Friday, June 27, 2014

Chiwere (Otoe and Missouria) Worldview

North of the Big Nemaha was the territory of the Otoe tribe, sister-brother tribe of the Ioway and the Missouria (who were across the Missouri River, in Missouri). All spoke Chiwere and had the same basic worldview.

“Fundamental to the Otoe and Missouri world view was Wakanda (wakhánda ‘sacred power’), which permeated all nature and was manifested through dreams, visions, and supernatural encounters. This power was symbolized by the circle with its center and the four directions. East was associated with birth, sunrise, the east wind, and the source of life for people, plants, and animals. South was associated with adolescence, summer, and the south wind. After death the body was laid with the head to the north, enabling the individual to see both the sunrise and sunset. South was also linked to the seven stars of the Pleiades, which represented each of the seven clan chiefs. West was associated with middle age, autumn, danger, storms, the west wind, and the spirit world of the dead. North had associations with old age, winter, good, pleasure, cold, and the snow and moisture brought by the north wind. Associated with the center of the circle was the cottonwood tree and water. The sacred circle in the four directions were expressed in the culture through a grouping of the seasons into spring-summer and fall-winter and the association of each division with different clans. The significance of the number four was expressed in other ways such as in “the four stages of life,” the four subdivisions of each clan, performing tasks four times, and praying to the four directions.” –Marjorie Schweitzer, “Otoe and Missouria,” p. 450, Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 13: Plains, Part I, Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 2001.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Speculation and Science

Human beings are human beings. Always have been, always will be, both the good and the bad. There were always believers and doubters, mystics and pragmatists, heroes and murderers. Sometimes the same person is both.

This also goes for ancient human beings of whatever ethnicity or race. There is always a mythology of a golden age, in every culture I know of. Even us Indians can get our past wrong. But we can get it right too. We are neither savages nor romantic ideals. We are human beings, with all the baggage. Indians could use every part of the buffalo, or they could run dozens off a buffalo jump and let some go to waste. Human beings have codes but we don't always follow them, thus the old legends  about people and betrayal and on and on. Ethnographic analogy has its limits too though. The past is a foreign country and all that.

IF one wishes to do science, then there is a methodology which must be followed or it is not science. Not that science is the ONLY way to understand our world, but it has a pretty dang good track record compared to many others, at least in terms of the MATERIAL world. Hypothesis and null hypothesis, testing, rejection of the incorrect hypothesis or further testing, etc.

Nothing wrong with speculation, as the FIRST step to a search for the truth, but it cannot end there if one really wants to find the truth. The point being is that interpretation of evidence has its limits too. There is nothing wrong with speculation, but speculation cannot equate to fact.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bioregional Animism on the Nemaha

In my old blog, I often talked about a spiritual path that was not religious (or could be combined with your OWN religion): Bioregional Animism. This path was really about learning about the natural spiritual ecosystem where YOU actually live, and how to work with it instead of against it. You don't have to give up your religion, but you may need to work through some things to your own satisfaction. It may be any religion, because bioregional animism isn't a religion, it's a way of seeing the world. You don't need to have any religion at all. It's just a matter of recognizing the world and everything in it is alive, and if you really get it, your actions will follow that recognition.

bio (life) + region = every region has its own distinct qualities of the environment, the land, what plants and animals live there...

There are numerous bioregions throughout the U.S. (and the world of course), such as the Rocky Mountains or the Plains, and these are broken down into smaller areas of various scales, focusing on the geology, soils, climate, natural forces, habitats, plants and animals of the areas. And animism is simply recognizing that everything is alive, has agency and presence, is a Being to be interacted with, not just human beings or even animals, but also plants, stones, mountains, rivers, springs, winds, storms, and so on. They have their own ways, and we are all related. There are consequences to one's actions in interacting with nature.

What I like is that it can bridge both spirit and science, and it doesn't depend on some human "authority" telling you what to believe or not believe. No putting up with someone trying to get power over you or your money or playing social games. It's up to you. It is a creative unfolding of connecting with nature and your fellow beings (human and other) through your own life experience as lived by you in a particular PLACE. You, in your own time and place. It is compatible with science and rationalism, of you do the soul searching. It is compatible with religion, if you do the soul searching.

It has the potential to change the world, because such change has to begin with each person.

The first thing you do, if you are interested in bioregional animism, is to learn what bioregion you live in. Just Google "bioregion" and then do the research. It's really pretty easy. The EPA is another place to start. You have to start with the real world, nature as it really is. If something is true, it will not be contradictory with truth, by definition. Truth abides with truth.

So I'll give you another example (I gave my first example, when I lived in Montana, in my old blog here) of how this is done.

The Iowa Reservation, where I live, straddles the border of Kansas and Nebraska and abuts the Missouri River. The following ecological information is compiled from Ecoregions of Kansas and Nebraska:

Portion relating to reservation.

The larger Ecoregion the reservation is located within is (47) the Western Corn Belt Plains. The larger lighter colored area (47i) is the Loess and Glacial Drift hills ecoregion. The darker brown area (Falls City is located in it) is the Nebraska/Loess Hills area (47h).The area along the Missouri is the Missouri Alluvial Plain (47d).

"Once covered with tallgrass praire, over 90 percent of the Western Corn Belt Plains ecoregion is now used for cropland agriculture and much of the remainder is in forage for livestock. A combination of nearly level to gently rolling glaciated till plains and hilly loess plains, ample precipitation mainly in the growing season; and fertile, warm, moist soils make this one of the most productive areas of corn and soybeans in the world. Agricultural practices have contributed to environmental  concerns, including surface and ground water contamination from soil erosion, fertilizer and pesticide applications, as well as livestock concentrations."

