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Journal Article

An Athapaskan Way of Knowing: Chipewyan Ontology

David M. Smith
American Ethnologist
Vol. 25, No. 3 (Aug., 1998), pp. 412-432
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/645792
Page Count: 21
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An Athapaskan Way of Knowing: Chipewyan Ontology
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Abstract

The ontology of those Canadian Chipewyan who still actively hunt, fish, and trap is based on the assumption that one must maintain a harmonious communication with nature, especially with animal persons. To this end, emphasis is placed on paying attention to the full complement of holistically interacting senses, giving more attention to the intuitive and affective realms than is typical for Euro-American ontologies. No single sensorium dominates metaphorically; greatest validity is given to firsthand, experiential knowledge attained in waking life or in dreams, with the powerful stories of the elders serving as guides to understanding. Chipewyan thought is monistic--there are no human/nature, mind/body, thought/action, or spirit/matter dualisms. There is a definite cognitive connection among the inseparability of the senses, an implicit monistic philosophy, the understanding that individual can never be separate from society, social egalitarianism, and the belief in the need for maintaining harmonious communication with animal persons. [Chipewyan, ontology, perception, inkonze, monism]

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