On Friday, Oct. 21, Jim Bear Jacobs spoke about “Contrasting Indigenous and Western Worldviews” in a free presentation open to both the Loras community and public in the Arizona Room in the ACC from 2:30-3:30 p.m. The event was sponsored by the Kucera Center and the Loras Literary Society. Jacobs is a pastor of the Church of All Nations in the Twin Cities and a member of the Mohican Nations. He resides outside of Minneapolis with his family.
Eric Anglada, Coordinator of Ecological Programming at Sinsanawa Mound, introduced Jacobs and the event. Anglada invited attendees to also approach himself if they were interested in attending a conference titled “Native Voices: Spirit, Place and Healing” to take place on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Sinsanawa Mound. Jacobs will be one of the four speakers presenting at the conference.
Jacobs then took the podium, introducing himself in Mohican and greeting the crowd in front of him. He explained how he grew up Pentecostal, and how he is now a pastor for the Church of All Nations. This explanation of his religious background set the framework for the rest of his talk, which focused on differences on religious views between native people and Western ones. He clarified that there are many differences between individual indigenous tribes, and it can be dangerous to make assumptions and generalizations of “all natives.” He said that for the purposes of this specific presentation that he would be doing just this, in offering a simplified explanation to contrast the Western and indigenous worldviews.
He said that he is often asked about the difference between the native view and the rest of the world and explained the fundamental problem with this inquiry.
“The premise of this question is very ‘othering.’ It also generalizes native people,” Jacobs said.
To explore this question fully however, he emphasized that one has to go back to the beginning — the very start of it all.
One of Jacobs’ primary discussions was centered on the differences between the two creation stories found in the Bible: Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Jacobs offered that Genesis 2 was the creation story that native people align themselves with, for a number of reasons. Historians believe that Genesis 2 was actually the first creation story written, and is probably one that was conceived from the prehistoric era. Jacobs believes that this story was first told by a woman because of the language used which draws upon the ancient tradition of the midwife.
When God digs His hands into the Earth to draw man up from the clay, he breathes the breath of life into man’s nostrils, similar as to how midwife’s in the old tradition would have sucked the plugs from baby’s noses if they were still blocked after emerging from the womb. Also, in Genesis 2, man is created, followed by the rest of creation, ending with the creation of woman, which suggests that in this tale woman is the perfection of creation.
There are many differences between both chapters, and Jacobs suggested that in Genesis 1, man comes as the last step of creation because he is the perfection of all that God makes. This is a contributing factor to why man has a superiority complex and believes that he has dominion over all of the creation that came before him.
Jacobs emphasized the importance of acknowledging who the storyteller is in any given narrative.
“Suddenly, when things are written down, the storyteller can be lost,” Jacobs said, explaining one of the downsides to written word. The Western culture writes their stories down, preserving them but also causing them to become stagnant. Meanwhile, native culture focuses on the tradition of oral storytelling, which allows the tales to breathe and have life throughout the course of history. Western civilization prefers things to be linear and oppositional, and thinks this way in every aspect of life. Native civilizations think in the circular, and harmonically.
Jacobs left his listeners with the encouragement to listen to the stories of the past with the storyteller in mind, remembering that every person has their own biases and perspectives that influence how the tale is told. He has his own unique perspective, which allows him to meld and contextualize his beliefs coming from the framework of a native culture as well as an Evangelical one in his pastoral work.
Many people do not agree with this method, surprisingly the majority of these opponents being native people themselves that have been raised as colonized Christians. However, Jacobs continues to go on telling his stories how he believes they should be told.