The following quotes are from:
Daniel Wildcat, “The Question of Self-Determination,” from Power and Place: Indian Education in America. Fulcrum Publishing 2001.
“It is not surprising that in modern American society economic initiatives inevitably overshadow education programs. Education as an institution reflects the values of the larger society, and the only thing historically distinguishing so-called Indian education from mainstream education is the direct and blatant regimen in which culture was instilled. Today the notion that educational ‘progress’ is identified with economic measures is so widely accepted that the business of education has become business.” 136
“While I appreciate the postmodernist critique of modernist thought and its unmasking of the arbitrariness of Western civilization, I fundamentally rejet its antirealist conclusions. Postmodernists examined modern, essentially Western, theories of the real world, and finding them wanting, simply discarded the phenomenal world and kept theory.
The postmodernist rejection of an objective reality or truth is predictable and well within the intellectual heritage of Western thought.” 137
“Try as humans might to put knowledge in boxes—the experimental method, abstract categories, subjectivistic lockboxes, and so on—we are still left with the large remainder of daily experience. A substantial amount of the wisdom of our indigenous ancestors is still with us in the experience of places too often now taken for granted.” 138
“Indigenous self-determination begins with attentiveness to the relations around us, whether they be typically understood as economic, political, ecological, or spiritual. The everyday experiential world of casinos, manufacturing, so-called natural resource management, and all the business decisions tribal governments make are central to self-determination.” 138
“If all of humankind would seriously undertake to reconnect to places in the practical way their ancestors once did—and many indigenous people still do—we might be much better off.” 139
“The endless debates in and criticism of higher education serve as a de facto demonstration of how pointless this intellectual industry will be unless the debates about curriculum become literally ‘grounded,’ contextualized to the environments and places we call home.” 139-140
“Power, ‘the living energy that inhabits and or composes the universe,’ is what moves us as human beings—all of the connections or relations that form the immediate environment or that small part of the world each of us inhabits. While energy in physical mechanics is quantifiable, Deloria’s concept of power is nonquantifiable. Power is a qualitative dimension shaping our thoughts, desires, habits, actions, and institutions that operates to a great extent without us thinking about it. In ordinary language we can call power amorphous, for it takes many forms, some overt and some latent. We are conscious of the former, while the latter lie dormant and have an existence of (to) which we are not initially conscious. We can also describe power as diffuse, for it surrounds us as an atmosphere of influences, including the very practical economic influences in the world. Power is quite literally flowing around and into us; if we are properly attentive, power can be used by us.
An indigenous North American metaphysics would agree with the formulatiuon that knowledge is power, but object to the narrow Western idea of knowledge and the anthropocentric, human-centered notion of power. Like the concept of personhood, American Indians and Alaska Natives have a much broader notion of knowledge, one that includes knowledge born of direct experience of what I call the atmosphere of influences. Deloria’s likening of American Indian metaphysics to a social reality is helpful, for it directs us properly to the character of this atmosphere of influences. Social reality is not what one narrowly thinks of as social; instead to follow Deloria’s suggestion, ‘social’ is as close as we might presently get to describing the substantive character or reality of power. Like society itself, the power allowed as social by most human beings, with the exception of a few intellectuals called methodological individualists, is readily acknowledged in its observable effects. We know society has forces we call social because we experiences them and not only see, but also feel, their effects. The nature of social reality has certainly dogged philosophers of science and some serious social scientists. I would suggest that they consider the problem of social reality as only one part of a much larger and more serious exploration of the ‘nature’ of reality in general. To says as Karl Marx first did, and as many sociologists since have said, that we are simultaneously products of and producers of society and history, is a way of saying our human lives are part of a life process we are engaged in—not by choice, but as a consequence of our living existence.
