Handbook of Contemporary Animism, 13



Ethics in Cree Hunting

Colin Scott


p. 159 difference in worldviews

"The difference between animistic and secular scientific worldviews have been a matter of long-standing concern for anthropology. ... In one influential view, Viveiros de Castro (1998a:470) has

counterposed Amerindian "multinaturalism" to Western "multiculturalism". ... The former ... "would suppose spiritual unity and a corporeal diversity", with culture ... the form of the universal , and nature ... the form of the particular.

{This sort of contrast may be proposed by South American anthropologists; Australian anthropologists, however, tend to propose to include (in accordance with the Aboriginal scheme -- supra, p. 138) habitual social behaviour on the part of animals as a subset of "culture".}

Viveiros de Castro's view resembles in some respects Wagner's (1977, 1981) earlier understanding that, through predominant deliberate attention to figurative signification ..., indigenous Papuans precipitate human social relations as the form of the innate, in contrast to {so-called} scientific thought whose ... relational signification precipitates

natural objects and "nature"

{not including "human nature" -- as though humans' own nature were somehow either (1) irrelevant and insignificant, or (2) non-existent -- thus skipping or omitting the entire field of human social ethics, such omission being actually occasioned by the non-ethical nature of brutal capitalism}

as the assumed (figurative) form of the innate."

{A frequent deduction from so-called "nature" is so-called "social Darwinism", wherein the assumption is made that because praedatory species of animals exist in so-called "nature", that therefore brute-force (militaristic) capitalism is (figuratively) "natural" (and thus, justifiable).}

Wagner 1977 = Roy Wagner : "Scientific and Indigenous Papuan Conceptualizations of the Innate". In :- Timothy P. Bayliss-Smith; Richard George A. Feachem (edd.) : Subsistence and Survival ... in the Pacific. London : Academic Pr. pp. 385-410.

Wagner 1981 = Roy Wagner : The Invention of Culture. Univ of Chicago Pr.

pp. 159-60 flexibility of animism

p. 159

"the epigraph from Cree mythology suggests an animism that is ...

p. 160

simultaneously "multinatural" and "multicultural" in outlook, while perceiving a fundamentally shared ground of body and spirit. Cree thought insists on tacking back and forth between between the universal and the particular in both natural and cultural domains. ... The totemic moment of thought involves a processing of human identity and circumstance with reference to the other-than-human, while the animistic moment involves the converse. ...

Whatever illusions Westerners may be under about the primacy and universality ... compared to the derivative and relative ..., it is plain to Cree hunters that reality is more supple and recursive. On close inspection, ... knowledge producers make oscillating creative use of metaphor and metonymy as they differentiate and relate percepts in their worlds of engagement."

"we will turn to two consequences of the perspective ... . First is the thorough imbrication {overlapping} of fact and value, the mundane and the sacred, in ... animism. Second and closely related to the first is the continual infusion of abstract (sacred or spiritual categories) with practically grounded experience."

pp. 160-1 umwelt

p. 160

"Following Roy Willis (1990:1-24), ...

p. 161

Willis borrows von Uexku:ll's (1957) ... umwelt, a world distinctively perceived and acted upon by each species ... . For humans, however, ... the umwelt is generated ... trans-individually."

Willis 1990 = Roy G. Willis (ed.) : Signifying Animals. London : Unwin Hyman.

von Uexku:ll 1957 = Jacob von Uexku:ll : "A Stroll through the Worlds of Animals and Men : a Picture Book of Invisible Worlds". In :- Claire H. Schiller (ed.) : Instinctive Behaviour. NY : Internat Universities Pr. pp. 5-80.

p. 162 mind is immanent

"conditions that Ingold (1996b, 2000) refers to as dwelling and engagement, or that Hornberg (1996) calls contextualism -- that mind is immanent in its contexts of activity and place, not a cultural overlay on a detached reality (see also Casey 1996)."

Ingold 1996b = Tim Ingold : "Hunting and Gathering as Ways of Perceiving the Environment". In :- Roy F. Ellen & Katsuyoshi Fukui (edd.) : Redefining Nature. Oxford : Berg. pp. 117-55.

