Deloria's text also made me think about other contemporary "expectations" of today's Natives, including the supposed "traditional knowledge" they keep about the future (or end) of the world. Mayans, Hopi -- there is a strong connection for some folks between some indigenous cultures in the Americas (can't speak about other places) and aliens, making Natives a solid part of UFO culture and lore. Of course, this is very much based on stereotypical views of Natives, but I am less interested in those stereotypes than in how they form a relationship with ideas about aliens and/or the apocalypse. -- Tiffany
Yeah, posting in pieces because that's how I process. Anyway, I started wondering why people who believe in aliens or apocalypse even need Indians mixed in there. I mean, beliefs in extraterrestrial beings and the end of the world have been around for centuries, certainly before the "New World" was "discovered." So what do indigenous groups from the Americas bring to the table?

In short? Authenticity. If one surmises (as some folklore researchers do) that aliens represent a secularized version of angels and demons, then Natives provide a link between the extraterrestrial (with their almost magical superior technology, not to mention being from realms unknown) and the terrestrial. If aliens have been around since the so-called ancient times, then only those peoples with ancient memories can attest to their reality with any surety. And Natives are perceived to have maintained an unbroken link to their ancestral heritage, including being able to translate petroglyphs that seem to show people meeting with alien beings.

With regard to the endtimes, the nature of the apocalypse in North America has also become increasingly secularized. Though there are still plenty of people who stick to Judgment Day according to the Book of Revelation, many people consider a more nature-alized scenario, where natural (or, again, extraterrestrial) disaster will wipe out great swaths of humanity.

Once again, with the general "expectation" that Natives have a stronger connection to the natural world than anyone else, a prophecy that predicts any major world change (often turned into an end of days scenario) provides authenticity. It absolutely does not matter whether such prophecies are "true" or "false," "real" or "not real." What matters is the affective relationship non-Natives have with their expectations of Natives in order to provide validity to apocalyptic scenarios or to visitations by alien beings.

(sorry for the book....had to get it out while I was still thinking about it.)
3/19/2013 07:27:10 am

You're effacing a lot of violence here and certainly not doing justice to the situation.

Though I am not versed in all of the over 500 Native cultures in the US alone, I can tell you it's a running joke in Native communities that non-Natives continue to turn to our cultures and belief systems in search of aliens. I do not know of a single Native culture that, precolonial times, had Western notions of aliens; many have concepts of the otherworldly or spirits & strange beasts of some kind, but as far as I know, there are no petroglyphs that translate to records of alien visitations. Our technologies are not "magically superior," and it is nothing but colonial racist thought that tells anyone so--perceived of as less than human and having intellects inferior to Europeans', the primitive savages can't possibly have done those things on their own, right? These things matter and need to be said because the discourse, which you only imply is problematic, is continuing to be used to dehumanize Natives and essentialize Native cultures. All these actions are couched in privilege and power resulting from ongoing colonial occupation. In short, don't forget that even though you're talking about discursive imaginations, you're also talking about real people.

I think there is merit in this site of exploration, but it would serve you well to take this further and deconstruct the racial ideologies underpinning these appropriations in the service of non-Native fears of apocalypse--what does it say about constructions of race in relation to Nature? about modernity (since apocalypse is often posited as a result of European modernity, and in general obsessions with apocalypse tend to speak to wealthy urban anxieties re: modernity)?


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