The Ontological Principles - "the Bones",
the Teachings - Miyp,
and the Spiritual Power -

the Schitsu’umsh ("the ones that were found here" - Coeur d’Alene)
and the Apsáalooke ("children of the large beaked bird" - Crow)


ontological principles = fundamental ways reality is defined and organized = Bones
(dealing with dimensions of time, space, causality)

teachings = strategies and ethics for engaging and interacting with others = Miyp
(be they human, animal or spirit interactions)

spiritual power = animating force, bringing forth life and altering the material world = Baaxpée




Story Text: Salmon Goes Up River 

The Creation - the Dreamtime.    Ontological Principles, embedded in the landscape and reflected in the oral traditions.   Along with the Miyp - "teachings from all things" and Baaxpée - "spiritual power," these are the "bones," the frame and structure of reality, and the how (a map) to navigate the many paths over its landscape.


The Creator and Animal People - Amotqn "the one who sits at the head mountain" (Coeur d’Alene) - Akbaatatdia "the maker of all things first (Crow) - and the Titwa-tityá-ya "animal people" (Nez Perce) - the Animal or First People. (AKIN to Hindu Brahman)  

- The world was brought forth and prepared by the Creator and the Animal/First People, such as Coyote, Crane, Salmon, etc., for "the coming of the human peoples." They rid the world of most of its "man-eaters" and "monsters" and embedded within it the "gifts" the human people would need to prosper.  

- Creation of Human Peoples, including the Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d'Alene) - Apsáalooke (Crow) - Nimíipuu (Nez Perce) - Suuyapi ("whites" - Coeur d'Alene) -  Baashchiile ("person with yellow eyes" - Crow).  The human people are a part of, inseparable from the landscape, yet incomplete, in need of assistance and guidance, as not all the "monsters" were destroyed. 

- Oral Traditions and Landscape formations continue to house and disseminate the accounts of Creation and Animal People.  Nimíipuu Example


What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts  ?






What's in a Rock?

Why should we Fear?

Story Text: Sedna, Souls (Inua) and Seals - Why should we fear?  What can be hidden in a stone?           (Inuit background  and Video - The Living Stone).    Metaphor for human - spirit - animal/fish relations throughout Indigenous communities world-wide.


Based upon these two story texts, what are some of the underlying ontological principles - the bones?   Discover some the the "bones," "eye juggle" the texts.  

Identify 3 fundamental ways reality seems to be defined and organized.





Bone #1: Snq-hepi-wes - "where the spirit lives, from horizon to horizon" (Coeur d’Alene) - a Spiritual World. 

What was brought forth by the Creator and Animal/First Peoples is a spiritual world, that pervades and unifies all entities and beings, in their souls as well as their bodies, in their transcendent as well as material essences.

- Example: Saah Naghai Bikeh Hózhó "continual reoccurring long-life in an environment of beauty and harmony" 



What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts ?

Reality not reducible to material substance, e.g., reducible to five senses and empirical validity. 



Bone #2: Ashammaléaxia - "as driftwood lodges" (Crow), or Chnis-teen-ilqwes - "I am part of all" (Coeur d'Alene), and primacy of the notion of the "family."    

The world is characterized by an inherent spatial and temporal connectivity, integration and kinship of all entities and beings - human, Animal, Fish, Plant, Water, Rock and Landscape, as well as Spiritual "Peoples," such as the Ancestors, and Spirit Guardians, as well as Animal Peoples and Creator itself. 


What are the Indigenous Themes and there Contrasts ?

Reality not divisible and compartmentalized into dualism, e.g., Cartesian Dualism of mind separate from body.




Bone #3: Unshat-qn - "eye to eye" (Coeur d’Alene), also one of the miyp

Equality characterizes the structural relations among all the members of the "family," be they human, Animal, Plant or Spirit.

- Story Texts: Muskrat Man (illustrative)


What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts ?

Reality not hierarchically ordered, with some dominate and other subordinate.




Thus = Hnkhwelkhwlnet - "our ways of life in the world"  -  "Connect the dots"

- Re-consider a Rainbow.

