Stories, Legends and Other Things
By BYRON NELSON, TRT Columnist
As descendants of the people who lived in this valley not too long ago, we sometimes wonder how we as people in this modern age can readapt some of those ancient ways to help make our lives better. Of course there are certain ways that could never be brought back. We have too many outside influences which we could never change. Modern technology has made us too dependent on certain things and it would be impossible for us to function without them. But perhaps the real concern for us today is the things that we may be losing.
We are very fortunate to have a direct connection through our families with that time when there was a near perfect society in this valley..
Stories, which over time turn into legends, are still being handed down to us. The dances which have not ceased since ancient times are still with us. There are even countless studies we can draw from done by famous scholars like anthropologist Pliny Earle Goddard and linguist Edward Sapir.
In some ways however, when we look back at the ancient way of life that was so dominant just a few generations ago, we see things that are completely different. So different that it makes us wonder how things changed so quickly.
Many of these changes come from our environment and the way our children are raised. In the old days, this valley was a quiet and peaceful place. Babies were bound into their carrying baskets to help prevent hyper-activity and to promote good posture. They were raised to conduct themselves in a quiet and respectful way so that they turned out as such when they became adults. Records even indicate that some Hupa dogs were quiet because they were bred in a way to prevent them from being able to bark.
Strict laws had always been in place to prevent disagreements from escalating into violence. Domestic violence was extremely rare and was not tolerated. Panhandling did not exist. No one felt entitled to other people’s wealth and never asked for it because that behavior would have been cause for banishment.
Measures were in place to prevent over-population; Studies at all the old village sites, which counted the number of houses show a continuous population of one thousand tribal members in the valley since ancient times.
Some of our modern social problems can be corrected by drawing from some of those applicable ancient beliefs. However, there may be another source of knowledge we could draw from that gives us a more holistic understanding of those ancient beliefs.
There are some theories that as human beings, our DNA contains built-in knowledge from past generations which kind of tags along with us when we are born. This “inter-knowledge” accumulated over countless generations lies dormant only to emerge when we least expect it in kind of a sixth sense sort of way. Some call this genetic knowledge.
Although all humans are supposed to have this capability, some argue that Indians in this area, like the Hupa, may have a stronger tie to that knowledge, and a larger reservoir to draw from. This is because the local Indians have basically lived the same life style for hundreds of generations, and that they have only been removed from that pure life style for a relatively short time.
Whether or not genetic knowledge is something that really exists, there is one basic belief or law that most peoples of the world observe,and it is one that is very prevalent in Hupa teachings. The law is very simple; if you knowingly do something wrong, it will come back on you. All Hupa members can probably recall one time or another when an elder had told them this basic Hupa belief.
So, if you try to tap into your genetic knowledge and you are not truthful, be prepared for the consequences.