Tag Archives: anthropology

Creationism of the Iroquois League

First, it should be mentioned that the Iroquois, despite popular belief, was not a tribe in itself but a league of five Native American tribes: the Cayuga, Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, and Tuscarora (Converse, 2006). I believe that it is this amalgamation of heritage and culture that lends to such a diverse and rich mythology. The creation story of the Iroquois is not a single story but a selection of variations upon a common theme. This story has been handed down in oral fashion well before colonial times. As such, the variations have grown with the inflections and understanding of each storyteller. Some of the common themes in this story describe a heavenly island in space upon which there is no suffering, no war, and no death, only eternal peace and abundance. This island hovers above an earth covered in water. On the floating island there is a tree, the tree of light or the council tree. This tree was “perpetually laden with fruit and blossoms” (Converse, 2006, p. 32). One day, the ruler, the Great Creative Being, decided to create a new place for the people to grow. In knowing that the world of the cloud sea (earth) existed under the council tree, he commanded the tree uprooted so that the cloud sea might be nurtured to grow. After uprooting the tree, the Great Creative Being sent a woman who was with child down to the cloud sea. As she descended, the animals of the cloud sea created a place for her to rest upon the back of Great Turtle.

At this point, the story breaks into many of the known variations (Converse, 2006; Iroquois Indian Museum, 2010; Williams College, 1997). In some tellings, the woman gives birth to twins, one good and one evil. In at least one account, the woman gives birth to a girl who in turn gives birth to the hero and villain of the story. In all versions, ultimately, the twins are born and the good twin creates beauty and abundance while the bad twin attempts to destroy these things that his brother has created. The brothers eventually take up battle against each other, with the good twin victorious, and life goes on. Each facet of life and nature being a personified allusion of spirit-beings. The story varies so much at this point that to continue in detail would bring this discussion outside of its purview.

The Iroquois creation story, as so many others, tells of a beginning of life on earth, but it fails to tell the story from the initial creation. In this story, there is already a civilization of beings in existence that bears our ancestors. What this story does accomplish, however, is tying a primeval importance to the creatures and land that they rely upon. This story teaches to nourish the land and respect the animals, probably instilling a sense of responsibility because they understand, if not fully, that their existence and quality of life is dependent on the abundance of the land. Parallels can be drawn to some of the interpretations of the Sumerian creation story (Langdon, 1915) and the variations leading to the classical religions’ (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) telling of creation (Al-Baqarah 30, Qu’ran; Al-Hijr 28, Qu’ran; Al-A’raf 54, Qu’ran; Ar-Rahman 14, Qu’ran; Al-Sajdah 4, Qu’ran; Genesis 1-11, King James Bible; Genesis 1-11, Torah).


Converse, H. M. (2006). In A. C. Parker (Ed.), Myths and legends of the New York State Iroquois. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=C0A8zSkQJrEC

Iroquois Indian Museum. (2010). Creation story I. Retrieved from http://www.iroquoismuseum.org/creation.htm

Langdon, S. (1915). Sumerian epic of paradise, the flood and the fall of man. The University Museum Publications of the Babylonian Section, 10(1-4). Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Museum. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=5w4TAAAAYAAJ

Williams College, Computer Science Department. (1997). Iroquois creation myth. Retrieved from http://www.cs.williams.edu/~lindsey/myths/myths_12.html

A Personal Ethnographic Narrative

I have always viewed my being from philosophy. I do not believe that I have ever appreciated myself from an anthropological viewpoint. Though I have always been more interested in where did we come from, anthropology and ethnography certainly does help to answer how did we get here.

On December 7, 1975, at 4:48 a.m., I was born in Providence, Rhode Island. A healthy boy of healthy weight, I never suffered much in childhood. I do remember the chicken pox, however. My mother was sure to make me play with every child suffering from the chicken pox until it finally gripped me. This was my first experience in active inoculation. I was always well cared for, received all of my shots in timely fashion, and the doctor’s office remains a fond childhood memory. Medicine was just practiced differently in those days.

My early childhood was based primarily around my grandparents. My mother was a single parent, and though it irked her to do so, she relied heavily on State-sponsored welfare. My mother was a strong and determined woman, however. She continued her schooling, found a job with a sustainable wage, and made a great home for us. Until this time, though, I spent the majority of time with my grandfather. From a very young age, I was learning his trade as well as his life lessons. Today, I do not think many five-year-olds would be able to cut and wet sand glass in a licensed shop. Working with my grandfather, once a week when I attended school, framed my work ethic and provided an early education in engineering. This opportunity allowed me comfort in engineering at an early age. In fact, my interest in engineering was so pronounced that I was already considering California Institute of Technology at age ten. Massachusetts Institute of Technology was my second choice.

