Author Topic: "But whats the harm?"  (Read 20876 times)

Offline Moma_porcupine

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"But whats the harm?"
« on: March 30, 2007, 11:07:59 pm »
A lot of people don't seem to understand " Whats the harm " . It seems the following questions come up over and over. I know the problems have already been explained in many threads , but I was thinking it might be helpful if there was a single thread that was dedicated to explaining " Whats the harm ? " .

Some of the questions that seem to frequently come up , are more or less as follows ;

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*"But , many people sincerely believe in what they are doing .  Who are you to judge someone elses Spiritual belief system ? If it makes them happy , whats the harm ?"
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*"Why shouldn't people charge for traditional ceremonies and healing ? In a modern world people need money . Whats the harm if someone is charging for traditional ceremonies?"

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*"Things change and traditions of different people have always been blended . Whats the harm in using the parts of Native traditions and ceremonies we find helpful , and blending these with other practices?"

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*"If someone who is an Indian wants to share their traditions outside their tribe whats the harm in that ? Shouldn't a person who is a real Indian have a right to do this?"

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*"Some tribes like the CNO have tribal members with a very low BQ , so whats the harm in people with Native ancestry getting together and reestablishing themselves as a tribe ?"
 

Probably things like graphic personal stories ( if people feel safe to share them ) ,  brief summeries of some of the specific damage done by some of the exploiters/ frauds listed in NAFPS, together with a link to the thread this is discussed in , and general explainations about some of the problems we have seen  , all might help people to understand why we are so concerned about frauds and exploiters here .

I probably would like to contribute to this thread myself , but there is so many problems , begining to explain them all is a bit overwhelming . It seems some people honestly don't understand what the problems are , so maybe we could try and explain this for them , in this thread ?

Offline debbieredbear

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2007, 11:40:46 pm »
Thanks for starting this thread. The first thing thats jumped into my mind was the stereotypes being sold and the pan-Indianism.

  I'll deal with what I think of the stereotypes first. The problem in this is that people that are sol;d these lies, then expect real Indians to behave in the fantasy they bel;ieve. When that doesn't happen, they become upset and sometimes angry with real Indians.That is actually how I got into writing letters to nuage papers and decrying the frauds. Some woman, having been sold a bill of goods by heywhatever Storm and Lynn (barf!) Andewes, went to a rez to seek out her  teacher. Well, what she found is that Indians are all to human and she was furious. At us. Not at the frauds who lied but at Indians. I wrote a letter to that paper saying that maybe she should take a good look in the mirror and then go complain to the store that sold her the books.

That leads me to the pan-Indianism thing. The frauds put out stuff that lead to the idea that there is one monolithic "Indian religion." As opposed to the reality that there are as many different beiefs as there are nations. The sad thing for me is the Indian people that also buy into this. A friend was told by a man of Choctaw heritage that he preferred the Lakota ways because they are more macho! How sad is that? And another was in the sweat when a man of Cherokee heritage prayed his thanks for the Lakota people "who brought the religion". They didn't bring MINE! And then there is the guy local here who told a Suquamish friend, regarding ceremony, "This is Suquamish. We can do what we want." Neither he nor his wife is Suquamish and he was clueless as to how offensive this was to the woman he spoke to. He has since brought sundance and peyote to this rez. Neither are part of the culture here. I have friends who say that pan-Indianism is a form of genocide.

frederica

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2007, 01:06:16 am »
I think Pan-Indianism is definately a form of genocide. I could go into a rant, but I guess I won't. I have seen some of the clubs, mostly claim they are Cherokee, but have a tipi for demonstration to tourist. Use Aho when they pray, which I believe is Lakota, and use it for Amen. Most of what they know came from the Boy Scouts. A friend told me when they had a Stomp a group from Ohio asked if they could come and observe. They were given permission with the understanding of NO Tape Recorders. Well, guess what they did. The Nation found out and they are barred from ever coming back. Another example, someone here, Nuager defending her stance, made the statement "they were preserving the Ceremony as we were dying out," and they were saving it. They have no one's permission to do this. Aside from the corruption of Ceremony, the entitlement is so bold. I have tried to decide were this comes from and really cannot. I don't know what part of the country where it may be worst. And I doubt if people will give you the real reasons. Some of the things they incorporate into the History of the Tribe as being from Atlantis, Outerspace, Lost Tribes of Israel or decendent from mushrooms is more cult like and that really makes you wonder. I am sure there is an agenda. frederica

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2007, 04:19:06 pm »
Most of what I have seen hasn't been outright selling ceremonies and often the problems I've seen  aren't complete frauds . It just seems when native traditions get taken out of the balance provided by a knowledgable Native community things go wrong and people get hurt .

