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Sept 21 Native Amreican Star Knowledge

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 5 months ago

September 21 Native American Star Knowledge


7 pm in Milne 104


Mike Tarbell, Native Educator for the Iroquois Indian Museum and Professor of History at SUNY Cobleskill and member of the Turtle Clan of the St Regis Mohawk Tribe, will present on Native American Star Knowledge.


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Lecture: Native Star Knowledge, Mike Tarbell


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[Larkin Kimmerer, llk5@geneseo.edu, 9/21/07]

Lecture: Native Star Knowledge, Mike Tarbell.

Mike Tarbell's talk was phenomenal, not just about the stars and constellations and beliefs about them, but he tied in Mohawk stories about the Big Dipper and the Pleiades. His overall message was not about stars--it was about the connection of all things in this world. He told us that the Big Dipper, in his culture, is known as the Great Bear. In Greek culture, the Big Dipper is also the bear. The Pleiades are the seven dancers, and he told a version of the story that I had not heard before, because other native cultures have different versions of the same story of the seven dancers. When I told him this afterward, he reminded me that this is because everyone, every living thing, is connected. He gave the analogy that if we were to all stand in a circle with an object in the middle, we would all see the same thing from different angles, and this is the way with creation stories. He spoke a lot of "your beliefs" (white christian beliefs) and "my beliefs" (mohawk beliefs), but they really were saying the same thing--that all things are good, it is just how we look at them. He impressed on us the idea that we must take care of the environment because all things are good, it is just how we treat them that depends on whether we are "good" or "contrary" in this life--not good and bad. So it was a great talk, less about stars and more about spirituality and life. Mike was a really nice guy, and I enjoyed the lecture!




[Steph Aquilina, sma8@geneseo.edu, 9/23]


Lecture: Native American Star Knowledge, Mike Tarbell


1. The speaker immediately set a positive tone to Native American knowledge – life is not composed of good and evil, rather, good and contrary. He concluded with the law that all people must do in life is to take care of where they live. Both ideas are so simple yet so essential to peace of mind and maintenance of environment. He reiterated that we are equal to all beings, and must treat our surroundings as such.

2. His tale about the dancing boys was very enchanting. The first involved 8 boys; one emulating the heartbeat of mother earth with a water drum and the other seven boys dancing and singing around a fire. Finally, they lifted themselves off of the ground and into the sky. The drummer told them to keep going and not look back, but once a boy turned his head, he dropped down: becoming the first shooting star.

3. Particularly, I enjoyed Mike Tarbell’s discussion of ALUNDA – the life force that connects to everything in the creation. He talked about how we are all children of stardust and how the Milky Way is the pathway of souls, leading each individual to the land of the strawberries, from where we came and to where we all end up. Our good and contrary deeds are assessed at that meeting point, where we will enter this next world either young or old, depending on the expression of our values and characters throughout life.




[Elen De Oliveira, emd10@geneseo.edu, 9/23]


Mike Tarbell's Lecture


1.  Mike Tarbell gave a very passionate and thought-provoking lecture that I really found myself enjoying.  I was especially interested in the power of names in his culture.  He explained to us the story of his name, which means "he waits."   His mother had been in labor for a very long time and his grandmother had told her that "he waits".  He asked his grandmother why his name was so uninteresting compared to the well-known tribe members of history.  He then explained that his grandmother had said something to the effect of "there is only one 'sitting bull', and there is only one 'he waits'".  It is really interesting to see how powerful names are for them.  In our culture most names are popular and can be found amongst many people, but in his culture there is only one name, and no one else will ever have that name.  Their names are part of who they are.


2.  He mentioned how difficult it was to find alot of the pictures and other materials that he used during the presentation.  It made it apparent how salient ethnography is to preserving culture.  If there weren't people documenting events, stories, and important ancient landmarks, he wouldn't have been able to show us the photos of the medicine wheels, or tell us the stories of the stars and the seven dancers and the big bear.  All of these stories which were so great to listen to would have been lost.


3.  He tied in his whole presentation to the fact that we were all "children of stardust" and how everything around us can exist without our presence, but we could never exist without the presence of things around us.  He explained their ideas about an after life, in which those who did good entered as young men or women, and those who didn't would enter exactly as they had left this world.  He told us how our 'heaven' was their 'land of the strawberries', and when he concluded the presentation he explained that it was never goodbye because he would either see us again in this land, or in the 'land of the strawberries'. 


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