[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Frame of Reference - Index

II Humans

Sextus Stele

Pre-historic Tribes

1) The credit for having originated the anthropology of religion in primitive tribes belongs to Edward B. Tylor. He suggests the essence of primitive religion is animism, the belief in spiritual beings in objects and animals, and he shows how this belief originated in a mistaken but consistent interpretation of dreams, visions, hallucinations and cataleptic states. The savage philosopher or theologian also distinguished the human soul from the body. (And this conception persists today.) This singular view of ancient belief systems, however, is too narrow, and probably gives primitive people too much credit. Most "savages" were more interested in simply in fishing, collecting food, hunting, participating in tribal events and festivities than brooding over dreams and visions or explaining cataleptic fits. (It is the arrogance of modern man that he deems himself worthy of freethinking and formulating or choosing his own religion or dis-belief based on his own rational power.)

It is true that primitive Man imagined the outer world in his own image and in generation after generation the story of spirits would be embellished. Animals, plants and objects moved, acted and behaved like Man so they were also endowed with souls or spirits. Thus animism accumulated from observations and by inferences, mistaken but comprehensible, in a crude and untutored mind. (see Primus Stele: Heavens, verse 8) This is true, but according to Malinowski there are many aspects of early religion which cannot be placed in Tylor's scheme of animism alone.

"Early Man seeks to control the course of nature for practical ends, and he does this by performing rites, observing superstitions and inciting spells. He seeks to compel wind, weather, animals and crops to obey his will. In more advanced societies, when magic fails, Man develops organized, even creative appeals to higher beings. Religions are thus created out of fear, hope, supplication and sometimes defiance." (Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion, 1948) This would be a case of having a theory (Tylor's), and fitting the facts to explain and support the theory. Just as animism exists today along with other religious practices, these 'modern' practices can be found among primitive people where the level of culture has risen to the status of the tribe. Human sacrifice and cannibalism, for example, that underlies Christianity, can be found in primitive cultures, and yet still thrives in contemporary society.

2) Archaeologists attempt to reconstruct the earliest levels of human culture by using whatever artifacts are preserved in stone, bone, shell, and other items that maintain recognizable identity. This is like detective work. There are many possible features of culture: clothing, tools, weapons, cooking utensils, boats etc., and these cultures have developed and changed at different rates (or not at all) around the globe.

Among the most primitive people in North America at the time of settlement by white invaders was the Shoshone (which included the Ute, Paiute and Gosiute bands). They pried roots out of the ground with a digging stick, made long nets to snare rabbits, ate grasshoppers, berries and seeds--whatever they could forage. But as "primitive" as they were they had complicated customs, rules of behavior and rituals that dictated the course of their lives, keeping order among their wide ranging, nomadic family groups. Even the digging stick was a specialized implement, not used for other mundane purposes. The social organization of some Shoshone groups ranks among the most primitive ever discovered by anthropologists and may replicate the early life of our most remote ancestors [Homo erectus] more than a million years ago.

3) Sir James Frazer, in his Golden Bough, described the difference between religion and magic. Magic is based on Man's confidence that he can dominate nature if only he knows the laws which govern it, magically. This is a kind of scientific attitude -- using the right feather, rhythm, spell or incense. Religion is the confession of human impotence in certain matters (including controlling one's desires and subduing one's instincts). This lifts Man above the level of magic and He subsequently becomes independent, responsible for himself, along side science (often obstructing science); both science and Man ignoring the appeal to magic. (Knock on wood!)

4) The Anasazi Indians of Arizona, carved circles, spirals, long-tailed lizards and stick figures on the walls of caves. These are the same people who built the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. Anasazi is the Navajo word for 'the Old Ones' and their carvings were once thought to be simple pieces of cave art, but it is now known that many carvings are located to correspond to the path of Sun. One of the most striking is located in the Petrified Forest in Arizona, called the Cave of Life. Anasazi carved a mystic cross with outlines around it. Two days out of each year the setting Sun's last light casts a red dagger on the wall of the cave; the light dims pointing at the center of the cross. This light appears on the cave wall 45 days before and after the Winter Solstice, when the North Pole is tipped farthest away from Sun and the northern hemisphere has its shortest day of the year. On the same days the same phenomenon occurs near Gila Bend, Arizona, in a place called Painted Rocks. Another ray of Sun strikes yet a third ancient carving, that of a long-tailed lizard. These could have served as calendars to assist the Anasazi plant their crops or as part of a worship.

5) Magic in primitive Man springs from the idea of a mystic, impersonal power. The power is evoked by certain actions and is named: mana by some Melanesians, arungquiltha by certain Australian tribes, wakan, orenda, manitu by various American Indians, and nameless but conceived in many places. (Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion, 1948) In modern times, voodoo has gained widespread publicity, Wicka and separately Satan worship are still widely studied and practiced, each of which, presumably, has roots in ancient magic. Thus this magical force may anti-date animism and is the essence of magic.

