Manataka® American Indian Council
The Rationalist Alternative
Hot Springs National Park Service's Tainted Views
"The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." ~Dr. Douglas G Altman
We have spoken before of the efforts of the current administration of Hot Springs National Park to erase Indian history and deny the sacred nature of Manataka, the Place of Peace. This effort is now being called a ‘rationalist’ alternative to the stories told by the Grandfathers.
Manataka: Myth or Reality?
National Park Service Hate Campaign
National Park Disputes the Sacred
Manataka - Place of Peace or Persecution
So what is rationalism? In its broadest sense, rationalism is any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification. In more technical terms it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive."
In other words, whatever ‘facts’ are available are examined and through deductive reasoning a ‘truth’ or conclusion is formulated based on that reason. The Parks Service’s most recent argument assembles a variety ‘facts’ then adds them up to a “rationalist alternative” that the facts do not support.
For example, the Park Service proceeds to detail the dates and times of occupation of various First Nations people inhabiting or visiting the hot springs are in historical times. Then somehow they come to the “rationale” conclusion that no Indians used the springs in pre-history because there is no archeological evidence to support such use. If you’re going ‘huh?’, don’t feel bad, so are we.
The most belabored ‘evidence’ sited by the Parks Service to prove that there was no use of the hot springs by Indians during prehistory is that there is no archeological evidence to prove that they did use the hot springs. Their deduction is that no evidence = no use.
There is a great deal more to say about this deduction than this space will allow at this time. So we will ignore the fact that the National Parks Service own web site mentions “Stone artifacts found in the park give evidence that Indians knew about and used the hot springs,” and stick to deductive reasoning alone, since that is the park in which we are called upon to play ball.
So what can we deduce from the fact that there is no archeological evidence? Well, if there is no evidence, we really can’t deduce anything, can we?
So what facts can be relied upon to form some sort of deductive argument? Let’s take a cursory look at some generally accepted scientific knowledge that can be applied to the situation, but which is generally ignored by Park Service.
Geology informs us that the hot springs looked very different from the display spring on the west side o f Manataka (Hot Springs) Mountain. Each of the 47 springs on the mountain flowed freely. These hot springs were reported by Dunbar and Hunter to be too hot to drink; they had to be allowed to cool before they could be used. They refer to them as the boiling springs.
Now what do we all know about hot water? It creates steam. And what are the characteristics of steam? It rises into the air as water vapor. And what happens to water vapor when the sun shines through it? It creates rainbows. So we can form a rationalist argument, that there were rainbows in the air on a sunny day. Yet the Park Service says there were no rainbows. Is this really ‘rational’?
Another geological feature of the hot springs was the tufa, a rough, thick, rock-like calcium carbonate deposit formed by chemical precipitation from water with a high content of dissolved calcium. The Park Service’s publication on the geology of the hot springs describes the tufa deposits that surrounded individual springs creating an other-worldly landscape from which the hot spring water, the vapor and the rainbows issued forth. From this information we can deduce that this was an unusual place, a place like no other place, geologically unique.
If we move now from these few facts and deductions based on the geology of the hot springs to the science of anthropology, we can make a few additional deductions. It is well known that indigenous peoples hold unique and unusual land formations in special regard, generally considering such places to be sacred by virtue of those unique characteristics. Yet the Park Service insists that Manataka has never been considered a sacred site.
Anthropology has related scientific disciplines, including those which investigate the lore and ritual of cultures. One would think that if the Park Service wanted to disprove the stories of the Grandfathers, they would apply the science of these more relevant disciplines.
But even though there is some discussion of neutral ground lore, the actual argument set forth concerns the political neutrality of the area. The neutrality of a sacred site has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with honor and respect. And fear of the numinous.
Primarily the stories of the Grandfathers are attacked by the Park Service based on the fact that they were disseminated through the marketing efforts of the railroads and spas. But the method of dissemination cannot prove or disprove either the validity of the stories or their source.
Even eye-witness accounts of Indians coming to use the springs and first hand accounts of persons who spoke with Indians using the springs are argued to be false just because the the Park Service questions their veracity.
One problem with rationalism is that the conclusion, even when well argued and containing all know facts, can be way off the mark if some facts are not known. Another problem with rationalism is that it assumes that reason has precedence over all other ways of acquiring knowledge.
While we have shown that we also can apply deductive reasoning, it is not our belief that reason is the optimum manner by which knowledge can be obtained. Reason and rationalism have nothing to do with the way of the sacred. These schools of thought do not recognize the knowledge that can be transmitted directly through spirit and this knowledge does not require deductive reasoning for validation. It is this spiritual transmission of knowledge that mythology seeks to stimulate. The stories of the Grandfathers go beyond the recording of historical events, they explain historical events, and the manner in which the People are affected. And they explain the numinous sacred quality of nature. The application of rationalist thought to stories of this nature is completely inappropriate.
The message of the Rainbow Woman is a message of peace; her spirit is a spirit of healing.
The Parks Service can make all the irrational deductive arguments they want, we know what we know and for us there is no question concerning the sacred nature of Manataka.
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