Clouds over the Badlands in South Dakota. Photo: Cathy Bell / National Park Service

James Giago Davies: One of these days we are going to actually read the book

Most only read the cover of the book

“Thunder and lightning, very, very frightening…”
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Some of you may have wondered why germs get no mention in ancient texts and mythologies. Fleas and mites are Godzilla compared to microscopic life. We had no idea how busy the neighborhood was down at that level for the simple reason we couldn’t see it. It was much easier to create supernatural beings that were an expression of what we could see, then make mention of a fundamental aspect of nature we couldn’t see to lie about.

If nothing else, the existence of a microscopic world indicates our ancient understanding of how reality operates was myopic cherry picking. That we could think we had things so figured out we could assert a divine creator, an afterlife, when we didn’t even know about Joe Germ and his family, is ruefully hilarious.

In every Wasicu church, and on every reservation, are holy men, chock full of sacred wisdom and assertion, who can’t even tell you what caused the sky to be blue or thunder to crackle. They do have some wonderful stories you can mostly find in the children’s section of the library.

Here’s what NASA posts to help kids with hard science: “Blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth's atmosphere. Blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves. This is why we see a blue sky most of the time.”

Not hard to follow, but even the smartest man alive a couple thousand years ago knew less about why the sky was blue than your Second Grader just learned.

Here’s the explanation of thunder: “When a lightning bolt travels from the cloud to the ground it actually opens up a little hole in the air, called a channel. Once the light is gone the air collapses back in and creates a sound wave that we hear as thunder. The reason we see lightning before we hear thunder is because light travels faster than sound!”

Here’s the explanation for lightning: “Heavier, negatively charged particles sink to the bottom of the cloud. When the positive and negative charges grow large enough, a giant spark—Lightning—occurs between the two charges within the cloud. This is like a static electricity sparks you see, but much bigger.”


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James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at

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