Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ioway Clan Animals: Black Bear and Buffalo

The Two Lead Clan Animals for the Ioway, Black Bear and Buffalo. Bear led during Fall and Winter, while Buffalo led during the Spring and Summer.

Winter Solstice: Second Snow of Season

Second snow of the season came yesterday, on the night of Winter Solstice. Currently cold, 20 degrees Fahrenheit, high today at 21F, low at 3F, winds NNW at 10-20 mph, occasional flurries. Humidity 78%, dew point 16F Sunrise 7:40 am, Sunset 5 pm. Moon 77% full, waning gibbous.

Hopefully by tomorrow they will have plowed the roads out here so we can get to work. It looks like about 6 inches or so fell here with drifts at the house to 2 feet. That means the open prairie roads have even bigger drifts, several feet deep. That takes a while to dig out. At least in Montana we have more snowplows… out here in rural Kansas, we are low on plowing priorities…

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cognitive Dissonance

From a guest post on Club Orlov: “Our culture is such that half of Americans probably think “If the money is good, so what?” There is no thought given to the proper way to live and to relate to people. There is no thought given to what such work does to the soul of this woman. The American thinking process jumps to the bottom line of the financial transaction, and declares victory if cash has changed hands. The woman is “richer” so for them she is better off. These same people see the American economy as rebounding. People are spending. Some people are getting rich. What’s the problem? When everything is calculated in a purely financial light, we start to lose any sense of decency or community.

…When looking at a country as large and complex as the USA, one can make any number of contradictory assertions and still be factually correct. The economy doing extremely well, and the economy is going to hell. One need look no farther than the banking industry to figure that out: the banks are bankrupt and require bail-outs; the banks are doing well and making healthy profits. American banks are in every way typical of American corporations: they are corrupt, reliant on the government to subsidize and support them, and produce mind-boggling riches for those that run them.

…But rest assured that from each and every payment or delinquency notice or collection activity someone somewhere is making a profit. In this economy every action is monetized, even our very socializing. As you randomly clicked around the Internet to find this article, you generated income for tech companies. At some point, as every last penny was pushed or pulled out of your pocket, you began shifting from consumer to producer: you became a prosumer… and the machine that is American capitalism milked more profit still from your existence.

…At the bottom of the food chain are the forced producers. Those people are so broke that they have become superfluous to the normative economy. They seem to be channeled in one way or another into the prison system, where they become the ultimate producers. Their very bodies create profits for prison corporations simply by existing in prisons, while their arguably forced labor is compelled at pennies on the dollar to produce cheap consumer goods. The American economy seems to be succeeding at monetizing everything while producing fewer and fewer goods or services of any real value to anyone but a few rich people profiting off the entire system.” (

+ + + +

In contrast to that, there’s this:

“You ask me to plow the ground. Shall I take a knife and tear my mother’s bosom? Then when I die she will not take me to her bosom to rest.

You ask me to dig for stones! Shall I dig under her skin for bones? Then when I die I cannot enter her body to be born again.

You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it and be rich like white men, but how dare I cut my mother’s hair?” ----Wovoka, the Paiute Prophet

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Wind on the Water

If God is God He is not good, 
If God is good He is not God; 
Take the even, take the odd, 

I would not sleep here if I could 
Except for the little green leaves in the wood 
And the wind on the water.

-Archibald MacLeish

Monday, December 16, 2013

This Evening

Eastward, moon appears

biuwarigu, bi axewe

Westward, sun disappears

biuwahugun, bi sena

White Cloud, the moon waiting

maxuweska-cina, bi akida

Mouse is Home

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Save Trees

"We don't know if the end for humans nears. We know it may come, so the mind must be ready. Overuse of this world by people brings disaster -- floods, global warming. But it's not the end of the Earth, even if it is our own. Nature will move forward, beyond us. But for now," he says, "it is a good idea for us to save trees. It helps."
 --Ajaan Boonku, Theravāda Buddhist monk, Wat Asokaram Monastery, Thailand. In Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, by Alan Weisman (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013), p.  359.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Determining Your Bioregion (With the Nemaha Area as Example)

So what is your bioregion?


