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RLG NOTES for derry.docx

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Department
Religion
Course
RLG101H5
Professor
Kenneth Derry
Semester
Winter

Description
RLG NOTES: DERRY BOOK Definitions: Religion  Religion: Focuses on beliefs, experiences and practices of specific communities with respect to non-falsifiable realities  Dealing with religion when we: step outside of material reality to address questions of spirit, meaning or divinity  Religion and science may overlap Indigenous  Indigenous understood to mean ―original to the land‖  Some cultures that are considered to be Indigenous recognize supreme being; some recognize a variety of deities; and some don’t bother to think about these things  Indigenous: kinship and location- to belong to a community that is defined to its members’ genealogical relations to one another and its connections to a particular place  Synonym: Aboriginal  Putting both terms together- Indigenous Religion: beliefs, experiences, and practices concerning non-falsifiable realities of peoples who a) identify themselves as Indigenous and b) reply on kinship and location to define their place in the world Change and Syncretism  Indigenous religions no longer exist, but certain traditions still followed  Syncretism: the merging of elements from different religions Us and Them  The people who have control of your stories, control of your voice, also have control of your destiny, your culture  Colonialism: most of what people know or think they know about Indigenous cultures that come from non-Indigenous cultures  Main concern: tend to have significant social and political influence  Vine Deloria explained the social ills plaguing the Oglala community ignored the real issue, white control of reservation and theorized that people were simply were warriors without weapons  The Oglala incapable of adapting to a market-economy lifestyle because deep in their souls, they remained violently primitive  Main objection: outsiders lack the insider knowledge and insight required to speak with authority about particular community, culture, or tradition  Important problem of Indigenous work: tends to reinforce idea that they are different from us  Study of Indigenous religions has produced terms and concepts: animism, fetish, mana, myth, shaman, taboo, totem  It is important not to perpetuate the notion that Indigenous religions are of different order from non- indigenous religions Primitives and the Problem of History  I am almost always informed that tribal people represent an earlier stage of human accomplishment and that we can learn about our past by studying the way existing tribal people live  Only anthropologist studied Aboriginal people because historians assumed there was no Aboriginal history to look at  The Englightment was age of exploration, during which reports were regularly sent back to Europe describing encounters with previously unknown cultures—cultures that were primarily oral in nature  Primitive (meaning first in Latin)  Majority of Europeans at time of contact were Christians who believed both in the superiority of their culture and in divine imperative to spread their religion to those who had not yet head the gospel  Indigenous cultures were seen as ideal recipients of the Word of God, blank slates with no real history  Evidence shows that Indigenous peoples had dynamic, eventful histories before they were discovered  Persistent notion that Indigenous cultures are primitive is the tendency to think of them as non- literate  First: writing not inherently more advanced than orality  Second: many Indigenous cultures did use a form of weren’t before contact with non- Indigenous people  Third: the simple fact is that the vast majority of the contemporary Indigenous cultures are fully literate; to ignore fact is to continue to think of these cultures only in past tense  Indigenous people as private is the belief that they do not distinguish between the religious and non- religious aspects of their lives  Indigenous cultures are no less able than non- Indigenous ones to form distinctions in relation to category of religion  Many non-Indigenous scholars have come to realize that indigenous culture were and are just as complex and innovative as their own and that the idea of the primate says must more about the person who holds it that the people it is applied to  Helps explain why literary scholars often ignore modern indigenous writers, while anthropologists continue to pore over transcriptions of ancient tales Colonialism  Refers both to process in which people form one place establish and maintain a settlement in another and to the effects of this process on any people who were already there.  Those effects include their subjugation if not removal and imposition of new laws, economies and social practices that are controlled by and often modeled on, those of the colonists’ home territory.  