We aren’t given any directions when we enter into this world. As babies, we merely experience.

Then at some point, other people tell us who we are, what we are, where we are, and what is going on.

This is really, the beginnings of our social cognition. Who we are is decided upon the reference that other people gave us, how they identify, and most importantly how they were taught by other people. In Blackfoot, we have many self references. Our enemies named us “Blackfoot” as it was a practise of ours to burn the grass of our territory in the fall, before a big storm. This way, the old dry growth burns away, and in the spring time there will be new and rich growth that will attract buffalo back to the land. As we walked through our territory, our moccasins would turn black. Our self referential name is Kakao’tositapii, which means “Star Beings” as in our stories we say we came from the stars, and eventually we will go back to the stars.
Who we are in a general sense is “Human.” We are relatives of the other great apes. We are great apes ourselves. What we are could easily be explained in this way too. Where we are is on a planet, in English called “Earth.”

In Blackfoot, the name for the planet is Ksahkomitapii. This means Ground Being. In general Blackfoot prayers, we being with “Aiyo Napi Naatosi, Aiyo Ksahkomitapii, Aiyo Kipitaaki Kokomikisomm, Aiyo Ipisoowaahs, Aiyo Ihstsipaiitopiyoopah” and begin the prayers. This means “Calling upon the Old Man Sun, Calling upon Earth, Calling upon Old Woman Moon, Calling upon the Morning Star, Calling upon The Means by Which all Life Exists.” The last word Ihstsipaiitpiyoopah is The Means by Which all Life Exists. This has been mistranslated to be “Creator” as the colonists were used to the hierarchical one leader style of being. All together, what we are praying to in Blackfoot makes up the means by which all life exists. The Sun, Moon, and Earth have had such a deep and intimate interplay between one another that the form of life taken on this planet is seemingly unique and interrlated. Life could not have happened without one of these things in existence.

The colonists were used to the concept of there only being one leader for any given group of people. When they came to what is now known as “Blood Tribe” they asked us “Who is your leader?” Where the People said “We have many leaders” and indeed, many leaders stepped forward. Akainaiwa became the name, which means “Many Leaders.” However, when the colonists saw a Ceremony where the people were covered in red ochre paint, they said “They are covered in blood.” So the name “Blood Tribe” was given to us, again, a misidentification.
When Blackfoot people would camp, they would collect fire wood in the trees. What they would take were the dead fall branches from the ground. Once those were taken, they would collect the dead branches from the tops of the trees leaving the trees intact. Soon, the entirety of these excess resources would be used, and the people would move on to a different campsite within the territory.

Blackfoot territory is south of the North Saskatchewan River, down to the Yellowstone River, from the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, to the confluence of the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers. All told, this is an area larger than great britain. For somewhere between 8,000 to 11,000 years, Blackfoot people made our home within these boundaries.
Taking the resources as we did, is a kind of symbiotic relationship with the environment. The trees remained in place, and were pruned by the taking away of dead branches. This helped the tree grow richer and fuller, as it didn’t have to waste excess energy on dead branches. This is one of a myriad of examples.

I tell these stories mainly to illustrate a different way of being. Not only among Human groups, but with the planet as well. Blackfoot people view the world as being alive. Not only the planet as a single entity unto itself, but all of the other beings in existence, such as the Sun, Moon, and Stars. In a Blackfoot worldview, all of these beings interact with one another, and in turn with us as people.

Does it really matter if the trees can think? Does it really matter if the trees have feelings? In these examples, no of course that doesn’t matter. What matters is that we found a way of living in the world that ensured our survival. We ensured our survival for 8,000 to 11,000 years living with the same practises.

What’s really important about this way of living is the reciprocal relationship between us as Humans, and the rest of the Universe.

The main difference between the colonizers and Blackfoot people is that there are no hierarchies of power in Blackfoot culture. We are at once a whole Tribe, and individuals at the same time. Our lives were individually remembered, but also meld into the continuum of who we are as a group. Power over others was not the driving force of our lives, whereas in a western hierarchical capitalist system this clearly is the case.

The entirety of my blogs revolved around power, and evil. Ingrained in these two imaginary concepts is “the hierarchy.” The pyramid scheme that may have been born in Sumeria, but who knows. Wherever this concept has been brought, the people have fallen by the very nature of the system. The top minority lives off of the blood of those below.
So as Humans, what are we to do in response? In my opinion, it really comes down to the narratives we keep of ourselves and one another. Yes, we are social creatures, and yes there are fundamental needs that all Humans have. However, the methods to achieve those means are literally an ocean apart.

If we are to survive as Humans on this planet, we need to seriously reconsider what our prerogatives are. What priorities we have.

Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have contributed a vast amount to the west. COrn, Potatoes, Beans, Tomatoes, Tobacco, & Cocaine. Knowledge of plant medicine became the foundation of what modern medicine is today. Though the Indigenous knowledge that provided for those medicines are not given credit to the Indigenous Peoples, but rather the first white scientist to extract them. Tomatoes are considered domain of the Italian people and so on and so forth.

