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Spirit & Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., Reader chapter 1 Spirit & Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., Reader, meaning Spirit & Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., Reader, genre Spirit & Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., Reader, book cover Spirit & Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., Reader, flies Spirit & Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., Reader, Spirit & Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., Reader 1ce4db6218a52 Spirit Reason Is A Collection Of The Works Of One Of The Most Important Thinkers Of The Twentieth Century Vine Deloria, Jr Author Of Such Classics As Red Earth, White Lies, AndGod Is Red, Deloria Takes Readers On A Momentous Journey Through Indian Country And Beyond By Exploring Some Of The Most Important Issues Of The Past Three Decades The Essays Gathered Here Are Wide Ranging And Essential And Include Representative Pieces From Some Of Deloria S Most Influential Books, Some Of His Lesser Known Articles, And Ten New Pieces Written Especially For Spirit Reason Tellingly, In The Course Of Reviewing His Body Of Work, Deloria Found Much That He Had Written In The Past Remained Current And Compelling Because People Have Not Made Much Progress In Resolving Issues Whether Disputing Theories Of Religion And Science, Examining The Problems Of Modern Education, Or Expounding On Our Understanding Of The World, Deloria Consistently Urges Readers Toward An Intimate Connection With The World In Which We Live For Those Familiar With Deloria S Works As Well As Those Discovering Him For The First Time, This Essential Anthology Will Teach, Provoke, And Enlighten In Equal Measure


10 thoughts on “Spirit & Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr., Reader

  1. says:

