Bohm and the Blackfoot

By David Peat February 6, 2014

Back in the 1980s I received a phone call from someone called Leroy Little Bear inviting me to a circle on the Blackfoot lands in Alberta. It was a meeting of the World Wide Indigenous Network run by Apela Colorado. I went to the meeting and over the next years had many meetings with Leroy as well as attending the Blackfoot Sun Dance.

As it turned out Leroy had also read some of David Bohm’s writings and wanted to meet with him. As a result in 1992 he and I arranged a meeting at the Fetzer Institute in Michigan of Native Elders and Western scientists, and other Western thinkers. Most of the Native Elders were speakers of the Algonquian family of languages – Cree, Blackfoot, Mic Mac, etc. During the meeting Bohm learned of their strongly verb based languages.  In turn, their world view was that of eternal flux and change. Thus a person’s name may change during their lifetime depending on their deeds. Likewise these languages did not lead to the formation of fixed categories. In English for example we put trout, salmon, pike etc into the category of “fish” but exclude eels and frogs. But for the Blackfoot they would refer to “processes in water” and rather than a category of “trees” there would be the sound the wind makes in the leaves.

Bohm was amazed to learn of these languages, for they recalled his earlier experiments with the Rheomode in language. In addition he felt their world view was very much in harmony with his conception of the quantum theory.

Bohm would have clearly liked to pursue these ideas but his health was increasingly compromised and he died several months later. At our next meeting of Native Elders an empty chair was left for Bohm’s spirit.