My family had it hard. My grandparents raised five children and helped to raise 13 grandchildren. We were not an affluent family by any means, but we lived comfortably if not rustic. Though my ancestry is primarily Italian, my mother’s parents are primarily Irish, English, and German, and this is how we ate. Meat and potatoes were the staples of dinner while fresh vegetables were cultivated in my grandfather’s garden. Simplicity did not end at the kitchen door. My grandfather’s first meaningful gift to me was a knife. Very simple with a fork and spoon on the sides, the knife was very utilitarian in nature. His belief was that you could not be a good steward of the environment without a knife: “How can you take a walk in the woods if you can’t even whittle a walking stick?” (personal communication with Malcolm Webb, n.d.). It was very important to him that I had honed my outdoor skills.

For leisure and sport, my grandfather would hunt rabbit with beagles. He belonged to a club in Rhode Island that held competition trials, and I was always made welcome. After a few years, I started to enter dogs that I helped to raise and train. Immediately, I began accumulating trophies that were taller than me. To be honest, the trophies might have had my name on them, but the dogs earned them more than I had. It was this foray into competition that introduced me to the team concept. Thinking back on this today, however, I find that this concept is alien to most people. Many people today, I find, want to do no work and take most of the credit. It is only when you stand up to these people that you hear comments about being a part of the team. It is a shame. It seems that yesterday’s definitions need to be defended today.

I have always been aloof and wondrous as a child. With translation assistance from the Native Languages of the Americas website (2009), my name might have been mautáubon tamóccon nemík kéesuck túppaco (morning fog sees the heavens by night or one with many questions) if I was Narragansett. Rhode Island has a rich Narragansett and Algonquin heritage and history, and this is transmitted to every inhabitant of Rhode Island. Many of our streets, villages, cities, and towns are named with Indian words and names, such as Apponaug, Chepatchet, Metacom, Misquamacut, Woonasquatucket, and Pawtucket. We are very proud of the relationship that Roger Williams, our State founder, had with the local tribes. This lasting relationship may be the reason why Rhode Islanders are typically naturalistic and prefer a rustic life proximate to water over city life.

During my formative years, my mother married and we moved to North Providence from Warwick. My step-father was Italian, and it was from his family that I learned of my Italian heritage and culture. Beyond the Mediterranean-style food, the most important lesson that I learned was loyalty. Many people have a misconception about Italian loyalty. Hollywood often depicts Italians as mafioso who shakedown store owners on a daily basis. In fact, we are very supportive of each other. So long as you are considered loyal, as an Italian, people will do you favors. It is expected that you return the favor. I have applied this lesson many times throughout my life. Again, this is a trait that many hold as one-sided, like teamwork.

After moving to North Providence, it seems that I did not much care for school. I always felt that I was being cheated out of an education. I am a reader, a learner, a student, and a teacher. I do not appreciate being taught incomplete and erroneous facts merely because it is written in the textbook. I began my own education from this point onward focusing on the arts and music, taking up drawing, poetry, and studying music theory and some of the classical languages. These, though, were hobbies and I made sure to keep them that way.

Aside from school, I remained focused on the outdoors. I would walk everywhere within the State. Distance was not a barrier. Rhode Islanders are known for staying local. If a Rhode Islander had to travel 10 miles or more, the joke was that they had to get a motel room for the night. As true as this held for most, it was not descriptive of me. I always took the road less traveled.

Throughout my high school years, I gave up on the engineering dream. I started to focus more on giving back to my community. A friend of mine introduced me to one of the local volunteer fire departments and I was hooked. After graduating from high school, I enlisted in the Marine Corps, but when I returned to civilian life, I focused on the fire service. This was the impetus for my attaining my emergency medical technician license and, ultimately, my paramedic and critical care credentials.

Though I have traveled extensively, I always seem to return to New England. I am currently living just beyond the Western border of Rhode Island in Connecticut (another Indian name).

