Creation and Liberation

The Ontology of American Indian Origins

Authored by: Scott L. Pratt

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415492447
eBook ISBN: 9780203803516
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634178


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In his two most recent books, American Indian theologian George Tinker proposes that the affirmation of the created character of the universe is a necessary condition for the praxis of liberation. Origin stories provide crucial information for American Indians living there, and provide a starting point for European-descended peoples to find their place as well. Even as Euro-American historians and scientists seek to explain the shared history and problems faced by the diverse peoples of North America, Tinker argues that it is indigenous knowledge that will make sense of the past and point to a future in which all peoples have a chance to survive. “American Indians and other indigenous peoples,” Tinker writes, “have a long-standing confidence that they have much to teach European and north American peoples about the world and human relationships in the world.” He argues that much is at stake in learning these lessons: American Indians are “confident that those foundations can become a source of healing and reconciliation for all human beings and ultimately for all of creation” (Tinker 2008: 47). This confidence is affirmed by a wide range of American Indian writers, including Luther Standing Bear, who concluded in his 1933 autobiography “it is now time for a destructive order to be reversed [ … ] America can be revived, rejuvenated, by recognizing a native school of thought. The Indian can save America” (Standing Bear 1978 [1933]: 255). Daniel Wildcat, an American Indian philosopher at Haskell Indian Nations University, argues in his recent book on global climate change that the key to survival in the long run will be found in indigenous knowledge. He concludes, “Because indigenous peoples have paid attention to our Mother Earth, it is important to listen to what we can share with humankind” (Wildcat 2009: 17; also see Deloria 1970).

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