27 January 2013


Andy Sixkiller Clarke. Encounters with Star People: Untold Stories of American Indians.  Anomalist Books, 2012.

An interesting example of cultural assimilation, this book is a collection of UFO stories told by American Indians. The stories are collected folklore fashion from anonymous informants, and show that a sizable proportion of mainstream American and New Age lore has been incorporated into American Indian lore, indeed most of these stories clearly borrow much more from modern pop culture than from any native tradition.
They also are testimony as to how quickly such incorporations can take place. The stories reflect contactee themes from the 1950s, 1980s and 1990s abduction lore, as well as motifs from media sources such as Star Trek, The Invaders and the X Files. A motif which seems to be more represented here than in mainstream UFO lore, is that of the ufonaut as phantom hitchhiker.

In a classic piece of religious syncretisation traditional beliefs about ‘the star people’ are incorporated into the UFO lore. In the traditional society the star people were just that, stars envisaged as people, in a world view which saw human beings as an integral part of a holistic cosmos imbued with personality. They are now re-visioned as people from the stars, an idea which cannot date back from before about 1970, when ideas of ancient astronauts were popularised by the likes of John Michell and Erich von Daniken. Claiming the star people as your ancestors has reversed its meaning from a sense of oneness with the whole environment to one expressing alienation.

This syncretisation succeeds on many earlier such, for example the assimilation between Catholicism and traditional lore. In some of the stories the ‘star people’ replace ancestors or saints as protective forces. Themes going back to the Ghost Dance can be found in the belief of one informant that the earth is ecologically doomed but that the ‘star people’ will come and take the American Indians to be new world where they will be able to return to their traditional way of life, an American Indian rapture.

In a sense we are seeing here another example of how folklore reflects as much the written as the oral culture, with tabloid newspapers and the like replacing the chapbooks of old. As with much lore, it is impossible to know how much the people relating these stories believe what they say, especially here when, as the author acknowledges, teasing is a major part of the culture. Some of these stories may be based on anomalistic personal experiences, but I can’t help sensing that in the more dramatic teasing we are seeing more of the desire to please, or to be really cynical, the age old practise of rural people everywhere to compete as to who can tell the biggest whopper to the city folk, who lap it all up goggle eyed. – Peter Rogerson

1 comment:

Clive Hetherington said...

I've had some such encounters but not 'physical' ones: http://www.realitywalker.com/ets-and-star-beings/et-star-beings-aliens-flying-saucers/