allowed inmates to build two separate fireplaces with one lodge — a fireplace to the east for an east sweat lodge, and a fireplace to the west, for a west sweat lodge.
But the important thing is, that the design of the lodge is circular, with openings either to the east or to the west, and with the fireplace to that direction, so that the line of the sun is exactly, you know, the line that you draw from the fire pit to the stone pit inside the lodge. You know, it’s an east-west line.
Same thing happens in dances. Dances like the Sundance, or the Green Corn Dance. This you know, the Sundance, typically in the plains, the opening to the dance harbors from the east, and the dancers come in that east door, just as the sun is rising above the horizon in the morning.
Spatiality is incredibly important, whereas for eurochristians, it’s always temporality, right? Mass starts at 9 am, 10 am, 11 a.m, and noon, and they last 48 minutes each so we can get people out the door and the new crowd in. If you’re a Protestant, the liturgy’s 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Any longer than that, and you might be out of a job pretty soon, because people have learned, habitually, that they can’t sit any longer than that.
And so, you know a lot of eurochristians would come drop in at Four Winds [American Indian Council in Denver, Colorado] when we were having ceremony downtown, where I was doing ceremony for 25 years, and after an hour they get real fidgety. And after two hours, they would get up and excuse themselves and say, “I’m sorry, but we have reservations at the Pancake House.”
Our ceremony would last as long as people spoke, because see, it didn’t depend upon me. I was just there to coordinate traffic. It depended on how much was on people’s minds, because we went around the room, in a circle to let everyone have their say.
We would invite in the Wanagi, those relatives from the Wanagi world. In Barbara’s book she calls them spirits, and a lot of Indian people these days use the English word ‘spirits’. I have some problem with that because, my understanding of the Indian world is that we’re radical materialists and these spirits have bodies and I’ve actually seen these bodies.
(Barbara Mann: Yeah, they do, they do, yeah.)
Tink Tinker: Wow! So I call them Wanagi. I use the Osage word which has a different set of meanings than the Lakota word Winagi. It’s a more holistic meaning in Osage. We’d call them in and then we would wada. And the missionaries picked that word and said, “oh yeah, that’s your word for prayer.” Why do we have to have a word for what you do?
‘Prayer’ is an up/ down image schema. We’re “praying” to that male sky god that you all think is “the one,” and of course they also want to know, “Oh, Tink, what’s your Osage word for ‘god’’? Because languages are just different codes for a human universal…NOT!
So, I wrote the article years ago now, “Why I Don’t Believe in a Creator,” because, as Barbara says, the number ‘one’ is untenable. It doesn’t work. Everything becomes that up /down image schema.
If you have the number ‘two’, then you have up and down working to create balance and harmony in all of life. So we don’t. We quit using the word ‘pray’ at Four Winds eventually, and I use the Osage word, ‘wada’ which simply means ‘talk’. We talk to our relatives from the Wanagi world, who after all, were on that same collateral egalitarian horizontal axis as we are — they’re not above us, they’re not below us — even though they might be sky Wanagi or earth Wanagi — spirits of blood or spirits of breath, like Barbara’s book, but we’re all on the same plane.
The Wanagi just have access to different energies and different skills than we do, hence they bring things into our world that we can’t access, except through them. On the other hand, as Albert White Hat used to insist, they need our help too. They need human help, because they can’t come into our world to help us, unless we invite them in — either in a good way or a bad way. So that we’re working together to create harmony and balance.
Ideally, in our ceremonies we go around the room, everyone would get a chance to without talk to the Wanagi, and that meant we could go a long time, depending on how much was on people’s minds.
You know, after 9/11 when those buildings came down in New York, the people of Four Winds spent three and a half hours wada in ceremony talking, and we weren’t done and ready to eat until everyone had finished saying everything that was on their mind. As my colleague here in Denver, Glenn Morris is fond of saying, “in the Indian world, there are no bosses, no up/ down image schema, no hierarchy, no one can tell anyone what they need to do. We can only encourage one another, make requests of one another.”
Even when I wanted a ceremony, 25 years ago, 30 years ago, and went to a sicangu, medicine man, his name was Eagle Elk, Joe Eagle Elk, and I said to him, “Joe, do I need to offer you a pipe?” And his response was telling, I mean, in terms of world view, in terms of collateral egalitarian. He said, “no, you don’t need to bring me a pipe.”
In English, he said this, “you could go find a red willow stick about that long, as big around as your pinky, and you could cut it, and you could strip the bark off of it, and you could paint it red, and you could tie a red tobacco tie on the end of it, and you could bring that to me, and tell me what you want in ceremony.” There were no imperatives, like “go do this.” He wasn’t telling me what to do, but I knew that his Wanagi weren’t going to come into his ceremony and help me, unless I followed that protocol.
Interesting stuff. Very interesting stuff. I’ll hold up there and see if we get some input from other people.
Roger Green: Yeah, and I’ll just invite, because Sheldon and Gracie you’ve both made comments in the chat box, I just wanted to give you a chance to join into the conversation.
Tink Tinker: Ekon!
Gracie RedShirt Tyon: Hello! Good morning! It’s a good day today, and I want to say thank you so much for having this time, and I’m really grateful to be a part of this discussion this morning! Thank you, Barbara, and thank you, Tink, and thanks for everyone being here today. And I wanted to just say that, I want to acknowledge the traditional homelands of the tribal nations that we reside on in this area of Colorado.
Tink Tinker: Hawe!
Give them, give thanks to those relatives and to our ancestors for allowing us to be here and for taking care of this land.