Ingold 2000 = Tim Ingold : The Perception of the Environment. London : Routledge.

Hornborg 1996 = Alf Hornberg : "Outlines of a Contextualist Paradigm for Human Ecology". In :- Philippe G. Descola & Gi`sli Pa`lsson (edd.) : Nature and Society. London : Routledge. pp. 45-62.

Casey 1996 = Edward S. Casey : "How to Get from Space to Place in a Fairly Short Stretch of Time". In :-  Steven Feld & Keith H. Basso (edd.) : Senses of Place. Santa Fe` (NM) : School of Amer Research Pr. pp. 53-90.

p. 163 reciprocity between humans and divine species-controllers

"From the standpoint of Cree mythology, ... Humans received human culture -- fire, language, tools -- from

the animals

{particular divine controllers of the animal-species}

who originally had them.

In the biography of a human lifetime, hunters receive animal gifts ..., thanks to their relationship with animal persons who were understood ... as the species masters {and mistresses} of bears, caribou, geese ... . An animal{-person, i.e., -deity} who has been particularly generous to a hunter and with whom the hunter has a special relationship commonly makes an appearance at or near the time of death of the hunter".

p. 163 respect for divine species-controllers and for individual animals

"There is respect for {supernatural} animal masters {and mistresses}, sacred condensations of esteemed partnership ... .

There is respect for the autonomy and intentionality of the animal ... . It is disrepectful to state with certainty a definite future outcome ...; indeed such a statement

is regarded as a kind of "lie"

{because the future is fore-ordained by the will of deities, and humans are not aware of the praecise actual will of those deities}

that invites punitive reaction on the part of the animal ... . The animal is always a gift, and respected as such; ...

{Any punitive reaction would be caused by the deity who is contolling the animal; for, the animal is a gift (to the hunter) from that deity.}

success will not occur without the animal's cooperation. ...

{The deity who is in control of the animal must co-operate with the human hunter.}

The sacred is the abstract framework for apprehending the particularities of ... animal master "spirits" and the form of the "gift" [from those "spirits"] as the ethically endorsed mode of relationship [between those controlling "spirits" and humans]".

p. 163 reciprocity between humans and divine species-controllers

"Abstract keys to the relationality of the world, ... in the guise ... of "spirits" such as the animal masters so familiar in Amerindian cosmogonies, are universal. One cosmogony ... makes of other-than-human agents partners in reciprocity. In both cases, a certain vision of the human and a certain vision of the other-than-human are mutually inflecting."

pp. 164-5 similarity between divine species-controllers and scientific categories

p. 164

"The semiotic modality of animal master categories (C. Scott 2006, 2007) anid general categories in scientific theory may be fundamentally similar ... in a nested

series of categorical inclusions.

The embedding ... is neatly reflected in the category iyiyuu ... . This nesting of categories connects Cree selfhood to the broadest extent of of a living universe. ...

p. 165

Animal spirits may evoke veiled or invisible principles and forces that underlie manifest existence,

{Not entirely! Animal-spirits are neither unqualifiedly veiled nor at all times invisible, but can be easily visited and communicated with, in trances and in dreams.}

but so do abstract concepts in science.

{These are indeed veiled, invisible, and conjectured on the basis only of sheer speculation.}

Why then do the former appear mystical to the Western observer, while the latter are deemed a valid and informative expression of reality?

{The spirits are "mystical" because they account for consciousness and for ethics; where materialist science is "deemed valid" because it cannot account for consciousness nor for ethics -- it is unethical and inconscionable, just like the vicious system of capitalism which spawned it. [written Nov 23 2014]}

It is because we [viz., "the Western observer"] compare the animal master spirit to the evacuated spirits of our own intellectual tradition; but these are not the same sort of spirit. ... The ... master of animals has retained

its connection to the practical-empirical knowledge project of {AmerIndians}

{experiential in that the deity is encountred in one's dreams, empeirical in that the deity can be communicated with therein, and practical in that the information rendred there and then by the deity can be employed to effect (in the waking world) by the human dreamer}

in a way that biblical angels, for example, have not for Westerners.