6) Close on the heels of magic, and intertwined, is the practice of "Totemism:" "...an intimate relation which is supposed to exist between a group of kindred people on the one side, and a species of natural or artificial objects on the other side,..." (Sir James Frazer) The word 'totem' is derived from the Algonkian language of the Ojibway; their expression ototeman means roughly, "he is my relative." Totemism is both a method of social grouping and the beginnings of a religious system of beliefs and practices, another expression of primitive Man's solution to the wonder about His surroundings. This is a blend of anxiety about the most necessary objects of His surroundings, with some preoccupation with those objects (mostly animals) which strike His imagination and attract His attention often individualized for members of the tribe, sometimes associated with individual names.

Relying on totems is not unlike the propensity of modern intellectuals to develop beliefs and even faith in metaphysical constructions, sometimes labeled 'god.' 'Invent your own theology,' is a popular refrain among some liberal religions. This would suggest that it's okay to attach special significance to any sort of object or concept that happens to suit one's fancy. What are the minimum criteria for accepting a totem figure or metaphysical belief? This object or concept and the Telos that evolves, should at least not be destructive of human needs, not mutually exclusive of the rights and pleasures of others who might be affected (no Nazis please).

"Often a clan carries a name to distinguish itself from its neighbors [i.e., Masons, Scientology, The Elks and Rosecrucians], and this along with other Totem and taboo practices reveals the importance of the social aspects in all early forms of cult. As societies enlarge they may also incorporate a recourse to magic by a special practitioner, the sorcerer, [guru,] witch doctor or 'medicine man' (often a woman)." (Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion, 1948) These enlightened leaders were often the creative force in the clan, often the most intelligent who passed on tribal stories by memory, also capable of using their imagination to develop new spells and rites; the earliest and original Freethinkers. (It is no coincidence that the historical account of Jesus 'the Christ' has been made to fit into this description.)

7) Across the Bering Strait from the Eskimo the land is inhabited by close relatives known as the Chukchi. These people developed a different kind of culture. The Chukchi make their dwellings by attaching skins to wooden frameworks that are portable, instead of igloos. Rather than being fierce hunters the Chukchi learned to herd the caribou and use them for portage as necessary. They lived in more highly developed communities and adapted to the Arctic environment as successfully as Eskimos but in a different way. Thus it was that the 'dispora' of humanity created different survival skills and culture based on the circumstances each group confronted.

8) Most textbooks relating the history of India describe the Indus Valley Civilization as a simplistic, brilliant episode that was snuffed out either by marauding Aryans or a sudden flood. For the past six years (1995-2000) the Archaeological Survey of India team headed by Ravindra Singh Bhist, has been systematically excavating an Indus site called Dholavira on the salty marshes of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. Archaeologists are excavating 90 sites both in India and Pakistan that are giving clues about this great prehistoric civilization. The Indus Valley was a misnomer; in size it was the largest prehistoric urban civilization, even bigger than Pharaonic Egypt. The empire was ruled much like a democracy and the Indus people were the world's top exporters. Instead of the Aryans, it was possibly a Great Depression that did them in (or a plague caused by a volcano?). In Lahore, M. Rafigue Mughal, Pakistan's top-ranking archaeologist, says: "It is both a revelation and a revolution. Our history textbooks need to be rewritten." (The Indus Riddle) A well preserved skeleton dating 4,500 years old is just one of the clues being discovered to both date and decipher the development of this ancient culture.

9) South of the Tundra in eastern Canada, from Newfoundland west to the Bering Strait is a forest where deer, elk, moose, bear, caribou and many other fur-bearing mammals roam. Almost everywhere the forest grows Indians lived who belonged to two large language families, the Algonkian and the Athabaskan. East of the Hudson Bay the people spoke Algonkian and include the Montagnais and Naskapi of Labrador, the Micmac of New Brunswick, the Penobscot of Maine, the Chippewa and Ojibway of Ontario. The Indians to the west speak Athabaskan and include the Yellowknife, Chipewyan, Kaska, Slave and Beaver.

Little is known about these people prior to the arrival of the Whites who brought diseases that ravaged the populations. Without the natural immunity to smallpox, the entire Indian population of Canada was nearly eradicated by a single epidemic in about 1780. The Ojibway, originally one of the largest Indian groups north of Mexico, met with such a succession of disasters that as early as 1670 their numbers had dwindled to about one hundred and fifty. These people were organized in composite bands based on cooperation rather than on actual kinship. Later they divided the forest lands into hunting territories and had a strict respect for these hunting rights.