- Consider storytelling dynamics, and responsibilities of teller and listener, and nature of orality and power in words - dasshússua (p52) - resulting in "swirling"


"Transitory intersection of those participating (human, animal, plant, spiritual peoples), an unfolding event, anchored to place-based oral traditions (the miyp)"


- Consider Sqigwts  




Hnkhwelkhwlnet is anchored to place-based teachings - landscape and story and indistinguishable, landscape as textbook.


The "Gifts" for the human peoples from the actions of the First Peoples, such as Salmon, Sedna and Coyote.   In addition to foods and other materials needs, there are other essential gifts that would be needed for a successful life.  Humans incomplete without them. 

Miyp - "teachings from all things" and Baaxpée - "spiritual power."   



A.  Miyp - "teachings from all things" (Coeur d’Alene) - strategies for engaging with others


What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts ?


Story Texts: Rabbit and Jack Rabbit,      at Graduation,      the Deer and Hunter (eye juggle)





Miyp #1:  Ammaakée - "give away" (Crow), Téek’e - "to give and share [food with others]" (Nez Perce), one of the miyp.     Reciprocity.

Compassion for all others in need of assistance, an ethic of sharing, characterizes the dynamics of all "family" relationships.  What constitutes a "wealthy person"?  


What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts  ?



Story Text: Four Smokes  (eye juggle).

Reiterate Sedna and the Seal Hunt





Miyp #2:  Cikáyw "bravery" (Nez Perce) and courage in the defense of others and in the face of adversity.   Hope in the face of despair and overwhelming odds.  (extensions today?) 


Other mi’yp include:

tuk’ukí - "honesty" (Nez Perce) and integrity toward others

díakaashik "doing it with determination" (Crow)  - "sincerity" in all interactions with others





Story Texts: Coyote and the Rock Monster (eye juggle), Coyote and the Green Spot, Coyote's Basket, Coyote and His Bride  (eye juggle)





Miyp #3: Trickster - Isáahkawuattee "old man coyote" (Crow) - Smiyaw "coyote" (Coeur d’Alene) - ‘Iceyéeye "coyote" (Nez Perce) - the way of the "Coyote."


In relations with "adversaries" outside the "family," members of the "family" apply the example and skills of the trickster Coyote, including intelligence and strategic foresight, physical prowess and agility, deception, wit and cunning, an ethic of competition.    

Coyote typically fails when a self-serving trickster toward family members = model not to follow.  

Coyote typically succeeds when self-effacing toward family members and self-serving trickster toward adversaries = model to follow.



What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts  ?



B.  Baaxpée (Crow) - Súumesh (Coeur d’Alene) - "Medicine"   (in addition to miyp gifts, and food/shelter)

Spiritual power and life vitality, one of the "gifts" embedded in the landscape.    The landscape, and all its forms, entities and beings are endowed with spiritual power and a life force, of which human can access if properly approached.   

- Story Text: Vietcong solider and the little Pouch


What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts ? ?



Reflective Write:   In some deep reflection, what is our own ultimate goal in life, i.e., your highest and most meaningful aspiration, and how are you going about attempting to achieve that goal,

and contrast that with what you understand might be the ultimate goal in life and the means to obtain it, among Indigenous peoples?

consider closer to home






Among the Indigenous, the primary goal in one’s life typically revolves around of protecting and preserving the health and well-being of the "family," of maintaining the harmony and vitality of the whole, inclusive of all its human, Animal, Plant and Spirit People kin members.

The goal is not a personal spiritual salvation, an eternal life in heaven, nor is it akin to Hindu moksha, or Buddhist nirvana

What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts  ?


What are the Means to the Goal?





The means to the goal of preserving the "family" is to two fold:

1) be attentive to and fully adhere to the instructional, moral and ethical teachings of the miyp, and especially that of the ethic of sharing (to unselfishly help others in need),

and 2) to obtain and apply súumesh for the well-being of others. The responsibility of the entire "family’s" health is on the shoulders of those who have the ability to give.   The spiritual realm becomes a means rather than ends, helping facilitate the welfare of the family.

What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts  ?


Your Responsibility. The task of protecting and preserving the health of the "family" is attempted only during the course of one’s lifetime.

After Life is a "Camp across the river," (no karma and reincarnation attempts; no redemption/salvation and heaven or hell consequence)

What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts  ?