Considering the anthropological roles outlined in Omohundro (2008), I would have to align myself with all five roles. The reformer looks to make the world a better place, regardless of his or her motivations. The critic is necessary to use introspection to identify personal weaknesses ingrained in cultural learning so that he or she may contemplate self-improvement. This, I feel, is the best role to take on first. Only after seeking to improve one’s intrinsic nature should someone seek to change the extrinsic. The scientist role is important to really think about the factors relating to certain problems. Without this role, one could have lofty goals only to find failure in execution for a lack of understanding. The role of the humanist should be used as an umbrella. When considering anthropology, we need to have a certain understanding and tolerance. This role allows us be compassionate when considering cultural issues. Finally, the means to the end is the cosmopolite role. This role gives us more tools to further our understanding. Hand-in-hand with the humanist role, the cosmopolite has a truer understanding of origination and context when dealing with the various cultures of the world.

Personally, I take on more aspects of the critic and the scientist. I am not an anthropologist, and I do not consider myself as having a platform to affect cultural change, but I do like to identify and understand problems so that I do not contribute to them negatively. More so, being mindful of the critical and scientific anthropology roles leads me to understand that there is still much to learn about my own culture and heritage and how this identity relates to the world around me. Foremost, I want to know the effect that my ancestors have had on world. I want to understand the problems they faced and the means employed to overcome them. I want to know decisions that have been made and the fallout associated with these decisions. I have always found it important to learn from the past, and though the sins of the father shall not encumber the son, we should still strive to avoid repeating historical mistakes. Second, I want to find a means to assess my own life and better understand how my existence impacts my community. I have always believed that I should make positive contributions to my community, but there is no benchmark. As a critical care paramedic, I assume that alleviating suffering and saving lives positively contributes to my community, but how can I know the harm that I might be causing in other aspects of my life? We cannot only understand the good we impart, but we must know the bad in order to prevent it.


Native languages of the Americas website. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.native-languages.org

Omohundro, J. T. (2008). Thinking like an anthropologist: A practical introduction to cultural anthropology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Conquest of Indigenous Populations

The native Americans of the Great Lakes region were thankful for the opportunity to trade fur with the multitude of nations that presented themselves in friendship from the 14th to the 17th centuries (Reader’s Digest, 1978, p. 149). It was the conquest of land, ordered by King James I and King Charles II, that negatively affected the indigenous populations (p.149). It was this progressive agenda that marginalized the native Americans and ultimately caused King Philip’s year long war as well as other campaigns against the white settlers of the east coast (p. 152). Throughout this time, many tribal nations were decimated by other nations while competing for trade of the more powerful weapons the white settlers could provide. The tattered tribes would move and join in alliances with other defeated tribes to minimize the possibility of a recurrence and to ensure procreation and ultimate tribal survival (p. 152). This intermingling surely had an effect on the biological make-up of the various tribal nations. I feel that much of the negativity could have been avoided with a simple sense of respect.

Currently, there are many indigenous peoples facing a number of problems with colonization. The aborginal women of Ontario, Canada, are a specific example of how an overall lack of respect leads to the marginalization of a whole culture. “Aboriginal women have a lower life expectancy than non-aboriginal women, and higher incidences of diabetes, HIV/AIDS, tobacco addiction, and suicide (up to eight times the rate experienced by other women)” (as cited in Ontario Native Women’s Association [ONWA], n.d., p. 4). To address these concerns, the community has formed organizations like ONWA and the Native Women’s Association of Canada to provide a unified voice to advocate for improved status for aboriginal women in Canada. As their position paper states, “the ONWA makes recommendations for future actions to begin the process of initiating the necessary changes with a special focus on the need for grassroots control, activism, and leadership development for Aboriginal women” (p. 1). In addition to advocating for the equality of aboriginal women, the ONWA also advocates for the environment recognizing the increasing levels of waterway pollution and other environmental concerns.

Thus far, the ONWA has developed programs to address health concerns, gambling addictions, workforce development, housing and justice (ONWA, 2010). As a grassroots activist organization, the ONWA appears to be gaining ground for the equality of aboriginal women in Ontario.


Ontario Native Women’s Association. (n.d.). Contemporary issues facing aboriginal women in Ontario: An Ontario Native Women’s Association position paper. Thunder Bay, ON: Author.

Ontario Native Women’s Association. (2010, May 27). About us. Retrieved from http://www.onwa-tbay.ca/aboutus.htm

Reader’s Digest. (1978). In J. A. Maxwell’s (Ed.), America’s fascinating Indian heritage. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association.

