An indigenous philosopher is an indigenous person or associate who practices philosophy and has a vast knowledge of various indigenous history, culture, language, and traditions. There are very few contemporary indigenous philosophers alive today.
Epistemology refers to the study of knowledge, the ways in which a person acquires and processes information. Among Indigenous cultures, epistemology is understood differently and more inherently than how it is understood in Western philosophy. Native American epistemology is found primarily in theories, philosophies, histories, ceremonies and nature as multiple ways of knowing. Emphasis is put on the importance of language as one of the vital components of Native American epistemology. It is through the unique symbolism and the close connection with nature, that Native Americans consider knowledge to be acquired. In relation to consciousness, rationality and other heavily studied psychological states, the inherent structure of the complex Native American language is necessary to understand in the obtainment of indigenous knowledge. There is also a strong link between nature and the interpretation of knowledge within Native American culture. It is believed that the mind interacts with the environment in a very active, conscious way. The process through which they interact with nature is through the necessary need for survival but also through a deep respect and understanding the land as a huge part of their identity. It is vital to understand how to gather medicine, predict weather conditions so as to effectively produce food, and how to navigate through the land in order to grow and thrive as part of an ecological dependent community. Native American knowledge is continuously adapting to the changing environment as the ecosystem evolves and this is how epistemology is understood to have such a strong root to nature.
Native American science and understanding is said to have a basis in perceptual phenomenology, meaning the philosophical study of phenomena. In this context, phenomenology refers to the examination of ones experiences to come to a personal world view. Something is believed to be true when it has been verified by experiences and provides explanations which assist in completing tasks.This worldview is dynamic as new experiences alter this worldview and add to it. There is no belief in a universal worldview which could explain all aspects of reality for a permanent set of time.
The world is viewed as infinitely complex and so it is impossible to come to a universal understanding of it. Therefore, Native Americans believe that useful knowledge can only be acquired through individual experience which, whilst subjective, is valid to that space and time. The method of interacting with the environment is never made fixed and instead, is carried through generations who continuously revise it and add to it. This creates a web of knowledge shaped by the individual experiences of a community.
The subjectivity of experience and circumstance means that each Indigenous community's beliefs will be distinct. Indigenous people believe that experience can always present a better way of interacting with the environment. As a result of this understanding, no belief is viewed as being supremely valid when compared to another belief. A belief receives its validity from experience.Regardless of whether an experience is ordinary and extraordinary, they are both viewed the same and are equally useful for gathering knowledge. Everything is viewed as possible in the world as no universal laws are seen to govern how the world exists. Each person in their own environment and circumstance can derive their own beliefs which is completely valid and logical in their personal circumstance.
Brian Yazzie Burkhart, a Cherokee, has described his experience of the story of Coyote:
Coyote is wandering around in his usual way when he comes upon a prairie dog town. The prairie dogs laugh and curse at him. Coyote gets angry and wants revenge. The sun is high in the sky. Coyote decides that he wants clouds to come. He is starting to hate the prairie dogs and so thinks about rain. Just then a cloud appears.
Coyote says, "I wish it would rain on me." And that is what happened.
Coyote says, "I wish there were rain at my feet." And that is what happened.
"I want the rain up to my knees," Coyote says. And that is what happened.
"I want the rain up to my waist," he then says. And that is what happened.
Eventually, the entire land is flooded. Coyote's mistake is not letting what is right guide his actions, but instead acting entirely on his own motivations. This is a reminder that one must be careful about what one desires, and must keep in mind the things around us and how we relate to them. Burkhart terms this the principle of relatedness:
The idea here is simply that the most important things to keep in mind are the simple things that are directly around us in our experience and the things to which we are most directly related. In calling these ideas principles, I do not mean to give them special philosophical status. In American Indian thought, they are simply ways of being. These principles are merely abstractions from these ways of being. ... Principles in the traditional philosophical sense have no place in American Indian philosophy.
Anne Waters has described a "nondiscreet ontology of being" in the context of gender. With a different attitude towards labels, Waters argues that American Indian viewpoints are more tolerant to those that don't fit into a strict binary gender framework.
The canon of Western philosophy (WP) is rooted in the Platonic understanding of truth (the form of the truth) being stable immutable and present, upon which philosophical investigations take place. On the other hand, Native American philosophy (NAP) holds that the stability for the basis of such inquiry in the native world is found not in absolutes, rather the consistencies in a complexity of the world. This concept of an absolute simplified starting point against finding similarities in a complex matrix is highlighted in particular in the different ways notes how NAP and WP analyse space and time. Typical WP views the world in sections: the universe is views as created ex nihilo (implying it had a definitive beginning and most likely with have a definitive end) and is depicted as violent (e.g. 'the big bang'). Moreover, time is broken up into 3 simple sections that all acts can fit within: past, present and future, all of which have definable boundaries that actions in reality can go up to and occasional cross. Conversely, Cordova notes that NAP views space as being a concept that connects everything to our global environment and time as an endless continuous motion. The universe is considered as infinite and unbound; being in constant motion with no beginning or end and is balanced and stable despite occasional "temporary sadness." Similarly, time does not belong to an absolute and bounded category in NAP, it is not a self-existing thing independent of human acknowledgement. Time is not even another dimension - it is nothing more than a human construct. Instead, it is, "merely a measure of motion ... the sun, stars, and moon through the sky, of changes that are visible and can be predicted."
