I was brought up in the Christian tradition; I also had a step father who was 1/2 Blackfoot. I have always had a hard time with the way Christians interpret the Bible. For a long time I have not considered myself a Christian, but those traditions, ideas, concepts, and attitudes are what we live and breathe in America. I have wanted to dismiss most of the Christian mythology which I see as less true (in fact wildly distorted and terribly destructive) than many other stories or mythologies in the world but haven’t been able to get over the fact that “civilized” people do not live in nature, that there was some kind of break, separation, loss, that happened. That has brought me back to reading, studying, and pondering the Garden of Eden story.
When Gandhi grappled with the English to free his county, he took the beliefs of the English and used them as a tool to bring about change. My hope is that by offering a different way of interpreting this foundational story of the Judao/Christian tradition, it will offer ammunition to Native people and challenge Christians in there smug, unexamined adherence to a story and an interpretation of a story.
So. In the creation myth of the Bible there are two stories. This is important. In the first story, which everyone knows, God created the heavens and the earth: separated light from dark, made man in his own image, etc. and with each phase of his creation he “saw that it was good.” In the second story, God creates a garden and makes a man from the soil and in the garden grew the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (which we could also call the knowledge of duality), and tells Adam not to eat of the tree of good and evil, on threat of death, then God makes a woman. As we know, Eve eats of that tree and offers it to Adam and he eats. Then God comes to visit them in “the cool of the evening,” but they are ashamed and hide. So there are several consequences: separation from God, separation from harmony with each other, and separation from Nature.
So. Man learns about duality. He calls things good and evil. He begins to separate what he likes from what he dislikes. He leaves the wholistic world, the world of nature and no longer belongs there. The Native people see the interconnection between all things. The civilized man divides everything and chooses and then tries to destroy what he doesn’t like. That is the curse. And the natural consequences of duality are all the things we live with today, the list goes on and on, how we try to choose and destroy.
But to continue the story: Adam and Eve leave the garden (Nature) and have 2 sons, Cain and Able and Cain kills Able. That is not such a good start. Later they have a third son named Seth. Now they have two sons and their two sons marry and have children. Who do they marry?
So let’s go back. There are two stories. First God created man in his image and saw that they were good. Next God created two people who chose to learn about duality. But it seems clear that Adam and Eve alone were not the ancestors of all people. Their sons married women from that first group of humans who never left Nature, never chose to see the world divided.
I would suggest that the Native people are the original people. How many call themselves First Nations? That all native peoples are living in The Garden and they still converse with God without shame or fear. That they obey His laws by honoring all of the natural world and everything in it without “picking and choosing.” I would put forward that Native people are God’s people living in harmony with him and if the civilized peoples want to be “saved” (and save the world) they need to come to the Native people’s wisdom and humbly ask for guidance.
So. Missionaries going to “save the savages” is absurd. The civilized people have always been the ones in need of “saving.”
Also, no civilized person is all and only a descendent of Adam and Eve. We are all half Native from the beginning. Eve had no daughter.
As with all mythologies it should not be taken literally.
I think this way of understanding the origin myth in the Bible is especially relevant today because the “civilized” way of thinking and acting has taken us to edge of destroying the very things that give us life. Collectively we have had to come to a recognition that something is very wrong with the way we have been thinking and doing and affecting ourselves, the planet and all living things on the earth.
I have great respect for the Native people of the earth and especially the Native people of America. It causes me great pain to see the way they have been treated and continue to be abused and dismissed.