Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Were Adam and Eve voted off the Island?

My self-directed anti-racism training brought me first to studying racism itself (a system, distinct from individual prejudices), to Indigenous studies, to worldviews, and then to religion. I have been struggling with my own relationship with religion since I left Christianity in my late teens.

 

The Abrahamic Origin Story

In Trans-Indigeneity, and a loss or lack of Indigeneity I referenced where/who I was from, and that the Indigenous worldviews of my peoples were long ago replaced by Abrahamic worldviews. In Is religious freedom camouflaging ongoing colonialism and empire building  I discuss how Abrahamic religions all share core worldviews, even if the various splinter groups disagree on specific details. (Christianity split from Judaism, Protestants split from Catholicism, Islam split from Christianity/Judaism, etc).

The book of Genesis writes down the Abrahamic origin story, and from this we can see the core Abrahamic worldviews.  Much of what people think of as western worldviews, including the notion that humans are separable from non-humans (animals, plants, land -- the environment, the planet, mother earth), the patriarchy, and related worldviews can be seen.


Many people globally are trying to do harm reduction in relation to these worldviews, whether that be issues relating to gender discrimination (cisnormativity, heteronormativity, patriarchy), climate change (and related environmental destruction by humans), or colonialism (and the inevitable genocide that colonialism leads to).

It has been my observation that most are uncomfortable discussing any of these issues in the context of religion, as specific interpretations of "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" suggest that questioning the impact of specific thoughts deemed religious is somehow a violation of religious rights.


While titled "The house modernity built", I believe that this is the house that Abrahamic worldviews built.

 


I grew up reading the Christian bible, and heard all the stories. As a quick introduction here is a short summary of the first few chapters 

  • In Genesis 1 the teaching is that humans were created in their god's image, binary male and female, and that they are to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
  • In Genesis 2 the teaching is about the importance of Adam, and Eve as the first humans, and how their god planted a Garden of Eden for Adam, and created Eve to be his helper.
  • In Genesis 3 the teaching is about Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden because of what Eve (the woman) had done.  The pain of childbearing, and the idea that women should be treated by men as property are ongoing punishment for her wrongdoing.


Alternate origin stories

The author of the paper that inspired the blog article discussing my lack of Indigeneity was a guest lecturer last evening. His words offered more food to some thinking I've been having for some time.

What if Adam and Eve were just two people who didn't fit in because of their personal beliefs, and were "voted off the island" (banishment) and sent to live somewhere else?  Adam and Eve (well, most likely just Adam given their beliefs) then spun a story that became the origin story for the peoples of Judea. Those stories became the origin story for all the Abrahamic religions which continue to use conversion and colonialism to spread throughout the globe and replace other origin stories with their own.


In No Island is an Island, Vicente M Diaz included a figure describing the geographic reach of the outrigger canoe technology of his people, describing the distances that they could travel.

 


 

It is suggested that the Abrahamic teachings were first written into the Hebrew Bible in a period starting at about 1200 BCE, so within the 4 thousand years where there has been evidence of travel via the outrigger canoe.

For those people who don't love maps as much as I do, the top-left hand corner is where Judea would have been (now disputed territories between Abrahamic peoples), and the top-right hand corner is the left-foot and part of the tail of Turtle Island, the western part of an area currently called Mexico.

Columbus might have commanded one of the first ships to travel to Turtle Island carrying people with Abrahamic worldviews, and thus people disconnected from place and the peoples of that place. It is totally inconceivable to me that this voyage was the first time Indigenous peoples traveled between Eurasia and Turtle Island.

History of navigation


If seafaring navigation is of interest, as is often the case, wikipedia provides a good jumping-off point to read more. It's important to recognize that all humans have biases, and thus what is written on Wikipedia, as with all human writing, is not "objective".


Is it just me, or does that image make you think of a whale, much like Turtle Island looks like a turtle.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Trans-Indigeneity, and a loss or lack of Indigeneity

As part of NS 115 we were asked to read a paper titled "Oceania in the Plains: The Politics and Analytics of TransIndigenous Resurgence in Chuukese Voyaging of Dakota Lands, Waters, and Skies in Mini Sota Makhoche.” by Vicente M. Diaz.

This was another article that got me thinking not only about the concept of Trans-Indigeneity, which I had never thought to think about before, but also more about who I am and where people like me fit in the larger relational story.


The article discussed two Indigenous peoples who have culture and ways of thinking that can be seen with their connection to canoes. Quoting from the article:

In this article I want to tell a political and cultural story about the effort of one group of displaced Micronesians, from the island of Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia, to practice traditional outrigger canoe culture and traditional navigation using stars, waves, and clouds, and sea creatures, but in waters and lands—rivers, lakes, and skyways—of the northeastern plains world of the Dakota Makhóčhe of present-day Minnesota and North Dakota.

 

The canoe aspect of the article brought my mind into my own happy place as I pictured the smaller canoes on freshwater and the larger outrigger canoes on oceans. To say I am a fan of canoes would be an understatement, and I am on the water in a canoe any possible chance I get.

