- Mar 2022
Capitalization conveys a certain distinction, the elevated position of humans and their creations in the hierarchy of beings. Biologists have widely adopted the convention of not capital-izing the common names of plants and animals unless they include the name of a human being or an official place name. Thus, the first blossoms of the spring woods are written as bloodroot and the pink star of a California woodland is Kellogg’s tiger lily. This seemingly trivial grammatical rulemaking in fact expresses deeply held assump-tions about human exceptionalism, that we are somehow different and indeed better than the other species who surround us. Indigenous ways of understanding recognize the personhood of all beings as equally important, not in a hierarchy but a circle.
Rules for capitalization in English give humans elevated hierarchical positions over animals, plants, insects, and other living things. We should revise this thinking and capitalize words like Maple, Heron, and Mosquito when we talking of beings and only use only use the lower case when referring to broad categories or concepts like maples, herons, and humans.
- Nov 2021
Our elders say that ceremonies are the way we “remember to remember,”
The Western word "ceremony" is certainly not the best word for describing these traditions. It has too much baggage and hidden meaning with religious overtones. It's a close-enough word to convey some meaning to those who don't have the cultural background to understand the underlying orality and memory culture. It is one of those words that gets "lost in translation" because of the dramatic differences in culture and contextual collapse.
Most Western-based anthropology presumes a Western idea of "religion" and impinges it upon oral cultures. I would maintain that what we would call their "religion" is really an oral-based mnemonic tradition that creates the power of their culture through knowledge. The West mistakes this for superstitious religious practices, but primarily because we can't see (or have never been shown) the larger structures behind what is going on. Our hubris and lack of respect (the evils of the scala naturae) has prevented us from listening and gaining entrance to this knowledge.
I think that the archaeological ideas of cultish practices or ritual and religion are all more likely better viewed as oral practices of mnemonic tradition. To see this more easily compare the Western idea of the memory palace with the Australian indigenous idea of songline.
- lost in translation
- cultish practices
- evils of the scala naturae
- indigenous "religion"
- ritual and religion
- context collapse
- remember to remember