I just made a few comments in the chat, and I just wanted to say, talk about, I appreciate this topic, about the differences of world views, because we’re constantly faced with this. As a Lakota woman, and every day, always faced with contradictions, or contrast, or even conflicts of world views, and so I think a lot of my interest lies in — how do we navigate that, and how do we help our young people and students to navigate that as well as people that are our allies? How do we bring them to the understanding of our worldview, and not just the understanding, but the recognition and the respect?
One of the things that struck me about Barbara, about your Powerpoint, I love it. I love the images that you provided about the cosmology, because all of our beliefs for the most part, you know, this world mirrors the spirit world. So, everything that we have here is a mirror of the spirit world and I think that just displayed so much of my belief system also.
And you know, the Black Hills and the sacred and the holy place of the Black Hills — we call that the heart of everything that is — not just in the physical, but in the spiritual in the cosmology, so I really appreciate what you brought today, and I’m so grateful to be here, and to learn that, and to be a part of this conversation. Pilamaya!
Tink Tinker: Kasi x’si, Gracie! Good to hear your voice. Good to have you with us, and thank you for remembering that you and I and Roger and others are sitting on Cheyenne and Arapahoe lands. Lands that Lakotas and Osages also traversed regularly in this city of what two or three million of invasive peoples.
Barbara Mann: Oh, I have some more pictures, since people seem to like them. I didn’t want to bore anybody, but since people like it, I can make up some more things to show you. Let’s see, where did that..? Oh, right. Okay. Let’s look down here.
We have a place in Ohio it was when the relatives Wyandot now…the Olentangy Caverns. They’re right down there, near the Columbus, which was named for Columbus as you say, and you’re quite right — a lot of the mounds were built with stones and not just rocks. We would mine river-shaped square, very heavy stones and there was a magnificent mound in what’s now Columbus, Ohio, and it was built entirely of stone.
The settlers were, it was a pyramid actually, and the settlers were so upset about it in the 19th century, that they took down the entire mound, the stone mound pyramid, because their stories said that we were too savage to build anything like that, let alone have a plan that included squares and circles. So, then they used all those already cut and beautifully shaped stones to build the first capital of the state of Ohio, as we called it.
And Ohio, by the way, is a Seneca word, it means “a beautiful river.” So, they built their capital out of those stones that they took from the mound they destroyed, and then that capitol burned to the ground, because the spirit people who were in those rocks did not like that use, I think.
In any case, Olentangy Caverns is near Delaware, which is right near Columbus. Delaware was a very old Cherokee area, but the one that used this cave, Olentangy Caverns, and I want you to take a look at what it looks like here, there there’s like a 60-foot drop. It’s a very strong drop, and people used to go down a rope, very important in traditions in this area because you have the two spirits — and I know that New Agers have taken that and made it something it’s not, but everybody has a spirit of blood they got through their mother, and the spirit of the breath they got from their father.
The spirit of blood comes from underground and goes back underground. So, there’s that brought back to underground, and babies that haven’t been born yet, are depicted as little smiling faces looking up from underneath the ground, waiting for a woman to walk over so they can jump in her feet, and then slide up to her womb. So, the little babies would be down in this kind of an area. There were ceremonies that were held here.
I want you to take a good look at how this is, and of course they would call this the crystal room, and the tower room. We had a couple different names, and the chamber, this was all, you know, names they slapped on it. But I want you to take a look at reproduction, female reproduction. And I want you to take a good look at where the ovaries are. I want you to take a good look at the cervical canal. I want you to take a good look at the uterine cavity and all that.
Now, I want you to look at the cave again all right, mother earth as womb. That’s where all the babies are waiting to come back up. This is where your blood spirit goes when the body disintegrates. And I want you to look at the fundus. I want you to look at the ovaries. I want you to look at the cervical area, how coming in right once you look at all of this.
We knew exactly what this was. You can go down into those caves, of course, they both have steps down, now. But some Wyandots do run at his tourist area. Archaeologists found the remains of a little baby maybe a couple months old, his poor little bones in a crevice there, it was in one, I forget which of these two branches it was. It was in one or the other.
And it was not a burial that somebody did in a hurry, blah, blah, blah. That was a woman inviting her poor baby to come back to her, to be reborn, to come back under her feet, and under her womb, so that she could bear that child again.
All right, there are a lot of symbols of cosmic balance. These are primarily Cherokee. Cherokee build roundhouses and square houses for our summer, but the sky is the circle of breath and the square is the blood of earth. Those are the representations. There will be a causeway connecting these two.
Also, I have the nested circles and semi-circles. This is a view from top/down here on the left this is the back of turtle rising, turtle mother earth rising from the ocean. On the outside in the the middle part here is the atmosphere but the outside is the circle of sky around the earth.
Here we’re looking in profile. This is the back of turtle rising from the water, and this is the sky overarching, she carries this land on her back.
All right, you see these motifs everywhere. Here are the circles. You can see the circles, and we always had what the archaeologists call them out…it was watered around it’s very important to have water typically to the east of any ceremonial mountain complex because that was spirit protection. Spirits of breath had to cross water to leave, to get on the milky way trail. Spirits of blood could not cross that water to get back into the ceremonial space so you will see rivers and you will see causeways.
This is Lenape. They perceive of reality as like an onion layer. You keep peeling, there are layers of consciousness reality spirit, and then when you get to the very center, right here, you’ve got earth. So it’s like peeling away the layers of reality. It’s a very interesting one. This one’s down there in Kentucky.
This, you’ve got all kinds of things going on here. You’ve got the circle square complex and there’s always a causeway and these are very large acreages. Here, you’ve got the circle of sky surrounding the square, and here you have a really interesting development. You’ve got water connecting directly with sky water and sky. That’s very interesting. Here you’ve got the assembly circle the turtle rising and the sky around him.
