Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gregory Cajete's Book Native Science - Natural Laws of Interdependence

I am inspired to share some quotes from Gregory Cajete's book Native Science - Natural Laws of Interdependence. Cajete, a brilliant professor and Tewa Indian from Santa Clara Pueblo, articulates the Indigenous ways of knowing underlying Native science traditions in this book. I have been studying the roots of terrapsychology, which offers methods for accessing place as a feeling and expressing being, and the many meanings of earth/Earth/dirt/Gaia, as well as developing a theory of ecological creativity. Cajete's work touches on all these topics. Here are a few gems, I will continue to share more in the coming time!

Cajete, G. (2000). Native Science - Natural Laws of Interdependence. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light.

From the chapter, "Telling a Special Story"
  • "Native science continually relates to and speaks of the world as full of active entities with which people engage. To our sensing bodies, all things are active. Therefore, Native languages are verb based, and the words that describe the world emerge directly from actively perceived experience. In a sense, language 'choreographs' and/or facilitates the continual orientation of Native thought and perception toward active participation, active imagination, and active engagement with all that makes up natural reality....If, as Merleau-Ponty contends, perception at its most elemental expression in the human body is based on participation with our surroundings, then it can be said that 'animism' is a basic human trait common to both Indigenous and modern sensibilities. Indeed, all humans are animists." (p. 27)
  • "We all use the metaphoric mind to describe, imagine, and create from the animate world with which we constantly participate. Just as the focus on participation in Native science brings forth creative communion with the world through our senses, so too does the application of the metaphoric mind bring forth the description and creative 'storying' of the world by humans. Science in every form, then, is a story of the world." (p. 27)
  • "Because its processes are tied to creativity, perception, image, physical senses, and intuition, the metaphoric mind reveals itself through abstract symbols, visual/spatial reasoning, sound, kinesthetic expression, and various forms of ecological and integrative thinking. These metaphoric modes of expression are also the foundations for various components of Native science, as well as art, music, and dance. The metaphoric mind underpins the numerous ecological foundations of Native knowledge and has been specifically applied in creating the stories that form the foundation of the complex and elaborate forms of Native oral traditions. Realizing that the greatest source of metaphor comes from nature, these stories are filled with analogies, characters, representations drawn from nature, metaphors that more often than not refer back to the processes of nature from which they are drawn, or to human nature, which they attempt to reflect. Because Native science is thoroughly wrapped in a blanket of metaphor, expressed in story, art, community, dance, song, ritual, music, astronomical knowledge, and technologies such as hunting, fishing, farming, or healing, rationalistic scientists, its 'younger brothers,' have difficulty understanding its essence of creative participation with nature." (pp. 30-31)

From the chapter, "Sense of Place":
  • "Native people expressed a relationship to the natural world that could only be described as 'ensoulment.' The ensoulment of nature is one of the most ancient foundations of human psychology. This projection of the human sense of the soul with its archetypes has been called the 'participation mystique,' which for Native people represented the deepest level of psychological involvement with their land and which provided a kind of map of the soul. The psychology and spiritual qualities of Indigenous people's behavior reflected in symbolism were thoroughly 'in-formed' by the depth and power of their participation mystique with the Earth as a living soul. It was from this orientation that Indian people developed 'responsibilities' to the land and all living things, similar to those that they had to each other. In the Native mind, spirit and matter were not separate; they were one and the same." (p. 186)
  • "All human development is predicated on our interaction with the soil, the air, the climate, the plants, and the animals of the places in which we live. The inner archetypes in a place formed the spiritually based ecological mind-set required to establish and maintain a correct and sustainable relationship with place. This orientation, was, in turn, reinforced by a kind of physical 'mimicry,' a 'geopsyche,' or that interaction between inner and outer realities that often takes place when a group of people live in a particular place for a long period of time." (p. 187)

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