When I was a little boy, my grandmother told me that we were descendants of Pocahontas. The idea sparked my fantasies. Having Indian blood was a special blessing. She has endowed me with some spiritual qualities, psychic perception and magical abilities – in my imagination. I was later disappointed to learn that it was fashionable among past generations to claim a blood bond with Pocahontas. I suspected my grandmother’s story was of this origin.
Much later I realized that Native American fascination with things was a symptom of a certain affinity. I enjoyed Indian fantasy as a reminder of the wilderness from within. It had to be resolved, but in my indigenous terms, not in terms borrowed from other cultures. I recently read a book that added great depth to this perspective.
Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat (HarperSanFrancisco), by Paula Gunn Allen, Ph.D., tells a completely different story of this American icon than the one we love. This award-winning author, a retired UCLA professor credited with originating literary studies of Native Americans, took the usual sources, as well as those seldom cited, and reinterpreted the data in the context of the mythical Native American worldview. The result is a fascinating account of the transformation of “Turtle Island” into “America the Beautiful”.
Dr. Gunn Allen begins by explaining the worldview centered on the Native American spirit at the time. The “manito aki”, which pertains to the supernatural, paranormal, and spirit-inhabited world, was the waking reality of Native Americans, more real to them than the physical world.
We could say that they were good “Jungians” at the time, because they respected the experiences of the imagination as real and worthy of attention. Even the natives at that time realized that their world was coming to an end. Their calendars and their mythologies had prepared them. The coming of the white men was part of the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Evidence points to the fact that Pocahontas was a high priestess, initiated into the mysteries of the spirit world and charged with accountability to these spirits. Based on her evidence, the author came to the surprising conclusion that Pocahontas, rather than falling in love with Captain John Smith, was actually on a pre-planned mission that took advantage of him as an unwitting pawn. Her goal: to ensure that the spirit of tobacco finds a home in the new world. The spirit of tobacco, the essential shamanic power of the Native American world, needed to find a way to be part of the materialistic world that was being born. This mission was crucial if the spirit of the native world was to survive the destruction of its manifest existence.
Pocahontas was the channel through which the transfer of power was achieved. Pocahontas’ bond with John Smith was the means by which native spirituality was preserved, although it would have had to hide for centuries within a plant that would have been traded, traded, consumed and defamed within a conscience. purely materialistic, until the time when this ancient spirituality may one day be reborn in the awareness of the European mentality, as it begins to happen today.
What is this new emerging mindset? Gunn Allen writes: “… the construction of Pocahontas in American thought, although often historically inaccurate, is an indication that America’s imagination is as connected to manito aki as it is to the earth. ‘harmonizing our modern American consciousness with the ancient psyche of the earth we inhabit is the dominance of a paradigm which assumes that material and measurable existence is all there is.’
The lesson for us is to respect the intuitive nature of Timagination. We need to experience and understand the imagination as a channel of intuitive realities. The mind and its ambassador, the imagination, are quite real although they inhabit a different plane of existence from that of the world that the senses recognize. It is real because it makes a difference in our lives. It is in this realm of the imagination that we can find our highest ideals, that we sense our interconnectedness as spiritual beings, that we meet non-material beings, and discover patterns in the creative forces that shape our lives. Our fascination with all things Native Americans is proof of our connection with this non-material world. Yet this connection is something that unfortunately we do not recognize within ourselves, but that we project onto these indigenous peoples. Gunn Allen reconnects us with our heritage. He joins us in gratitude for the people who came before us, who built a spiritual time capsule that would survive the materialistic and destructive phase of our history, preserving our endowment of spirit children for the future. . Pocahontas is truly the godmother of America.
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