The northern boundary of the reservation is the Big Nemaha River (historically also called the Great Nemaha River). It feeds into the Missouri River, which forms the northeast and eastern boundary of the Iowa reservation.

47d The Missouri Alluvial Plain ecoregion is part of the large, wide, alluvial valley also found in neighboring Iowa and Missouri. The generally level alluvial plain is distinct from the more irregular topography of adjacent regions 47h and 47k (ne Nebraska loess hills). Soils are deep, silty, clayey, and sandy alluvium. They support extensive cropland, some of it irrigated. Historically the river was meandering, free flowing, and spread across the floodplain. Dams, levees, and stream channelization have profoundly altered the structure and characteristics of the river valley.
Physiography: Glaciated. Level floodplain alluvium. Riparian wetlands largely drained.
Elevation: 800-1200; Local relief: 2-50’.
Geology: Surficial Material and Bedrock: Alluvial deposits over Cretaceous sandstone and shale (Carlile shale through Dakota sandstone) in the north, and Pennsylvanianshale, sandstone, and limestone to the south.
Soil Order (Great Group): Entisols (Fluvaquents, Udifluvents, Udipsamments). Common Soil Series: Albaton, Haynie, Sarpy, Onawa.
Climate: Temperature/Moisture Regimes: Mesic/Aquic. Precipitation, Mean annual (inches): 23-35. Frost Free, mean annual (days): 135-180. Mean temperature: January min. 15/ max. 35, July min. 66/ max. 91.
Potential natural vegetation: Northern floodplain forest: cottonwood, green ash, boxelder, and elm, with lowland tallgrass prairie: big bluestem, prairie cordgrass, switchgrass, and sedges.
Land Use and Land Cover (current): Intensively farmed for corn and soybeans. Transportation corridor with most areas drained by surface ditches, land grading, or protected by dams or levees.

47h The greater relief and deep loess hills of the Nebraska/Kansas Loess Hills are markedly different from the flat alluvial valley of neighboring 47d. Dissected hills with deep, silty, well drained soils supported a potential natural vegetation of tallgrass prairie with scattered oal hickory foress along stream valleys. Cropland agriculture is now common and ample precipitation in the growing season supports dryland agriculture, with only a few areas requiring irrigation.
Physiography: Glaciated. Deep, rolling loess-covered hills. Perennial streams.
Elevation: 1000-1500; local relief 100-300’.
Geology: Loess mantle with underlying calcareous glacial till on Pennsylvanian shale, sandstone and limestone.
Soils: Order (Great Group): Mollisols (Argiudolls, Argiabolls, Hapludolls), Entisols (Udorthents); Common Soil Series: Fillmore, Marshall, Ponca, Monona, Ida, Askarben; Temperature/Moisture Regimes: Mesic/Aquic
Climate: Precipitation in mean annual inches: 26-34; Frost Free in mean annual days: 150-190; Mean temperature: January min 16/max 38, July 66/92.
Potential vegetation: Tallgrass prairie: big bluestem, Indiangrass, switchgrass, and little bluestem. Scattered oak-hickory forests and some floodplain woodlands along rivers and streams: bur oak, basswood, black walnut, green ash, plains cottonwood, willows.
Current vegetation: Principally in cropland except in the steep slopes, which are in trees and pasture. Corn, beans, soybeans, small grains, alfalfa are typical crops.

47i “Low, rolling loess-covered hills with areas of exposed glacial till are characteristic of the Loess and Glacial Drift Hills. Loess deposits are generally thinner than those in 47h, and historically there was less oak-hickory forest and more extensive tallgrass prairie than found in 47h. The flatter loess hills have a silty, clay loam soil that supports cropland, while rangeland is somewhat more extensive on the deep clay loams formed in glacial till soils.”
Physiography: Glaciated. Rolling low hills. Perennial streams.
Elevation: 1000-1600; local relief 100-300.
Geology: Loess and clay loam calcareous glacial till. Loess is variable. Generally loess depth decreases with distance from source rivers. Pennsylvanian shale, sandstone, and limestone and Permian shale and limestone.
Soils: Order (Great Group): Mollisols (Argiudolls), Entisols (Udorthents); Common Soil Series: Wymore, Pawnee, Burchard, Askarben, Steinauer, Morrel; Temperature/Moisture Regimes: Mesic/Udic
Climate: Precipitation in mean annual inches: 27-35; Frost Free in mean annual days: 150-190; Mean temperature: January min 14/max 34, July 66/92.
Potential vegetation: Tallgrass prairie with cottonwood-dominated forests along floodplains and oak-hickory forests on bluffs.
Current vegetation: Predominately cropland on the flatter loess hils with main crops of wheat and corn, and some areas in grain sorghum, soybeans, and alfalfa. Pasture land is more extensive on till soils.

So after you figure out the facts of your own bioregion, you will have a framework of how nature works where you are, and what you will find out there, on the land, and what might find you.

The next thing to do is to look up all the unfamiliar terms, and learn what they mean. Even if you are somewhat familiar, you might need to refresh your memory so you really understand them! So far one might have these, for example:

loess: wind-blown silt that can build hills

glacial drift: materials left behind by glaciers; there are different kinds of drift, such as unsorted drift (till) and sorted/stratified drift

glacial till: the kind of glacial drift that has unsorted/unstratified sediments of varying sizes and types

various soils and soil types: mollisol, argiudolls, udorthents, etc.

calcareous: appearing to be a chalky or limey substance, which is made of calcium carbonate

alluvial/alluvium - sediments eroded and then redeposited by freshwater like streams or rivers (not rain erosion/deposition which is colluvial/colluvium)

This is all to give you a framework to begin with. Next, you look for the major plant-animal community types or associations within the ecoregions…