Aztec philosophy was a school of philosophy that developed out of Aztec culture. The Aztecs had a well-developed school of philosophy, perhaps the most developed in the Americas and in many ways comparable to Ancient Greek philosophy, even amassing more texts than the ancient Greeks. Aztec philosophy focused on dualism, monism, and aesthetics, and Aztec philosophers attempted to answer the main Aztec philosophical question of how to gain stability and balance in an ephemeral world.Ecospirituality
Ecospirituality connects the science of ecology with spirituality. It brings together religion and environmental activism. Ecospirituality has been defined as "a manifestation of the spiritual connection between human beings and the environment." The new millennium and the modern ecological crisis has created a need for environmentally based religion and spirituality. Ecospirituality is understood by some practitioners and scholars as one result of people wanting to free themselves from a consumeristic and materialistic society. Ecospirituality has been critiqued for being an umbrella term for concepts such as deep ecology, ecofeminism, and nature religion.Proponents may come from a range of faiths including: Islam; Jainism; Christianity (Catholicism, Evangelicalism and Orthodox Christianity); Judaism; Buddhism and Indigenous traditions. Although many of their practices and beliefs may differ, a central claim is that there is "a spiritual dimension to our present ecological crisis." According to the environmentalist Sister Virginia Jones, "Eco-spirituality is about helping people experience 'the holy' in the natural world and to recognize their relationship as human beings to all creation.Ecospirituality has been influenced by the ideas of deep ecology, which is characterized by "recognition of the inherent value of all living beings and the use of this view in shaping environmental policies" Similarly to ecopsychology, it refers to the connections between the science of ecology and the study of psychology. 'Earth-based' spirituality is another term related to ecospirituality; it is associated with pagan religious traditions and the work of prominent ecofeminist, Starhawk. Ecospirituality refers to the intertwining of intuition and bodily awareness pertaining to a relational view between human beings and the planet.John Trudell
John Trudell (February 15, 1946 – December 8, 2015) was a Native American author, poet, actor, musician, and political activist. He was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribes' takeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz. During most of the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
After his pregnant wife, three children and mother-in-law were killed in 1979 in a suspicious fire at the home of his parents-in-law on the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Nevada, Trudell turned to writing, music and film as a second career. He acted in films in the 1990s. The documentary Trudell (2005) was made about him and his life as an activist and artist.Orenda
Orenda is the Iroquois name for a spiritual energy inherent in people and their environment. It's an "extraordinary invisible power believed by the Iroquois Indians to pervade in varying degrees in all animate and inanimate natural objects as a transmissible spiritual energy capable of being exerted according to the will of its possessor." Orenda is a collective power of nature's energies through the living energy of all natural objects, animate and inanimate.Anthropologist J. N. B. Hewitt notes intrinsic similarities between the Iroquoian concept of Orenda and that of the Siouxan wakd or mahopa; the Algonquin manitowi, and the pokunt of the Shoshone. Across the Iroquois tribes, the concept was referred to variously as orenna or karenna by the Mohawk, Cayuga, and Oneida; urente by the Tuscarora, and iarenda or orenda by the Huron.
Orenda is present in nature: storms are said to possess orenda. A strong connection exists between prayers and songs and orenda: through song, a bird, shaman, or rabbit put forth orenda.Philosophy
Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.
Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality
The Metaphysics of Quality (MoQ) is a theory of reality introduced in Robert Pirsig's philosophical novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) and expanded in Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (1991). The MoQ incorporates facets of Sophism, East Asian philosophy, pragmatism, the work of F. S. C. Northrop, and indigenous American philosophy. Pirsig argues that the MoQ is a better lens through which to view reality than the subjective/objective mindset that Pirsig attributes to Aristotle. The book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance references the Sanskrit doctrine of Tat Tvam Asi or "Thou art that" which asserts an existential monism as opposed to the subject–object dualism.Soulcatcher
A Soulcatcher (Haboolm Ksinaalgat, 'keeper of breath') is an amulet (Aatxasxw) used by the shaman (Halayt) of the Pacific Northwest Coast of British Columbia and Alaska. It is believed that all soulcatchers were constructed by the Tsimshian tribe, and traded to the other tribes.Winona LaDuke
Winona LaDuke (born August 18, 1959) is an American environmentalist, economist, and writer, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development. In a December 2018 interview she also described herself as an industrial hemp grower.In 1996 and 2000, she ran for Vice President as the nominee of the Green Party of the United States, on a ticket headed by Ralph Nader. She is the executive director of Honor the Earth, a Native environmental advocacy organization that played an active role in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
North America articles