Okay. Here this is a very huge important mound ceremonial complex that is now Newark, Ohio. All of this was destroyed. Everything was destroyed the only thing that remains is a circle, an octagon. It’s an octagon because the Cherokee had eight clans so instead of a square they had the eight clans. One of the the clans died when the mound builders were overthrown, so they now have seven clans, but at that time it was eight.
These are not distorted because they couldn’t draw an octagon right. These are distorted because, depending where you stand on the observation mound (whoops), depending on where you stand you can sight different events through each of these little mound openings. This is where people would enter ceremonial space. Each of these little mound mounds here marked a period of the sky, by the night sky, for you’re first spotting what was going on.
This is a very important piece of water because again it protects ceremonial space. Here, you’ve got the circle mound. This is still here. They call this the eagle mound. It’s not an eagle. It’s the foot of the thunderbird. Okay, the claw of an eagle is what we call him, thunderbird is kind of archaeologists use.
His foot, the ceremony that was conducted there was so powerful that ‘claw of an eagle’ or thunderbird came down, and he just touched the ground, because he’s sky. It’s hard for him to touch the ground. He touched it with one foot, and it was so powerful that when he rose back up his mouth moves up in his wake.
Okay, here’s the causeway leading to the connected square. All that was destroyed when the euros put their railroad through. These burial mounds, they just totally destroyed it, and what they did — according to records — is they took all the burials and all the bones and they just threw them into the mouded area to support their railroad this railroad which is no longer there was built out of the bones of the people.
Some of these uh little circle mounds are still there they’ve actually found burials in this area, but this circle octagon, one of the oldest most important heritage sites in the world, it’s on the world register…is a member’s only golf course that we’ve been trying to get off there forever, but it won’t go anywhere.
They refuse to move it.
Mother, mom, I call it the mother mouth. It’s mother earth. Look at mother earth going in her arms circle and square. That is absolutely beautiful. These are water motifs that you’re seeing there. So mother earth, turtle mother earth, she’s holding the circle and the square that’s really powerful stuff.
All right, just the last one. This came from an art show down there in Newark that we held, and these are all things that were made by people from this area. My granddaughter had one of these. My daughter was given that by a Shawnee woman. It’s wearing…because a child’s umbilical cord after it’s born because the umbilicus is very important for connecting you to here.
This, I love this obsidian, red obsidian knife with the deer handle and one of them carved. Here’s another one. I think this one is beautiful. In any case, I will stop sharing [my PowerPoint] now.
Okay, so those are some more indications of how earth connects to humans, connects to land, connects to animals. You have the eagle, the claw-land of the eagle, which is the Georgia monument, as well.
But the spatiality and the way it’s used is ceremonial space. There’s not an inch of Turtle Island [which] is north america, you know, the turtle’s coming north and then you’ve got mexico in the central americas, the tail, and then south america is a fish zooming up to attach to this turtle who is carrying us about.
So, that’s the way that we envision this sort of thing going on and the stars are connected to earth. When I was a kid, we’d go out at night and kind of mimic ceremony. We were just kids. Whatever constellations were up there, we take sticks and we commemorate whatever that was.
And you can find under the mounds a pattern of stars, you can find under the mounds (and archaeologists have hung these) and they’re all swooped. They don’t know what it means, but there are sticks that were under those mounds. I think they were part of stabilizing the amount of the dirt, but they mimic the patterns of the stars when that mound was built.
And the men would have done that because they would have done, they were by and large astronomers, because that’s a man job. That’s a breath thing, so they would have probably placed those sticks. That was again wood that come from man part.
And all the standing men that were cut down are matters of great grief because when a young man dies his breath spirit, if he’s going to stay and guard the people, goes into the trees goes into the trees. And when they say “the false face, oh the Iroquois have false faces”… those are not false faces. They’re not masks. That is the face of the spirit that’s in that tree, is the face of that man, a young man who volunteered to guard the people, so cutting down all those trees broke everybody’s heart.
Roger Green: As we’re waiting comments here, Barbara, I’m reminded that you — in our in our conversations about this talk — you expressed that I share that you’re Bear clan and that Tink is Eagle clan, and that’s important. So, I wondered if either, or both of you, could speak to that, and if anybody has questions or comments please share them in the chat.
Barbara Mann: Yeah, the clans also show the two halves, and it’s a nice combination of breath and blood going on there. The bear is very important critter of course. He’s very heavy medicine, and so being a bear and a panther is a nice balance all by itself. Tink?
Tink Tinker: For us both Bear and Panther are earth clans…
Barbara Mann: Well, Panther would be sky because he hunts in the forest and jumps. And you know, getting off…
Tink Tinker: Both Bear and Panther clans, and we have 24 clans, so Bear and Panther are the two clans that are invested with the spiritual responsibility for protecting the people.
Barbara Mann: Ah as Bears are protecting too…
Tink Tinker: Eagle is also an earth clan,
Barbara Mann: mmmhmmm
Tink Tinker: And it connects sky and earth.
Barbara Mann: Yeah, it would.
Tink Tinker: And interestingly enough, Buffalo is the sky clan. Now, we in my household, we connect sky and earth because we are both Eagle and Buffalo. As Barbara knows, and Roger, and a lot of others of you, Jill, and Dan and Beth…eight years ago, we adopted a close relative, my brother’s granddaughter, who is buffalo clan — toka uthsethe — buffalo bull clan.
So we have both in our household. And when we took her in, even though by adoption she’s now Eagle, she was named in a ceremony into the buffalo clan. Her name is Toopé — ‘they will gaze upon her’ — by her grandpa, back from the Osage reservation in ceremony. And, in our world, in our land, in our villages, traditionally, — it is destroyed of course by the missionaries and by colonization — the earth people lived on the south side of the road, the sky people lived on the north side of the road, with the road representing the path of the sun, east to west.
