Sophont
Monday, September 06, 2004
 
I don't know, but . . .
The Indian Ten Commandments:

I see posters with 'The Indian Ten Commandments:'

1. Remain close to the great spirit.
2. Show great respect for your fellow beings.
3. Be truthful and honest at all times.
4. Do what you know to be right.
5. Look after the well being of mind and body.
6. Treat the Earth and all that dwells there on with respect.
7. Take full responsibility for your actions.
8. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.
9. Work together for the benefit of all mankind.
10. Give assistance and kindness whenever needed.

These sound cute. But unless these are a brand-new collection developed especially for modern cosmopolitan American Indians, they are also spectacularly ignorant.

Don't people remember that the American Indians come from many different tribes, with wildly different cultures and religions? If you want to list religious commands, you should specify which tribe they came from. For example:

1. Rip out living human hearts on Huitzilopochtli's temple to keep the sun rising. (Aztec)
2. In February and March, sacrifice children to Tlaloc. (Aztec) [ref Krickeberg]
3. When the Great Sun dies, strangle his wives and offer your own children under 3 as sacrificial companions. (Natchez) [ref Stirling]
4. Torture your enemies to death for the honor of your clan. (Iroquois)
5. Pray to toads to obtain good weather. Treat them carefully, unless the weather is bad--in which case, whip them. (Oronoka river tribes) [ref Depons]
6. You may not marry unless you can stand being bitten by poisonous ants without making any noise. (Arawak) [ref Pitou]
7. If a man dies for any reason, you must find the witch who killed him. (Cherokee)
8. Decapitate anyone who blasphemously reveals the secrets of a Katcina. (Zuni)
9. Second-hand tobacco smoke purifies you and connects you with the gods. (numerous tribes)
10. Use a a buffalo skull stuffed with grass as an altar during the summer solstice Sun Dance ceremonies. Young men should rip skewers through their flesh. (Sioux) [ref Schwatka]

I grant you that my selection is invidious. And the first collection is an anacronistic whitewash. And if you want to find out about American Indians, go look up real tribes first. Learn a little of their histories. Then read about the modern pan-Indian movement. Then laugh uncontrollably at the fake Indian-spirituality peddled these days.
posted by james at 9:55 AM"


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