    My favorite thing about Deloria s deconstruction of accepted beliefs, is his unwillingness to privilege scientific method over all other forms of accumulating knowledge Many people consider traditional wisdom valid only when it is supported by scientific method, and that the validity of traditional wisdom must be verified by scientific discovery rather than visa versa This is dangerous Science often lags dangerously far behind traditional wisdom, and ignoring knowledge gained through spirit and reason but ignored, rejected, or unconfirmed by science is often detrimental to ourselves and the environment Deloria recounts how three sisters visited the Iroquois and told them that if they performed certain ceremonies they would feed their people indefinitely They turned themselves into beans, corn, and squash, and required that they were planted and harvested together Thus the Iroquois helped propagate the sisters and the sisters kept the Iroquois land fertile and productive This was long before scientists understood the nitrogen cycle In fact, science eradicated the practice of crop rotation on the Iroquois land, planted monocultures of corn and fertilized it with levels of synthetic nitrogen that destroyed the earth and the people who depended on it Science carelessly rejects alternative sources of information in favor of the clear idea, an absurd abstraction if ever there was one Lacking a spiritual, social, or political dimension, it is difficult to understand why Western peoples believe they are so clever 13 The revelation of the Iroquois was not likely learned from trial and error, but likely the product of a unique experience, like a vision of the three sisters mentioned in the story, or intuition derived from connection to the land These unique experiences are brilliant flashes of light that guide us in the dark Yet science purposely ignores unique experiences, and basis its knowledge only on data that can be replicated In formulating their understanding of the world, Indians did not discard any experienceIf the Western Sioux obtained their knowledge by accepting everything they experienced as grist for the mill, Western science has drawn its conclusions by excluding the kinds of data that the Western Sioux cherished 44 Unique experiences, often referred to as religious experiences, stand at odds with scientific method, but they are the source of most of our profound understanding of the world Stories, which give our reality shape, are not derived from methodical examination of the world, but through imagination and vision As Black Elk famously said of one myth, This they tell, and whether it happened so or not, I do not know but if you think about it, you can see that it is true This is reminiscent of Picasso s line, Art is a lie that tells the truth In Deloria s account of Native history, Indians followed the beacon that guides artists in all aspects of life Some things are accepted because there is value in the very mystery they represent 46 Deloria also importantly deconstructs the scientific obsession with binaries In Western science the propensity is to classify certain kinds of phenomena under major generalization and then to accept or reject all additional data according to their proximity to the behavior that the generalization is capable of explaining Thus Western science develops the either or method of analysis the creature is either a dog or a cat, it is hot or cold, living or dead, and son on It is painful, inaccurate, and dangerous to view the world this way I see the negative affects of this world view in the struggle of transgender people to find justice in our society Yet transgender people were easily incorporated in many other cultures that were less obsessed with binaries Sanskrit, Hindi, and most Native American languages, just to name a few, all identify than two genders with their language Science is thus terribly complex and sophisticated about minute particles that are irrelevant to just about everything we do or want to do 68 Deloria debunks several blatantly false yet widely held conceptions of history One is that nations develop from hunter gatherer to agricultural to modern urban society Arriving at national conciousness in a hunting state, the embryo nation was supposed to pass eventually to an agricultural state and then gradually evolve into a modern urban society This process was believed to be part of the God s divine plan, and American history was perverted to explain the process 190 In fact, much research has been done on the health and longevity of societies, and hunter gather societies come out on top every time Development into a modern nation state is a two sided coin, and for one group of people to develop another must be forced to under develop There must be a lower class for their to be an upper class There must be slaves if there are masters There must be a third world if there is a first world Humans would destroy the planet if every culture were a modern urban society It is absurd to think that hunter gatherer cultures never imagined the ideas that the western world is based upon, such as agriculture and democracy The historical myth of the west and development would have you believe that the Greeks were the first and only people to get together and decide they should vote in order to make a collective decision, or till fields instead of foraging But it seems pretty unreasonable to suggest that Native Americans never considered majority rule or planting an ear of corn In fact, much research has been done that suggests first nation people actively rejected these concepts, as if they understood the tyranny of majority rule, labor intensity of agriculture, and danger of power structures before they let capitalism take over their psyche Yet the idea of developing into an advanced western society was used to strip natives of their land after forcefully doing so was made illegal Deloria debunks the glossy history that the United States has gradually become charitable toward Native Americans since the days of small pox blankets and western expansion The United States government slaughtered Native people and stripped them of their land until popular opinion would no longer stand for this But this did not end the land theft or murder When read closely, as Deloria does, every bill passed to manage Native America has been a thinly veiled way to legally strip Native of their land and destroy their culture In forcing Indians to evolve from hunting to an agricultural state, federal policy allowed the lower class whites to continue their slothful pastoral pursuitsIt should have been apparent, had anyone cared to understand, that allotment was a contemporary way to strip the tribes of their physical aspects by ostensibly legal means 191 The argument, therefore, that the Europeans brought the great conception of civilization, conceived as a sedentary agricultural enterprise, to the New World is absurd on its face 210 , because most of the staples of agriculture, both in the new and old worlds, originated here, including tomatoes, potatoes, corn and beans Natives harvested all of these things, and they did it in a far sustainable way than contemporary agriculture does In the four and a half centuries since Columbus blundered into the Western Hemisphere, the American has not developed a single indigenous staple beyond those he derived from the Indians Schlesinger, Arthus M., Paths to Present Boston Houghton Mifflin, 1964 p 220 John Collier according to Deloria, one of the few friends of Native America in U.S Government history Another historical myth is that natives were sitting around starving, shivering, and dying before the invasion On the anniversary of Columbus accidental landing, a native friend of mine said that despite the genocide of certain tribes she was glad to be able to live the life she lives, because it was snowing that day and the idea of a wigwam sounded cold If natives of the north were cold and miserable, they would have moved south At least grant them that much common sense If they didn t like any life they could lead on the Americas, maybe they would have built really big boats and gone exploring Or perhaps the impulse to explore and conquer the outside world stems from an insatiable void on the inside, and that s why native cultures were content with their lands while others destroy every piece of land they find until nothing is left Instead of addressing the massive problems in their culture, like inequalities, hierarchies, and false dichotomies, they offered the myth of american upward mobility and western expansion as solutions They could not provide for their own poor because the only glue that held the American government together was a process of continual expansion, the transference of problems of political importance to the realm of economics 218 As Deloria recounts, a native elder offered a solution that would have left natives with their land, given money to America s poor, and began to address the