Stephen M. Sachs*

Over a little more than the past 100 years, western culture, and especially western science, have moved closer to Indigenous ways of seeing. 1 This is extremely positive, for while western culture and science have made great contributions to humanity through an approach that takes an aggressive narrow focus, the reductionism involved has too often missed the larger picture seen by Indigenous cultures, and the more passive Native science. 2 This has had disastrous results, the most obvious of which is the current world climate and broader environmental crisis. 3 Moreover, Western science and culture have often missed the importance of the particular of place, and caused great problems, and have experienced large failures, by failing to sufficiently adapt valid general principles to particular circumstances. 4  In addition, one area in which the west has suffered from its reductionism, and has been in need of a more holistic understanding, has been in giving primacy to intellect, or logic, with too little respect and consideration for the other ways of perceiving and processing information, most notably intuition. 5  Fortunately, an integration has been in progress between western and Indigenous ways of seeing, that is badly needed.

Two important volumes in furthering this integration are Will Taegel. The Mother Tongue: Intimacy in the Eco-field (Wimberley, TX: 2nd Tier Publishing, 2012), and Glenn Aparicio Parry, Original Thinking: A Radical Rethinking of Time, Humanity and Nature (Berkely, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2015).

Taegel, who has American Indian heritage, had considerable experience with the Muscogee Elder Marcellus Bear Heart Williams, which helped expand his perspective. In the Mother Tongue, Taegel continues an examination, begun in earlier works, of, “our interior domains as we seek to navigate the turbulent waters of the 21 st Century.” Early on he conveys an experience of one on a vision quest in the woods on a ranch in Texas, receiving a message from the trees that a forest fire was coming, which propelled her to rush back to home base and initiate the action which saved the ranch from the fire.

Later Taegel relates supporting research by contemporary mainstream cutting edge biologist, Almo Farina and his research group of the Istituto di Biomatematica at the University of Urbino, in Italy. Farina’s group studied eco-fields relating to local habitats. They found that local landscapes had underlying fields, linked together non-locally in overlapping exchanges, in which messages were being exchanged between species, and also with relevant inanimate objects. Thus it appeared that the birds and the trees were talking to each other, as were the grass, the soil and rocks. Farina’s group did not include human beings in their study, but the implication is that if people are open to listening to their intuition, and develop that capacity, they would become part of the dialogue with everything in their environment. This is consistent with with traditional Native healers saying that certain plants told them that some part of the plant had specific healing properties. Thus, the movement in the west to return to understanding that human beings are part of nature gains an added dimension. This is part of Taegel’s communicating that,

Our human estrangement from Nature leads us to a profound estrangement from human nature. Without Nature I cannot know my true nature.

It seems to be the case that our Universe is making itself known as an evolving, coherent whole, operating with intelligence and information exchange at the very beginning point and continuing to our current moment.

… to rejoin the intimate circle of our planet’s council we must speak the root language, the lost dialect at the base of all language. Only then can we be intimate in the fullest sense. All current human languages are second languages to the more than human language of the eco fields.

Glenn Parry wrote Original Thinking following 12 years of facilitating dialogues among western scientists and traditional American Indian elders. Parry relates that when the dialoguing group took up the question, “Is it possible to come up with an original thought,” the western scientists considered if it was possible to say something that never been said before. Meanwhile, the Native elders discussed going back to origins, to the original instructions which human beings had been given. Parry, while acknowledging that western culture and its science have made many significant contributions to humanity, believes that the west has gone astray and needs to renew its thinking. “The origin of thinking is thinking is thinking. Original thinking is a remembering or a putting back together something that has always existed, but has been torn apart. Original thinking embraces the wholeness of time: it is both old and new.”

The volume goes into depth on a number of questions in the course of revisioning where western culture night move: “Is it possible to come up with an original thought?” “What does it mean to be human?” “How has our thinking created the world today, and what is now emerging?” and “Can education promote the renewal of original thinking?” This reviewer found the discussion most helpful in integrating an Indigenous perspective into the process of how western societies, and, indeed, the world, might move out of the current set of escalating crises.  In the course of considering such a vast set of critical topics, I saw some, minor issues differently, and thought a few points might have been stated in other terms, but, as one who agrees that there is much of the ancient perspective that needs to be restored in conjunction with what has been the best of the west, I found the thrust  of the book most helpful, and the whole of the work quite thought provoking.


1. For example, for the general shift, see LaDonna Harris, Editor and Mentor, Stephen M. Sachs and Barbara Morris, General Authors, Recreating the Circle: The Renewal of American Indian Self Determination, Ch. 1, Section 2; and on science in particular, Stephen M. Sachs, “The Cutting Edge of Physics: Western Science Is Finally Catching Up with American Indian Tradition,” Proceedings of 2007 Western Social Science Association Meeting American Indian Studies Section, Indigenous Policy, Vol. XVIII, No. 2, summer 2007.

2. Gregory Cajete, Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence (Santa Fe: Clear Light Publishers, 2000),

3. For example, see, Climate Change, Environmental Decay and Indigenous People: Indigenizing the Greening of the World,” Proceedings of 2008 Western Social Science Association Meeting American Indian Studies Section, Indigenous Policy, Vol. XIX, No. 2, summer 2008, reprinted in the Review of Environmental Peace 2011, and the Journal of Environmental Peace, forthcoming 2011.

4. Ibid.

5.  Carl Jung, Psychological Types (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1923). Application of Jung’s understanding in Western culture can be seen in Isabel Meyers, Gifts Differing (Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1980); and David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types (Delmar, CA: Permethius Nemesis Book Co., 1984). Eduardo Duran and Bonnie Duran, Native American Postcolonial Psychology (Albany, NY: State of New York University Press, 1995) holds that while Jung’s perspective is essentially correct, his model needs to be adjusted for different cultures, and a Native American model is posited by the authors, particularly on pp. 65-83.

*Stephen Sachs is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at IUPUI, Senior Editor of IPJ, and coauthor of Recreating he Circle: The Renewal of American Indian Self-Determination. He can be reached at ssachs@earthlik.net.