Reflections On Digging For Roots In Other People's Gardens: Sally Thompson And Carl Jung
"I have no deep physical roots to a particular place, nor did my parents before me," writes anthropologist Sally Thompson in her manuscript, True North at the Third Pole: Exploring the Indian Himalayas. "The graves of my ancestors lie unremembered in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Connecticut.
"Years ago I served as an expert witness for archaeology in the Taos Pueblo water rights case. After I presented a status report of my research, the governor of the Pueblo stood up and said he wanted to note a significant difference between my culture and his: curiosity. Euro-Americans want to dig things up, dissect them and verify everything. Indian people already know who they are and they don’t need the physical evidence of the past to prove it.
He recognized that this work was necessary for the water adjudication process, but believed the distinction was worth noting.
Native Americans who remain in their traditional homelands experience a literal circle of life, in sharp contrast to people who keep leaving their lands behind. The roots of trees in an old homeland are fed by ancestors’ bones and the leaves are fed by human exhalations; in return, those trees emit oxygen.
I realize now I have unconsciously longed for what my family has lost. That deep insight of Taos Governor Reyna led me to realize how archaeology, for me, was like digging for roots in other people’s gardens. Not long after, I hung up my trowel."
See, Biano said, how cruel the whites look. Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are mad.
Thompson pairs her reflection with Carl Jung’s similar experience in his memoir, "Memories, Dreams and Reflections." In this passage, Jung recalls early in his career, traveling in New Mexico, when he had the good fortune to meet the then Governor of Taos Pueblo. He was apparently the first person of non-European descent Jung had ever met. He writes:
"He was… an intelligent man between the ages of forty and fifty. His name was Ochwiay Biano (Mountain Lake). I was able to talk with him as I have rarely been able to talk with a European.
To be sure, he was caught up in his world just as much as a European is in his, but what a world it was! In talk with a European, one is constantly running up on the sand bars of things long known but never understood; with this Indian, the vessel floated freely on deep, alien seas.
At the same time, one never knows which is more enjoyable: catching sight of new shores, or discovering new approaches to age-old knowledge that has been almost forgotten.
“See,” Biano said, ‘how cruel the whites look. Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something… The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are mad.”
When Jung asked why they thought Europeans were mad, the Governor replied, “They say they think with their heads.” Jung, confused, said “Why, of course. What do you think with?” Biano pointed to his heart. “We think here.”"
(Broadcast: "Reflections West," 3/16/16 and 9/21/16. Listen weekly on the radio, Wednesdays at 4:54 p.m.)