And the two chiefs, one was sky and one was earth. They lived in the center of the village in large lodges across the road from each other. Large lodges, because they might have to host any guests who come into the village, and they’re responsible for gifting the guests who come into the village feeding them and giving them a place to lay their head at night so the important role being a gaihega — strange word, “chief,” because chief immediately brings this image of up-down image schema to bear.
But because my daughter was born into Buffalo clan toka the buffalo bull toka uthsethe, I had to teach her when she was fifty months old, four years old just barely, “you’re left sided. You put your left shoe on first. You tie your left shoe first. So don’t pay attention to your dad. I’m Eagle clan born, so I’m right-sided, and I put my right shoe on first, my right arm through a jacket first.” This isn’t right-handed and left-handed, it’s right-sided and left-sided, and it’s a social device to help us remember who we are every moment of every day.
And that’s critically important, to remember whether I’m sky or earth, and to walk the earth that way and walk in balance with the others in my community who are on the other side of the road. And having a Sky clan daughter helps me enormously [to] live that in an urban environment where all the other pressures of urbanality would be inclined to erase that distinction and allow me to forget who I am. But that lives deep. It’s ingrained in us way back. And now it’s ingrained in her and she’s now in sixth grade middle school, her first year in middle school, and she’s attending a school in Denver — remote by the way it’s all distance learning because of Covid — but a school called the American Indian Academy of Denver and I don’t know if Gracie is still with us but my daughter is learning Lakota, not Osage, because they have a Lakota teacher in this school, and she’s pretty good at it.
Gracie RedShirt Tyon: That’s good to hear. I’m still here, Tink, thank you. That’s great, because you…you and I both know that our languages are very similar. Same, yeah, same language group, and I’m happy for her, that she’s able to learn that.
Tink Tinker: Yeah, a lot of words the same and her her grandpa is bilingual Osage and Lakota both. He was adopted up at Rosebud forty years ago.
Roger Green: There’s a question from Sheldon Spotted Elk. Sheldon, do you want to ask it yourself? or I can read it out for you, but I’ll just invite you to ask it yourself first.
Sheldon Spotted Elk: Certainly, certainly I could ask. Hopping on. Thank you so much. Great information. I, the question I had is about some of the concrete applications of this. And so, I grew up in, I’m Northern Cheyenne from Linger, Montana originally. Living here in Denver now, but I just was curious about any of this work being able to translate, world views, and I know primary sources especially in the legal arena being in ceremony, elders, song dance, using that to translate to build institutions — of course tribes are sovereign governments now — and that’s, I think a different worldview that kind of adds on to on top of what we’re talking about is the cosmological worldview, but have you seen very much work as far as translating that and making institutions and law more approximate to culture? is the direct question. Now hopefully that makes sense, so I’ll wait for your answer. Thank you.
Tink Tinker: Thank you, Sheldon. I’m going to say a few words, Barbara, if I can. Um it’s really complex.
We live in a late colonial period, and you kind of named the complexity by my by naming “tribal governments.” You’ve got to remember the tribal governments are not our old traditional community governing structures. Tribal governments were created by the colonizer, by the U.S. government particularly, in that 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. I never use the word ‘tribal’ unless I’m talking about a colonialist tribal government.
I much prefer what the Osage Nation calls itself today, is Osage Nation. They slip up and start using the word tribal because they’re you know we passed a new Constitution a decade ago. The last article of the new Constitution said “this constitution will take effect as soon as it is approved by a majority of the Osage plebiscite and is approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”
What?! Approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs? The U.S. government?
I raised the objection and was told, “Tink, please argue the point after we get the constitution because we really need to get this constitution.” We ain’t sovereign. We’re something called “quasi sovereign,” or as John Marshall said in an 1830 Supreme Court decision, a “domestic dependent nation”… whatever in the world that is! He made it up. He made it up out of whole cloth. It didn’t exist until that moment, and now we’re the living reality of it because we think tribal governments are sovereign and tribal governments are no more sovereign than the city of Denver or Arapahoe County or the the town of Elizabeth, Colorado.
It all comes under that hierarchy, right? That up-down image schema. Here’s the U.S., there’s Colorado and its sovereignty, there’s the county and its sovereignty, the city and its sovereignty, and Indian reservations are down here at that level of sovereignty, which means we ain’t very sovereign. We get to make choices about stuff that the U.S. government concedes to us to make, period. I don’t concede that point yet. I’ve been fighting it for the 76 years that I’ve been on this earth, and I hope that my grandkids will be fighting it long after I’m gone.
What we need is to begin to reclaim — and by the way the new Osage Constitution, instead of two gallega, we now have one principal chief, a principal chief an assistant principal chief, a national congress a national supreme court judiciary. That pretty much looks like the U.S. government to me. It’s unicameral, not bicameral, but we have modeled our government after the colonizer. There are other words, but we’re in public, so I won’t use uh, you know, stuff like, uh like cow manure — that’s really what it is — and we think we’ve got something because we’ve got self-governance.
We don’t have the freedom to determine our own people’s future. The United Nations has ensured we don’t have that self-determination factor when they approve that document on Indigenous Peoples. We really are — internationally, globally, Indigenous Peoples are — have an inferior sovereignty to that of this artificial, plastic entity called a nation-state that claims territorial prerogatives over their native territories over our native territories. So I guess I have another agenda, Sheldon, namely when I’m arguing the difference in worldview I’m beginning to lay out what I think might be helpful even to our colonizer-relatives in terms of their need to correct the radical imbalance that they’ve caused in the world through 528 years of colonization, and through the 500 years (or 1500 years before that) of violence on the european continent, and throughout the middle east, the so-called crusades to reclaim what they think is is their territory, but it’s no part of europe, but jerusalem. from Muslim occupation.
