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Chapter Natives

RELG 270 Chapter Notes - Chapter Natives: General Idea, Matthew Coon Come, Lightning


Department
Religious Studies
Course Code
RELG 270
Professor
Eliza Rosenberg
Chapter
Natives

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What Other Americans Can or Cannot Learn from
Native American Environmental Ethics
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Christian!theology!states!that!since!God!have!mankind!dominion!over!nature,!they!
can!use!and!exploit!it,!which!is!why!some!propose!that!we!must!learn!from!the!
Native!Americans!ecology,!since!they!have!remained!untainted!by!greed!or!Christian!
doctrines!despite!years!of!oppression,!and!also!because!they!were!always!closer!to!
nature!than!Americans!have!ever!been.!In!the!following!text,!the!author!plans!to!use!
two!ethnographies!(the!Koyukon!and!the!Hopi)!to!characterize!Native!American!
environmental!ethics,!and!then!she!will!use!her!findings!to!see!what!Americans!can!
or!cannot!learn!from!it.!!
!
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In!order!to!study!Native!environmental!ethics,!a!anthropological!and!cultural!
approach!will!be!taken!instead!of!a!philosophical!one!because!Native!Americans!
don’t!speak!in!terms!of!their!religion!or!their!philosophy,!but!they!explain!their!
spirituality!through!culture!and!environment.!Also,!spiritual!beliefs!are!also!
manifested!in!their!subsistence!activities!!
Koyukon:!hunting!and!fishing!!
Hopi:!farming!
Most!of!their!practices,!values!and!rules!arise!from!their!perspectives!on!how!the!
view!the!lands,!and!how!it!has!been!viewed!for!the!past!thousands!of!years!
(tradition!plays!an!important!part).!
!
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A!few!points!on!the!Koyukon:!
They!live!in!the!boreal!forest!of!the!northern!western!interior!of!Alaska.!
Hunters,!fishers!and!trappers!(lost!of!large!mammal!in!winter!due!to!
weather)!
Relationship!with!nature:!
Heavily!dependent!on!nature!for!life,!therefore!they!do!not!control!it.!Nature!
is!dominant!and!holds!the!ultimate!power!
Distant!times!stories:!animals!were!once!humans!(understand!and!be!
offended!by!humans),!have!powerful!spirits!that!can!punish!humans!
Taboos:!“anything!caused!by,!done!for,!or!avoided!to!show!respect!for!or!
spiritual!powers”!!Ex:!not!to!boast!about!hunting!talent!(humility)!
They!obey!taboos!because!they!see!it!as!a!“fundamental!element!of!
subsistence!as!important!as!the!more!tangible!practicalities!of!harvesting!
and!utilizing!natural!resources.”!
Not!following!taboos!leads!to!punishments!(degree!dependent!on!the!spirit!
you!harmed/offended)!!!cannot!hunt!species!so!no!offerings,!illness,!death,!
loss!of!luck!(needed!to!hunt)!etc.!!
Voluntarily!limiting!resources:!taking!only!what!they!need,!if!game!is!
abundant,!make!hunting!territory!smaller,!not!waste!from!nature!