I find it easy to accept the environment Marx experienced made it relatively simple to see life as a struggle for existence primarily shaped by an economic class struggle. However, it is not romanticism to suggest that Seattle, Ten Bears, Chief Joseph, and many other American Indian leaders of the nineteenth century lived in environments where the notion of a ‘struggle for existence’ never crossed their mind—although concern for living well did.” 140-141
“Place or space is concrete and palpable. It is in a profound sense where one discovers his or her self, what Deloria calls personality, as opposed to the casual sense of where one just happens to find one’s self. Place is not merely the relationship of things, resources, or objects, it is the site where dynamic processes of interaction occur—where processes between other living beings or other-than-human persons occur.” 144
“I understand Deloria’s idea of personality as the substantive embodiment, the unique realization, of all the relations and power we embody. Because each of us is someplace and, but for a few exceptions, never in exactly the same place as anybody else, our personalities are unique. Our phenomenal existence entails a spatial dimension and variations in power relations with other persons in the world. Therefore, personality as Deloria uses the term is a metaphysical concept, fundamentally different from the popular science view that what and who we are can be reduced to genetics or biochemical mechanisms. In the current reductionist genetic model of ‘personalities,’ the critical interaction between environment and personality is all but lost. Even at the most general and abstract level of contemporary evolutionary theory the concept of species masks the uniqueness of individuals.
What I mean can be understood by anyone who has had the long-term friendship of a dog, cat, bord, or ‘individual’ of another species. We (each of us having such a friendship) know our other-than-human person is an individual, different from others of the same kind or breed. Why? Because we know them as persons: we learn through experience their personality. ‘Pets,’ however, are a special case given the social circumstances. Anyone attentive to animal groups living outside of human control for an extended period begins to distinguish unique personalities of individuals in the herd or social group. American Indian traditions suggest many of our peoples fully understood how much our own human personalities depended on what could be learned from the other-than-human persons in the world. Our personalities or selves, what Carl Jung called ‘anima’ and Paul Tournier called ‘persons,’ as individuals within communities, require this recognition and interaction lest we become merely another demographic minority.” 145-146
“Self-determination is reflective in two senses. First, in the sense that we can never act consciously until we have arrived at an understanding of who we are—each of us in our own unique place in the world. Here the metaphysics of living in the world draws a clear distinction between itself and the metaphysics of the world whose attendant psychology finds human self-discovery in aesthetic retreat from the world. In many indigenous traditions there are indeed ‘places’ where one might think individuals retreat from the world for reflection and even revelation. Such a conclusions would be false, however, for in these practices the intention is not escape from the world but to seek out a better connection in the world, a connection to influences—power—that cannot be casually acquired. Heightened awareness of this/these power(s) does indeed require self-conscious reflection; however, reflection, or even contemplation, is not focused on some abstract or ideal sense of self but, if you will, on a process of discovery.
And it is this process of discovery that brings us to the second reflective feature of the question of self-determination: the focus of our attention is to the relations and connections that influence who we are and are constitutive of our being, or what Deloria calls personality. Tribal traditions were not guided by a formal rule of law but by custom and habit. Browing Pipestem once asked Haskell students, ‘What is ‘the law’’? After they struggled mightily with the question, he gave an excellent answer and one illustrative of indigenous traditions: ‘The law,’ he said with a pause, ‘is a contract—an agreement—between strangers.’ Modern legal theory, in fact the law, is to a large extent an abstract human construction. However, and here is the critical point, in modern societies and nation-states, it is necessarily more meaningfully congruent with vague ideologies than customs, habits, and ceremonies in a land-based community of persons we know—experientially. Modern law is quite literally no respecter of real persons, but a definer and defender of persons in the abstract. That human beings in modern legal theories are philosophical construction sis an ex post facto demonstration that persons constructing laws no longer share an experiential place, as well as a demonstration of the evaporation of culture emergent from a place. In an indigenous practice of education informed by an experiential metaphysics, the focus of self-determination is on the manner in which our being and identity itself is constituted of the number of good relationships we are part of and actively maintain. Self-determination cannot be an individual question, for the reflective sense in which our selves are grounded in life among our relations and in the relationships surrounding us requires engagement with the community of persons, both human and other-than-human, when we determine what we ought to do, what choices we should make, and how we should be self-determining.” 148