{The typical Christian can neither regularly encountre angels, nor receive messages from them, nor put any traditional records of such messages to pragmatic use.}

The non-separation of the sacred and the secular enables {AmerIndian} mythical and ritual symbolism to furnish vehicles for empirical/instrumental knowledge,

{Any refusal to split asunder the universe into twain (sacred vs. saecular) is labeled "schizophrenia" by that so-called "science" misnamed by the misnomer "psychology" : for, the only true "schizophreniacs" ('splitter-mindeds') are the "psychiatrists" themselves! [written Nov 23 2014]}

an alternative that is ideologically excluded in orthodox Western science."

{More actually, the alternative is excluded by capitalist-stooge ideologues (who contrivedly fabricated the racket-scheme falsely called "psychiatry") in order to trick the general public into imagining the psychiatrists' victims (committed by them to "insane asyla") to be guilty of the very logical fallacies whereof the capitalists themselves are the actual culprit-perpetrators! [written Nov 23 2014]}

Scott 2006 = Colin Scott : "Spirit and Practical Knowledge ... among Wemindji Cree ... ." ETHNOS 71.1:51-66.

Scott 2007 = Colin Scott : "Spirit, Ethics andEcology in Wemindji Cree ... ." In :- Frédéric Laugrand & Jarich G Oosten (edd.) : Nature of Spirits in Aboriginal Cosmologies. Que'bec : Les Presses de l'Universite' Laval. pp. 387-99.

{The main difference is that whereas human knowledge concerning divine species-controllers is based on direct communication with them, the so-called "principles of science" have never been communicated with, and therefore the conjecture of their very existence is based no more that the sheerest of speculations. All so-called "science" is baseless fluff, wild conjecture sure to be eventually discarded into the rubbish-bin of history, while the deities themselves will replace all so-called science with whatsoever it may their august will to establish. [written Nov 23 2014]}

p. 165 metonymy in the other-than-humans' figuratism as concerning humans

"Figurative (mainly metaphoric) and relational (mainly metonymic) processing of engaged experience and practical navigation in the world are oscillating {i.e., continually alternating} moments of all thought, whether under conventional labels of animism, totemism, or science. Animism and totemism may be seen as converse movements in the figurative use

of the human to ponder the other-than-human {this would be animism}, and of the other-than-human to ponder the human {this would be totemism}. ...

{Animism employeth the mortal's soul's point-of-view; whereas totemism employeth the point-of-view maintained by the supernatural totem-deity.}

The meanings of communication, sociality, reciprocity, respect, and so on have to be worked out in situational and ecological context."

pp. 165-6 baselessness of materialists' self-delusion

p. 165

"There is no basis for imagining that animistic ontology produces less accurate knowledge of the world than naturalist ontologies of science. Yet the ... latter insists on separations of the sacred and

of value

{viz., ethical value (not use-value nor labor-power-value)}

from the purely objective and factual in a way that is simply untenable

in a world fundamentally structured by relations of reciprocity. It is ... reciprocity ...

{i.e., in a world governed by ethical principles (which are all ignored, and even arrantly defied, in the inconscionable "science" promoted by greed-motivated, war-mongering, treachery-promoting

robber-baron capitalism)}

p. 166

fully informed by the particularities of other-than-human agents in such relations. And questions of ethical obligation are permuted according to the realities and practicalities of human and other-than-human co-participation in the socio-ecology".

p. 166 some severe and fundamental ethical failings brought about by capitalism

"Western scientific culture, for its part, faces undeniable crises stemming from

attempted evacuation of values and sacred meaning from its models of {so-called} objective reality. ...

{Capitalism is egregiously lacking in ethical values and is intransigeantly defiant against all matters of the sacred and of the holy (i.e., capitalism is unethical, unholy -- and sacrilegious).}

Our present and worsening environmental relations indicate that

a world constituted of relations of reciprocity

{a communistic world of ethics-oriented mysticism}

is a truer vision, from the standpoint of longer-term adaptation and evolution, than

a world of competitive opposition and exploitation."

{an ethics-absent world of exploitative capitalist materialism}


Graham Harvey (ed.) : Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Publ, Durham; ISD, Bristol, 2013.