By then of course it was a Muslim homeland. It wasn’t eurochristian, even though they were still Christians and still Jews in that part of the world. It was simply conquest on the part of christian kings in europe.
We’re still involved in that. We’re still involved in treating the earth as if it were just there for human convenience, for us to use and abuse and to use up. So extraction industries happen even on our reservations where we’re supposedly sovereign, and Osages even allow it because we’ve learned to deal in this abstraction called “money,” “currency,” rather than feeling the relationship directly to the land so there’s a pipeline now that cuts all the way across the Osage reservation and unlike our relatives up north, Osages were glad to have it come through because the allotment holders of the land got a kick back from the oil companies where whenever the pipeline crossed their land.
I want us to begin talking about coaching our colonizer eurochristian, Christian relatives in a different way of feeling the world of experiencing a different sense of physicality, where we can begin to rein-in on what we see as this economically necessary need to rip up the earth to extract coal, iron, oil, natural gas, whatever your the mineral of need is at the moment — and it gets worse with the invention of high-tech technologies where we need uh you know precious metals to build all the electronic technology for a laptop or a cell phone. We can we can coach them on a better way to live in harmony and balance with the world around us.
Barbara Mann: Tink. Thank you for bringing that up. I wasn’t going to get too much into it, but you know, Ohio has no reservations. You read the Greenville treaty, we were promised them. But you know what happened? all the die-hards came to Ohio, and we put up a resistance that they really had to think twice about. It took them another let’s see…from 1783 until it was about after 1800, it was like 1817 before they got the last area of Ohio, which was our reservation.
They took it all. They took it all, and they were so mad at us for putting up that fight that nobody got any land whatsoever. Some of us were enrolled and, you know they kind of played with that in the 1950s because, “well you’re not on a reservation, you’re not”… Okay, what’s going on here?
I would like to put in a good word by the way for the great law, of the Iroquois, which you may know, because the U.S. government was actually patterned after the government we created, except they left a few things out. Everything was bicameral. The men had younger and elder brothers in their councils who had to talk come to consensus. Women had the elder and younger clans and their councils had reached consensus, and then the floor had to reach yet another consensus.
The women alone controlled the agenda, and so there was that little bit of hierarchy. Men could send it forward, but if we didn’t want to talk about it, nothing more. Nothing more. Okay, by the way, if you get out to outer space, the men have the stage, because space is a breath. But women have total control of their own affairs, and women alone controlled the land.
In 1848, the U.S. government passed laws abolishing, abolishing the [Iroquoian] League, and that was in retribution for preventing them from going past our areas for 250 years. They imposed their own form of government in 1848, which totally disempowered the women. We hadn’t been the strongest advocates, saying, “you can’t have land.” [In] 1868 they made it even stronger. Women in West Virginia didn’t even get the vote back until like 1968, ’67 or ’68.
It’s not necessarily the Iroquois form of government that they bastardized that’s the problem. The problem is the monetization, because we have a gift economy. It’s not the exchange economy, which is based on rating. It’s a gift economy, which is based on taking care of the world. We’re not just giving to other human beings. It’s, if you take down a tree you by-god plant a tree. If you’re on it … you’re very very careful [with] land and you use it for more than 20 years before you move along your circuit.
So there are very strict rules of land usage and, by the way, pipelines are not part of it. You were very careful about digging in earth because that was somebody’s house, right? You were very careful about taking down a tree because there was a man in there. There was a man in that tree. So the rules that we had are completely ignored by all the so-called tribal governments of a few reservations, and a lot of them, a lot of those governments, get pretty high-handed, and a lot of people consider them complete neo-colonial expressions.
And I do agree with you, Tink, that can’t be the vehicle that we’re using. There was an African-American, woman scholar named Audre Lorde who wrote a wonderful article I recommend to everybody. She was talking about slavery, but she said the master’s tools will never dismantle a master’s house. That’s a really important concept and so by going into law and using western law, we’re not dismantling the house. We’re adding to the master’s house, the invader’s house. And I’ve always taken that essay to heart. I think she wrote it in the seventies, but it’s still very pertinent. You’ve got to be careful about the tools you’re using because you can only build what those tools will build, and I really would think we need to use tools to know that the old way.
Roger Green: There are a number of questions in the in the chat, so I’ll just kind of direct everybody’s attention there, but in the next order there’s one from Adam Loch, there’s one from Carl Rashcke, there’s one from Andy Yost, and one from William Elkins. So, maybe we’ll just kind of go in that order. Adam, do you want to jump in and say it? I don’t like to just speak for other people.
Adam Loch: I don’t mind if you read it.
Roger Green: Okay, Adam says, “what role do ceremonies associated with particular places, like some of some of the effigies, Dr Mann shared with us, have in promoting a political order? How does the autonomy of participating individuals generate political order according to reciprocal dualisms slash the twinship model or twinship principle?”
Barbara Mann: I’m not sure i understood the question, did you, Tink? Can you try it again, Adam?
Tink Tinker: Read the last part of it about the twinship principle again, Roger.
Roger Green: “How does the autonomy of participating individuals generate political order according to the reciprocal dualism or the twinship principle?”
Barbara Mann: Well, everybody has total freedom, and Tink was mentioning that with the dual chief system. Everybody has total total freedom, but you also have total responsibility,
Tink Tinker: Absolutely, yes.
Barbara Mann: So it’s not just about “I don’t want to wear a mask, I don’t have to wear a mask.” It’s about waiting for that grandma over there who could get very very sick. Your first thought has to be your obligation to the people and to everything around you. Your first obligation is not to yourself. So that’s how your autonomy works. You have autonomy, but you also have a responsibility that goes along with it. Is that clear at all?
