Tcé Mantu and Theism: The Question of God in Innu (Montagnais-Naskapi) Traditions

By Jay Hansford Charles Vest.

Published by The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies

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As a prelude to this study, permit me to draw attention to some of the problems we, as Native peoples and as scholars of Native traditions, are faced with when formulating and presenting philosophical discourse. In the scope of Western knowledge, there is an elitism that has markedly confined philosophy, the love of wisdom, to the ancient Greeks and their methodological followers. Illustrating this problem as manifest in the academy, I was in a recent encounter with a colleague of the wisdom discipline, who informed me that “philosophy does not include American Indian thought” and that the wisdom of such Native luminaries as Black Elk does not constitute discourse within the discipline. My colleague’s categorical exclusion was that Native thought is not presented in the form or method used by the ancient Greeks, such as Plato and Aristotle. In response, I countered with the notion that philosophy itself transcends such minimalism. Accordingly with this paper, I propose to revisit the ethnographical discourse of anthropologist Frank Speck who made a careful study of the Montagnais-Naskapi traditions during the early twentieth century. Speck’s study will be explored with scrutiny of the theological and moral questions pertinent to philosophy as manifesting a love of wisdom characteristic of Montagnais-Naskapi traditions.

Keywords: Native American Religious Traditions, Montagnais-Naskapi Theism, Montagnais-Naskapi Ethics, Traditional Native Values, Sacred Geography

The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp.101-113. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 198.115KB).

Dr. Jay Hansford Charles Vest

Professor, Department of American Indian Studies, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Pembroke, North Carolina, USA

Jay Hansford Charles Vest is an enrolled member in the Monacan Indian Nation. In addition, he was honored with a traditional Pikuni-Blackfeet name and ceremonially adopted by elder Joe Crowshoe of Brocket, Alberta in June 1989. Dr. Vest is professor of American Indian studies at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Specializing in Native American religious traditions, his interests include American Indian folklore, oral traditions, as well as tribal ethnohistory of the Saponi-Monacan-Tutelo, Powhatan, Pikuni (Blackfeet), Salish, Iroquois, and Walapai peoples. With more than one hundred publication and an equal number of formal presentations, he is a widely accomplished scholar.