I refer the reader to United States, Canada and Mexico Bioregions/Ecoregions ( (If you live outside the U.S., you
can start here instead:

Most of North America is located in the Nearctic.

Nearctic: The Nearctic is one of the eight terrestrial ecozones dividing the Earth's land surface. The Nearctic ecozone covers most of North America, including Greenland and the highlands of Mexico. Southern Mexico, southern Florida, Central America, and the Caribbean islands are part of the Neotropic ecozone, together with South America. (

The other site that is of immense help in breaking the maps into more detailed maps for many (but not all) Nearctic bioregions is at

I will go through these steps, using the locale of the Iowa Reservation, defined in large part by the Big Nemaha River's outlet into the Missouri River.

Within the Nearctic Ecozone are several bioregions.

The Iowa Reservation (Nemaha) is located in the Eastern North America bioregion: "The Eastern North America bioregion includes the Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, the Great Plains temperate grasslands of the central United States and south-central Canada, the Temperate coniferous forests of the southeastern United States, the subtropical savannas of Florida, and the mangrove and hammock forests of the the Neotropic ecozone in south Florida. In terms of floristic provinces, it is represented by the North American Atlantic Region and part of the Canadian Province of the Circumboreal Region."

Specifically, Nemaha is in a transition zone between temperate broadleaf and mixed forests of the eastern United States and the Great Plains temperate grasslands of the central United States (the Tallgrass Prairie).  Really we are in the middle of the tall grass prairie, but the Missouri River bottoms, the loess hills and bluffs (called glacial hills here by some folks), and the heavily dissected terrain has created microclimates populated by hardwood forest species native to areas further east and south. Before settlement by white people, frequent prairie fires kept the advance of forests in check along the bluff tops.

We are between the Central Forest-Grasslands Transition .".. a prairie ecoregion of the central United States, part of the North American Great Plains" ( and the Central Tall Grasslands (

This area has been almost entirely destroyed and converted into mono cropped agricultural production because of its rich soils, except where the terrain is too steep.

Central Forest-Grasslands Transition
"This is a large area covering 407,000 square kilometres (157,000 sq mi) from northern Illinois through most of Missouri, eastern Kansas, Oklahoma and into Texas. This area was traditionally a mixture of woodland and tall grass prairie, which as the soil consists of highly fertile mollisols, most of the area has been converted to farmland. Rainfall varies from 600–1040 mm per year and the area is vulnerable to drought and fire. Along with the Upper Midwest forest-savanna transition this ecoregion separates the Central U.S. hardwood forests to the east from the largely treeless Central and Southern mixed grasslands and Central tall grasslands to the west…. The area has almost entirely been converted to agriculture, particularly planting corn and soybeans. Remaining blocks of intact habitat are small and ...are all highly fragmented…" (

Central Tall Grasslands
"This ecoeregion covers a large area of southern Minnesota, most of Iowa, a small part of eastern South Dakota and a narrow strip through eastern Nebraska and northeastern Kansas. Rainfall here is 1000mm per year, higher than most of the Great Plains. ...No substantial areas of original grassland remain in this ecoregion, only fragmented remnants but prairie restoration is happening, for example, at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Jasper County, Iowa" (

Flora and Fauna
The Central Forest-Grasslands Transition "... is rich in reptiles, birds and insects. Birds of the area include the greater prairie chicken. Reptiles include the Osage copperhead snake." (ibid.) The Central Tall Grasslands: The high rainfall and long summer allows a rich plant cover and this area was once the largest area of tallgrass prairie in the world, with grasses reaching up to 2m in height and interspersed with many wildflowers. For example 265 species of plants were recorded in Iowa, 237 in a square mile near Lincoln, Nebraska, and 225 in the Missouri River Valley. However the soil is rich here and the original grasslands have now largely been converted to farmland, much more so than in the neighboring Flint Hills tall grasslands for example. The central tall grasslands are now a large part of the Corn Belt of the Midwest and covered with fields of corn and soybeans. Grasses of the area include big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)….This prairie was probably once grazing land for American bison (Bison bison) and elk (Cervus elapses)" (ibid.).

