First posted: 19 February 2001  Last amended: 23 September 2005


Ecotones of the Mind

(Fort Hall Shoshone Cosmology:
a reflexive ethnopoetic on fieldwork and
the inviolability of the intellectual property of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes)

with a 2004 postscript

Allen C. Turner, Ph.D.

1. Methods: Journey Between the Niches
. . .

His sharpened pencil poised to make his mark
The /tiybo/* walks alone into The Dark.

Informants sought and found begin the show
Knowledge of Times and Places Long ago.

They speak to him of Ambiguity,
Of Risk and Unearned Opportunity,

Of Danger and of Blessed Purity
He wants to know for his posterity.

. . .

"Don't say Its Name, " the Elders always warn;
"You'll see bad Fortune come before the Morn."

"You have a word for it in English. It is known,
on television as 'The Twilight Zone.' "

2. Results and Analysis: Daughters of Sunset, Sons of Dawn

. . .

In parallel with natural lifezones
Are corresponding mental ecotones,

Whose lines and edges demarcate the Place
At Dawn where Sun and Moon meet face to face.

When Hoot Owl abdicates his nightly throne
Small Birds in Council speak in Old Shoshone.

Then Eagle rises swiftly on the Sound
Of Serpent drawing closer to the Ground.

And Opportunity is now Awake;
But Danger waits there for an easy take

Where RockMan casts his silent shadow cool
And WaterBaby cries beside the pool.

Where Bigfoot warns of Danger on the Wind
And plays his dreadful Game upon the Mind.

As Darkness steals away the gift of sight
Ephem'ral Creatures occupy the Night.

And Flying Rattlesnakes depart the Sea
To carry Aztec Quetzal's Legacy

To Realms beyond the present human ken
And then, ablaze, return to Coy-ote's den.

. . .

The Earth protects her resources for those
Whose reverential attitude She knows.

On those whose earthly wants exceed their need
The Otherworldly Ones will surely feed.

3. Implications for Future Research: Silent Sounds

. . .

Some seek their features in the burning sand
And excavate the story of the Land.

Some find the story living in the Mind
And cast its ancient Wisdom on the Wind.

He packs his trusted tools into his kit
And seeks a quiet place where he can sit

To review cultural ecologies
and Malinowski's functionalities.

And ethnographic methodologies
And data generating strategies

and Harris's materialities
And Douglas's gray ambiguities.

. . .

He drops his still sharp pencil on the ground;

. . .

Coy-o-te picks it up without a Sound.

* /tiybo/ lit. one who makes marks, i.e. a writer, common tr. "white man."

Allen C. Turner, Ph.D.

Idaho State University

19th Great Basin Anthropology Conference
Las Vegas, NV October 1986 ©

PostScript 2004

This writing references the Other Side of an ethnohistorical analysis of water-related ideology conducted in the service of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Attorneys who sought validation for the Tribes' claims to the waters of the Snake River in Idaho.

During the course of the investigation, much information was disclosed and entrusted on the proviso that it not be repeated. The realm of the quasi-spiritual-mystical-mythical-ephemeral-religious-ceremonial system of beliefs constitutes this "Other Side" that most field ethnographers know or know of.

The style of exposition, ten-beat rhyming couplets, recalls the Heartbeat of the Drum.

The three major segments represent categories of a scientific report: i.e. Methods, Results, and Implications with subtitles suggesting the fieldwork components.

The first segment, subtitled "Journey Between the Niches" highlights the naive entrada and the subsequent elision from etic to emic perspectives.

The second segment, subtitled "Daughters of Sunset, Sons of Dawn" indicates a more reportorial exposition of a view not so much Of the Inside as From the Inside.

The third segment subtitled "Silent Sounds" expresses the author's personal resolution of the intrinsic and intransigent conflict between the ethnographer's dual role of Participant-Knower and Observer-Reporter, between "ethno-" and "-graphic," and between diametric theoretical orientations that had, for many, risen to the level of polemic within disciplinary Anthropology. It suggests that not only is the subject of study, ephermeral, but that its objectification is ephermal as well.

Shortly after the completion of the field work, the author retired from academic anthropology. Writing the poetic report during his first semester as a student at the University of Idaho College of Law, it was delivered to the Great Basin Anthropology Conference in Las Vegas by his (erstwhile) spouse, anthropologist Candice Corrigan. While some deemed it appropriate, another thought it a cop-out. The author thought it a more swan song.

This retrospectus was written in October 2004, nearly two decades later. The author is now a semi-retired applied legal anthropologist and attorney at law working on behalf of the Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians, of California. He resides with his (esteemed) wife, artista Judy Boyd, on the shores of a mountain lake somewhere in Mexico south of the Tropic of Cancer.

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