Earth's Mind Excerpt

From the introduction to Earth's Mind
(Dunsmore speaking of the essential involvement of his students in interpreting Native literature)

"One young man wrote about his grandmother: How she would take scraps of bread and go out on the prairie near a colony of gophers and talk "Indian" to them, "very softly," until they gathered around her. She would scold them if they fought over the bread scraps. Later, he would walk out onto the prairie and sit "for hours" among the gopher mounds. He remembered lying on his stomach in front of a hole and having a big gopher come "within inches" of him. He tried to remember his grandmother's words then, but couldn't. Even his father couldn't remember them. Later still, when as a teenager he went gopher hunting for the first time and shot one, his grandmother, gone then, returned, bringing pain to his heart. I also remember a young Yakima, responding to a discussion of reciprocity, who described his family's giveaway following the killing of his first deer at nine or ten years of age. The giveaway was to celebrate the life of the deer. Not his prowess in taking it, he explained, but the giving of the deer's life to the boy and, through him, to the people. Nevertheless, he recalled being shocked when his own rifle was given away to a boy from a family without the ability to buy one. It would be many months, a year perhaps, before he could acquire another. That Yakima student's response clarified the obligations we all incur by the sheer need to eat. Taken as a whole, such examples testify that much of the Indian perspective has survived the maelstrom we call "the settling of the West", and that the context supplied by native students is critical when teaching the literature and history of their cultures."

"The phrase "a mind to obey nature" crystallized much of what I'd encountered in American Indian materials and linked with Chief Joseph's statement, "The earth and myself are of one mind." What was this mind of which both Basho (Do not follow in the footsteps of the ancient ones. Seek what they sought.") and Joseph spoke so succinctly? And how might one foster it in this time, this place? Had we, collectively and for centuries, been out of our minds? Was the Wasco Indian logger responding to or with this mind when he heard the trees scream? What, really, is the nature of mind?"

and from Earth's Mind the essay (or "comic opera") called Trud:

"While I am not in a position to determine just how much Hopi (and other cultures') clowning has changed under the impact of the "rapid social-cultural change" of the last century or so, Trud proceeds from the assumption that the older function of the clown (the return to the paradise beyond good and evil, to the primordial chaos prior to the sacred cosmos) is still and always the deepest, most elemental function of the clown. This is where beauty and death have their twin domain, for neither are to be domesticated by ethics, but take up their existence as wild elements of reality."

From Earth's Mind
University of New Mexico Press
©1998 Roger Dunsmore. All rights reserved.