From the World Wildlife Fund:
"Biological Distinctiveness 
The Central Tall Grasslands must have been one of the most visually appealing ecoregions of North America in its original state. Before being settled and converted, it was the largest tallgrass prairie on Earth. The large number of brightly flowering herbaceous plants added greatly to the plant diversity as well as to its physical beauty. The dominant grass species in this ecoregion are big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) (Küchler 1975). The richness of the herbaceous cover is obvious across this ecoregion: about 265 species constitute the bulk of the Tall-Grass Prairie in Iowa; 237 species were recorded in a square mile near Lincoln, Nebraska, and 225 species were recorded from the Missouri Valley (Weaver 1934?). Many of the plant species found here originated from several different regions; having been exposed to a wide range of climates over the long term, they exhibit relatively wide ecological ranges and thus are widespread throughout the Great Plains…. Like other ecoregions of this section of North America, bison and elk once roamed these tallgrass prairies, where they were hunted by the prairie wolf (Canis lupus). These species are now gone" ( Actually there is confusion on the term "prairie wolf" in historical sources, some authors meaning a variety of wolf also known as the buffalo wolf, and others meaning the coyote, which is not a true wolf. Around here, some people call the coyote a "wolf" though it is not one biologically.

(continued from the WWF site:) "The Central Tall Grasslands is now the corn belt of the United States. Nearly all of this ecoregion has been converted to tilled crop land and the rest is used for haying and pasture.

Remaining Blocks of Intact Habitat: Essentially no sizeable blocks of intact habitat exist in this ecoregion. Remnants of the Central Tall Grasslands in southern Iowa and adjacent Missouri are restricted to 20 patches, all less than 0.08 km2 (20 acres) in size (USDA 1994). The Loess Hills in western Iowa (16 km2) and the Prairie Coteau in eastern South Dakota contain important remnants, although the former is rather linear in shape and grazed by livestock.

Degree of Fragmentation: Fragmentation is high among the few, widely scattered parcels of tallgrass prairie.

Degree of Protection: None of the remaining fragments have any formal protection, although restoration is underway at Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge in central Iowa" (

I am aware of only really one surviving patch of prairie on the reservation, a few acres in size, across from the three elders' houses, and it is often cut for hay. I do not know if it is native, but it is rich in various grasses like Andropogon and Panicum and other herbs and forbs, so it is a pretty nice patch. I am trying to convince the tribe to preserve it. The main focus of preservation here is done by the Nature Conservancy, which owns and manages a chunk of our alienated lands within the reservation boundaries as the Rulo Bluffs Preserve. Most of that land is forested though. I hope to meet with Nature Conservancy personnel and have invited them to talk.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Oldest Human Way: Bioregional Animism

I am like a wolf, running and sniffing along the ground, or a hawk soaring and searching the fields below, looking for a way, a common ground.

My own spirituality is complex, having grown up both in Christianity (Catholicism) and Native American ways. Plus there are just things that make sense to you (or not) that you get from living in this world.

One of these things has a name: Bioregional Animism. Pretty wild name huh? It is a term that is very recent. But it is an ancient thing, as old as humanity itself.

It is what all indigenous people have as part of their spirituality. It was something people did all over the world, here in the Americas, in Europe and Africa, in Australia and Asia, and every place in between. It is what the American Indians lived and what they are remembered for today, and it is embodied in our teachings. In short:

Everything is connected.
Everything is alive.
And every place has its own ways.
And Our People developed their way of life, their sense of the sacred,
based on this sacred connection with the place where they lived.

But that term, "Bioregional Animisim"… what IS that? Here is something I posted on my Sleeping Giant blog a few years back (Feb. 25th, 2009).

Just What IS "Bioregional Animism"?

So, just to make it clear to myself and others what I mean when I use the term, Bioregional Animism, it is worth getting into some etymology.

Bioregion, Bioregional, Bioregionalism

Bio- means "life" (from Greek "bios")

Wikipedia definition of region: "Region is a geographical term that is used in various ways among the different branches of geography. In general, a region is a medium-scale area of land or water, smaller than the whole areas of interest (which could be, for example, the world, a nation, a river basin, mountain range, and so on), and larger than a specific site. A region may be seen as a collection of smaller units (as in "the New England states") or as one part of a larger whole (as in "the New England region of the United States"). Regions can be defined by physical characteristics, human characteristics, and functional characteristics."

