Indigenous oral knowledge


The oral is the true repository of our common knowledge.

Before language was restricted by writing there was oral knowledge, a way of communicating history, lessons, and traditions through sounds and stories performed ritually and collectively. 

Stephen J. Augustine the Hereditary Chief and Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, discusses how this knowledge is passed down through generations, saying:

“The Elders would serve as mnemonic pegs to each other. They will be speaking individually uninterrupted in a circle one after another. When each Elder spoke they were conscious that other Elders would serve as ‘peer reviewer’ [and so] they did not delve into subject matter that would be questionable. They did joke with each other and they told stories, some true and some a bit exaggerated but in the end the result was a collective memory. This is the part which is exciting because when each Elder arrived they brought with them a piece of the knowledge puzzle. They had to reach back to the teachings of their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. These teachings were shared in the circle and these constituted a reconnaissance of collective memory and knowledge. In the end, the Elders left with a knowledge that was built by the collectivity.” 

Oral Traditions

"It is very likely that the Iliad and the Odyssey were texts orally composed for performance and, based on that performance, written down by dictation in the second half of the eighth century B.C.E."

-Translating an Oral Tradition into Writing · Online Exhibits

“The Iliad and the Odyssey tell of the time of the Myceneans, whose civilization ended 1150 BCE; but Homer is dated to 750 BCE. The bridge between these two periods was oral tradition...Oral tradition is something like a river of text flowing through time: each age throws something in that flows downstream, and there is no attempt to unify the product.”(source unknown)

Language, art, and architecture are material products of ritual that leave visible traces.  Hidden parts of the ritual process such as changes in emotions, attitudes and beliefs of participants reside in the collective memory and awareness of the participants…it has a strange loop where suddenly we are back where we began but something is changed, so that it fits with the cyclicality of the ancient belief systems where something is dying and being reborn continually. 

Oral cultures are depicted as inferior to written cultures. This judgment is based primarily on the false assumption that written (and digitally recorded) repositories of information are vastly larger than for oral cultures that rely on living memory. As Walter Ong, a leading language scholar, says:

                 "Writing, commitment of the word to space, enlarges the potentiality of language almost beyond measure....a power far exceeding that of any purely oral dialect".

While Ong is correct in regard to classic information, this perspective does not take into account the magnitude of quantum information contained in the collective wisdom of the indigenous.  Oral cultures worldwide have an attunement to the invisible factors and their interconnectedness with all of the elements of their environment.

Science has been reluctant to accept the reality of energies and events inexplicable by classical methods.  However, there is an increasing awareness and acceptance of the reality of "quantum weirdness" and the limitations of its own determinsitic methods.  Today, science is being challenged to go beyond the Standard Model of particle physics as are other areas of science including: mathematics, geometry, anthropology, and the social sciences.

James O'Hern