root of equality in this culture Brothers, money to us is of no value, and to most of us unknown and as no consideration whatever can induce us to sell the lands, on which we get sustenance for our women and children, we hope we may be allowed to point out a mode by which your settlers may be easily remove, and peace be obtained Brothers, we know that these settlers are poor, or they would never have ventured to live in a country which has been in continual trouble ever since they crossed the Ohio Divide therefore this large sum of money, which you have offered to us among these people and we are persuaded they would most readily accept it in lieu of the lands you sold to them Virgnia Irving Armstrong, I Have Spoken Chicago Swallow Press, 1971 , p 37 This offer was, of course, not accepted Native American land was taken in the Western march toward destruction So my friend s happiness to live as she does seems a bit hollow The English could have offered wood framed houses without rape, murder, smallpox blanket and worse in return Natives surely offered beans, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, crop rotation and without demanding England in return That is why I choose not to celebrate the dominant narrative on this day, but to celebrate the myriad things Indigenous people have contributed to this culture Many of which could help us escape from the violent cycles we are in Deloria shows that Native many native customs are now being re adopted in an effort to form a greater society Today we are discovering in nearly every area of life that the tenets of civilized existence as demonstrated by the Indian nations were profound and that the solution of American social problems depends in large measure on adopting the Indian style of life This is true not only with respect to ecology but also with respect to compensation theories of punishment and criminal law, the small local community as the basic unit of government, and decisions made by concensus rather than by compromise of two irreconcilable differences 220 But many of the proponents of this are rejected by Americans Perhaps the tragedy of today is that too many Americans see lawyers like William Kunstler, consumer advocates like Ralph Nader, labor leaders like Cesar Chavez, and American poets and writers as disruptive of the old order rather than as precursors of a new order 204 Often when I speak of the power of native mythology to teach people the morality of how to treat one another and the natural world, people argue that we shouldn t need myths to teach us not to kill one another, that we should be able to reason our way to proper behavior Yet when I put it in Western terms they understand what I m saying If I say this myth about a jealous woman turning into a monster that kills her family and eventually destroys herself constantly reminded Alaska natives of the danger of jealousy, they equate it with the myths adults tell children to keep them from misbehaving, like if you make a face it ll stay like that, essentially saying that native cultures were childish, and we shouldn t need lies to keep people in line, we should be able to do it with truth alone But art is a lie that tells the truth When I remind people that Othello is about a jealous man that turns into a monster, destroying his family and eventually himself, which constantly reminds us of the dangers of jealousy, people start to get it When social scientists look at Indian customs..and say, Indians have this great taboo that something is going to happen unless they do certain things with plant and animal remains, I think hat is taking the Western quadrant and projecting onto the Indian psyche a cause and effect relationship with the worldTo violate a relationship, or to mix up a relationship, would be to introduce a disharmony into the world that would eventually lead to the downfall of all species 226 It is even important to recognize that native ideas and practices have validity outside of Western context We need not identify the chemical reaction of golden seal with our body to validate the hundreds of years natives used it to fight colds In The Concept of History Deloria charges Christianity with creating the Western obsession with a chronological history In its constant striving to prove the lineage of each of its major characters it asserts a scope to all of history and time at which history began which are obviously false and have many awful repercussions This obviously climaxes with Jesus, who the new testament scrambles to prove is the descendant of Adam, as well as God himself This climax should have brought the end of times in this narrative mythology, but did not, and has thus inspired a fear of the end of times in every generation of Christians since the time of Christ This mad rush for the end of times and desperation to bring a climax to chronological history has created and hastened the atrocities of the West, in the missionaries goal to spread the word to every soul on earth, to prepare the way for the second coming Secular Westerner s too, are not exempt from this accusation Even if they are not attempting to pave the way for the end of times, they have absorbed the mentality of a pressing chronological history, and have rushed to spread their systems of government and economics around the world, creating a closed system that will eventually offer no alternative to this world view, and thus perpetuate itself forever It is said that one cannot judge Christianity by the actions of secular Western man But such a contention judges Westerners much too harshly Where did Westerners get their ideas of divine right to conquest, of manifest destiny, of themselves as the vanguard of true civilization, if not from Christianity Having tied itself to history and maintained that its god controlled that history, Christianity must accept the consequences of its past Secular history is now our of control and its influence has become a rather demoniac, disruptive force among nations this is part and parcel of the Christian religion If the lack of a sense of history can be called a shortcoming of tribal religions, as indeed it can, overemphasis on historic reality and its attendant consequences can certainly be assigned a bad grade for the Christian religion 304 Indian tribal membership today is a fiction created by the federal government, not a creation of the Indian people themselves 312 In 1978, Congress passed a joint resolution entitled the American Indian Religious Freedom Act 324 Until then, the Freedom of Religion and separation of Church and State were obviously hollow shams Tribal religions were banned by law, and schools banned the use of native languages And freedom of religion and the separation of church and state are still a sham, as Deloria shows in Sacred Places and Moral Responsibility Some of Native America s traditionally sacred grounds are protected, but Natives are not allowed create any new sacred spaces that will be protected by law So the law effectively says that all native religions are dead, and that no new religious experiences can occur in Native America The last great point in this book is that the world religions created the subject object world we suffer in today The great innovation of the world religions is to reduce natural events to a sequnce of containing some form of predictability, to introduce the conception of law and regularity into the natural world Such an innovation is wholly artificial and may be understood by primitive peoples as the original sinPaul Tillich noted that the primitive understanding of reality changes when the system of powers is replaced by the correlation of self and world, of subjectivity and objectivity Man becomes an epistemological, legal, and moral center, and things become objects of his knowledge, his work, and his use Tillich, The Protestant Era, p 120 This point of departure separates primitive people from the rest of the human species it distinguishes civilized from primitive, and unleashes the energies of our species on a path of conquest of the rest of nature, which has now been reduced to the status of an object man who transforms the world into a universal machine serving his purposes has to adapt himself to the laws of the machine The mechanized world of things draws man into itself and makes him a cog, driven by the mechanical necesssities of the whole The personality that deprives nature of its power in order to elecate itself above it becomes a powerless part of its own creation Ibid, 123 It would appear, therefore, that organizing and systematizing religious experiences into reliable and predictable knowledge is a major theological trangression and a movement away from intimate understanding of our place in the world in an epistemological sense The worship of Nature tends to unite the members of different communities because it is not self centered Arnold Joseph Toynbee, An Historian s Approach to Religion New York Oxford University Press, 1956 p 34 358 9