Conversations in the Back of the Ambulance

MS: So, we have about a half-hour ride to the other hospital. Would you be willing to help me out with a project for my anthropology class?

AP: Sure, we’ve been having quite a conversation so far.

MS: Okay, for the record and because of medical privacy concerns I will acknowledge your participation with the initials AP for Anonymous Participant. Also, I have to make sure that I note the generational differences between us.

AP: Well, that shouldn’t be too hard to do.

MS: No, certainly not. For documentation sake, let us say that you are in your 70’s, and we can leave it at that.

AP: I’m closer to eighty, though?!

MS: Wow, can’t even do a guy a favor!

AP: HA! So, what are these questions? I imagine it’s how to pick up the ladies, right?

MS: Yeah, sure, let’s start there! Actually, I wanted to ask more about your views growing up. Politics, religion, et cetera.

AP: Well, let’s start with religion. I think that will be the easiest.

MS: Okay, religion.

AP: Well, let’s see… I grew up in a fairly Protestant family. I mean, we went to church every Sunday and all, but we were never overly religious.

MS: Would you say that you were tolerant of other religions, or did you view your religion as the true religion of your god?

AP: Oh, no! We were very tolerant. We would never look down on anyone else because of their beliefs, especially their religious ties. The only problems that I have ever had with people were, well, the neighborly scuff – whose fence is on whose property – and, of course, mechanics. $1000 to install a $25 part… highway robbery for sure! And, I am sure I won’t like you too much after I get your bill!

MS: Obama will take of that, though, right? Actually, I do want to talk about your political views here in a minute, but let’s keep on religion for now. Do you think your views of religion have changed much over the years?

AP: Well, that’s tough to say. I’m pretty old, and I know that I’m gonna die pretty soon. It makes you think, you know? I mean, I know I want to make sure that I get a chance to tell the kids and the grandkids how proud I am of them, and I pray to God every day that I will get that chance. They all live in different States, so it’s tough to get them all together, lately. But, I find myself talking to God a lot more these days, but I am not sure if I believe in Him any more than I used to, as an adult, I mean. As a kid, he’s like Santa Claus or the Tooth-fairy; you believe in Him for no other reason than you were told to.

MS: Yeah, that’s kinda where I’ve been. I can understand that there might be a consciousness that is ultimately responsible for our creation, but I am not sure if I believe he knows what exactly he has created. Accidental or otherwise, we do exist, and it would only make sense that something put this in motion. Maybe I’m a theist, but mostly I don’t think about it. I’m usually agnostic or atheistic. Perhaps, I’m an agnostic theist?!

AP: Well, when you get as old as me, you want to make sure you are on the good-boy list.

MS: That’s Santa?!

AP: Close enough.

MS: Alright, let’s talk politics. I’ll keep it simple at first. George Washington, good or bad?

AP: Good, no great! He was a great man, Washington.

MS: Tyler?

AP: Who?

MS: Abraham Lincoln?

AP: Great!

MS: Wilson?

AP: What? Woodrow Wilson? Ungh… That was an evil man. Let me tell you about Wilson. Wilson is why this country is the way it is. I imagine that others before him wanted to do some of the things that he did, but sheesh, Wilson was the one that got it done. And, done, indeed, it is.

MS: What was so bad about Wilson?

AP: Have you ever heard of the Great Depression? That was Wilson’s work, there. Yeah, it happened a few years after he died, but the framework was his alone. Who were those other two guys? They came after Wilson…. I can’t think.

MS: Harding and Coolidge?

AP: That’s them. I remember my father telling me that if it weren’t for those two, Hoover wouldn’t have had a chance. Hoover was actually in office during the start of it, the depression. Lucky for me, I don’t remember it. In fact, don’t remember him. I think the first President that I can remember was F.D.R. He was the war President. As far as I recall, though, I think Hoover just ran with the Wilson plan, killing everything Harding and Coolidge did to fix the problems.

MS: So, I’m guessing you are a Conservative? A Republican, perhaps?

AP: I remember waving the flag for Roosevelt, so I guess I was a Democrat, then, you know, at twelve years old, or however old I was then… probably more like nine or ten. But, as I got older, especially from the time the war ended, I started paying attention to politics. I’ll tell you, it makes not one lick of difference if the guy is black, brown, yellow or white; if he’s a politician, he’s both a liar and a thief! We have had very few politicians that were honorable men, very few. And, these Progressives, well, they are the worst of them. This Obama is one of them.

