Spirits of Sky, Spirits of Earth: Cultural Precepts of Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands

Dr. Barbara Alice Mann
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Quite contrary to monotheistic one-thinking, (one god, one soul, one life, one king, etc.), Native Americans of the eastern woodlands parcel reality out according to its "natural" halves of Sky (e.g.: fire, eagles, men) and Earth (e.g.: water, serpents, women). Maintaining equal, interdependent halves in complementarity is crucial to cosmic balance and carries, in turn, sweeping implications for political, social, spiritual, and economic structures.

The Iroquois shorthand this principle as "The Direction of the Sky", or the East-West axis. The two together create one line, which now must find perfect replication in the "Split Sky", or the North-South axis, forming the natural two-by-four relationship of halved wholes that is mimicked throughout the cosmos (e.g.: the "humanity" whole contains Male and Female, Elder and Younger lines).

The concept of community among woodlands First Nations cannot be grasped until this complex epistemological format is recognized. Philosophies derived from woodlands institutions without understanding their two-by-four logic (e.g.: Marxism, New Age spirituality) simply continue colonial misrepresentations of the Native American original. To appreciate Native inventions (such as democracy), it is first necessary to grasp their intellectual underpinnings.

Keywords: Native American, First Nation, Epistemolog, Woodlands, Spirituality, Community, Colonial
Stream: First Nations and Indigenous Peoples
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
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Dr. Barbara Alice Mann

Lecturer, English Department, University of Toledo

Barbara Alice Mann, Ph.D., has authored numerous academic articles, along with several scholarly books in the field of Native American Studies, importantly including, "A Sign in the Sky: Dating the League of the Haudenosaunee", (1997), "Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas" (2000), "Encyclopedia of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)" (2000), "Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds" (2003), and "George Washington's War on Native America, 1779-1782" (2004). She is, moreover, a noted scholar of the "Father of American Literature", James Fenimore Cooper, particularly of his "Leather-stocking Tales", appearing as an expert guest for the C-SPAN TV series, "American Authors", and publishing, "Race Traitor" (2004) and "Fancy Girls: The Creole and the Quadroon in Cooper's Leather-stocking Tales" (2004). Dr Mann is a community-recognized Ohio Bear Clan, Seneca (Iroquois) from the southern shores of Lake Erie, where her ancestors have lived for the last seventeen centuries.

Ref: H05P0204