Thursday, February 25, 2010

Being too judgemental

This has been a week where I have been being pretty judgemental. First we had Thorson and stone walls with litttle grasp of rock piles; then we had the South African archeologist giving an opinion about the need to investigate below-ground aspects of rock piles; and then I was being judgemental about the Indians in Ontario building a rock pile. Being judgemental about this last one seems to have gone too far. So I need to back off and apologize. I do not know what is in the thoughts of Indians in Ontario nor of those in New England.

Having been around the fringes of the public face of Native American culture (powwows, online bulletin boards, etc) I do know that they deeply resent people seeking out and imitating their spiritual beliefs. At the same time, I have walked the woods with some of the Narragansett and looked at rock piles with them and believe them when they professed ignorance. Maybe historically there is a pattern of deception and hiding of their beliefs that I am falling victim to. I don't think so, I think they honestly do not know about it [at least not the ones I talked to]. Take John Brown (the apprentice medicine man for the Narragansett). He talks about Nipsachuck as a place he remembers visiting as a child and talks about how he does not know anything about the rock piles. He is shown walking and standing on top of a cairn at Killingsworth. Why not believe him when he says he does not know anything about rock piles, since he proves it by his actions? Why not believe the Ontario Indians also when they say they do not know the original reasons for building rock piles. Are they being deceptive? I am taking them at their word and at the same time am puzzled by a modern imitation of a past ceremonial activity.

So I feel guilty about being too judgemental in general and in particular about the Indians themselves; but I am going to stick to my guns in one way: we need to discuss these things. Native American belief cannot be a sacred cow that we dare not question on the topic of rock piles because it is simply not clear what those beliefs have to offer on the subject. No one has an inside track on what has been universally forgotten. To exaggerate the case, if I find a 7 thousand year old arrowhead, no one knows its history. My desire is to take that view for rock piles also, with the goal of understanding what is out in my backyard. If, at any time, someone reveals information that helps explain what is there, that will be very welcome.

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