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Native Wisdom for White Minds

Native Wisdom for White Minds

The following excerpts come from Native Wisdom for White Minds by Anne Wilson Schaef

ISBN: 0 09 183220 9

If I remember, I may include a link or two to websites or reviews ... or I may not ... seee the bottom of this file to see if I did remember ...

From Intro:

(I will get around to this section at some stage ...:)

From rear cover:

What is a white mind? White minds are trapped in a closed system of thinking that sees life in black and white, either/or terms; they are hierarchical and mechanistic; they see nature as a force to be tamed and people as objects to be controlled with no regard for the future.

This worldview is not shared by most Native Peoples. Anne shares the richness poured out to her by Native Americans, Aborigines, Africans, Maoris and others. In the words of Native peoples themselves, we come to understand Native ideas about our earth, spirituality, family, work, loneliness and change. For in every area of our lives we have the capacity to transcend our white minds - we simply need to listen with open hearts and open minds to other voices, other perceptions, other cultures.

Anne often heard Elders from a wide variety of Native peoples say, "Our legends tell us that a time will come when our wisdom and way of living will be necessary to save the planet, and that time is now."

The book is arranged like a 'calendar' with a thought or theme for each day of the year ... here is just a taste of what is in the book ...

J  October 8  [


Europeans caught a glimpse of Aboriginal personality. Governor Phillip had decided to set an example by punishing a convict thief who stole some fishing implements belonging to an Aboriginal person. In the presence of both the British and the Aboriginal People, the thief was bound and flogged. So distressed were the Aboriginals that they attacked the flogger, took the whip from him and cried for the thief.

- Burnum Burnum, Australian Aboriginal writer

Anne's comments: I love this story. When I first read it, I paused and looked inside to discover with amazement just how deep was my training in punishment and victim/perpetrator. Of course the man should be punished if he stole something, especially if he took it from some gentle Australian Aboriginal! Then I stopped. What have I to learn from this story?

Not too long ago, I was sued. When I was served the papers, I was incredulous. How could this happen? There must be some misunderstanding. Everyone knows what the truth is. My next thought - coming very quickly - was, "I'll not only prove my innocence. I'll get her." Then I stopped, shocked, and I prayed. It was clear to me that my issue for this process was to not take on the victim/perpertrator dualism. Every perpetrator has been a victim, and every person who believes she is a victim will become a perpetrator.

J  August 30  [


The last painless birth was when my older sister was born. In the next room was a lazy relative. A healthy, able-bodied man. Just lazy. While others helped with the birth, he just lay in bed. My uncle just prayed to the Haumea, the godess of birth. Then he directed the pain to that lazy brother-in-law of his. the poor fellow began to maon and groan. He moaned until after my sister arrived. My mother felt no pain at all!

- Mary Kawena Pukui, Hawaiian Cultural Authority

Anne's comments: I love the humour. I have heard from many Hawaiians that the old Kuhunas knew how to remove the pain from childbirth. They would either take it on themselves or, in this case, give it to someone else.

There are so many mysteries

J  August 31  [


The old Lakota was wise. he knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard.

- Standing Bear, Lakota Sioux American Indian

Anne's comments: I believe this to be true. For many years I have pondered what must become of people living in cities away from nature. How can we be concerned for the planet when we really have no connection with the planet? How can we be concerned about nature if we never see nature?

We need opportunities fro nature to soften us up. We need to re-establish our oneness with nature, and it is difficult to do that when nature seems so removed.

J  October 15  [


"If you're going to break the branches off, talk to it. They're your friends." Grandma told them what to do. Exactly what to do and how to do it. "Don't rush. That's your friend." she said, "If you're going to break it off or cop on it, you talk to it before you hurt it. They used to be people. Those trees used to be people long, long time ago. And they became a tree. Good people. That's why they live today."

- Altona Brown, Athabaskan Elder from Ruby, Alaska

Anne's comments: What a gift to live gently with the world around us! We ask permission before we take something from our friends - or at least we should.

We interact with friends in a way that is good for them and good for us - or at least we should.

We move with res[ect toward those that provide shelter and care for us - or at least we should.

When I remember that trees are my friends who give me fresh oxygen to breath, shade, shelter and protection, I am reminded to be respectful.

J  October 3  [


Europeans and their perception of the land is based on the materialistic. They look upon land as "my land, i own that land" It is a commodity. Whereas Aboriginals look at something as part of the whole, a part of themselves, and they are part of that - the land. The land and they are one.

- One of seven Aboriginals speaking about Musgrave Park, Australia.