Many Paths to the Creator.  Yet it is a very personal quest into the spiritual world of súumesh, a path individualized to each person’s needs and disposition. There are multiple paths to the Creator and Animal Peoples, to the Ultimate Meaning and Bliss (however it is comprehended), all equally valid and potentially effective.   (AKIN to Hindu four yogas)

Story Text: Tom Yellowtail's Wagon Wheel.

Still Images of Wagon Wheel - Sun Dance   - 

Addressing the "Mutually Exclusive" in our lives.

If we come to appreciate and travel a particular landscape and its epistemology with competency, but whose ontological principles might be diametrically opposed to another landscape, whose "bones" might be "mutually exclusive" of each other, do we have to make a choice of which we can travel?

Consider the metaphor of Tom Yellowtail's Wagon Wheel, and the example of Tom and Susie Yellowtail (Baptist and Sundancer; Nurse and Healer).  As applied to our methodology, the "spokes" are analogous of any number of ways of representing collective diversity and individual uniqueness, that which is differentiated and distinguished.  The "hub" is analogous of any number of ways of representing what is shared in common, the universal, the ubiquitous, such as a “language” that transcends differences, and can be comprehended and spoken with some degree of universality.  The interplay of spokes and hub can accommodate traveling over the many distinct paths, addressing the mutually exclusive in our lives, both personally as well as publically and professionally.   The rock formations along the Clearwater River can be understood as having come about by the actions of both geology and Coyote.  We can travel both scientific and Indigenous landscapes without conflict.  

What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts  ?




Means = Rites of Passage: Discuss stages of any rite of passage. (outline)  Reiterate Burnt Face -

- - - rites of passage and Sundance are simply other examples of transitory intersections of those participating - unfolding story events - like Burnt Face.


Example of the Apsáalooke - Crow Acts of Prayer in the Fast and Sundance.  (Pipe and beaded bag, beaded belt, video and slides from Crow Sundance - audio from  Shoshone Sundance)


Story Texts: Awakening story and Matt.  Description of Ceremony.  Woman and John.   Water from the Tree.   Myself and Bishee.  Others 




Application: Way of Life. The quest for spiritual guidance and power, and all its associated rituals and ceremonies, the "religion" of the Indigenous peoples, is thus understood as a "path" or "way of life," comprehensive of all one’s actions and thoughts, and not a compartmentalized segment of one’s life.

What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts  ?


Applications include: in games, hunting, lost people


Among the many applications, the most important is Healing.

       Story text: Billy Yellow (video) 

      Story texts: Re-telling the stories of Healing:  Bundle Ceremony, Bar Fight and Two Bullets, Own Journey with Cancer.





 Efficacy:  Swirling and Running with the Coyote and Sharing the Gifts.

 In the act of re-telling an oral tradition of the Coyote or Crane, in the act of singing the song, in the act of dancing in a Jump Dance, or even a powwow, in the act of gathering camas roots or huckleberries and sharing them with those in need, in the act of hunting the deer or fishing the salmon and sharing the meat with those in need, the world is re-created, renewed and perpetuated, and all its "family" members are nourished and healed.


Eliade's "alignment with the sacred - an "hierophany"


"You run and swirl with the Coyote and Crane" (and the other Animal/First Peoples), and in so doing their Gifts of miyp and súumesh are re-invested and re-distributed back into the landscape, for the benefit of all the Peoples, all the "relatives."

The Gifts continue to be shared.

The world traveled in the act of storytelling, in act of singing, in act of dancing is the very world traveled by the Creator, Coyote and Crane, and of the archetypical teachings (miyp) and transformative power (súumesh) of the creation time.

It is the world traveled by the vision quester under the guidance of the Elk or Eagle.

It is the world traveled by the ancestors as they prepare the camp for those yet to come. 

All are indistinguishable, one and the same. 

What is most real, what reality is, is "the transitory intersection of those participating," an event, always unfolding.  (result of putting the "bones" together: Snq-hepi-wes, Ashammaléaxia and Unshat-qn, and the miyp: Ammaakée)


The dynamic Wheel and its extensions


Hence, the implicit, perennial desire is to "run with the Coyote and Crane."     In so doing, the health, harmony and well-being of the "family" are preserved.


What are the Indigenous Themes and their Contrasts  ?



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