Tink Tinker: When South Dakota AIM [American Indian Movement] decided they’d go back to the Black Hills again for sundance…for a number of years, they occupied a camp in the Black Hills camp, Yellow Thunder, but in the early 2000s they decided to go back deeper into the hills, into Wind Cave National Park, and so, out of, as a courtesy, Russell Means went to the park superintendent of Wind Cave to announce that they were going to do this and what the dates were. The superintendent said, “Well we can’t allow you to do that,” and Russell said, “We didn’t ask permission. We’re telling you when we’re doing it.”
And after a much longer conversation, the superintendent said, “Well, okay” and announced that his rangers would be keeping an eye on this massive encampment that was invading the black hills. And Russell said, “No, we know how to leave the land the way we found it, and it will be left the way we found it. Your rangers are welcome to come into our camp. Please tell them to lock their weapons in the car because they will not be allowed in our camp.” And he had to re-emphasize that because the superintendent wasn’t sure that he could send his rangers into an aim encampment without weapons.
But they continue to have that dance. It’s now led by a number of, a couple of at least, three of Russell’s sons. I guess that’s real sovereignty. They didn’t go to Pine Ridge government and say, “help us do this.” They circumvented all those institutions. Nor did he do it as an individual. He did it as part of a communal home. And of course, over the years sundances have proliferated on those northern reservations.
One year…was a good ten years ago, I was up at Pine Ridge and they told me they had counted 32 sundances on that reservation alone, which is to say a lot of families began hosting their own sundances because the large sundances tended to become a little too out of hand, a little too much not enough room to actually wada with the wanagi who came in to that sundance altar.
So, the AIM sundance was just one of those. I was there two years, two summers ago, I was there — last summer of course it got cancelled [due to Covid 19], but I was there two summers ago and it was a wonderful thing to be up there. All the Black Hills, in the middle of the tall grass, and to be camping up there with people. So I don’t know if that answers Adam’s question or not, but you know place still matters. yeah that one cave is the place of emergence for Lakota peoples.
Roger Green: Carl asked me to pass on his question, but Andy Yost has a question. Andy, do you want to speak it yourself?
Tink Tinker: Hi Andy, how are you?
Andy Yost: Yeah, Hi Dr Tinker, Dr Green, I’m happy to just ask it, if that’s okay with you, I don’t want to break protocol…I’m getting the go ahead. Okay, great. And Dr Mann, I just want to say personally, it’s a privilege to get a chance to speak to you directly. I was also a student of Dr Tinker’s and read closely your work and continue to do so in the work that I currently do as a lawyer for the federal government’s capacity building center for courts.
One of the things that I do with my colleague, Sheldon Spotted Elk, and this is an old lawyer trick — he didn’t actually tell you he’s also a lawyer —
Tink Tinker: Somebody’s got to be a lawyer, I guess.
Andy Yost: That’s right, I know, we’re usually embarrassed to say it, which is why…but I wanted to just, you know, put him on blast there for a minute. He and I work together in a number of capacities. One of them is, we work with a number of tribes on what’s called the tribal court improvement program, and I realize, by the way, that we…based on what we’ve learned today..that’s already, there’s already a thousand and one problems with even that set of words. So let me just recognize that on its face, and I’m hoping that for a little bit of charity so I can at least get a cogent question out, and you can address it.
Part of our work, a large part of our work, is helping or at least trying to help tribes develop for them themselves court — I’m going to use the term — ‘court systems’, but systems to, that can address and manage child abuse and neglect. Instances of child abuse and neglect. So the sort of shorthand way, the eurochristian way, let’s say, of saying that is helping them work on their court systems that handle child abuse neglect cases. So that’s just by way of of context.
So my question actually is more of a worldview question for both of you. My question is essentially, what is justice on the indigenous worldview? and if justice, the word justice, isn’t the…is an inappropriate term to use, your language Dr Tinker, coach me up a little bit. What are the right terms, and how might I as a lawyer thrown into the world… eurochristian world view, working with indigenous tribes, how might I be useful in the work that I’m doing as I try to bring whatever justice is or help inaugurate a more just relationship between our work on the fed and the tribal side?
Tink Tinker: I want my friend, Brett Shelton, involved in a conversation about this. Brett’s Ogalala and spent a number of years engaged in exactly that kind of legal practice on Pine Ridge, until he burned out, I think.
You’ve signaled a host of problems that we deal with in this light colonial period. Colonialism has not left Indian people unaffected. Genocide has not left us whole. It affects us psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, physically, all those ways. And one of the coping mechanisms introduced to us by the christians is alcohol, and now drugs, introduced to us by the eurochristians. Sociologically, but they were all Christians, so we may as well name it what it is.
Alcohol was a tool of colonization. It was a way of attacking self-dependency of Indian peoples and it worked way too well and today way too many of our people have succumbed to this disease of alcoholism i spent 30 years beginning with going into San Quentin prison going into facilities federal and state to visit Indian inmates almost all of whom were incarcerated because of things they did when they were inebriated, or later on on drugs, but usually inebriated. That’s the drug of choice, it seems like, [for] Indian People.
That’s what you’re dealing with in family systems too, Andy, unfortunately. It’s a postcolonial reality that we have yet to get a handle on as Indian People. Not that we haven’t tried. We have plenty of institutions on every reservation in every urban community struggling to get a handle on that.