Anne's comments: We not only treat the land as a commodity, we treat ourselves and much of our lives as commodities. For example, the copyright laws put us in a position of treating our words and our books as commodities because we think we own them. What a put-down of our productions when we make them commodities instead of creations. When we realise that we are part of a whole and a gift of the Creator, it makes ownership seem a little silly.

If I am one with all Creation ,I participate in sharing.

J  December 25  [


In Europe, as people developed their civilisation from the caves to the cathedrals, they left clear evidence of their achievement for future generations to admire. In Australia, the land itself is the cathedral and worship is not confined to any four walls. Each step is a prayer and every form in the landscape - and eveything that moves in it - were put there specifically for the people to use and manage. And the mythic beings made clear the responsibility of the people in preserving and nurturing the environment. Their success in managing the world so successfully, and sustaining their culture for so long, is now attracting the worldwide respect it deserves.

- Burnum Burnum, Australian Aboriginal writer

Anne's comments: We have something to learn here. Western culture has used the resources of the earth to try to improve upon the creations of God. We may claim that ur works are inspired by God, yet they were conceived, designed and built by people.

How would we live differently if we saw ourselves as custodians of our place? I like the idea of every step being a prayer. I know that when I am in tune with myself and my Living Process, life becomes a prayer. There is no separation between what i am doing and my spirituality. I felt this amongst the Aboriginals in Australia and I sense that it has much to do with the way they live with their place.

I can achieve nothing greater than to live my life in tune with the Creator and to leave a better place for those who follow.

J  December 16  [


God ... was in the food they ate, in the water they drank, in the air they breathed, in the earth they trod on and died on, in the words they spoke, in the sleep they slept and the dreams they dreamt, in the everwhere and the everything.

- Albert Wendt, Samoan writer

Anne's comments: Some Pacific cultures don't even have a word for God. This is not because God isn't there. It's because God s assumed. God is self-evident. God is so present that there is no need for a term because God is life itself.

I wonder when we as a species divided ourselves from the life force so deeply that we had to develop a concept of God as something separate from ourselves?

J  June 4  [


I asked my grandmother if she knew him. No, he was a malahini. When i asked her why she fed him, she got angry, ordered me to sit on the floor in front of her, and said, "I want you to remember these words for as long as you live, and never forget them: I was not feeding the man; I was entertaining the spirit of God within him."

- Nana Veary, Hawaiian Kupuna

Anne's comments: I love these words. I love this story. How different our world might be if we "entertained the spirit of God" within each person.

We often hear these sentiments in Western culture, and some of us even act on these sentiments. In old Hawaiian culture, this recognition of the spirit of God within each person is practiced as a way of life. I have experienced the embodiment of this belief many times

When I entertain the "spirit of God" within each person, that spirit glows more brightly, in them and in me!

J  June 5  [


Watching my grandmother serve the stranger taught me the basic law of the Hawaiian cosmology: we live in a spiritual universe governed by spiritual laws.

- Nana Veary, Hawaiian Kupuna

Anne's comments: What does it mean to "live in a spiritual universe governed by spiritual laws"? Does it mean that seeing the universe as being governed by the laws of mechanics is not sufficient for living a full life? I believe so.

Spiritual laws transcend national laws. they link us together as planetary citizens who need each other. National and societal laws are usually made to benefit their creators. Spiritual laws benefit all of Creation and cannot be altered by a small segment of that Creation. Western culture seems to have moved far from spiritual laws. Native People, who have remained closer to these laws, remind us of what these laws are.

My spiritual family can summon me to return to what I know deep within me.

J  March 2  [


I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more.

- Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht (Chief joseph), Nez Perce American Indian

Anne's comments: So do I.

Chief Joseph was such an amazing man. I grew up in 'his' country and his words surrounded me as a child.

Opening our hearts in a crazy society can be dangerous, yet can we afford not to?

Indian people have been slaughtered physically, emotionally, financially, and personally by opening their hearts, and yet they continue to do it. Even though opening our hearts is dangerous, how much more dangerous is it to threaten our souls by refusing?

J  August 5  [


The Okangan word for ourselves is sqilw. Which, in literal translation means, "the dream in the spiral". We recognise our individual lives as the continuance of human dreams. We know our lives to be the tools of the vast human dream mind which is continuing on into the future.

- Jeanette Armstrong, Canadian indian writer

Anne's comments: If our lives are "the tools of the vast human dream mind which is continuing on into the future", what does this mean in terms of the way we live our lives?

Sometimes I think we as a human race are still in childhood. We do not want to take responsibility for being partners with God in creating the future of life on this planet

We are being given the opportunity to "grow up", to become adult as a species, to not blame others for our lives. We can take a more active role instead of expecting God to do it all. Wee have the opportunity to be a part of and to help shape that "vast human dream mind which is continuing on into the future".