10) Why did the Indians respect each other's territories when they lacked a fear of god, police courts, jails or other social controls? Anxiety or fear of punishment from nature; superstition? Every day they worried about performing many little observances. Among the Salteaux branch of the Ojibway east of Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba, their major sanction was fear of disease. A headache or a raspy throat may cause mild anxiety, but anything more serious brings with it trauma that is out of proportion to the dangers from the illness (a curse). Every disease is the penalty for what the Salteaux call 'bad conduct.' Illness comes from failure to share with others, insults, insufficient attention to the dead, cruelty to other humans or to animals, incest, sexual perversions and homicide. The punishment may take years and a man may commit a transgression that will cause illness decades later in his children. The anxiety reaction, a feeling of helplessness cannot be alleviated until the precise cause of the illness is discovered. The Salteaux must confess their wrong-doing in public and suffer the shame in order to overcome the affects of the problem. Thus the sinner deters others from making the same mistake, for fear of suffering the same consequences. (see Decimus Stele: Folklore - Superstition, verse 3)

Many of the Algonkian and Athabaskan bands believe in reincarnation, whereas the Shoshone and Eskimo do not (in the normal sense the word is used). Proof of the previous existence comes in the form of dreams about details of an earlier life. This belief comes when the cooperative band is large enough to exist from generation to generation, and memory of individuals is carried forward and becomes associated with subsequent persons with similar traits. (Peter Farb, Man's Rise to Civilization, 1968)

11) There is evidence among some primitive peoples of a belief in one god and of the important place of morals in primitive religion. There is a misconception and intellectual bias that origins of religion must be very crude and simple and different from the developed or modern forms of religion. As it turns out, the modern forms of religion can be found in ancient history along with the more simple concepts of magic and animism, just as these 'primitive' arts still exist today.

There is among some Australian natives the belief in a tribal "All-Father" that dates to the origins of these people, suggesting a very primitive existence for monotheism (as much as 30,000 years back in time). Today we are somewhat perplexed by the discovery that to a savage all life is religion, that he perpetually lives in a world of mysticism and rituals, which is the foundation of his moral thought and pervades all human conduct as it does for many modern moralists. Magic and religion are not merely a set of doctrines or philosophies, not merely intellectual opinions, but special modes of behavior, internalized in the adherent. These incorporate a pragmatic attitude made of reason, feeling and will at the same time. These dictate a mode of action as well as a system of belief and can be described as a sociological phenomenon as well as a personal experience. To say any less is to deny the significance of religious experience for social groups. Is this what an Atheist lacks because they are by definition on the outside looking in?


"If you are saying there are various systems of ethics you are not saying they are all equally right. That means nothing. Just as it would have no meaning to say that each was right from his own standpoint. That could only mean that each judges as he 'does.' [validating ethnocentricity]

...There is no one system in which you can study in its purity and its essence what ethics is. We use the term 'ethics' for a variety of systems, and for philosophy this variety is important. Obviously different ethical systems have points in common. There must be grounds for saying that people who follow a particular system are making ethical judgments [by their intention?]: that they regard this or that as good. . . But it does not follow that what those people say must be an expression of some thing more ultimate.

...When we study ethical systems other than our own, there is a special temptation to interpret them. We are inclined to think that expressions as they are used in those ethical discussions have some significance which they suggest to us -- instead of looking at what is done with them there. Consider. . . 'L'homme est bon' and 'La femme est bonne'. . . the temptation is to think that this must really mean that the man has a masculine goodness and the woman has a feminine goodness. . . yet this is not what the French say. What they really mean is what they say [and one must understand their culture to perceive any difference if there is any].

In considering a different system of ethics there may be a strong temptation to think that what seems to us to express the justification of an action must be what really justifies it there, whereas the real reasons are the reasons that are given [by the people]. These 'are' the reasons for or against the action. 'Reason' doesn't always mean the same thing and in ethics we have to keep from assuming that reasons must really be of a different sort from what they are seen to be. " (Ludwig Wittgenstein on Anthropology.)

13) The ritual custom in which a horsehide with the head and feet attached is displayed on a pole to mark a sacred location is widely documented in pre-Christian Europe. This rite is documented to exist in the 20th Century among the Buryat and Oirot peoples who live between the Altai Mountains and Lake Baikal in Asian Russia; it may persist today. The myth that a horse bears souls to the gates of Hades where dogs stand guard is found in many societies and has existed since pre-historic times.

14) Through a good telescope, we can actually watch the Sun boil. The McMath Solar Telescope on the summit of Kitt Peak, near Tucson, Arizona, at the time of its construction was the largest of its kind at 300 feet long. The mountain on which it stands belongs to the Papago Indians, who at first refused to allow astronomers to build because it is the sacred dwelling place of their god, Eel-ol-top. But a group of astronomers invited the Papago tribal council to view the Moon through a telescope, and the Indians were moved. Eel-ol-top is the guardian of the heavens, and the tribal leaders concluded that the mountain god and the astronomers probably would get along. The Papagos have leased Kitt Peak to scientists ever since.

