|What Are Among The Most Important Consequences Of Gaining Mi'yep Knowledge?
In gaining mi'yep knowledge, you certainly learn of your heritage and of your responsibilities to the earth and to other peoples, both animal and human. But as a participatory learning process - in the very act of re-telling the stories and re-singing the songs - something very important is also "given back." Each time you run with the Coyote as the Rock Monster chases you, the landscape traveled is revitalized and rendered meaningful. When the storytelling ends for an evening or season, the story continues. The "blue of the lake" is perpetuated and the teaching - "to help those in need" - is reinvested back into the world. When the suumesh songs are sung each winter, the spring rains will nurture, and the camas and deer will be plentiful. In re-singing the songs of the First Peoples and re-telling the creation stories of the lakes and mountains, the deer, camas, and humans, and of the relationships between them all, the landscape that is subsequently traveled is revitalized with meaning and animation. Hence the expression, "stories make the world." It is a great responsibility shouldered by grandmother and grandchild as they bring voice to story and song. See Frey (2001:199-204 and 257-262) for a discussion on how the world is perpetuated through narrative and ritual actions.
What Are The Cultural Foundations and Implications Of Mi'yep Knowledge?
This revitalization and perpetuation capacity, indeed, this experiential form of learning, reflects certain quintessential properties inherent in Schitsu'umsh culture, as well as reflected in Indian cultures generally. First, language, when spoken in Schitsu'umsh, has the power to animate and bring to life that which is described. To sing the song of logs moving apart and then together, causes logs to move across the waters. When an Indian name is bestowed on a child, the words of that name will help nurture the child into his or her name. When the words of a story are woven with great care into the rich tapestry of a story, the story's words bring forth that story into the world. Language is not simply descriptive of the world. See Frey (1995:154-158) and Frey (2002:191-199) for discussions of this performative, creative force in language.
And second, the Schitsu'umsh conceive of time as perennial and space as interwoven. What had occurred in the past, as when the Coyote was chased by the Rock Monster, can re-occur again, and again, and again. The mi'yep have been firmly planted in the landscape to re-flower each season. In the act of storytelling, the creation time can be re-entered, traveled and made immediate. The voices of the First Peoples and Ancestors remain strong. What had occurred is active, not passive and silent. Time is re-occurring, not understood as lineal, with its past no longer alive and accessible. The Euro-American concept of "history," the marking of events on a chronological time line from past to present, has little applicability for the Schitsu'umsh. Schitsu'umsh history began with the arrival of Lewis and Clark. Similarly, space is indivisible, made of up interconnected peoples - animal, plant, water, rock, human. All are kinsmen with one another, and not discrete objects estranged from one another. A deer is a "brother" to the hunter, offering its flesh as food when shown respect. The Ancestors are not far off, but waiting in the hills across the waters of the lake and preparing the camp for the day the rest of their family will join them. Schitsu'umsh world view is a participatory world view, a non-Cartesian, non-objectified world view. See Frey (2001:257-262 and 297-298) for a discussion on the concepts of "time" and "history."
There is no greater illustration of this participatory quality than in the contrast between the act of storytelling and the act of reading. Given the techniques of storytelling, the qualities inherent in orality, and the performative force in words, in the act of storytelling the story and reality are one in the same. As a participant of the story you travel the trails of the physical landscape while at the same time the trails of the First Peoples at the moment of creation. In the act of reading, given the nature of literacy and the descriptive power of words, the story and reality are necessarily separated. The story is a map of the trails, at best allowing the reader to suspend disbelief to imagine participation, but the written story is not the trails themselves.
What Does It Mean To Have Heart Knowledge and What Is Its Importance?
|| Listen as Cliff SiJohn concludes his "true heart talk" and stills his voice. |
Part 12 of Interview; To begin the SiJohn Interview. (interviewed and edited by Rodney Frey, August 2002)
Above all, the Schitsu'umsh value "heart knowledge." "If you tell it with your heart you'll have clean hands." This is knowledge involving active listeners, participating as kinsmen with the First Peoples and Ancestors, in the re-creation of the world and in the renewal of the mi'yep. This is knowledge that instills a sense of identity and heritage, and a dream of what can be. It is knowledge that is deeply felt and inclusive, and not analytical and compartmentalized. It is knowledge less the product of history, an object of study, as it is the process of re-creation, an event of integration. And this is knowledge that reaches out with the heart to touch and heal a "wounded person." It brings life to the examples first set forth by Crane and the other First Peoples, and shares unselfishly their mi'yep gifts to help those in need. (Go to Crane story.) It is not knowledge hoarded, serving only the needs of a Coyote. While "head knowledge" is important and encouraged among young and old, when emphasized to the exclusion of heart knowledge, it can blind and render the heart "wounded." Only with strong hearts can there be Schitsu'umsh.
© Coeur d'Alene Tribe 2002
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