I am not indigenous to these lands, and because of ongoing colonialism have never had the opportunity to be naturalized to this homeland. I may wish this to change, but know that Canada stands in the way of that possibility.

 

I was born on lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek (Ojibway), and in 1987 moved to Algonquin territory. Since learning about this homeland in recent years, I have paid specific attention to the Anishinaabe, Cree and Haudenosaunee peoples. I recognize that there are far more peoples on Turtle Island, but these are the peoples of the part of Turtle Island which I feel connected to as my homeland.

The canoe is not a technology of my people, as where I come from had a very different connection to place.

 

Where and who am I from?

I was born into Canada, a system of ongoing European colonialism.  I believed all the myths about Canada that the government told me to. (See: White people don't pay taxes, get land and her resources for free)

While I was told I was of Irish descent on both sides of my family (with some French far in my grandmother's ancestry), this was filtered through the Canadian Multiculturalism lens.

Ireland's available history has been largely created by external influences.

If you draw a circle around the Mediterranean Sea you will see the center of empire building in the Eurasian continent.  Even if we start with the Roman Empire we see conquest outward and northward.  While Ireland was never officially conquered by the Roman Empire, that didn't matter as they were still converted to the Roman religion of Christianity, and thus adopted those foreign worldviews and origin stories.

While those with Abrahamic views try to convince us to separate conquest carried out by "countries" from religion, the reality has been that conquest and conversion has been core to the goals of the largest Abrahamic religions (Is religious freedom camouflaging ongoing colonialism and empire building?).  It has only been by recognizing that some spirituality includes non-interference, while others include conversion and conquest, did I recognize the relationship between religion and politics for specific religions.

The connection between colonialism, conquest, and religion can be seen in Africa where the north was most impacted by Islam while the south by Christianity. Through global conquest Abrahamic religions currently represent 54% of the global population, no religion at 15%, Hindus at 15%, and Buddhist at 7% (See: World Population by Religion)

The meaning of the term "Hindu" has changed over time, at one point referring to any non-Turkic/non-Muslim resident of the Indian subcontinent, with Hinduism reaching back far enough to be considered the Indigenous spirituality. The Buddhism split from Hinduism in the 6th century B.C.E is really what created Hinduism as a separate concept, and the subcontinent has been under threat from and occupation by Abrhamic religions for quite some time (Islamic Mughal Empire, followed by Christian British Empire. India has been officially independent since 1947, governing themselves using a British parliamentary system with ongoing British and Anglo-American influence).


In more recent times, Ireland was under British occupation starting in 1169, with British colonialism starting with its closest neighbors. The last Roman Emperor died in 1453 (Christian battles with Islamic Ottoman empire), and the papal bulls from the Bishop of Rome launching subject of Christian European Monarchs out to conquer and convert other lands were in 1493.


I have been to the places in India where my wife's Hindu parents were born. She knows where she is from, while my ancestors have been on this continent for long enough to no longer have a connection to Ireland. Ireland has been under occupation long enough to have forgotten any of its pre-colonial, pre-Abrahamic indigeneity.

We were both born on and lived on Turtle Island all our lives without ever having been naturalized.

Technoscience

Part of what I like about this class is that the discussion of technology is not limited to human manipulations of nature. What is often called social sciences are understood as a technology.


The technology of the peoples I come from should be obvious from the above description: with all this empire building and war, weaponry and defense will obviously have been a focus. The disconnection from land and the concept of sustainability lead to unrestricted advances in manufacturing -- while depleting the environment. Abrahamic religions taught people (as I was in my youth) in Genesis 1:28 to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

It should be no surprise that when Europeans started trade with Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island that manufactured goods such as guns, metal cooking utensils and cloth would be what Europeans were offering.

Europe has a history with ships as well, but war was as much a part of the use of ships as trade. The connection to water is going to be very different than the two Indigenous peoples in the article.


While the largest wars on Turtle Island were between Europeans (sometimes with Indigenous allies), Turtle Island also saw war prior to European contact. This is obvious to me because you don't have a "Great Law of Peace" (Mohawk: Kaianere'kó:wa), the oral constitution of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, unless there was previously war.

While scholars debate whether the first five nations (Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca) came together in 1192 or 1451, there seems to be consensus that the sixth nation (the Tuscarora) joined in 1722.  This technology, a participatory democracy, is the oldest participatory democracy on earth. This advanced technology of peace is not unique, as this style of technology is deployed in many treaties between peoples including the Two Row Wampum (Gä•sweñta’) and One Dish One Spoon.

While Europeans may not have advanced social sciences enough yet to properly harness these technologies, the technologies nonetheless exist.

 

Who am I?

I don't know.

My personal ancestry tells me about why I look the way I do (skin colour, shape of eyes and face, etc), and growing up in colonial Canada what worldviews were  imposed on me. I am aware of the privileges I have been granted.

That doesn't tell me who I am or how (or if) I have any legitimate relation with this homeland.