The McMath Solar Telescope casts an image of the Sun on a large table in a dark underground chamber. The solar disc is almost a yard in diameter and this 'photosphere' is viewed only through welder's dark glasses. The image is grainy with each texture detail lasting only a few minutes. Each dark grain is a giant bubble of gas 1,500 kilometers across that has risen from the depths of Sun to burst or subside. In fast motion this gives a vision of a pot of boiling rice, possibly a fitting offering to the god Eel-ol-top. The 'chromosphere' and 'corona' are not visible against this bright offering but can be seen when Moon eclipses and blocks out the main light.

15) Before the coming of the Whites, the Shoshone, pitiful and impoverished to some others as they were, had nevertheless achieved one of the noblest aspirations of civilized man. They did not engage in warfare. The explanation does not lie in some superior Shoshone ethic or in their being 'Noble Red Men,' but in more practical matters. The Shoshone had no reason and no desire to gain military honors (they did not count coup) for these were meaningless in their kind of society. They had no territories to defend, for a territory is valuable only at those times when it is producing food and those were the times when the Shoshone cooperated, rather than made war. Even if they had wanted to steal from richer neighbors, they lacked both the weapons, the numbers and a society sufficiently complex to be organized for concerted action. Whenever others invaded their lands and attacked them, the Shoshone simply ran away and hid. Even when horses became available these were not kept by the Shoshone because in the arid portions of the Great Basin the horses would eat the very plants which supported the Shoshone. (Peter Farb, Man's Rise to Civilization, 1968)

16) The northern lights, aurora borealis (the opposite of aurora australis over Antarctica), are commonplace near the Arctic Circle, but they are very rarely seen farther south, so in ancient times they inspired holy dread. When the lights appear far from the poles they are generally a deep red. The surprise combined with the ominous color makes them stupendously frightening. "Under Tiberius Caesar" according to the Roman historian Seneca, "the cohorts [families of gods] ran together in aid of the colony of Ostia as if it were in flames. The glowing of the sky lasted through a great part of the night, shining dimly like a vast and smoking fire." But Ostia was unharmed, the fires were among the stars.

On the night of January 12, 1570 a similar event was recorded in Kuttenberg, Bohemia. The people saw "many burning torches like tapers and among these stood two great pillars, one towards the east and the other due north, so that the town appeared illuminated as if it were ablaze... And in order that this miraculous sign from God might be seen by the people, the night-watchmen on the towers sounded the alarm bells; and when the people saw it they were horrified and said that no such gruesome spectacle had been seen or heard of within living memory." Pre-historic people would have had the same sense of wonder (as we do still) and it is easy to imagine how such an event might be an omen of ill or good.

Eskimo tribes saw northern lights almost every night and believed the colored bands were spirits of the dead playing ball with a walrus skull. This legend was remarkably uniform, found in many groups around the Arctic Circle. These lights are the clashes between the solar wind and Earth's magnetic field which is completely distorted by them. The Earth's magnetic field would resemble a bar magnet if it were not for this blustering wind that extends Earth's magnetosphere into a comet-tail on the down-wind (away from Sun) side. The magnetosphere extends 40,000 miles toward Sun and perhaps 1 million miles down-wind.

17) What do savage people do when they are not preoccupied with religion, magic and mythology? Professor Levy-Bruhl tells us that primitive Man has no sober moods at all, that he is hopelessly and completely immersed in a mystical frame of mind. Incapable of dispassionate and consistent observation, devoid of the power of abstraction, hampered by "a decided aversion towards reasoning" he is unable to draw any benefit from experience, to construct or comprehend even the most elementary laws of nature. "For minds thus oriented there is no fact purely physical. Pre-historic Man did not have any clear idea of substance and attribute, cause and effect or identity and contradiction. Their outlook is that of confused superstition, prelogical, made of mystic participation and/or exclusion from such ritual. (Many people today fit into this category.)" (Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion, 1948)

Most people were ignorant of much of their tribal lore except for the few rituals they were required to perform. For most people their education was incomplete, and even the primitive drawings on cave walls were as inaccessible and mystifying then for most, as they are for us now. Knowledge of religion and magic was reserved for a special class of people and for a few family elders. For the common man, it was sufficient to conduct their lives according to specific instructions. Today, language and math instruction is imperfect for half the adult population of Americans, their vocabularies are limited, they frequently use the wrong verb tense and their simple calculations are as likely to be wrong as right. Most primitive people were likewise ignorant of the lexicon of superstitions of their tribe. They followed their leaders or were punished, often harshly. (see Quintus Stele: Homo sapiens, verse 20) How is it that for some people life is virtually unchanged for perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, while others benefit from complex cultures only a few thousand years old or less?

