Identity and Theory

Duane Champagne

Social theories provide a vision of the world about present conditions and possibilities for the future. Every nation or culture has a vision of social and cultural being, as well as a sense of becoming. Where is the community and the culture heading?

In the old days the vision of the present and future was often given in the creation and moral teachings of the community. In indigenous communities, often those visions emphasized the need for greater moral order, and for greater emphasis on spiritual balance among human nations and the rest of the powers and beings in the cosmic order. Sustaining balance through upholding moral and spiritual order were central themes. Humans struggled to maintain and uphold, improve moral and spiritual balances, since it was the best method for preserving the cultural and physical continuity of the community.

In some worldviews, the history of the world is marked by human efforts to maintain and obtain greater individual and national moral community. The breaking of spiritual law and moral order threatened the future of the community, and often the balance and continuity of the cosmic order. Failure to learn and develop stronger moral relations, in some worldviews, led to destruction of the world, and the formation of new world orders, where any surviving peoples engaged again in the individual and national quest to develop stronger moral relations within the nation and within the cosmic order.

Social theories reflect the fundamental values of a group. A vision of the current organization of the world, its strengths and weaknesses, and the ideal future community are often inherent within the assumptions of a social theory. Often social theories are weapons used to critique the present world and propose alternatives. The theories one chooses, the understanding or conceptualization of the world taken, and processes toward future well-being or community continuity, are critical issues.

Many theories of marginalization are sympathetic and humanistic, and emphasize injustices perpetrated on Indigenous Peoples. Such theories, however, while focusing on significant economic and political relations, do not conceptualize the thousands of distinct indigenous communities and governments as more than poor and disenfranchised individuals.

In these worldviews, Indigenous Peoples have a future similar to Western working class, which at best suggests greater inclusion of Indigenous Peoples into nation states with greater economic opportunities, citizenship, and civil-human rights. Such theories, however, do not envision an indigenous future, and often assume that an indigenous future is not possible within the trends of developing nation states or economic expansion. Many contemporary theories of injustice emphasize achievement of equal economic and political opportunities, but not rights to self-government, territory, or cultural continuity.

Any theory of indigenous societies and futures must contain a pathway to and vision of the future welling being of Indigenous Peoples and communities. Theories of multi-generational trauma help us understand the social distress found in many indigenous communities, but do not provide a pathway to future healthy indigenous communities. Similarly, anti-colonial theories focus on individual and community efforts at decolonization, but do not put primary focus on indigenous visions of community or describe pathways to the future.

As in the past, contemporary Indigenous Peoples, and national policy makers, need to understand and project the current and future conditions of Indigenous Peoples in ways that reflect indigenous values, communities, and institutional relations. Theories of colonial critique that do not develop or include pathways for the continuity of indigenous communities and cultures, do not serve the interests or values of Indigenous Peoples.

If present-day Western social theories do not include or reflect indigenous views, values, or interests, then Indigenous Peoples should follow their forebears and uphold and create their own understandings and visions of contemporary and future community.

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dbender's picture
Submitted by dbender on
We live in a nation that flourishes in the art of war. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's theory is: "control a nations food you control the people." So hopefully that gives you insight into the agenda of the United States. The First Nation people flourished in the art of spirituality. Today, the greatest export as a nation is in fact, weapons and soldiers. That, to me, is an investment in terror and destruction. Our tribes supply this nation with more people per capita than any other ethnicity. They need not give their lives to a nation that supports the exploitation of native lands and people when they are drastically needed in their own communities. People, we need to wake up and take a stand against exploitation. That is of our lands and of our minds. I believe in my heart that addiction is enslavement. We were not born to be addicts; because we are not supposed to eat what white people eat and especially not drink their soft drinks or alcohol. We are more prone to addiction and diabetes because our bodies have not adapted to heavy sugar intake. Frybread is not Indian food. It was what our ancestors had to make due with after the buffalo population was decimated and we had little else to eat. Simply put, we were born to be wild. There's nothing wrong with that. We were born to hunt, swim and run, for days on end. To me, that is a thing of beauty. Our bodies were built for strength and endurance. We are natural athletes. We are a very gifted physically and spiritually balanced people. We used to believe in magic. Many tribes still do. I believe that addiction is kind of like magic because it puts people in a state of denial and you should never underestimate the power of denial. I think we need to go back to that way of thinking. Good vs bad medicine. I believe that this duality should be a core principle in indigenous theory. We as a people need to go back to nurturing our children with good medicine and that is love and support. Support them by feeding them the right foods and abstaining from "white magic". Don't be fooled. These people are powerful wizards and politicians; descendents of people in the ilk of Aleister Crowley. Aleister Crowley greatest trick was teaching white people how to brainwash using sex, drugs, and the media. Look him up and do diligence for your people.

michaelmack's picture
Submitted by michaelmack on
While I certainly appreciate and understand the point you make, I have a difficult time identifying practical ideas on how to change or reverse the indoctrination of Euro-American culture over Indian Country, and also the intra-tribal and inter-tribal divisions that have been aggravated by the indoctrination. The fact is that we have been overwhelmed and conditioned for so long by transient and insubstantive American culture, even if the U.S. did give us the land back and Euros left these shores, where would Indian Country start? Could the twitterized and Facebookized younger generations really go back to the way it was? What about all the older folks who are diabetics and plagued with all the other health problems that now dominate Indian Country, now hooked on soap operas, frybread, Thanksgiving, professional sports, smartphones, and all kinds of non-Indian cultural garbage? Euro-Americans lost any true morality long before they came to these shores as a result of their internal wars, religious and otherwise. Although every king and every war, and conquest itself, was claimed to be in the name of God and Christ, the facts demonstrate over and over what they really worshipped - gold, land, and other peoples' property - and nothing has changed. They continue to delude themselves about the realities of their history, and since 1492, Indian Country has been indoctrinated into their adversarial, contrary, hierarchical, territorial, and frankly hypocritical mindset. How does I.C. shed of over 500 years of this indoctrination? And even if I.C. had a clear agenda for shedding this indoctrination, because we are still under the thumb of U.S. policies, laws, courts, and mindset, would they really allow us to try to free ourselves? For Indigenous people to truly re-establish or revitalize traditional cultures, we would have to find ways to FIRST rid ourselves of the layers of indoctrinated Euro-American thinking, without rousing the beast.

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