MS: Yes, I believe Obama is a self-proclaimed Progressive.

AP: And, it shows. Wilson was a Progressive. Too many of them are. And, they don’t tell you! That’s the worst of them. They tell you what you want to hear, you elect them, then they do this about-face and spend, spend, spend us into oblivion. Looking back, this is certainly not my father’s country anymore. Ford was good, though. He never gets any recognition.

MS: So, Ford, good; Wilson, bad. Is that right?

AP: Yup!

MS: Interesting. I’m going to have to read up on Ford a bit more. You mentioned something about race a minute ago: “Brown, black, yellow, white”, something. What are your views on race relations in the United States?

AP: Oh, no… You aren’t gonna like me much after this conversation, but I’ll be honest. I always try to be honest.

MS: Okay, Ben Franklin, let me have it.

AP: Ha! Well, I can honestly… heh, honest… say that I have no problem doing business or maintaining friendships with anyone of any race, nationality, or creed. The problem that I have is the laziness and the sense of entitlement that many people have today. Fifty years ago, you didn’t see that, not like today, anyway. It’s just unfortunate that the minorities tend to have this attitude, this air of you’re not better than me, so give me money so I don’t have to work.

MS: Ahh, so the Progressives rear their ugly heads once again!

AP: Exactly! And, that’s what I was talking about. It’s this idea that if we give them money, they will use it to rise up and overcome poverty or something. Almost magical thoughts of levitation, if you will. One day, they will learn that if you keep giving people stuff, there will come a time when they forget how to earn it. Same with me. I’m sure that if the government sent me a check every week for not working, at some point, I would become complacent and not work. I doubt it, but it is possible I guess.

MS: Is it the government’s place to give out all of these entitlements?

AP: Again, I’m old, but I’ve made a pretty decent living for myself over the years. Medicare is a horrible system, but between that and my other insurance, at least you’ll get paid!

MS: Well, I’m not too worried about that. You sign my form, and that’s all I care about for payment. We have people!

AP: Yeah, tough guys always have people. But, community… community and family is what we need to get back to. That used to be enough. Granted, there were times that were really tough, especially for my family when I was born and right before. We had tough times, but we got through them. We were smart about it. We trusted that it couldn’t last too long, and it never did.

MS: Well, one thing that I’ve noticed is the propensity of my generation to move away from family. I think we rely on the internet for communication and planes, trains, and automobiles to visit from time to time.

AP: Well, we had a farm. When the family has a farm, you help run it. Actually, I think it was the farm that kept our heads above water all those years.

MS: I always wanted a farm. Is it still in the family?

AP: Nah. None of the kids wanted to keep it up. It is hard work running that farm, but we sold it off, paid our debts, and invested the rest. Pretty much been living on that after we retired.

MS: So, what was life like on the farm? I mean, family life specifically.

AP: Well, our farm was a part-time venture, so to speak. I would wake up, do some chores, have breakfast, go to work, come home, do some chores, eat dinner, do some chores, go to bed, and repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the hell out of it. The kids helped out when they were old enough, but the wife kept the whole ship running smooth. If it weren’t for her… well, let’s just say I wouldn’t still be here.

MS: Television and movies about years ago seemed to marginalize women. The wives cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, had babies… you’re laughing?

AP: My wife cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, had babies, sure, but I cooked, I cleaned, I did laundry, and I was very involved in the raising of our children. Don’t let those programs fool you. Family was family. We did it all. In fact, we both left for work at about the same time, though she would get home sooner than me. She only worked around the corner.

MS: You are describing a very concerted effort at keeping house and home.

AP: If you find a young woman to love, you take good care of her, and she will take good care of you. I remember a few guys that would mistreat their ladies, but back then, well, back then, we took care of things like that. Times get tough, but don’t mistreat your lady.

MS: Speaking of your wife, she said that she would meet us up here. So, I should give her all the respect in the world?

AP: Anything less, and I’ll smack you one!

MS: It seems chivalry ain’t dead!

AP: Not as long as I’m around, and I ain’t going anywhere, yet!

MS: No, it seems that you will be around to cause her grief for a little while longer, at least, but not with me. It seems like we’ve arrived. It was absolutely great hearing your story. I am honored. Is there anything that you would like to add?

AP: Yeah, tell the driver not to hit so many bumps next time!

