Shannon O’Laughlin and Joe Rogan on Native American Origin Stories

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Shannon O'Loughlin

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Shannon O'Loughlin is the Executive Director and attorney for the Association on American Indian Affairs, and she is also a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

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Native Americans

Episodes & clips about the indigenous people of the Americas.

Transcript

When you hear an origin story like the one you were talking about, people coming out of the earth, how do you decipher that? Well, I've actually been to that origin site, and it looks like a female. It's a place where we were birthed. It looks like a female. It looks like a place where we were birthed out of Mother Earth. It's a beautiful, amazing, and almost shocking place. Where is this place? This is in Mississippi. So you think that that might be true? That's our origin story, or that's one of our origin stories. Right, but you understand how scientifically that would be a real problem. People coming out of the ground like poppies? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe not. I think there are stories and narratives that we're no longer connected with. And our lives today are so out of context with the natural world that we don't know what's possible anymore. We've been so separated from that. Even to imagine. But we have a clear line from ancient hominids to modern human beings that science has been able to piece together. That's one story. That's a story. Another story is we came out of the ground like roses. You think that's possible, though? That seems highly unlikely. Like, if you had money to bet, I'd give you $1,000, and you could put it on this or that. You could put it on, well, people got here by all sorts of means the way people got everywhere, by all sorts of means. Or they came out of the ground like flowers. Or Adam and Eve and all that other jazz. Yeah, all that other jazz as well. But these stories, whether they're our origin stories, they create our identity, they create who we are at the center of our being. And they have lessons to teach us. And they also remind us what we're responsible for. And that's what I'm saying, that we've been so separated from that part of us and our connection to the natural world and to the earth. Right. So we're a part of the earth. We're a part of the earth. We come from the earth. Yeah. Whether or not we're actually born out of the ground is not really relevant. We're responsible for it. Right. So we were put in certain places to be responsible and caretake for that area. So a lot of these stories, they're essentially trying to connect people with the idea that they are a part of this great earth. They're a part of this beautiful ecosystem. And maybe this origin story is devised to sort of explain to them in a way that makes a clear connection. Does that make sense? Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. But it's part of who many tribal nations are. This is our place. This is our homeland. This is what we're responsible for. And we haven't been able to do what we were put here to do. Our purpose has been ripped away from us. So a lot of the work we do is to try to work towards environmental healing and try to bring lands back into our land holdings so that we can caretake for that land. That's not all over Indian country. There are some places in Indian country that extract oil and do things that could be harmful for the environment. And we do what we can with what we got. And nations are sovereign. The tribes are sovereign. So they get to decide what's best for them and whether they're going to be sustainable or not.