The best contribution however, the one that will really make the difference, is the indigenous perspective of “progress.”

Progress is not how fast you can go. How easy and comfortable life can become. How “advanced” technology will be. Progress is what YOU as an individual becomes. What YOU as an individual learns. What YOU as an individual contributes to this world and this Universe.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the world has never been more polluted with the waste and effluence of technological “progress.”

There is over 400 ppm of Carbon in the atmosphere as we speak. The climate change catastrophe we face as a planet is directly the result of unmitigated and unbridled capitalistic growth. This is the inevitable result of hierarchies, and the false sense of power that is involved with them.

This of course is not the only way of being. The world was not paved and sidewalks were not always there. Property was not always a concept.

A truly progressive idea is to take the infrastructure we have today, and clean away the old ways of being. Clean away the hierarchies and the false power involved within. Create a world upon Indigenous principles of reciprocal relationships with all living beings. WIth the planet. With the Universe.

What this boils down to, is how we see ourselves, how we see each other, and what narratives we bring in to the ever present now.

That of course, will take connection to the Universe by all people.

It’s a world waiting to be born.

We can have it if we so choose.

The inevitable result of this current way of being, within rigid conceptual frameworks and false Machiavellian power dynamics, is a way to watch Rome burn.

It’s been happening that long.

On a positive note, I already know what direction I’m heading in.
I think, you already know which way you’d rather go.

So please, my dear friend, best of luck to you.

Best of luck indeed.

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5 thoughts on “A Different Way of Being.

  1. Kakao’tositapii is a term I’ve never heard before, but I find very interesting. I wish we were taught more about pre-colonial history of North America, and the history of the Aboriginal people too. Do you have resources that could help with that? I’d love to learn more.

    I found an article that discusses some of the issues with colonialism and how it created the concept of identity onto groups and onto individuals. It might be worth looking at.

    Spickard, P. R. (2007). Almost all aliens: Immigration, race, and colonialism in american history and identity. New York: Routledge

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  2. Your blogs, although long, are incredibly insightful. The way in which you talk about your culture and way of being is in itself a difference in social cognition. The way we interact with and understand our surroundings are so socially constructed and directed. I was able to find an article that looked at culture as not being an independent factor that could influence social cognition but as a continuous dynamic sent of factors that create a continuous effect on social cognition. The study goes on to talk about a new field called cultural neuroscience that takes into consideration the effects culture can have on our brains both structurally and psychologically!

    Vogeley, K., & Roepstorff, A. (2009). Contextualising culture and social cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(12), 511-516. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2009.09.006
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  3. I always love to hear other perspectives especially on other cultures, and I believe the idea of recognizing that there is “otherness” out in the world causes one of two things in an individual: the acquisition of knowledge in order to be tolerable and accepting; or one may turn to ignorance which has little positive influence on anything. Your ideas of integrating a multitude of perspectives brings me back to the theory of the interaction between one’s biology and environment (GxE) within the greater concept of social cognition. I found an article that agreed there was no doubt that genetic studies of an individual’s behaviors and traits will increase our understanding of both normal human variation and pathological disorders. There was also mention of the increasing recognition that the interplay between genes and environments is remarkably complex. Not only are both genes and environments important for both normal and abnormal human development, but genes and environments operate interactively to produce both risk and resilience to specific behavioral and psychiatric disorders. More importantly, the emerging lines of research from epigenetics suggest that not only can nature alter nurture, but nurture, in turn, has the power to modify nature. Thus, genomic studies that incorporate a range of social and environmental influences will further our understanding of the complex dance between nature and nurture in human development (1).
    While you may be focusing on the identity aspect of being, I believe that we can draw multiple parallels from the recognition of otherness in order to come together to create a society that is in harmony with the rest that experience life. Once individuals realize that everyone is unique, the quicker we can find ways to bring equality to those that need it.

    Reference:
    http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2009/04/sci-brief.aspx

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  4. Hi Marty,

    Thank you for writing this blog and sharing some cool and unique things I haven’t heard about before. Burning grass during the fall eh. In Ukraine we still do that and there is no bigger sign of the beginning of winter, for me, like the smell of burnt grass.

    I liked the point you were trying to make in your blog ” colonization and advanced technology progress lead to development of self-destructive cognition”. I might’ve of interpret it in a wrong way, if that’s the case, my apologies.
    I had a real pleasure learning about Blackfoot/Kakao’tositapii’s history through your shared stories. You should consider writing a book, sharing your unique knowledge through the language of the heart.

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  5. Love the rings you made out of hardware parts, and I would totally get on board if I didn't spend half of my day typing at work and/or in class. I feel like it would make really low clanging noises which wouldn't be so good for those eneivonmrnts!

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