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Boreal!forests!are!extremely!delicates,!and!Koyukon!practices!has!helped!the!
forest!thrive.!
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A!few!points!on!Hopi:!
12!500!people!today,!small!villages!on!mesas!northeastern!Arizona.!
Mostly!farmers,!but!sometimes!need!wages!jobs!
Lands!are!semiarid!so!perfected!farming!with!no!or!little!irrigation!
Relationship!with!nature:!!
Land!is!sacred!and!was!loaned!to!them!by!Maasaw!(Hopi!emerged!from!an!
underground!womb!of!the!earth)!
Kinship!with!all!aspects!of!nature,!especially!plants!
Clans!are!names!after!natural!components,!and!they!feel!a!connection!to!that!
natural!component!
Weaving!and!farming!are!sacred!because!it!renews!their!tie!to!their!ancestors!
who!were!taught!this!ways!of!life!by!the!gods!(prayers!and!ceremonies!are!
crucial!for!the!success!of!farming)!
Practice!agriculture!with!no!heavy!machinery,!and!they!dig!a!very!deep!hole!
and!plants!many!seeds!together!(better!protection!against!outside!factors)!
If!disrespectful,!gods!may!not!give!them!rain!for!agriculture!
!
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Passed!orally!or!through!sacred!stories!and!historical!tales!(based!on!
spiritual!and!cultural!knowledge!but!also!on!observations!of!natural!
processes)!
Kinship!relationship!with!nature,!land,!plants!and!animals!!!we!are!all!part!
of!the!same!ecosystem,!earth.!Animals!were!humans!once,!so!we!must!treat!
them!as!we!would!a!fellow!human.!This!practice!leads!to!stronger!
connections!with!nature.!Everything!is!spiritual.!
Dependency!on!nature!!!their!lives!are!completely!on!the!natural!world.!
Creation!order:!plants,!insects,!birds,!animals!and!humans!!!humans!are!last!
because!they!need!all!of!the!above!to!survive!!!they!need!the!blessings!from!
the!spiritual!world!
Humans!establish!a!reciprocal!relationship!with!nature!by!offerings!and!
prayers!!!it!helps!nature!renew!it’s!resources!
Punishments!if!they!do!not!treat!nature!well!so!they!have!a!duty!to!do!so!
Land!is!sacred!and!they!have!a!deep!connection!with!it:!tribe’s!identity,!
ancestor’s!burial!sites,!spirituality!in!nature,!uses!it!to!link!themselves!to!the!
past!and!future,!etc.!
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We!have!already!taken!so!much!from!Native!Americans!so!is!it!ethical!to!use!Native!
American!Environmental!Ethics?!This!question!is!one!only!they!can!answer.!!
Their!response:!Yes.!The!stories!were!written!for!all!humans,!and!they!need!
it!now!more!than!ever.!Their!purpose!was!to!help!people!live!in!balance!and!

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harmony!with!the!environment.!However,!Native!American!will!mind!if!they!
alter!them!to!fit!Euro\American’s!requirements!
Which!leads!to!the!second!problem,!Euro\American!created!the!environmental!
crisis,!so!they!will!not!find!the!solution!in!Native!American!Environmental!Ethics.!
Natives!are!connected!mostly!to!the!land!they!live!in,!their!traditional!land.!It!
is!where!they!came!from!(deep!connection).!Other!Americans!will!not!have!
this!grounded!connection!or!concern!for!it!so!it’s!not!a!practice!that!can!be!
easily!adopted.!
Natives!are!dependent!on!nature!for!hunting,!fishing!and!farming,!activities!
that!Euro\Americans!do!not!partake!in!these!activities!which!makes!their!
dependency!to!nature!is!very!indirect.!!
Natives!have!religious!beliefs!that!everything!has!spirits!and!that!animals!
were!once!humans!and!the!other!Americans!do!not!believe!these!practices.!
Therefore,!they!don’t!see!nature!as!sacred.!
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We!cannot!just!take!their!ethics!and!apply!it!to!our!own;!we!have!to!find!the!general!
idea!and!apply!it!to!practices.!Some!general!ideas!are:!
Humans!are!not!separate!from!nature,!but!connected!to!it!
Kinship!relationship!with!that!lives!
All!aspects!of!being!in!nature!is!animate!and!sacred!
Return!to!nature!what!we!take!
Share!these!principles!through!stories!
Most!American!do!not!share!these!beliefs,!so!we!will!use!three!potential!path!to!
reach!the!goal:!
Religious:!develop!new!religious!and!spiritual!movement!that!grounds!and!
connects!American!to!their!soil!more.!!
Scientific:!Ecology!and!evolutionary!sciences!says!that!ecosystems!are!all!
connected!and!dependent!on!each!other.!However,!nature!and!sciences!are!
forever!changing.!Also,!Western!science!tends!to!categorize!and!classify!in!a!
detached!manner!from!everyday!life.!
o Maybe!ecological!restoration!is!the!way!o!go!instead!(restorations!
works!offers!humans!the!change!to!work!directly!in!contact!with!
nature).!Brings!in!the!concept!of!return!to!nature!what!we!take!!
Personal:!Observe!nature,!get!to!know!people!around!you,!the!plants!in!your!
garden,!the!trees!in!the!park!(leads!to!a!sense!of!being!part!of!the!community,!
sense!of!kinship)!
In!the!case!of!storytelling,!the!stories!that!affect!us!the!most!are!the!ones!we!are!
connected!to,!so!maybe!it’s!better!to!connect!to!the!land!and!nature,!and!from!there,!
start!creating!meaningful!stories!about!natures!based!on!your!own!experiences!and!
observations.!!!
!
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