earth-saving wisdom from the indiginous, by Ed McGaa – Eagle Man.
I’m sitting with my Kindle Paperwhite in my lap, staring at the words on the virtual page, trying to determine how to do this book justice. I think the only way is to tell a story because that’s what this book is – stories.
How did our ancestors impart wisdom to their descendants? How did we, as disparate bands of roving hunter-gatherers or early farmers, retain the memories of our distant past? Stories. In fact, among almost every ethnic group or tribe certain men and women were chosen, usually by aptitude or family, to retain oral traditions- stories- in order to pass them on to future generations. Hence the phrase– wisdom tales. In Yiddish we call them bubbemitzes, grandmother’s stories.
You do realize nearly every single book in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament were originally oral histories, stories passed from generation to generation until they were ultimately written down. In Judaism we refer to much of our Wisdom Literature as the ‘Oral Torah‘. (There exists a massive body of oral wisdom, some of which predates the Torah, or the five books of Moses.)
Anyway, my story. When I was a kid, we played a lot of cowboys and Indians. I always wanted to be the Indian. Now, I was a really little kid and truth be told by rights I should want to be a cowboy. The cowboys almost always kicked ass. Besides, I was maybe four or five years old. What did I know of Indians? What was up with that?
Well, I like to think it’s ancestral memory. You know, genetic memory. One of my ancestors was, conceivably, part Indian. Which part? I don’t know. Last name Corn. First name Mary.
Probably originally Corn Woman or something like that.
I wanted to be the Indian because Indians made sense to me. What Ed McGaa says is true – the natural wisdom of the Lakota makes sense. It is not an established dogma, rather it’s a way of life, a way of thinking, a new/old way of looking at the world.
The Plains Indians were not perfect. Their way of life was not perfect. There were inter-tribal spats and skirmishes. There was, occasionally, competition over food supplies. However North America possessed abundant resources and obviously had fewer population pressures than did Europe and Asia. The Plains Indians were not farmers. They were hunter-gatherers. When the food supply moved, they moved. They were a mobile society and thus their small settlements avoided diseases caused by a build up of human waste products, something that can happen when humans stay in one place for too long. The tribes also possessed a pretty good notion about how to deal with contagion, a no-nonsense approach that involved isolating a sick group until any significant illness had run its course.
Native Americans did not face epidemics on a massive scale the way Europeans and Asians did. It wasn’t until Europeans arrived on these shores that the natives were exposed to diseases for which they had no immunity. For example, a single case of chicken pox or measles could wipe out an entire Mandan village. Native populations were decimated throughout the Western Hemisphere, especially by small pox, which was, on occasion, deliberately introduced through contaminated blankets sent as charitable gifts to a village. Think of it as early biological warfare.
However, it was also the Europeans who re-introduced the horse to North America. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Sioux Indians? Horses. But it wasn’t until the Plains Indians encountered horses that had escaped from Spanish explorers, Spanish conquistadors, Spanish ships, that they developed a powerful horse culture. Previous paleo-Indian groups had hunted the native North American horses to extinction.
One cannot imagine the Plains Indians, especially as European explorers and traders came to know them, without the horse.
So, Europeans giveth and Europeans taketh away. Kind of like signing treaties and ignoring the terms of those treaties.
I guess I’m talking around the book. In Spirituality for America, Mr. McGaa illustrates, through homespun wisdom and personal anecdotes, how a simpler way of life, a life lived in harmony with the natural world, can help us as grow and prosper as individuals and as a society. Will his way save the world? Well, that is the question. Mr. McGaa is sincere. He believes it can.
Spirituality For America is available here on Amazon.
Black Elk Speaks, by John G. Neihardt
Seven Arrows, by Hyemeyohsts Storm.
The Fourth World of the Hopis, by Harold Courlander.
House Made of Dawn, by N. Scott Momaday.
Indian Boyhood, by Charles A. Eastman.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown.
Crazy Horse, The Strange Man of the Oglalas, by Mari Sandoz.
Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with His Daughter, Coyote Builds North America, by Barry H. Lopez.
Indian Sleep-Man Tales, by Bernice G. Anderson.
History of the Expedition Under the Commands of Captains Lewis and Clark, Vol. 1, To the Sources of the Missouri, Thence Across the Rocky Mountains, the Years 1804-5-6, Meriwether Lewis.