The Importance of Being Ernest Goes to Camp

When reading about  the concept of ownership among indigenous tribes, you usually find that the concept held little to no meaning.  Tribe members share physical objects, and “possession” usually has no meaning outside of usage.  To quote the good folks at Anthropik:

Because the cultures of the Fifth World have rediscovered magic and the animist sense of the living world, they do not see their transient possessions and elegant technologies as things they “own”—“ownership,” if it means anything at all, is denoted by use, more than anything else. In other words, “ownership” of something means, “I have a relationship with this spirit, and we are having an exchange right now—please don’t interrupt until we’re done.” Thus, the question here is not about the equipment or technology available in the Fifth World, but of the spirits that are friendly to, and have a relationship with, the people of the Fifth World.[1]

However, upon reading these words, I realized that I already had familiarity with this concept.  In that venerable classic film Ernest Goes to Camp, when Krader Mining Corp. tries to buy the land from Chief St. Cloud, he asks them, “Who can own a tree?  Who can own a rock?  Only the Great Spirit.”

No one should feel surprised that those words stuck with me.  I can’t remember how many times I watched that movie as a kid.  They resounded in my mind as I wandered the Ozark hills above Greers Ferry Lake.  They reverberated in my heart as I paddled along the courses of the Caddo and Ouachita Rivers.  They stuck in my throat as I shelled out tens of thousands of dollars in rent in New York City.

Someday we will return to a time when no one dares the audacity to claim ownership over the ground that gives us life.  Until then, I will try to ready myself, chanting Chief St. Cloud’s words.  Know what I mean, Vern?

~I wrote this blog in e-prime~
~You should only find the verb “to be” amid the quotes I have cited~


3 responses to this post.

  1. Hey, I just stumbled across your blog, and I like your topics of interest! I noticed some similar posts to blog entries I’ve made.

    As another movie parallel (sort of), I was reminded of “The Gods Must Be Crazy”. As portrayed in the film, the Bushmen of the Kalahari had no need for the concept of ownership until a Coke bottle fell from the sky.

    I am still constantly amazed that our culture considers it normal to assign ownership to land, food, and water.


  2. Luv it. Too true. I find a lot of movies and mass-media have changed me for the better.

    I feel certain that “the Dark Crystal” made me see the forest differently, on some fundamental level. Every time I reach a new level of perception in nature, I feel like I’ve revisited the scenes where Jen and Kira wander the hyper-alive forest.

    The Ewoks (in return of the jedi) demonstrate bird language. Chewbacca embodies the intelligent and ethical “wild man” (or large-footed one). Talk about Iron John!

    Dune made me see how the severest conditions could feel like home, and a spiritual home at that.

    On and on.


  3. Having written recently about ownership in animist thought and about animism in general, I thought this video would make a nice compliment […]


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