18) Agriculture was a significant achievement (some would say detriment) for Man. This kind of culture was simultaneous with the development of tribes where people lived in concentrations and permanent villages. Only a few people could live together if they subsisted on berries, fruit, roots and meat from their surrounding environs. By cultivating soil, planting crops, even irrigating, the productivity of nature is enhanced dramatically. These scientific skills required the use of sophisticated tools; sharpened, carbonized sticks for example, would till the soil better than one's own hand.

"The Melanesians who inhabit the coral atolls northeast of the main island, the Trobriand Archipelago, were expert fishermen, industrious manufacturers and traders who also practiced gardening with rudimentary implements. They accumulated knowledge of the classes of soils, of the growth pattern and husbandry of various plants and they had knowledge of the importance of accurate and hard work. They could select the soil and seedlings; they knew when to clear and burn the scrub, when to plant and pull weeds, when to train the vines of the yam, when to harvest and how best to store their product, some dried, powdered and some fermented.

"Mixed with this was a series of rites performed every year over the gardens in strict sequence and with the same rigor and precise order as the agriculture. Certainly various kinds of disaster, blight, unseasonable droughts, rains, bush-pigs and locusts would destroy the unhallowed garden made without magic, so none was. There was a clear division between work and ritual, and the leader of tribe is often the magician as well, the two functions were acknowledged to be distinct.

"The same is true in other pursuits: for the canoe, the knowledge of materials and technology, principles of stability and hydrodynamics are passed along with each generation with the close association of magic. They have a whole system of principles of sailing obeyed as rationally and consistently as is the modern science of sailors. Yet they perform magic over the canoe during its construction, at the beginning of each expedition and during moments of real danger..." (Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion, 1948)

19) Potlatch. Since time beyond memory, the Kwakwala-speaking groups in the Pacific-Northwest, have expressed their joy through the potlatch. The word 'potlatch' comes from Chinook jargon, a trade pidgin used along the West Coast, meaning 'to give.' The term came to designate a ceremony common to many groups and marks the important occasions in their lives; naming of children, marriage, transferring rights and privileges and mourning for the dead. Guests are given gifts, and gift giving was a method of obtaining status. It is a time for pride, a time for showing the masks and displaying dances owned by the family hosting the potlatch. The 'longhouse' is a common feature of the developed villages of natives in the Pacific Northwest. These often beautifully decorated wooden structures functioned both as sacred temples for the potlatch and for many people, a simple, multi-family habitat.

20) Much of what was essential for primitive people has been lost by modern development. The contrast between the life giving Earth and un-inhabitable, polluted, waste areas shows dramatically the value of the former. One example of this is found in the area around Tacoma, Washington.

Before the Port of Tacoma filled the Puyallup River estuary for industrial development, the river's mouth was a lush fish and shellfish nursery, rivaling the Nisqually Delta farther south. Both produced huge quantities of Dugeness crab and many species of clams, oysters and fish. Today the river's mouth and Commencement Bay are earmarked for two Superfund cleanups, and are contaminated with arsenic, heavy metals and agricultural runoff. The Puyallup Tribe does not own any tidelands on their reservation that are clean enough to farm shellfish for human consumption. More than 60 tribal members work as divers in the tribe's commercial geoduck clam harvest in offshore waters up to 70 feet deep. The giant clams are sold primarily to the Asian market, creating a multi-million-dollar-a-year fishery. But the contrast shows how much has been lost, and the interdependence of primitive Man with His environment.

21) No study of prehistoric people is complete without at least one reference to Stonehenge (hanging stones). The original stands in southern England near Salisbury, but this is only one of some 900 stone circles distributed around Great Britain. It has been considered the worship site for ancient Druids, and may well have been, but few consider them capable of having built it. Early archaeologists dated the construction coincident with the flowering of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Aegean at the dawn of European civilization. More recent carbon dating, however, suggests a previous origin, prior to 3,000 BC, long before the Cyclopean stone walls of Mycenae. It is clear the axis of Stonehenge is aimed precisely at the point of midsummer Sunrise, and the stones are also oriented toward the cycles of Moon.

Other megaliths are found around Europe and early Christian church leaders commanded "...Bishops and their servants to dig up and remove and hide to places where they cannot be found, those stones which in remote and woody places are still worshipped and where vows are still made." (from Nantes, 658AD) "Charlemagne, King Alfred, and Canute all issued edicts against the idolatry of megaliths." (Daniel J. Boorstin, The Creators, 1992)

A more recent theory suggests that mariners from the Indus valley landed in several locations around Earth and brought highly developed astrology and construction techniques to these sites (including Stonehenge) where ancient origins predate better known civilizations. It's only in the last few years that archeologists are beginning to understand the development of the Indus people. (see verse 8, above)

22) The northern end of the Willamette Valley, Oregon, including the present-day city of Portland, was once a paradise of abundant fish, game and plants capable of sustaining an enormous population of Chinook-speaking native people. The nearby Clackamas Indians shared fishery and trading sites in the area near Willamette Falls with the Kalapuya (also spelled Calapooya) who lived south, and the Molallan who lived southeast in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. There were in excess of 45,000 Indians in this area prior to 1800 and the arrival of the white settlers. When the white settlers entered the Willamette Valley at the end of the Oregon Trail, the land had been so well tended by the natives that to the settlers it resembled a park.

