Lance Foster (hengruh) wrote,
Lance Foster

Cultural (Mis)appropriation

The problem of cultural misappropriation, well, there's a lot to learn about, through the example of the sweatlodge deaths in Colorado. I'm an enrolled member of the Iowa tribe. I have seen over and over certain situations.

For example, if you are having a sweat, say, a nonnative person wants to participate. So you might say ok, if you are friends or at least know them. So they go, try to follow what is told to them, what to do. It's a good thing. A blessing. But then the next thing you know, this person is running a sweat themselves, without having been given the training, the right and responsibility, because it comes with both. It's like a pipe, not everyone in an Indian community is a pipecarrier, but every white guy or woman who is interested, thinks by definition, they have the capacity and the RIGHT to do it. Indians don't think that. Not every native person is a shaman, so why does every white person think they can be one? A shaman mainly serves the community.

..ok, so let's go back to that first guy who went to a sweat. Now that guest suddenly decides he has the knowledge to run a sweat. To make things worse, he starts charging people MONEY to go to it. (Isn't that what this culture is all about anyways? Money and the SELF?) That's the next stage. That lack of being humble. That greed. Now this guy calls himself some Indian/native sounding name, and he (or SHE) is running workshops to TRAIN OTHERS. A guy who had no training, now he purports to train others and charge hundreds of dollars, maybe linked workshops that add up to thousands of dollars. Sounding like cultural misappropriation yet? But wait, that's not the final stage.

The final stage is when this guy, maybe he calls himself Red Buffalo Thunder or something, he starts collecting his followers like some kind of guru, has workshops, has written a couple of books, has a 501(c)(3), etc. And THEN he starts criticizing the very same Indians who out of kindness, invited him in the first place. He starts saying how they really don't understand the truth, or that they misunderstand things, they don't do it the right way, that they have no right to say anything about him because he has his rights, dontcha know? That the INDIANS are the ignorant, bad ones because they tell him he should be doing that, that he is doing cultural misappropriation.

Now, do you understand? No, I figure some might and some still won't. They will still justify their rights, to do what they want, make the money they want, and write the books they want. And then people wonder why Indians don't want to talk to them anymore... Except of course for those Indians who have become shysters themselves, raking in the bucks themselves from ignorant nonIndians so eager to get some real Indian spirituality. Sad.

The intent in the guy's heart from Colorado (I was corrected, the event was in Sedona...figures!) was about money obviously. Having said that, the other part is that when you do those things, you assume a spiritual role of responsibility in that person's life...not being a big shot or a boss or a guru, but someone who is responsible for them. And whatever blowback occurs. It amazes me when people get mad about a priest or minister "having authority" and the same people go running to someone else who bosses them around spiritually.

But the main thing is, hey, if you are doing any of that stuff in private, for yourself, only, and you are experimenting with your own spiritual path, that's on you. Fine. That's between you and the spirits, you and the Creator. The problem comes when you (anyone, not talking about "you") assume any role of responsibility for others, or representing yourself as a spiritual leader.

I am not a spiritual leader. But I am also not a spiritual follower. As my uncle Herman Bearcomesout once told me, it's all out there, in the land, where it came from, look there. As the Hawaiians say, "Nana I Ke Kumu" (Look to the Source).
Tags: native american, philosophy, religion, shamanism

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