Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
Apache Crown Dancers 1887:

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sharing Native American Culture and Offering a Unique Brand of Skepticism

Recently, I was privileged with an opportunity to share some insight into Native American culture and offer a unique brand of skepticism to the associate members of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a nonprofit scientific educational organization. 



Not only does CSI offer a network of people interested in seeing paranormal investigations (or anything considered to be "fringe" ) using science appropriately, but it also publishes an official journal, Skeptical Inquirer magazine. The list of founding members of CSI includes some rather well known scientists, academics, and science writers such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Philip Klass, Paul Kurtz, Ray Hyman, James Randi, and Martin Gardner. If you needed another reason to join, CSI also offers the Skeptical Briefs, a special newsletter with articles featuring regular columnists and different skeptical groups from around the world, exclusively to its' *Associate Members.  


I have written a few articles for the Skeptical Briefs ranging in subjects from cryptozoology (the study of hidden animals) to witchcraft. I try to offer a more critical look that is often not found as another resource for those interested in putting together a more accurate representation of what Native American beliefs actually depict. Some topics covered include; Navajo Skinwalkers, Native American Legends, and the New Age Mysticism that shows up around Native American Spirituality.  


Those at CSI have graciously made some past articles available online, not just from the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, but the Skeptical Briefs newsletter as well! So, for those of you who are not Associate Members of CSI and have not been able to read any of my past articles, here is your chance to check one of them out, Thunderbirds.  




  1. Good list.

    I would add that just because it was marketed with an Indian on it in a medicine show doesn't make it a "traditional Native American remedy". Seriously, the herb peddlers seem to love "traditional Native American remedies". Lastrealindians even tried saying a plant native to China was a "traditional Native American remedy". In freshman year, a lot of guys teased me because woowoo was so associated with Indians. It's difficult to say "Yeah, I was born at home, but that's because IHS OBGYNs were big on coercive sterilizations and abortions. Not exactly the same conditions as a woman on or some other wretched hive of SCAM and villainy. And I was vaccinated."

    Oh, about thunderbirds, another part of it is, if you look one in the eyes (which don't exist), you become heyoka: You do everything backward. So if someone says he's seen one, he's either lying or telling the truth which (since he always says the opposite of what he means) means he's lying. Actually, the writings of H.P. Lovecraft somewhat reminded me of the wakinyan because of the fact that they cannot logically exist (and not just in scientific terms, but that's the whole point).

  2. I don't have any problems with your approach through Skepticism. I think that adopting a rigorously logical approach has a lot of value. It does cause you to take a very different line of thinking about your Native American heritage and Nde customs - than most other Nde people. But being "different" is not inherently bad. While it is true that you can separate a lot of myths from reality and expose them as spurious, I'm not sure that means that everything becomes explainable.

    Good luck on your quest.

    Incidentally, while you have been actively promoting Skepticism and trying to show its application to traditional Nde beliefs - I have been over at the sacred Chiricahua areas performing prayer and meditation. I hope you see the irony in that :-) Hahahahaha!

    Pete, California

  3. Noah, I need your help. Some indigenous media are smelling...iffy. I mean, I like ICTMN and NSN for their regular stuff, but some of this medical stuff sounds like...I know it's no worse than the MSM (and even some skeptic blogs I can name have their pet woo that they just can't bring themselves to rebuke), but I can't help but feel that when *a* white man promotes homeopathy or therapeutic touch, he's just a scam artist, but when an Indian man promotes it, it suddenly represents all of us.

    Note that if it worked through the proposed mechanism (insulinlike growth factor), I can see serious issues for patients at risk for diabetes or cancer.

    I love the Dr. Oz reference in the second link. LOL We can pick on Mehmet Oz, of course, but all medical talk shows have this issue. (The Doctors regularly has Jim Sears, Dr. Bob's equally antivax brother, on.) But "luminaries"? Seriously? Ideas have to have merit too.

    Then there's this:

    "He teaches about traditional plants and their chemical make-ups, and wants to begin to bring those herbs back into the community as homeopathic medicine."

    Please, in addition to being totally wrong, homeopathic medicine is decidedly *not* traditional Lakota medical knowledge. It's a cousin of humor therapy by way of Hahnemann's own reaction to cinchona (quinine), with the idea that water has memory thrown in.

    There's an issue with alternative medicine people trying to cling parasitically to the established concept of ethnocentric bias. That is, they claim ethnocentric bias, even when their treatments are of thoroughly Western origins. Sometimes even trying to attract nonwhite people into their fold, just for this. We should not be helping them.