A four-year "fever and ague," broke out during the summer of 1830 at Fort Vancouver and emptied most of the villages along the Columbia and Willamette rivers. Losses were devastating, with more than 90 percent of the Chinook speaking people succumbing to the diseases. Those who survived the epidemics of smallpox, measles, malaria and influenza, and confrontations with settlers, were relocated to the Grand Ronde Reservation west of Salem by the mid-1800's.

Over time the 69,000-acre reservation shrank to a fraction of its former size. As white settlers took more of the land, boundaries established between the tribes also dissolved, and the Indian groups were united by a common reservation government, intermarriage, and participation in the Ghost Dance and Indian Shaker religion. By the time the government terminated all of its treaty agreements with the Grand Ronde tribes in the 1950's only 597 acres were left in the reservation. The land was controlled by a government-appointed trustee who was given the dictate to dispose of it. He sold the land to private interests for $1.10 an acre, giving each tribal member $35.00. In 1970 tribally owned land and buildings consisted of 2.5 acres and a toolshed; all that was left of hundreds of thousands of native, primitive people who had inhabited the area for more than 10,000 years. (Jan Halliday and Gail Chehak, Native Peoples of the Northwest 2000)

23) If pictures are worth a thousand words, then standing on an ancient temple ground must be worth dozens of pictures when it comes to communicating the significance of the religious or mystical activity. There may be no substitute for a visit to such 'modern' Inca temples and buildings, for example the temple fortress at Sacsayhuaman, if one hopes to feel the power of the culture that existed there. Seeing how precisely the stone work was accomplished by some of the 20,000 workers is incomparably better than reading a description. Feeling the joints with your hands, the same way the artisans did, is the ultimate way to be convinced of how difficult it was to accomplish this feat. Completed sometime after 1450 AD, this temple dedicated to Sun includes carved scenes of elaborate ceremony and worship as well as military activities.

The city of Machu Picchu is another quiet spot for feeling how ancient people lived bustling and active lives. The hidden expanse of well engineered construction is not visible from a distance, but commands a broad and impressive vista. This city was never discovered by the Spanish armies, and it flourished, probably as a sacred fortress for nobility, long after the Spanish dominated Peru.

24) The casino now owned by the Grand Ronde community is named 'Spirit Mountain' after a hill visible from the town center. The hillside was a 'sacred ground' used by tribal members who relocated to the Grande Ronde Reservation in the 1850's and subsequent generations for traditional Vision Quests. These solitary pilgrimages followed fasting and meditation ceremonies, including the use of sweat lodges.

A young man needed to learn the manual skills passed on from father to son, hunting, fighting, and also he learned ritual knowledge. Each must first dream that he could perform the work for which he was destined. For example, even though he came from a long line of wood carvers, he nevertheless still needed a vision as assurance that he could perform adequately as a wood carver. He flayed his body with thorns and immersed himself in cold lakes. He hiked into the mountains alone, fasting and exerting himself to his limits, undergoing privation and isolation. Visions came to youths generally in proportion to their rank. A ranking man's son quickly found the spirit helper who had helped his ancestors, and a poor youth usually had a weak vision leading to less specialized occupations.

25) The ancient Maya culture flourished in Central and South America from the fourth to the tenth century AD. Certainly there were people living in these areas long before the civilizations took shape, but monuments like the temple at Uxmal on the Yucatan Peninsula mark the culmination of a culture that is a champion of antiquity. Uxmal is made from the finest craftsmanship and opulence of the Maya civilization. The temple was occupied by the legendary dwarf, magician king who apparently ruled with wisdom during a period of great prosperity.

Kohunlich is another location that displays the graceful curved rock carvings of the Maya. The astounding Sun God, Kinich Ahau, is represented by a huge mask that stares with penetrating eyes into the soul of each visitor.

The temple at Palenque is both religious center and city, representing the height of artistic achievement in Maya architecture. The pyramid tomb of Lord Pacal, the Temple of Inscriptions, built in the seventh-century AD, is in near perfect condition.

