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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

Indigenous Cultural Pluralism: The Multiplicitous Nature of Indigenous Beings and Stories

One of the most unhelpful approaches to understanding Indigenous ontologies and stories is using western comparative analysis to understand the Indigenous paradigm. When people root their journey into the ceremony on the foundation of western structures of beings, gods and elements having singular authoritarian presence and power, they obstruct themselves from the complex nature of our essences. For our beings traverse worlds and are composed of pluralistic ethos with multiplicities of capabilities.

To believe a trickster, shifter, shapeshifter, element or being exists alone without many spirits or access to many planes of spirituality is not helpful. It's how you (westerners) construct stories but not us.

Instead of distilling our worlds to “know” every aspect, I offer you’ll have more opportunities to meaningfully engage by humbly submitting to not fully grasping it. That’s where the activation lives and is the spherical cultural teaching nature of our story ceremonies.

One example of these cultural pluralistic structures is the gift a knowledge keeper gave me when I was doing land work and he was telling me a story and said “remember this Transformer is not one being but the amalgamation of 3 sibling bears and one bird. We just see it in a state of one but we must honour it always as many.” I sat by the river for a long while powerfully moved by what he said. Pondering the complexity of our beings and humbled by the task to share this Indigenous epistemology, our ways of knowing.

Another example is from Kamloopa during the campfire scene. When Indian Friend #1 is embodying an Ancestor and Matriarch and Kilawna shifts between a Matriarch and a bear cub. They are both in this Earthly dimension, as well as traversing time on the wind river accessing the knowledge of the infinite universe. There is a presencing of worlds. This pluralism of time harkens to the notes off the top when the playwright is supposed to write what "Time" the story takes place and I write "All." This is our pluralistic understanding of existence for us as beings beyond the human form.

The “I don’t get it” is often a result of a rash and obnoxious assertion to immediately “understand” and a lack of submission to the not knowing. A lack of respect to not learn that the act of witnessing these stories and by way of participating in these ceremonies is to nourish our infinite journeys. To deepen our universal connections whilst humbly knowing we’ll never truly understand or get there in this lifetime. That is the disposition of our species, that we must accept our own humanity.

In short, 😆 leave jesus, zeus, and all your other godly beings and hierarchical isolating singular dimensional structures in your worlds and open yourself up to the Indigenous many worlds.



p.s I did a neat storytelling panel the other week with The Festival of What Works, entitled. Indigenous Storytelling: Honoring the sacred in stories from place, which you can stream here. Limelet Salmon Nation for having me and the team for holding such nourishing space.

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