As I define it, "bioregion" is an area that is definable by a particular set of biota (living things: plants, animals, etc.). So "bioregional" would be "relating to a bioregion".

-ism= "The suffix -ism denotes a distinctive system of beliefs, myth, doctrine or theory that guides a social movement, institution, class or group. "

So "bioregionalism" would mean "following a system of beliefs, myths, doctrines, or theories, based on an area that is definable by a set of biota (living things: plants, animals, etc.); a definable, distinctive or characteristic set of biota is implied."


Wikipedia defines it so:

"Animism (from Latin anima (soul, life)) is a philosophical, religious or spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist not only in humans and animals but also in plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment..."(Wikipedia:Animism).

Compare it to Animatism:

"Animatism is a term coined by British anthropologist Robert Marett to refer to "a belief in a generalized, impersonal power over which people have some measure of control". Marett argues that certain cultures believe "people, animals, plants, and inanimate objects were endowed with certain powers, which were both impersonal and supernatural..." (Wikipedia:Animatism).


"Convinced that primitive man had not developed the intellectual to form even such simplistic explanations as Tylor proposed, Marett also criticized Tylor’s theories of animism, suggesting that early religion was more emotional and intuitional in origin. He believed that early man recognized some inanimate objects because of their specific characteristics; treated all animate objects as having a life, but never distinguished soul as separate from the body. Considering that early man's universal belief in mana is so self-evident, Marett found insignificant the question of how men and women developed the belief that a spirit or soul resides in all objects" (

Animism implies that a spirit inhabits a rock, sort of how some feel a spirit inhabits a human body...and animatism implies that the rock has a diffuse sort of power shared by all things to one degree or another.

Now, I don't think that indigenous people necessarily made those distinctions...but every indigenous culture is not like another. Perhaps an animistic culture would speak to a particular Rock as a Person (following Hallowell and others), while an animatistic culture would deal more with the Orenda or Mana, and the Rock as a focal point of that Force.

Personally I have had both animistic and animatistic experiences, as well as some others which do not seem to be exactly one or the other. I don't think most people who had those experiences always intellectualized it in that "distancing" way, because the point was to build relationships with the Rock or the Hill or the Bear, not to distance them.

And where does one put the idea of Nature Spirits in Animism and Animatism? For Spirits also sometime reside in a living form not their own: a tree or a stone could house a Nature Spirit, yet the rock or tree have a separate and distinct Personhood different from that of the Alf or Landvaettir.

But back to "Bioregional Animism"...

My own working definition of "Bioregional Animism" is

"A system of animistic beliefs, myths, doctrines, or theories, based on a geographic area that is definable by a set of biota (living things: plants, animals, etc.); a definable, distinctive or characteristic set of biota is implied...and that these biota have souls/spirits with particular powers."

Three things I now see that make what I believe not exactly Bioregional Animism in this sense anyways.

1. I do not restrict souls/spirits (Personhood) only to plants and animals, but also to land forms, stones, rivers, mountains, winds, storms, etc.

2. The concept of a Creator is not inherent in bioregional animism, yet it is not excluded. Most indigenous peoples had both a Creator God, even if distant, and living spirits in the land.

3. There is no discussion of other spirits outside of ensouled biota, not only natural elements, forms and forces, but spirits that never were alive in any sense (angels, devils, etc.) nor at one time in the past were alive: human ghosts (and we Ioways also had animal about plant ghosts? Ghosts of cliffs and stones?). Not to mention thoughtforms that seem like spirits and act like them, but are only shaped-mana-substance. Or entities from other existences (as the Druid code goes, "the love of all existences.") Or Gods and Goddesses and....?

But assuredly, in this blog, my major concern is Bioregional Animism, though, like my Ioway ancestors did, I stretch it to include nonbiota, such as the bluffs, the wind, and the river…here in the land of the Nemaha, along the Missouri River...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

First Snowfall of the Season

Winter landscape outside White Cloud, Kansas, the day after the first snowfall of the season, Dec. 8, 2013. Cemetery and cornfields, with road to Hiawatha in the background. Saw chickadees, cardinals, and a woodpecker in the yard. Didn't have any seeds so put out a handful of old-fashioned oats. Just in case.