Believe it our not, a new palace has been found (1999) in an overgrown patch of Guatemalan rain forest (the vicinity had been identified in 1905). It now ranks among the best preserved of Maya architecture ever discovered, containing 170 rooms and 11 courtyards. The palace sits in the center of an ancient city named Cancuen (Place of Serpents), measures 270,000 square feet and dates to the 8th century AD. The palace remained hidden for centuries because of the absence of temples, pyramids and tombs that usually indicate a major site. The royal residents paved the surrounding area with stone, thus discouraging subsequent generations from farming nearby. The residents seemed to have done a large commerce in precious stones, and even common workmen were able to afford jade inlays for their teeth.

26) "With the difficult first sound recognition achieved, others followed. Ishi was indeed one of the lost tribe, a Yahi; in other words he was from the southernmost Yana... This man [Ishi] is undoubtedly wild. He has pieces of deer thong in place of ornaments in the lobes of his ears and a wooden plug in the septum of his nose... Phonetically, he has some of the prettiest cracked consonants I ever heard in my life... If I'm not mistaken, he's full of religion --bathing at sunrise, putting out pinches of tobacco where the lightning strikes...He showed us how he flaked the points [of arrows], singed the edges of the feathering, and put on the sinew wrappings... Ishi was the last wild Indian in North America, a man of Stone Age culture subjected for the first time when he was past middle age to twentieth-century culture..." (August 1911)

Ishi grew up in an area south and west of Mount Lassen, California, and south and east of the city of Red Bluff. Ishi's group were hunters and expert fishermen, they fashioned crude sticks for digging roots, gathered berries, acorns and other seeds and fruits. They belonged to the Hokan superfamily of language, and Yana was broken into four distinct dialects. The varied land of California supported separate little nations, rather like Greek city states in size, with much less sophistication. They isolated themselves further by growth of dialects and separate languages. Of the six super-languages of North America, five are represented among California Indians, divided into 21 basic languages unintelligible to each other, further divided into 113 known dialects. A profile of their life fits all of them and is quite distinct from those Indians east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

"The California Indian was introverted, reserved, contemplative and philosophical. He lived at ease with the supernatural and the mystical which were pervasive in all aspects of life. He felt no need to differentiate mystical truth from directly evidential or 'material' truth, or the supernatural from the natural: one was as manifest as the other within his system of values, perceptions and beliefs... Life preceded within the limits of known and proper pattern from birth through death and beyond... Yana [language] has the peculiar nicety of separate dialects for women and for men. Such duality of speech is so rare as to have been authenticated by linguists no more than two or three times anywhere in the world... the dialect differences occur in complete words, not in suffixed elements as such, and the female as much as the male is a conventional dialect within a dialect -- each is a completely formalized system." (Theodora Kroeber, Ishi in Two Worlds 1961)

27) "Despite the sophistication of much of Iroquois society (Northeast USA), its religious rituals were still shamanistic... carried on by an organized group. The individual shaman's songs, dances, and other hocus-pocus were restricted to the False Face society, whose members cured with the aid of large wooden masks. These distorted facial nightmares consisted of twelve basic types -- crooked mouth, straight-lipped, spoon-lipped, hanging mouth, tongue protruding, smiling, whistling, divided red and black, long nosed, horned, pig and blind... The society members always functioned as a group [priesthood] and they put on a frightening performance at the house of the sick person. They lurched, humped, crawled, and trotted to the house, grunting and issuing weird cries from behind their masks. They danced around the sick person, sprinkled him with ashes, shook their large rattles made from the carapaces of turtles, and sang out their incantations.

"...They regarded their masks as portraits into which the supernatural has made itself manifest. The wearer behaved as if he were the supernatural being itself manifest. [Much like a children's Christmas pageant with the baby Jesus, etc.] He had obtained the mask by carving in the trunk of a living tree the vision he had of a False Face, and then cutting the mask free. During this ceremony, the spirit revealed itself to the maker, who then finished carving the features and painted the mask. The Iroquois did not worship the images themselves, only what they signified. Iconism is undoubtedly a better description than idolatry." (Peter Farb, Man's Rise to Civilization, 1968)

28) "Before European contact, more than 100 tribes and bands of native peoples lived along the coast and interior valleys of what is today Western Oregon and Northern California. Recently uncovered archaeological and geological evidence indicates that at least 12 major earthquakes and tsunamis (huge ocean waves) have struck the coastline over the past 6,500 years or about every 300 years. The most recent was a huge quake that struck (January 26, at 9pm) in 1700. [Which means we're due for another.] House remains discovered on the sand spit a Netarts Bay, in Oregon, have enabled experts to reconstruct what may have happened that night.

"Estimated to be a 9.0 on the Richter scale, the 1700 quake caused the floors of houses in Netarts and Hehalem Bays to drop as much as 2 feet, collapsing supporting house posts and dropping heavy cedar beams on the occupants. Entire forests dropped and collapsed into the bays. In the confusing darkness, the sea receded with a sucking roar before the lethal tsunami crashed ashore. About ten minutes after the ground stopped heaving (according to evidence encoded in layers of cliff side sediments), a tsunami moved inland about one mile, sweeping everything aside and burying it all with a layer of sand." (Jan Halliday and Gail Chehak, Native Peoples of the Northwest, 2000) We take for granted the transient and tenuous nature of human existence.

