NavaChing
Hunting/Questing

Updated 4/24/08

Sociologists are coming more and more to believe that Man is really polymorphic, that we have infant, adolescent and adult stages. Natural and societal pressures usually trigger these transformation programs and a goodly portion of humanity normally enters the adult mode. But recently (1950's), something strange started happening. In the western industrialized countries substantial numbers of people haven't had their transformational adult program switched on. (Why? Good question. Many answers, but beside the point of this discussion.)

Kenneth Kenniston writes ".....the emergence on a mass scale of a previously unrecognized stage of life never before witnessed in history. Youth." We think Kenniston identifies the trend but has got it wrong. This isn't a new stage of life, it's that most people in their twenties used to make the transformation to adulthood and now a large number aren't doing it at all. They aren't growing wings and flying. Instead they frequent workshops seeking ‘transformation’.

Consider something we might call Lithic phases (Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic). For our purposes let's think of Paleoliths as people in a nomadic hunting culture. Mesoliths as people in pastoral cultures and Neoliths members of settled farming cultures.

But first, a story which starts around 1200 A.D. It seems that around that time some Paleoliths showed up in the San Juan region of Northern New Mexico. Athapascans they were, recently of Canada. Kanuks out on a walkabout. They were hunters. The hunted down and killed critters for a living. Well, they settled in and before you know it (about 1400) they were doing a little corn planting on the side. And again, before you knew it they had taken up herding (about 1800) and quit hunting altogether. So what's the deal? They went from Paleoliths to Mesoliths and on to Neoliths in about 600 years. They came in as hunters and before you could turn around they were farmers and ranchers. When they were hunters coming down from the north their myths and powers stories featured that Master hunter, that Stalker of legend--Coyote. So far so good. Coyote was king, as he should be. But then the people started growing corn and stuff like that and Coyote became an annoyance. He was seen as lazy and irrelevant. Coyote didn't make a very good field hand.

Then the Dine' (The People) even starting hanging out with sheep. Coyote couldn't believe it. Here were a once proud people reduced to living with sheep. And they smelled like it too! Now Coyote was considered dangerous. The People didn't have any need for him. He was thought of as evil and feared. What The People needed now was rain and the only way they knew to get rain was by trying to be good. And so reciprocity turned into retribution, the Shaman was replaced by a Priest.

So, let's look at it. Hunting is trickery; good hunting is trickery done well. Think of fishing lures, duck decoys, brush blinds, moose calls--all of them to trick animals, in order to kill them. This quest of the hunter to become a better trickster is not an arrogant striving for self-realization; rather, it is an imitation of Coyote and other shamanic hunter heroes. For example, while shepherds frequently obtain glimpses of deity in form of a Great Shepherd, nothing less than a Great Trickster will signify to the traditional hunter the presence of divinity. He was capable, at any moment, of being Mobile, Agile and Hostile. Aim to please, shoot to kill. In the eyes of The People, Coyote went from Hero to Pest in less than 600 years.

A hunting tradition and ethic still exists in a few Navajo sings or chants. The rest contain varying degrees of shamanistic elements. The oldest adventure stories, where they have survived, are undoubtedly the adventures of trickster-shamans who succeeded in snatching game animals away from the gods. Health and well-being at first were by-products of their achievements in securing game animals; later the Navajo shamanic adventurers quested for ceremonial knowledge which would enable them to heal the sick more directly. After they obtained Spanish sheep, horses and cattle, the Navajo depended less and less on game animals for food. Herding was more profitable than hunting, and curing sick shepherds, somehow, was more profitable than tricking divine animal owners.

One relic of the Navajo Paleolithic period is a game called Shoe Game. A gambling game requiring wits, trickery, and penetrating perception (the reading of sign), Shoe Game is traditionally played early in December (well into the Nightway Season) after the snakes are asleep and Lightening has gone to its winter home.


So what are we left with? The Quest for Knowledge is essentially a hunting story and activity. A culture which has sublimated its hunting tradition and ethic has inadvertently disposed with the very skill necessary for successful Questing. What we're most interesting in is the penetrating perception (the reading of sign) part of it and the necessity for and requirement of risk. A Quester needs to be motivated (hungry). If what the Quester seeks is optional, then success is also optional. If your very soul (nowadays called identity and/or self-esteem) is dependent on the successful acquisition of knowledge in its many forms (self and otherwise) then success is imminent.

In a very direct way, Hawkeen Training is training for the Quester--the modern equivalent of the Paleolithic hunter. About the only different is the prey that is sought. Read the Grandfather story again. If you know nothing you achieve nothing. In preparing a Questing outline we'll return to and review the tactics of Coyote. But first, it's important that you understand Causal Theories. Review if necessary.


Coyote Tactics

Stories are told of Coyote's strange craving for watermelon. If there are watermelons growing in the neighborhood, Coyote will get his share. We knew an old melon grower in McElmo Canyon in Southwestern Colorado who, after thirty years, finally gave up trying to keep Coyote out of his patch. He just grew more, enough for him and Coyote.

Coyote has a simple, foolproof algorithm. And it works for most everything.

1. Get real clear about what you want. (in this case Coyote wants watermelon)
2. Have enough sense (and peripheral acuity) to notice what works.
3. Keep trying something different, outrageous if necessary.
4. Remember and understand how you were finally successful. Knowledge is the appreciation of specific cause/effect relationships.

Or to say it even simpler: Wits-->Awareness-->Courage-->Skill

If you doubt this, try keeping Coyote out of your patch. The watermelon dreams of Coyote are powerful stuff!


So what are we trying to say? That you as a Neolith can profit by visiting your Paleolithic roots. Somewhere in the currents of your genetic pool are hunters. This has all been done before by your ancestors as they studied and boiled down the tactics of the smartest critters they could find.

It's all contained in the answer to a single question. "What role do you play in the fulfilment of your desires?" Asked another way, "What role do you play in the resolution of your difficulties?" And yet an even simpler way, "What role do you play?" If you have a role then start getting good at it.

1. Know what you're attempting to do.
2. Notice how well your efforts work.
3. Keep adjusting and trying something new and different when you meet with less than the success you want.
4. When you succeed, study and remember how you did it. Success in one context can often be used or adjusted to work in another. Be efficient!

If you're gunning for moose you should probably go to Canada, for elephants maybe Africa. Just where is this 'hunt' supposed to take place? The Physiology Map of course!

Your task it to create and adopt personal Questing algorithms which are efficient and satisfying.

We're encouraging you to be more systematic.


For more see:

The Navajo Hunter Tradition by Karl W. Luckert
Coyoteway: A Navajo Holyway Healing Ceremonial by Karl W. Luckert
A Navajo Bringing-Home Ceremony: The Claus Chee Sonny version of Deerway Ajilee by Karl W. Luckert
Navajo History, Vol 1 edited by Ethelou Yazzie
Handbook of North American Indians Vol 10 edited by Alfonso Ortiz, Smithsonian Institution