I spent the last thirty years pouring water in a sweat lodge ceremony … í’n ungli (sitting with the stones), where about half the people who came out to this ceremony with me were former inmates. And all of them struggling with issues of alcohol abuse had sobered up and were trying struggling to stay sober. A friend of mine wrote a paper forty years ago saying spousal abuse is not an Indian tradition. Just the opposite. It’s only colonization genocide and alcoholism that introduces family abuse into Indian communities, and it starts with with men abusing women, trying to live the christian ideal of the hegemony of men of the patriarchy. And you see, it never quite worked in our Indian communities because women never forgot they were in charge. Never forgot that they were the decision makers and not the man.
Even if men were the spokespeople, the people sent out just to talk to government officials. There’s a story about people in Manhattan trying to talk to the Lenape and wondering why the Lenape showed up with with women in their contingent to negotiate a treaty. And and the Lenape, looking at the Dutch, saying, “where are your women? don’t you have any women?” Two different world views. Two different ways of experiencing the world.
And the Dutch asked the Lenapes, “What are you? a nation of women?” You know, putting them down, putting them in their place. And the Lenape, to their credit, looked at one another finally answered, and said, “Yeah, I guess so, nothing more powerful than that!” So that, when missionaries begin to introduce this notion that men are the head of the household, that’s really hard on the men. They don’t know how to act. And once alcohol is introduced, they tend to act the way the europeans act towards Indians, with some violence, and that’s so deeply rooted that it’s still going on to this day.
How do we change that? It’s our internal question that we are struggling with. It’s not that we’re not struggling with it, we really are, but it’s very very difficult when the reservation — and even urban Indian communities — are so rooted in desperate poverty there are reservations where the unemployment rate is regularly in excess of 75, 80, 85, up to 92 percent. That’s terrible!
And that makes for this desperate need to find other ways to cope. And alcohol and drugs is one of the ways to alter the reality of, you know, men have no way to support their families anymore. We can’t go out and hunt anymore, and we don’t have jobs, and the only money available it seems like is AFDC Aid to Families with Dependent Children. So that it really changes the structural realities in our communities, the social constructions. Long answer to a shorter question. Barbara, you have something to say about that?
Barbara Mann: I was just thinking about a story grandma told me about women taking care of a problem of an abusive man. Their sister, he was bad to her and the children, so at 2:00am when he was passed out drunk they sowed him into a blanket, dragged him far out in the woods and beat him with baseball bats in the blanket they sewed him in. Then, after they got tired of doing that, they went home. Never came back, and then they supported their sister and the children.
I was thinking about my uncle while you were talking. About, you know, boarding school did that to people…
Tink Tinker: Yes, that’s part of the equation absolutely
Barbara Mann: You know, boarding school did it to my uncle, but you know, I remember he would, he would get quite drunk. When he wasn’t drunk, he was a great man — I mean great in the old sense of the Indians — being great, standing up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves, facing down bullies, and you know, euro-bullies and all that. But there would be times he’d tell me when he would be so drunk he would hold on to the grass so he wouldn’t fall off the ground.
And I know it was true, I know it was. He never did get the better of that but he was always a good, old-fashioned man…he took his responsibilities, and he never took it out on the family. He never took it out on anybody but himself. So there is that, and I think it’s because there were still traditional elements.
For example, the… for the Iroquois anyway, the primary male figure for the children, sister’s children, is not her husband but her brother. So we spent a great deal of time with my mother’s brother and his children. I think that had a lot to do with keeping him as straight as he was, because you just do that one old traditional thing and it’s like an anchor, you know, it’s…this is something you can hold on to and hope for.
So, I think going back to the old ways is probably one of the best ways. I was talking a friend [inaudible], who was another woman from the pacific northwest who told me, “you know, we just started using the old food.” And I grew up with the old food, we… I never even had cheese till like 22 or anything like it. We just used the old food — corn, beans, and squash — and because we couldn’t get, you know, deer meat and that sort of think or like, turkey.
But it’s old traditional food, I think, that is extremely helpful in keeping your head right. So, do the old things. If you just do the old things, I think that would go a long way helping people. And not demonizing the person who was acting out. I think it’s really important not to do that. People are going to act out, especially after they’ve been through what Indian People went through. Instead of that, you’re all, “Shame on you, you’re bad person! You must be punished!”… But instead of that, going out and doing a traditional thing. You know, just something like that is, I think, of a great deal more help you know than the law they’ve got now.
Tink Tinker: Let let me say something more about two things — one just in response to to what Barbara’s saying. The Indian inmates, incarcerated Indians I used to visit, were necessarily sober cause they were prison, right? Some of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met, because they’re sober.
Come back to Andy’s other question that we didn’t get to yet. This word ‘justice’. One problem is that eurochristian languages trade in such weighty abstractions. Now, George Lakoff, Mark Johnson and company, cognitive linguists, can assure us that all language is metaphoric and I can say too — and by the way, some of my best friends, Sheldon, are lawyers — you’ve heard that one before, huh? And smiling, because, we’ve been friends a long time.
Such weighty abstractions like ‘justice’, like ‘sin’, like ‘evil,’ We didn’t have a word for that in Osage. We only had an understanding of harmony and balance. That’s what it’s all about. Every individual, every family, every lodge, every clan, every village, ultimately the whole world, has to be in harmony and balance. That’s the goal, not justice.
Did we have ways of encouraging people to have certain kinds of behavior? Yeah, in an Osage village, each of the gaihega, two of them, right? Each of them would pick five ákida so that there were ten total who would live then around the lodges of the gaihega, and their job was to ensure that the people of the village followed protocol. Yes, a great deal of freedom, as Barbara said.
You can’t tell anyone what to do, but you can interrupt somebody who is being disruptive in the community and talk to them about it. And ultimately, the gaihega can’t do this, the ákida cannot do this, but the council of old wounds — the nóhonzhinga — they can sit down, talk through somebody’s behavior, and ask them to leave, and find somewhere else to leave. That’s pretty awful, because no other village will take that person in, so that person is on their own, if they survive for a period of a long time, until they can come back and make amends.