Enormous amount of colonial activity between 15 - 20 centuries when western Europeans were exploring parts of the world  Western Europe was relatively significant region in terms of global influence  Quests for power and profit have often key factors driving colonialism  Religion also played critical role as motivating factor and justification for conquest of other peoples Invasion  They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance… they would make fine servants … with fifty men we could subjugate them and make them do whatever we want COLUMBUS  As soon as I arrived in the indies, on the first island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts- Columbus  wanted to know where the gold was  Columbus was not deterred  Those who managed to bring him gold got copper token to hand around necks and if not, got hands cut off and were left to bleed to death  Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold  Within 2 years population 250, 000 had been either exported or killed  Century later all Arawaks gone GENOCIDES  Colonial effort elsewhere were similarly catastrophic th  In Africa: 19 century upwards of 20 million Africans been taken from their homes and send to America as slaves, 11 million made it there alive  In Australia: less than half population of 500, 000 remained  America: by 1600, 90 million Indigenous has died  Reasons of death: disease, military action, mistreatment, starvation, malnutrition, loss of will to live, and slavery MASTERS OF THE CONTINENT  Almost everywhere Europeans went they occupied land they found  As settler population grew, Indigenous population declined  Colonists argued that Indigenous people were not really using the land or that they could not own the land because they did not have any concept of ownership or that because of their primitive nature, they simply did not count as people Conversion  Result of colonialism, Indigenous people in world were converted to the religion of one colonial power or another  Religion was usually some form of Christianity but other ones took place: Islam in Africa, and Buddhism throughout Asia  70% of Indigenous people in world today identify with colonial religion LOSS OF RELIGION  Message was simple: our people are stronger than your people because our god is stronger than yours  Sometimes governments simply made practice of Indigenous religions illegal  Most colonial powers brought a form of patriarchy with them that resulted in gendered stratification of the local societies  The missionaries had impressed upon us the feeling that women were a source of evil. This belief, combined with the ancient Indian recognition of the power of women is still holding back the progress of our people today LOSS OF LANGUAGE  As a result of colonialism, an untold number of Indigenous languages have disappeared forever  90% of all exiting languages are in danger of becoming extinct within 100 years; vast majority are Indigenous  As communities died their languages died with them  In Canada, Aboriginal children taken by families, by force and placed in Church- run residential schools where they were forbidden to speak their own languages  In Australia children sent either to foster homes or t government of church run institutions where they remained as wards of state until reached age 18  Stolen Generations: deprived of social knowledge required to establish healthy relationships and raise their own families LOSS OF LAND  Indigenous religions tied to specific location: the sacred places where gods, spirits, and ancestors become present in the lives of each community  Project destroyed the Yurok and Karuk  Natives were not asking that land should be returned to them but they retain access to it  petition was denied  Two central problems: 1) religion in general is frequently seen primarily as individual commitment to set of beliefs 2) difficulty that non Indigenous people have in understand why Indigenous practices are often bound to particular sites  For most Indigenous people, specific places are related and sacred to specific people, not everyone in the world Appropriation IDENTITY  For some people not just baseball game when Cleveland Indians play Atlanta Braes: it’s reminder of ongoing legacy of colonialism, all that has been taken from Indigenous people  Indigenous cultures as primitive, savage, and uncivilized, as vanished or vanishing, have difficult recognizing reality of modern communities and their concerns  Indigenous people should at least have the right to ownership and control their own identity RELIGION IN MOVIES  Again, again they portrayed either as fierce or savage warriors or as noble or dying people of a lost age  Precisely this view of traditional Aboriginal conceptions of place that Australian government used to help deprive people of their land rights CATCHING DREAMS AND BURNING MEN  Indigenous opinion concerning the commercial use of religious object and symbols id divided  Many New age teaching that seem to reflect Indigenous religions in reality turn them upside down  Not misguided but dangerous: they tell stories, chant, pass around the talking stick, bang drums, yell in forest and dance  The largest and most famous Indigenous themed New age event is the week-long Burning Man festival held every summer in northern Nevada  Given the immense popularity of Burning Man and its related events, it is impossible to underestimate the degree to which such appropriation influences the views of non-natives about native people and thereby affects the actual lives of Native people Patterns  ―the knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies…The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless‖ – T.S Eliot, Euro American Eating and Seeing  Dr. Clare Brank, Mohawk from southern Ontario (recounted experience from 1970s when band invited group of James Bay Cree to sporting tournament they were hosting)  Mohawk had tradition: setting out more food than guests could eats, to demonstrate wealth and generosity  Cree tradition different: accustomed to live with scarcity, eat all food offered  Cree though Mohawk deliberately forcing them to overeat to point of severe discomfort while Mohawk thought Cree grossly self-indulgent and bizarrely determined to insult their hosts  Tells us that not all Indigenous cultures are alike  Anyone attempting to understand another culture is in position similar to that of Mohawk and Creei  ―The eyes we see through the ones we have inherited from our own cultures, and so we must never forget to use them with caution and humility‖ Common Elements  Importance of orality  Connection to specific places  Emphasis on community and relationship  Sense of time as rhythmic  Greater emphasis on what happens during life than after death  Behaviour more important than belief  Authority of elders  Complementary dualism  View of sacred as ongoing process rather than static revelation  Meaning and value of gender roles  Hunting and warfare were men occupations and cooking was responsibility of women  Bunu Yoruba men responsible for growing cotton and women turning into cloth  Men and women were dependent  Balancing often be seen in regard to political and social power  Heads of Indigenous societies mainly male  Decisions normally taken by women and acted out by men  Gender classification somewhat fluid in Indigenous societies  Sexual orientations could also be fluid  No definitive gender pattern with respect to kinship  Some Indigenous societies are matrilineal (tracing ancestry in mother’s family) and others are patrilineal  Important spirits or gods may be either male or female  Not uncommon for Indigenous societies to separate religious practices for women and men  Studies focused on male practices only Final Concerns  Important to emphasize ideas of world as composed of these regions (Africa, Oceania and North America), as European invasion: their diverse Indigenous inhabitants thought in much local terms  Many general concerns are articulated in 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, resolution that would not have been possible without a global understanding of what it means to be Indigenous  Nothing should be taken at face value  Indigenous people have consistently been misrepresented often with harmful results Power of Speech  ―when you dig the earth, you find stone and earthen implements, but not words—not the words of our ancestors. Words aren’t buried in the ground. They aren’t handing form the branches of trees. They’re only transmitted from one mouth to the next‖ –Ainu elder  Orality not defining characteristic of Indigenous religions, remains vital one  Indigenous had writing, on things that have most importance on them, like values and beliefs that would be classified as religion -passed on orally, transmission happens through stories  Indigenous societies continue to think of orality as primitive and writing as civilization  Development of writing = allows for philosophical, abstract thought  Oral cultures= remain attached to present, material world, incapable of sophisticated analysis or extended self-reflection  Writing – frees humans to develop science  Speaking – alone limits to magic  Both views are incorrect and self-interested contribute to Indigenous cultures as primitive  All religions have crucial oral dimensions  Writing often assumed to be more important than speaking  Things said have power that written word does not  Shakespeare’s plays s literally come alive when words are voiced, and same goes with sermons of Martin Luther King Jr.  Books and newspapers no longer standard communication  Indigenous prefer video, film, television as media more common telling in story telling  ―I can recall lying on the earth and wondering what it was all about. The starts were a beautiful mystery and so was the place where the eagle went when he soared out of sight. Many of these questions were answered in story form by the older people. How we got our pipestone, where corn came from and why lightening flashed in the sky, were all answered in stories‖ –Luther Standing Bear, Lakota  Many cultures stories often serve as vehicles for transmission of beliefs and values, not easy to determine what is being passed along  Stories about afterlife appear to reveal a culture’s beliefs about what literally happens following death  Kewa: tale from Papua New Guinea: young man goes into bush and finds tunnel that leads to underworld, recognizes kinsmen there, men gives him tools to give to people, he gives everything away but breaks promise not to speak, when returns, tunnel is sealed  Anishinaubae: store of man who beloved dies before they are to be married, searches for her…  In each story seems to have more to do with relationships than metaphysics  Kewa: ancestors help their descendants and young man helps community, but breaks promise to dead kinsmen, life becomes harder for everyone  Anishinaubae: depicts difficulty of punish
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