MS: He’ll be opening the doors here in a minute. You can tell him yourself. Thank you again.

AP: Anytime, but next time, come by the house. I don’t need another ambulance bill!

MS: Understood.

As a paramedic, I enjoy many benefits. The single best benefit is certainly the ability to meet new people and talk to them. For this assignment, I felt it best to rely on the random nature of my job to gain the perspective of someone I have never met before. There are limitations, though, to this method of choosing a potential informant for this interview. Paramedics are bound by confidentiality, and though the informant granted express permission to use his words and his story, I could not ask him to waive his rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (1996). I felt that the limitation was not an undue hardship, and the benefits of gaining such a random perspective far outweighed the benefits of identification of the informant.

The informant that I interviewed was a 70-something year-old gentleman who was more than eager to share his story with someone so interested in listening. The most important discovery of the entire interview was that we all have interesting life lessons to share. If only more people would stop to listen, important lessons could be taught.

It is very important to note that this interview was conducted during a time when the informants mortality was in question. I feel that this opportunity is unique in the honesty and conviction of the responses to my questions. We started the interview by talking about religion.

The informant and I feel that we have quite the same religious background and beliefs (personal communication, June 2010). When I approached the topic of religious tolerance, he seemed to be more cognizant of character and overall morals separate from specific religious practices. This thought reinforced some of my core beliefs about the human condition, about how we are moral creatures.

Discussing politics gave me some real insight into how earlier Americans might have viewed the progressive versus conservative debate originally (Anonymous, personal communication, June 2010). I am sure that the informant is not an exemplar of all twentieth century American political thought, but he was able to draw some parallels with the current political environment. Tough times arise and people tend to get nervous about economic survival. It is easy to conceive that an incomplete understanding of politics and economics fuels the debate on both sides of the issues.

From politics, we moved on to discuss his view of race relations in the United States. Interestingly, it seems as though my informant might have been resigned to accept that he might have some racist tendencies until I asked him his thoughts and understanding of race (personal communication, June 2010). It turns out that he was slightly mistaken. My informant realized, during our conversation, that it was not racial differences that he was upset about but a general lack of motivation seen in many people over the years. It is just an unfortunate twist that he associated this laziness with racial stereotypes. Though we changed the subject quite abruptly, I could sense a rebuilding of his understanding of racial differences. It was good to see such a thing take place.

Family was strong throughout my informants life (personal communication, June 2010). Whether we were speaking of being raised by post-depression era parents or farm life with his own family, there was always cooperation to make the family structure work. I took exceptional notice during this portion of the interview. In the contemporary United States, I have noticed a disintegration of family and community. In childhood, I recognized the meaningfulness of family bonds and community spirit. I wonder how this changed. My informant describes a time that was not particularly easy on him or his wife, but they remained loyal to each other and to the family, specifically. Today, it outwardly appears to makes more sense for some to seek a better alternative at the first hint of difficulty or trouble. This is not what family means to either of us, and I am glad to see an example of how things work out pleasantly in the end.

Our interview ended with a particularly entertaining joke about him protecting his wife from any irresponsible comments that I might make (Anonymous, personal communication, June 2010). I am sure that he did not feel that he had to actually protect her from me, but I think he felt that he needed to make me understand how much he cared for his wife. Man to man, an idle threat seems to convey a universal understanding between men, whether serious or joking. I am glad to have witnessed this show of strength. I am sure that he is contemplating the fact that he will not be around much longer. I hope that he understands that he would leave his wife with good people in the world. I believe that this discussion was the impetus for my patient to realize that the world outside of [his neighborhood] is not a hostile or unfriendly world. I also think he realized that he will not be here forever, and his wife will be taken care of by the community that he supported for so long. I am glad to be a part of that community.


Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-191, §1177, 110 Stat. 2029 (1996).

Creation (Revelations of Genesis)

Beginning the week anew, I still search for the meaning of indigenous identity and how it might apply to me. This week allows me to search, not only my ancestry, but my cultural beliefs in the Creation. If only I believed in the Creation as taught to me in my childhood, the biblical teachings, I could describe the wondrous event that first saw mankind on Earth. Alas, I have grown an independent and scientific mind, and I not only question the existence of a god, but with boldness I question my own existence. This is a very philosophical question for me, and while it is not so important to the comparison of cultural beliefs, per se, that I describe my unwillingness to believe the story that I was told as a child, it is important to me that this distinction be made.