So it didn’t happen very often! There weren’t murders in Indian communities because, you know, the consequences were awful. And under colonialism, when there was a murder, usually it was more like an execution.
So, when Spotted Elk…not Spotted Elk — I’m looking at Sheldon’s picture — when Spotted Tail at Rosebud was murdered by uh…Crow Dog! Thank you, I can read lips… was murdered by Crow Dog, Crow Dog knew what he was doing. He knew it was an execution, and he knew he had to pay the price. And he knew what the consequences were, and when the U.S. government became involved, Crow Dog walked across the territory of the Dakotas to get to Sioux Falls on the appointed time for his incarceration and execution because he knew that was the consequence.
It was only a court case, a different justice system, Andy, that rescued him from that fate, but he was prepared, because he was acting for the people over against a former hero who had become too compliant with u.s. government people in the Dakota territory. And you see that very, very often, very often, in stories about — your colonialist stories — about Indians and the american justice system.
We deal in concretes and every day, in real world much more than the abstractions that are commonplace, every day, all the time in the eurochristian world. And one reason for that is that our languages tend to be verb based whereas your christian languages — English particularly, German exceptionally — are noun-based. Nouns are so important in German, they capitalize all of them! To their credit, there’s a pronoun they don’t capitalize — the first person singular — that English does.
But our languages are verb-based, at least the languages I know. I don’t know about Seneca and Iroquois languages, Barbara, but I’m assuming they’re verb-based.
Barbara Mann: Yeah.
Tink Tinker: The nouns build off the verbs, not the other way around. When you start with a noun, you start with an abstraction. When you start with a verb, you start with visible action that’s unfolding, that’s happening. So, we don’t have “gods.” ‘God’s’ an abstraction, whether it’s “God, male sky God” of the Christians or lowercase ‘g’ god, it’s still an abstraction. What is it?
I wrote a paper for a sister journal that Carl edits on ‘religion’, explaining that Indians don’t have religion. Religion’s another abstraction. What is it?
Barbara Mann:…a controlling mechanism…
Tink inker: Andy was in a class with me, and so was Adam, where we argued whether religion is a real category or not. It was that joint doctoral committee, joint doctoral program seminar — theory what was it “theory, theories and methods in religious studies.” Barbara, I didn’t mean to cut you off…
Barbara Mann: I didn’t mean to cut you off. You were talking.
Tink Tinker: kakunah!
Roger Green: So, I want to be aware of of time, even though it’s a eurochristian concept. There was maybe one…there’s one more question here, maybe we could end there. It’s from William Elkins, and William, are you still here? Do you want to speak it yourself, or I can read it for you? [waits]
He says, well, he was asking about a song, so let me just read his question here, it says, “To our Native American spokespersons in general, and all in general, are you familiar with ‘the Eagle’s song, the last resort'” and then he says, “if folks aren’t familiar with the song, I think it will be appreciated. It complements Dr Tinker’s representation of colonial christianity, just read this is my comment.” Do either of you know the song?
Tink Tinker: I know a lot of songs. They’re mostly in Osage or in Lakota. I don’t know that one by the Eagles, no. My kids probably know it.
Barbara Mann: I don’t know it either.
Roger Green: So, that feels like a good time to to wrap things up. I wanted to point to a couple more talks we’re hoping for. We’ll do a talk on the this concept of ‘sovereignty’ again in early February but we don’t have a date. And it’s it sounds like we have Walter Mignolo, who will be a critical conversationalist in January. And we’re building towards a conference in April that The New Polis is going to put on on the concept of decolonization, and particularly around the Doctrine of christian Discovery or the Doctrine of christian Domination — as Steven Newcomb (Shawnee / Lenape) puts it.
So, we’re always wanting more people to write and contribute to The New Polis and also to sort of build towards that event. And particularly along with that kind of abstract concept of the Doctrine of Discovery, particularly the issue of land-back, the tangible land-back issue, rather than statues…go ahead Tink…
Tink Tinker: Gracie just signaled that we should be careful with the word ‘sovereignty’ — that’s another eurochristian abstraction that we don’t have in any Indian language, but you’re also in trying to track down Glenn Morris to get him to do one of these conversations on on the word ‘sovereignty’ and Native People. Thank you, Gracie!
Roger Green: Yeah, and I wasn’t…I wasn’t naming Glenn, but now that you’ve named him, Glenn, your name is out there Glenn! [laughs]
And one more thing. So, there is a a new a new book called The Colonial Compromise that Tink and Barbara and Miguel de la Torre — a lot of people from the community — have recently put out, so you can check that out. It’s kind of expensive, so you might look for it through databases if you have access. So, with that I’ll just thank everybody for being here, and I thank especially Barbara Mann and Tink Tinker for being here. And, any parting words for from either of you?
Barbara Mann: No, just that nouns are very convenient if you’re planning on lying to people.
Tink Tinker: I would encourage people who are interested in the sketchings that Barbara showed us to look at her book Indians Archaeologists and the Mounds. It’s a wonderful text. She’s holding up a copy of it now for you to see the cover of.
Barbara Mann: Yeah, I did that way back in 2003.
Tink Tinker: Yeah, and I recommend everything she’s written, but one of my all-time favorites is Iroquoian Women, and I use those books in the classroom a great deal. Always good to see you, Barbara, and to be able to work together, and thank Roger and Carl for putting this together and I’ll say, kashínkaton wada!
Carl Raschke: Thank you very much this is incredible thank you
Roger Green: I hope everybody has a great day
Barbara Mann: Bye bye, Tink…Roger, Carl.