29) When in the long development of human life did art first appear? It has long been known that 30-35,000 years ago the Aurignacians of Southern Germany created sophisticated portable works of art, comprising ivory statuettes with both naturalistic and stylized features. The art that is found in the Chauvet Cave, (Ardeche, France) is likewise ancient and suggests that artistic creations were spread throughout Europe during this era. Similar cave art has been found in Italy, Fumane Cave, near Verona. Previously this cave provided stone tools and other evidence of occupation, but the slabs of drawings had fallen from the cave roof and became embedded in the floor. The paintings were covered with calcite that made the original red ochre finish difficult to see. Archaeologists have now removed much of the calcite revealing enigmatic drawings that are difficult to interpret, but easily recognized as works of intelligent Man. A human figure with the head of an animal is depicted on one slab, suggesting a sophisticated form of abstraction probably relating to ancient religious practice. The search for prehistoric origins of culture continues its descent into the past.

30) The first step in communication through the generations was the drawing of pictures to convey ideas, and thus history had its faltering beginnings. The earliest forms of writing included symbols which are recognizably derived from pictures. Though called pictographic writing, this representational depiction falls short of attaching specific symbols to precise language materials, even when it may tell a narrative story. Ancient Chinese offers an example of this early development, beginning about 2,500 BC.

Writing proper emerges when a symbol or character comes to represent directly a linguistic form; called Logo-grams. Examples of this appear in early Near Eastern (Arabic), Chinese and Maya writing. A basic group of signs or signals in the form of strokes and combinations of strokes is compounded in numerous ways to provide thousands of distinctive symbols capable of conveying all the ideas in the culture. The same 'characters,' somewhat modified, were used to write not only the differing spoken languages of China, but also those of Japan and parts of southeast Asia.

Another early writing attached fixed symbols to recurring syllables of spoken words. This becomes a phonogram, (similar to court recording) composed of syllabic writing and requires fewer signaling units as in modern Japanese, with sixty-five characters. Alphabetic writing is a more efficient refinement of phonographic symbolism. Each sign, letters, is attached to a 'phoneme' and can cover all the combinations of sound forms as represented in spoken words and so convey the appropriate meanings, along with an acceptable number of exceptions.

In the modern setting, such specialization as Morse Code, semaphore flags, the Braille system for the blind, hand signing for deaf, elaboration of mathematical symbols and computer software languages complicate what we know as 'language' dramatically, and in each case enhance communication. Meta-linguistic studies reveal how a people organizes its cultural experience, including its basic world view. Efficient written language has obviously preserved complex and abstract ideas better than oral traditions, marking the demise of the 'pre-historic' era and the rise of skepticism.

31) "My experience in the field has persuaded me of the complete futility of the theories which attribute to the savage a different type of mind and different logical faculties. The native is not 'prelogical' in his beliefs, he is alogical, for belief or dogmatic thinking does not obey the law of logic among savages any more than among ourselves." (Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion, 1948)

32) As suggested (see Quartus Stele: Chemistry, verse 1) fire is one of the primary liberating influences of early man. This extended the range of habitation from tropical and semi-arid regions into sub-tropical and temperate regions. Fire was useful certainly for cooking, but this is not an important survival skill. Fire was more useful by providing a weapon in the survival war against the predators of Man -- large cats and voracious dogs. Fire and flint weapons gave man the advantage in survival in the temperate winters when the need for fur clothing -- a natural equipment of predators -- was essential to keep warm blooded humans in the game.

Cooking is a luxury, which probably began by accident, by finding edible meat in the aftermath of a brush fire. Many primitive tribes extant in the 20th century preferred or at least enjoyed their meat raw. The Japanese have popularized sashimi (raw fish) into an international cuisine. In Mexico, limes and lemons provide a fine substitute for cooking with fire. Learning to harness the power and possibilities of fire -- producing implements, smelting -- came long after the first use of fire for warmth and for the production of hardened wood spear points. Preserving and transferring coals became for nomadic tribes an essential ritual in temperate and colder climates. Many primitive cultures use fire to 'cultivate' new grass in open plains, burning off the old growth and creating better visibility for hunting other mammals.

This 'chemical' technology of fire was only one of the devises developed by primitive apothecaries. The use of resins, herbs for medicinal purposes, salt for preservation, fermentation for conserving vitamins and carbohydrates -- all expands the flexibility of Man's adaptive experience in his otherwise natural surroundings. All of this technology developed before sophisticated languages and predated the most ancient pictorial recordings. The march of technological progress was slow, uneven and imperfect.

On to Septimus Stele
[an error occurred while processing this directive]