As a child, I was taught a simplistic variation of the Book of Genesis from the King James version of the Christian Bible. The allegory tells of a god, personified, who creates a man, Adam, from dust and a woman, Eve, from Adam’s rib. Unfortunately, after being told this story, I spent a great amount of time and energy convincing my fellow disciples that, in deed, men and women have the same number of ribs. Further reading reveals the story describes a human ascent into an age of agriculture where respect of and responsibility to the land are of great import (Dalley, 1998; Langdon, 1915). I fear that the oversimplification of such a beautiful tale of our coming of age led to its diminished significance.

The Jewish faithful, who share the Genesis story with Christians, celebrate Rosh Hashanah, a feast to celebrate the creation of Adam and his female companion on the sixth day (Leviticus 23:24). Christians, on the other hand, celebrate Easter at about the same time; some with the fervor of the pagan civilizations that celebrated Easter originally before the indoctrination of the Catholic Church. Many of the same traditions and rituals used to celebrate fertility are done during the vernal equinox. This is seen widely during the Spring season. Pardoe (2006) tells of the origins of one of the most peculiar traditions of a Christian celebration: the Easter bunny. Carried to the United States by the German and Dutch immigrants involved a bunny delivering eggs to boys and girls. The story tells of the goddess granting the easter bunny the ability to lay eggs once a year because the bunny was upset after being transformed from a bird. The Easter bunny particularly missed laying eggs and flying, so during the vernal celebrations of the creation of life, The Easter bunny laid colored eggs and hid them in nests designed by children. The Easter bunny was also granted flight as the constellation Lepus through Autumn and Winter.

However, as my family is a fair-minded and clever clan, the biblical description of our origins was juxtaposed with the tellings of science. It is this scientific belief that I will present in comparison to the religious tale.

The theory of evolution and natural selection as researched and published by Darwin (1859) was presented to me at a very early age. Darwin’s theory, in conjunction with many others before and during his time, believed that we as humans exist in the contemporary manner solely on the basis of a series of changes and adaptations that promoted our growth and dominance of our environment. Arguably, no one can say with any certainty how life came to exist from non-life, but Darwin’s research offers a path from just beyond that singularity to the present explaining all life on Earth.

The biblical story of the Creation seems to disagree with science if read without understanding. A closer look, though, tells of man entering into an era when he can use intelligence above cunning and strength over force. Darwin (1859) tells of a process of biological adaptation while the biblical Genesis story imparts the importance of using the mind and body to promote mankind while considering our place on the Earth. Science, however, is not celebrated with grand ritual in the likes of religion. As I was brought up with both stories, I am impartial to neither. Both stories, I feel, are valuable contributions to contemporary life (in the grander scheme of our existence).


Dalley, S. (1998). Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the flood, Gilgamesh, and others. New York, NY: Oxford.

Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species (Sixth ed.) [Adobe Portable Document Format version]. Retrieved from http://www.netlibrary.com/Reader/

Langdon, S. (1915). Sumerian epic of paradise, the flood and the fall of man. Philadelphia, PA: The University of Philadelphia Museum.

Pardoe, E. (2006, April 11). A look at Easter symbolism and the holiday’s pagan roots. Retrieved from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/27142/a_look_at_easter_symbolism_ and_the.html?cat=74

Indigenous People

In order to define a term, such as “indigenous peoples”, one must examine the words that make up the phrase. “Peoples” are collections of societies, and “indigenous” implies nativity or autochthony. I have always considered “indigenous peoples” to be those societies that have an intrinsic relationship to the land inhabited. Ergo, when a society is provided for by the land, the act of habitation changes the land, and that land changes the society in a fundamental way. Whenever this is true and can be applied to a society, then it is a society of indigenous people.

The largest difficulty in defining or categorizing human beings is the resultant scale upon which they are measured as a group. I do not hold such inclinations as to group and sort people based on ethnicity, societal values, economics, or any other humanly devised subjective measures. The United Nations (2008) requires a society to be impoverished or suffer some other gross inequality in order to claim indigeny. I feel that this approach only serves to feed ideologic notions by marginalization and deprives the society from a rightful claim. By attempting to create a system to help indigenous peoples from inequality, the United Nations has sought to identify these peoples and have instead cast a definition upon them. Certainly, this is a problem.


Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2008). Resource kit on indigenous peoples’ issues. New York, NY: United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/resource_kit_indigenous_2008.pdf