If I want to participate in creating the future, I must be willing to give up my attachment to being a victim and take responsibility for being an adult of my species.

J  November 17  [


The land was created by God. Therefore it belongs to God.

- Alex Pua, Hawaiian Elder

Anne's comments: Would anyone dispute this? The statement sounds so simple. Yet, we seem to have forgotten.

Every religion in the world recognises some Creator. That seems universal. Yet, over time, we seem to have assigned ownership - usually to ourselves.

Are we also created by God? Do we also belong to God. Few would disagree. Yet, do we live our lives out of this knowing?When we shift our perspectives and our values back to the simplicity of what we have always known, life becomes much simpler.

If the land belongs to god, I am just a custodian for a short time. I might lose my job if I don't do a good one and remember who the owner is.

Ownership is a matter of perspective!

J  April 11  [


Childhood among the Australian Aboriginals is the happiest time of their lives. No one who has lived with a group of nomadic hunters, or has spent any time in a camp of Aboriginals who are still living under tribal conditions, can have failed to notice the indulgence and solicitude that is lavished upon the children during theor early years.

- Donald Thompson, Writer observing Australian Aboriginals

Anne's comments:

The children are our future. We often hear this, but do we live it?

The Australian Aboriginals can teach us so much about child rearing. They decide when to have children (yes, they have a very sophisticated ancient form of birth control - very simple - with no drugs) and they have only the number of children their life and environment can support. These children are loved and are lavished with care and affection

As is the case with Native People the world over, everyone is responsible for the care and loving of each child. The child bonds with the community, not just with its two parents. The child learns from the wealth of knowledge of the entire community. No one can be loving all the time, yet when there are so many people who are loving, the entire environment becomes loving. Also, with so many "keeping an eye out", the environment supports a feeling of freedom and power in each child.

Child rearing is key to a healthy culture, and it is a waste of time to attempt healthy child rearing in a sick system

J  Date  [

- ,

Anne's comments:

Include - June 5 (done) ... others on list? ... oh well ... open at 'random' ... :) ... eg April 11 ... plus the closing poem ... and bits of the Intro ...

Much much more to be typed in here at some later date ...

Some of Anne Wilson Schaef's books

Book review

The 10 Indian Commandments

Excerpts from Phoenix Rising is along similar themes ...

New Melbourne Museum - has a room devoted to Aboriginal culture, opened October 2000.

Dream Time Stories of the Aborigines

Dadirri: Listening to one another

William Ricketts philosophy - includes link to his sanctuary in the Dandenong ranges

Sea of hands (An Aboriginal reconciliation initiative)                Another sea of hands link

Hopi prophecy


Native Poetry

Chief Seattle

Some Chief Joseph links:

chief joseph

another link

Aboriginal site which discusses 'mutant message down under'

Hawaii Books - includes Change We Must by Nana Veary

Update 31 October -

{From a trip to the library & a search for 'native concept ownership'} - many links to native american sites

Wild Apache - some may say it's a dubious name for a site but interesting stuff ... :)

Update 9 November -

Grey Coyote's Links

There is also an excellent site called "Religious Tolerance" - click here

Here's a little excerpt:
"Rather than going to church, I attend a sweat lodge; rather than accepting bread and toast [sic] from the Holy Priest, I smoke a ceremonial pipe to come into Communion with the Great Spirit; and rather than kneeling with my hands placed together in prayer, I let sweetgrass be feathered over my entire being for spiritual cleansing and allow the smoke to carry my prayers into the heavens. I am a Mi'kmaq, and this is how we pray."     - Noah Augustine

Many followers of Aboriginal religions, such as the many types of Native American Spirituality, do not regard their spiritual beliefs and practices as a "religion" in the way in which many Christians do. Their beliefs and practices form a integral and seamless part of their very being.

Also ONE could look up the writers & elders mentioned throughou the book ... if one were inclined to ... such as Burnum Burnum and others mentioned above ...

Memo to self - IF I do not get around to updating/enlarging these excerpts ... then again all I can do is give a taste ... I mean the book is probly under twenty bucks ... whaddya want for free??  J  ... not to mention the whole question of copyright ... then again part of the wisdom deals with the entire concept of 'ownership' ... anyway from index - could transcribe a few of these themes:

* Child rearing - one quote says 'It takes a community to raise a child'
* Community
* Truth
* Love
* Trust
* God
* Self
* Ownership
* Dreaming reality
* Australian Aborigines - links too?


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