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Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Anasazi Echoes
Reflections on our future from the past

"We are more than the sum of our knowledge,
we are the products of our imagination."


their name is a whispering call on the wind beckoning the sound of it in reverence spoken hypnotizes the senses


into hearing the cries of their children the songs of their mothers into feeling the pride of their warriors the fear of the dying for the living


their name is a thousand questions left unanswered as they vanished their lonesome gods can be felt in the desert wind at night their ghosts dance within the shadows of flames cast by ancient firelight


their name is a whispering call on the wind beckoning to be remembered for each time it is spoken


their lonesome gods become less lonesome

Poem by: Jason W. Campbell

This place in the sky is watered by rain that doesn't reach the ground, warmed by sun that winter valleys can only remember. Up here, sometimes in the clouds, its verdant bounty stretches like a sea, farther than the 100 miles the eye can reach in any direction. It has been known to humans for these virtues for 2000 years, and hosted the rise of one civilization that suddenly departed 700 years ago. It is thought that for a time nearly one million people were supported in this, the breadbasket of the southwest, most of which we call desert. Certainly inside the mysteries of Mesa Verde there may be lessons for us now, as we consider our relationship to the tides of history.

We drove here in a car, after flying west in a plane, which might have seemed miraculous to the Anasazi, but our reaction to their creations holds their achievement (moving from nomads to architects and artisans within 700 years of peace) as the more deserving of awe.

At the time their civilization blossomed, then vanished (or transformed), Europe was in the dark ages. The plagues, wars, famines and persecutions that typify European history of the period are notably absent here. I can't help but wonder what a thoughtful, reflective person at that age, in either place, would have thought of their respective position, and how they would have acted on the basis of such belief. It can be hard to tell one equinox from another.

The same question challenges us: are we on the verge of a new chapter of history, in which new potentials become available to us (both as individuals and collectively), or are we on the edge of decline, in which we must carefully gather and guard what knowledge we do have, and ensure its safe passage to some future generation that emerges again into light .

I imagine you would react differently depending upon your answer. Your answer, in turn, depends very much upon where and how you live. Maybe Dickens had it right, each city requiring its personal tale, and while some are preparing to enjoy the best, others are resigning themselves for the worst.

Our issues on this discussion list can be framed in a wider context, particularly since the actions we take will have broader implications than "the Internet" or "K12 education" or "computer mediated communications". I'm beginning to believe that we are at a juncture not entirely unlike that facing the 500 nations of pre-Columbian America at the advent of European arrival.

Our civilization's track record is atrocious with respect to indigenous peoples. What if we had it to do all over again? The lessons we presently need to learn seem to share themes of simplifying (rather than increasing) the complexity of life, of harmonizing with (rather than dominating) our environment, of celebrating diversity (rather than dictating dogma with genocide as the alternative).

When our ancestors labeled the people they encountered in the "New World" as "savages", simply because they lived a different cosmology that didn't worship domination of nature as the goal for humanity, we lost an opportunity to blend their wisdom with our technical prowess. It seems that such wisdom is very much like what we seek today, in response to myriad ills.

Thanks to the technological legacy of our ancestors, we now have in our hands a communications tool the likes of which humanity has never before posessed, at a time when the stakes rise daily in the race for local solutions to global problems. It is no longer "us" versus "them"; there is only "us", only some of "us" aren't yet comfortable with that reality.

We, who are already here in the "new world" of cyberspace, do not need to be "discovered" in order to be validated or useful. The past year's media infatuation with the Internet has proven that! With 97% of classrooms presently members of the "unreachable caste", misinformation and hype has made it increasingly difficult to hold meaningful conversations about the visceral benefits of the Internet for learning. One can only imagine the impact of the next wave, when the titans seeking commercialization of networking for edutainment delivery systems or consumer marketing systems vie to alter the virtual landscape away from the embryonic and visionary model of every person as a potential knowledge builder and publisher.

If we see ourselves at the doorstep of a new era, where our present two-way communication paradigm coexists with 500 channels, we will proceed with confidence to build systems of collaboration which form the highest expression of our civilization's value of synergy. If we see the darkness approaching, our actions will be more like guerilla warfare, harnessing the anarchic internal design of the Internet to ensure that we can reach one another at the IP level, packet by packet.

The answer may actually be that both responses are appropriate. We need people (sages and poets) advancing the state of the art, demonstrating tangibly what can be achieved when the 'net is put to work in service of learning, and discovering along the way what new kinds of dwellings fit the needs of people to the possibilities that the environment can sustainably support. We also need warriors who will blaze trails, and rescue those who would be left behind by "invaders" who care only for quick profit at the expense of the larger populace. We also need to champion those with an entrepreneurial spirit who have transformed themselves away from the models of cultures that no longer work, who seek a way to provide livelihoods for people in a win-win model. In any case, the work lies in building a community, one which reflects and supports our values as growing, learning human beings.

There is much reason for hope, not the least of which is the speed with which we can translate our ideas into actions (notice the flow in KidSphere, KidLink, Global SchoolNet, EdWeb and the Online Internet Institute). Also, the geometric growth of the Internet means that in the coming years we will approach the critical mass of people whose minds are ripe for harnessing the collaborative potential of the media, far beyond the pen pal (hunter) and lesson plan (gatherer) mode of earlier educational telecommunication uses.

We need to grow a vision that embraces the best of what we'd like to achieve, personally and as a community. We then need to share and shape it's expression to ensure that it works for the full range of diversity found in present and future "netizens". Finally, we need to help one another solve the challenges of becoming and staying connected, and using our connections for mutual strengthening.

These are the echoes emerging from the silent eloquence of the ruins at Mesa Verde. Whether that which we build lasts 700 years, is understood by future archeologists, portends the start of a Renaissance or heralds a time of darkness, let's use our talents and time to see what can be achieved at this moment of history.

Source: Ferdi Serim

Princeton Regional Schools
Computer Teacher/ District Computer Coordinator
Online Internet Institute, Principal Investigator

phone: 609 921-8549
fax: 609 924-7347

Other Anasazi Sites

Source: David O. Born

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.