What are platypi for? I’m pretty convinced that they are just the punk rock rebels of the evolutionary world. They’re not really sure what they’re FOR, but they sure as hell know what they’re AGAINST, and that is everything sensible.

I know that Native Americans would never have even seen a platypus but hey, this is a comic! What if they HAD? I suspect that the “we’re all family” attitude many Native cultures had would be questioned. You really want to be brothers with a mammal that has a bill and lays eggs? Think again! Psh!

It’s tough to talk about “Native Americans” as though the term properly collects the varied traditions and cultures of the people that first called the Americas home. It doesn’t. When we look at what we think of as Native American culture, we are really not giving credit to the numerous cultures that existed here alongside each other for centuries. By grouping them together we do both them and ourselves a disservice. Many tribes and nations existed here on the lands that became The United States before Europeans arrived and there were as many systems of governance, cultures, and spiritual practices as there were communities. The Iroquois Nation was vastly different than the Inuit people of the north, and to imply that they were somehow the same is just silly.

That said, there are some shared concepts that are represented in many tribes, if not all of them. One of the most well known is the belief and practice of animism. Many tribal religions across indigenous American cultures were founded on a belief that all things contain spirit and that this spirit is to be respected and observed. While many tribes also had some version of a God like figure or figures, they still often had some component of Animistic Shamanism. This concept is one of the few things that has survived about Native American belief systems in popular culture. There are often depictions of indigenous peoples talking about totems, spirit animals, and the symbolic meaning of this or that animal and, surprisingly, it is one very true belief of many native cultures, particularly here in North America.

Nowadays, thanks to the New Age revolution (if it can be called that), people often wonder what their spirit animal is or what particular animals mean when they appear in their lives. Unfortunately, the internet is awash with information that is often wrong or, at the very best, without context. The mish mash of animals and their symbolic meaning is drawn from cultures that spread across North America and has no real shamanic interpretation to it; a key component of religious practices involving animism. See, it was only through professional interpretation that symbols, dreams, and omens could be understood and interpreted, much in the same way that it often requires professional psychological analysis to interpret dreams and help break through psychological trauma. The shaman in these societies is seen as a guide, a healer, and a often times a leader to their people and their skills are as varied as they themselves are.

I guess that’s one of the most interesting parts of animistic beliefs, in my eyes. Recognizing the differences in things and yet, still finding meaning to them, finding importance in what they are and what they do, even if they don’t directly benefit you in some way is a powerful realization and one that people of European descent still haven’t come to grips with. To imply that this idea is somehow savage or more primitive than the “lofty” ideals of Christianity or the other Abrahamic Religions is foolish.

To recognize that each of us has worth and that we are of the same family as animals even if we prey on them or they prey on us, that is a beautiful insight and one that could revolutionize our interaction with our environment if embraced globally. Everything in this world has purpose, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.

Just take a look at a platypus and maybe you’ll see what I mean.