  2. says:

    I especially love Vine Deloria Jr s snark And another book joins the everybody should read this pile.


  3. says:

    As with any collection of essays or articles this one has some which are interesting and or better written than others Generally, however, the quality of work in this book is superior to what one encounters in a collection where many authors have contributed There are two reasons for this, IMHO.First, Deloria is an accomplished scholar His writing demonstrates that he has researched and thought about the topic at hand carefully before writing about it Thus, most of the pieces contain a summary of other largely Western Eurocentric viewpoints before he critiques them and then expresses his own This helps to put the issue he is discussing in a context for me to consider.Second, unlike many academicians his prose is direct and easy to understand This plus his occasional use of wry humor, if not outright sarcasm, make his work quite readable Many of the chapters in the book felt like Deloria was lecturing, if not speaking to me, in a casual albeit highly informative kind of way.My criticisms of the book are modest First, some of the chapters left me wanting Ie, there were times when it felt like the chapter ended without his having gotten to all of what he might have known or believed about the topic Second, he does not shy away from criticizing the Western Eurocentric perspective Anthropology and archaeology in particular are targets that he focuses on but Western style reductionism and religion come under criticism as well While most times he explains clearly how this mainstream style of analysis of Native American cultures or history is lacking, there are a few occasions when he offers his opinions in a off handed kind of way Ie, he assumes the reader will agree with him rather than tries to convince him of the merits of his argument with information, etc.Overall, though, this is an informative and engaging read for anyone wanting to learn about NA cultures, let alone have his her mainstream Eurocentric world view challenged After having read this book I can see why my Native American Studies professor friend calls Deloria one of the giants in the field His work, which is comprehensive and spans 30 years, certainly merits attention from me.


  4. says:

    I almost quit reading this after the first two chapters but I am glad I did not The book is a collection of Vine Deloria Jr s essays and it seems written for an academic audience The first two chapters are about debates between different philosophers who were unfamiliar to me I continued reading and found much of what Deloria had to say was profound and enlightening He takes a hard look at education, anglo american culture, religion and science from a Native American perspective and points out that our culture looks at issues in a restrictive manner rather than in a complete and holistic way The essays were on a variety of topics written over a few decades Some seemed relevant to present times than others In contrast he shares some basic information about the Native American approach to life, observation, education, religion and culture and explains the connections between people and nature in a life view that sees all as connected and all things living and inanimate and people as relations He also explains the incredible damage done to the tribal people over the past few hundred years of conquest, boarding schools and cultural and religious represssion.


  5. says:

    incredibly interesting and good insightsgreat read


  6. says:

    good intro, especially If You Think About it, You Will See That it s True.


  7. says:

    This is such a great collection that I don t even mind that it took me than a month to read It covers a broad territory and is a good overview text to figure out what areas to dig into next.


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