Dr. Daniel R. Wildcat Discusses “Power and Place” at NWIC

On May 12, 2008 Dr. Daniel R. Wildcat, Professor of Native American Studies at Haskell Indian Nations University, talked to my Philosophy 140 class about the Indigenous concept of “Power and Place.”  I have shown this talk to many of my classes and it has proven to be so popular that I have decided to include it on my blog.

Between 1986 and 1991, Vine Deloria, Jr. published a series of eight essays in Winds of Change magazine – the journal of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) – on the topic of Indian education.  In these essays Vine accomplished what no one else has ever done – provide a well thought out and understandable explanation on what should be the philosophical foundations of Indigenous learning.  In these essays Vine also offered a simple formula for understanding the metaphysics of Indian Country and Native people, namely Power + Place = Personality.  By “Power” Vine meant the spiritual power that is inherent in all things.  By “Place” he meant the physical landscape, the life within it, and the reciprocal, appropriate relationships that connected everything together.  Vine believed that this Power and Place combined to produce “Personality,” or the unique Indigenous cultures that emerged from this, what Robert K. Thomas called “Peoplehood.”

Vine’s essays proved immensely popular and in 1991 AISES published them as a book, Indian Education in America: 8 Essays by Vine Deloria, Jr. This book quickly sold out and AISES then approached Vine about updating the essays to be republished.  Vine, however, was always reluctant about going back and rewriting his earlier works (of nearly 25 books, God Is Red was the only book he ever really re-edited), so instead invited Dan Wildcat to write companion pieces to his original essays.  The result of this joint venture was Power and Place: Indian Education in America (2001). This book remains the single most important publication ever released on the topic of Indigenous learning – a book that everyone involved in Indian education should read.

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