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“You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.” – Navajo Saying
Native Americans had no cultural barriers against the adoption of horses, metal tools, and guns, nor did white settlers eschew corn or tobacco. Those things have tangible uses. However, partial incorporation of culture is less likely to be successful. The assumptions we inherit about nature and the world color every aspect of thought.
To try to mix and match western cultural presuppositions about math and science with antithetical cultural premises is likely to be a mess. Case in point is the Biden administration’s commitment to incorporating “indigenous knowledge” as this definitive policy memo explains:
[The official Guidance] reaffirms that Agencies should recognize and, as appropriate, apply Indigenous Knowledge in decision making, research, and policies across the Federal Government. This guidance is founded on the understanding that multiple lines of evidence or ways of knowing can lead to better-informed decision making. Agencies should use this guidance to develop an approach to Indigenous Knowledge that is appropriate for the contexts and legal frameworks in which they operate, the Tribes and Indigenous Peoples with whom they partner, and the communities that they serve.
Even for a government document, this 46-page memo is utterly spectacular with respect to its nebulosity, impracticality, and the sheer vagueness of the expected form and nature of the requisite “outreach” and “engagement.” I anxiously await the first court challenge to federal rulemaking when EPA decides to bag all those tiresome, math-heavy (and thus also patriarchal and white supremacist) chemical criteria to adopt a spiritual and wholistic approach to the Clean Air Act as recommended by a panel of elders.
It would be entirely rational to support scientific research to see what traditional practices and herbs proved to be efficacious and could thus be incorporated into modern medicine and beneficial supplements. But to dispense with science in favor of “other ways of knowing” invites a counterattack from that stubborn American cultural predilection for requiring proof and from a force far more dangerous than Custer’s command—the plaintiff’s malpractice bar.
The FDA and FTC quickly pounce on any and all label wording and advertising claims made for natural supplements that have no formal studies to support such claims. But if the makers claim that other forms of knowledge and other lines of evidence support the claims, is it then OK?
And what about COVID? Native American healing techniques against almost every European pathogen were more than just a tad ineffective given an overall mortality rate in excess of 90%. So, do we go with Tobacco, Cedar, Sage, sand Sweetgrass as an Rx? Heck, why not?! Can’t be any less effective than quarantine and masks. And the CDC will happily gin up data and guidance to support any position that is preferred by The Ruling Party.
And there’s this from The COVID-19 Tribal Resource Center:
The data shows how TIM [Traditional Indian Medicine] led to successful health outcomes because it dealt with the needs of Tribal patients when MWM [Modern Western Medicine] did not. The TIM integrated a Tribal belief system about illness that dealt with modalities relevant to the Tribe’s concept of illness which contributed to the eventual healing of Tribal patients.
What does “modalities relevant to the Tribe’s concept of illness” mean? The treatment will only work if the patient has the right concept of his illness? Imagine what Fauci or Gretchen Whitmer could do with a notion like mandating a particular and new concept of illness—and punishing wrongthink as evidenced by proscribed symptoms. You clearly did not follow the procedural and cognitive guidelines which is why you got infected.
There is no way that this policy approach is not completely nuts. Like large fat men joining sororities, politicized weather reports, and the lunacy of pro-crime law enforcement it all seems like a big assault on common sense. “Gaslighting” is no longer a strong enough word.Published in