Friday, April 24, 2009

On Being Primitive

The only definition of the adjective or noun, "primitive" that I respect is from the original (Latin and/or Old English) meaning first or prime. I am not alone in this view as I quote here from Wikipedia: "Indigenous peoples and their beliefs and practices are sometimes described as "primitive or primitive cottage", a usage that is seen as unhelpful and inaccurate by the vast majority of contemporary anthropologists and similar professionals."

Well, in my mind we do not need to be either an anthropologist or other professional to respect the reality that "first" or "prime" are relative to an age. In approximately 100 BC the Anasazi culture (the ancient ones) were first in a culture that thrives today (Puebloan and Hopi). In evaluating this culture we must do so within the context of their times and not by a comparison with our times, which often leads to comparative, and sometimes derisive comments, about "primitive people," or their "primitive ways."

In this blog series, I will present and quote both evaluations and speculations about the Anasazi culture and their neighboring cultures within the context of their times and their environments. Where primitive would be haphazardly used, I will use primary, beginning, initial, first and a host of other modifiers that refer to those cultures' activities.

Lastly, in time, we "today people" will be cast uncharitably as "primitive" by more advanced cultures who see us as awkward and quite backward in many ways. Hurts doesn't it? We must all keep this in mind when we examine the history of earlier human cultures on this planet. When we manage this transition through reading and research we will experience the excitement of discovery and admiration as we share segments of those ancient lives. I hope you will come along and share those times with me.

CREDIT: The image above is "Newspaper Rock" Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock near Canyonlands National Park, south of Moab, south eastern Utah, USA

Anasazi Dreams (c) 2009 Waddell Robey All copyrights apply

Monday, April 20, 2009


Hopefully, I have captured your interests with the first two articles in this blog, and before we venture further I wanted to provide you with a beginning reading list. All of the texts in the list are highly informative and quite accurate. Additionally the books by Brown, McNitt, Noble and Roberts all include personal experiences in both researching and visiting the various archeological sites through the Southwest. If you read them, you will be captured and enraptured by the stories of these people and the still existent spirit of their cultures that prevail today within the Native American communities.

The books on Rock Art are quite valuable. Patterson's field guide is a must have if you plan to explore the Rock Art of the ancient ones. Polly Schaafsma is the recognized leading expert on Southwestern Rock Art and her book is the bible in that respect. She will do the most in helping you understand what we think the ancient ones meant in their pictographs and petroglyphs. They are communicating and we need to understand what they are telling both their own cultures and all that followed.

Not knowing about these ancient citizens and what they brought to this land is to leave each of us with a void of understanding about humankind in general. To the contrary, knowing about the ancient ones will draw us closer in our understanding of our Native American brothers who share their land with us.

Please click here to view the reading list, and please, let the spirit of these cultures welcome you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


The concept of oneness goes far beyond the spiritual. It is the daily practice of unity between Native Americans and their real and spiritual environment that expresses itself in their art, their music, their rituals, their interrelationships, and their respect for all life and the earth. All of this melds together into a cultural ethic that guides their lives. We often mistake this as standoffishness or, in our own smugness, as being primitive. Why, then, do we wonder why we are often regarded with both suspicion and aloofness? We are outside their world, which was the world we invaded and have never fully understood or accepted, and, as such, we remain outsiders.

The following link takes you to one very basic concept of their meaning of "oneness." It is not intended to be comprehensive so please regard it as only a glimpse of their spirit of oneness. Click here, if you wish.

Yes, I am sure there are variations in the concept of oneness among existing and ancient cultures but the fundamentals appear to be the same. My father, who worked as an "understanding" missionary among many cultures of the Southwest never imposed the "gospel" according to the white man. Instead he listened and counseled on issues that arose between native cultures and we outsiders. In his own words, "he learned far more than he ever taught" and gained a never before level of personal humility. Fortunately, he passed both on to me.

Archaeological studies of the early cultures, including the Anasazi, confirm that"oneness" was part of their respective lives. In fact, based upon studies of these cultures and the oral histories of their descendants, it was and is the center of their daily lives. We will see evidence of this in both their ancient ruins and in the type and style of the petroglyphs and pictographs that communicate their cultures. The ongoing mission for us, is to discern what is being expressed.

Photo credit: Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis's 'The North American Indian': the Photographic Images, 2001.

AnasaziDreams (c) 2009 Waddell Robey - All individual copyrights apply