Cultic Myths and/or Ecology in AmerIndian Cultures A Modest Search for Authenticity

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Doherty, Barbara
Master of Arts in Earth Literacy
“Cultic Myths and/or Ecology in AmerIndian Cultures” is a personal and modest search for authenticity in AmerIndian cultic myth to locate and separate the ecological and the cultic. The impetus for this work came from The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, Shephard Krech III, a text eminently readable, which contains painstaking research with useful statements of the probable. Ecology is defined [Environmental Science: Systems and Solutions, McKinney and Schoch, 1998] and the Hohokam and Seri nations selected for special study. The paper begins with six of Krech’s major theses: 1) There has been a mystique in America for a long time about the Indian, a man (sic) close to Earth, peaceful, free, and ecological; 2) Demographics is the first tool by which to examine this mystique; 3) Extinctions neither ratify nor deny Indians as “ecological,” 4) Indians’ use of fire was as destructive as portions of it were useful; 5) Indians have been as guilty of waste as any other humans, e.g., the near extinction of the buffalo; and 6) Indians’ intimate sense of Earth can be located in their immediate needs for sustenance and security, expressed, prayed, sung, and spoken in cult and myth. An examination of Indian culture revealed its horrendous destruction by Euro-Americans; thus, Indian culture and myth today are largely gathered from vague and scant memories of grandparents who had been seized as children from the reservations and taken to “schools” in the East to be made into “American citizens.” The study moves to discoveries and efinitions of lifeways, of functional cosmologies, and at new insights into animism. Perhaps the embrace of Indian ritual is an act of the paradisal imagination, a kind of hope to regain what we have destroyed. The stories of the Hohokam (now extinct) and Seri Nations undergo the scrutiny of the questions: Are they ecological? What is their mythic cult re: Earth? Both dwell(t) in the Sonoran Desert [Arizona, USA and Sonora State, Mexico]. Finally, there are stories of AmerIndians who genuinely can be called ecological, e.g., the Northern Cheyenne who, in the 70’s, stood against the government and the power generating coal and oil companies of the United States, supported only by the words of their powerful mythic leader, Sweet Medicine. Specious Indian lore will continue to abound and will bring monies to Indians themselves and to Euro-Americans longing for a return to Nature. This search presents some skills in detecting the specious, in allowing its choice if that is the desire of the informed person, and in urging readers to discontinue participating in or performing rituals other than their own, thus refusing to trivialize any Peoples’ cultic ritual.