I think the main common denominator with all these situations is that these people were not authorized to lead ceremonies for the Native community they originated in  , or for the Native communtiy they were supposedly taught by , ( almost always this tracks back to Lakota )

While some of these people may have learned from some good teachers , in all these cases the way these people became empowered with the responsibility of being a Spiritual leader , was through the recognition of a mainly non native or PODIA audience . 

Perople who decide they want to be medicine people , are often attracted by the power , prestige and attention . Some mean well but don't know what they are doing a lot of the time . Others are just con artists and bottom feeders . While some of these people may do some good , they also can do a lot of damage . 

Deleting / altering some details to protect peoples privacy really takes a lot of the punch out of these incidents . What gets posted in NAFPS is only the tip of the ice burg of the abuse that happens ...

Some of the things I have seen ;

I've seen many people who attend ceremonies who have an experince they don't know how to integrate , because they don't have the cultural background or the support of a traditional community . It's not uncommon for these people to go through deep personal struggles . These people often do really silly things , from trying to be Indian when they aren't , by dying their hair and surrounding themselves with dream catchers and pictures of wolves ,  or creating a New Age buisness that includes a few Native props or "teachings" .

I have seen four people who attended some sort of ceremonies, who afterwards went totally off the deep end . One person who was Native who got involved with questionable people they did not know , who were using some kind of traditional Medicine, and afterwards they got so confused they ended up needing to be instituationalized for awhile . In this situation this person did have their families traditional understanding and support , but they had gotten involved with people and traditions they didn't know .

Three of these people who were non native went delusional after attending ceremonies , one imaginging they were descended from a famous Indian went around in nothing but a blanket until they were picked up by police . The other two just annoyed their communities and families for months with longwinded delusions about what powerful medicine/ shamanic powers they were .

I know of two instances where people who had been abused as children were completely devastated to learn the "Elder" they became involved with outside of a native community  was a convicted pedophile , who was not well thought of in their own community .

I know four instances where the "Medicine men" who were leading ceremonies outside the native community were habitually violent . One woman required time in a hospital to recover .

I know two instances where women were sexually fondled after being told it was part of the ceremony  " healing ".

The thing that is really devasting is that when these abuses happen , people who are the followers of these unhealthy people don't want to believe anything bad about their 'medicine man' and in every case i have seen the abuse is denied and the victim is blamed, not the abuser . Many Native and mixed blood people who are disconnected from their families and tribes got disconnected through abuse , so a repeat of abuse together with  denial and rejection of the truth , can be completely devastating .

I saw one instance where a woman with a health problem read a book by a popular well known New Age author who made up "traditional Native teachings". This woman believed this book and she believed her illness was someone attacking her energetic body , so she tried to deal with it 'Spiritualy ' . When
she at last went to a doctor it was too late and she died .

A person I knew went to a medicine woman who charged for healing ,because of anxiety attacks . The fake medicine woman shamanicly journeied and found a alleged "memory" of this persons relative sexually abusing them . When the anxiety didn't go away , this fraud did another shamanic journy found another relative who had abused the person seeking help . This went on and on until this fraud had the person conviced their whole family had sexually abused them . Years later and with more competant psychological help the person came to understand it had only been one relative who abused them , but in the meantime many of the family members who had been acused of horrible things had died having being wrongly accused of abuse they never commited , and the rest of their family hates them for making false accustions , and now this person has to live with that .

I knew a Native person in the city who was disconnected from their family and tribe . They were suffering from depression and grew up in an alchoholic family . They began participating in ceremonies with someone they thought was an Elder . After a couple years the "Elder" left town after stealing a large sum of money from someone . Which left the depressed woman even more depressed and feeling cynical and ambivalent about the traditions and Elders in general.

I knew a mixed blood Grandma who had never known much about her roots and she was wanting to introduce her grandkids to traditions . She breifly got sucked into a non native woman promising to teach traditions and get you a power animal for $$$ Once grandma realized it was scam she gave up trying to get the grandkids in touch with their traditions because there is too many con artists out there .

I know an mixblood person who's family has continuously lived within a native community and participated in tribal traditions Now when this person tries to participate in the Sundance they have to contend with constant hostility from some other dancers and elders , who come from somewhere else and don't know his family , because he doesn't look Native . The bad feelings all these frauds and exploiters create affects people on the margins or who look more non native. They get blamed for the abuse of traditions,  even if they have never done anything like this themselves . 

I know sincere mixed blood people who have difficulty finding out anything about their family , even though their family is known to the tribe ,because so many people are abusing this information to try and "get" something .

I know people in Native communities who have stopped attending community events because it is too hard to participate in a ceremony when known frauds and exploiters have pushed their way into leadership positions .

Much of these bad experinces did not just affect the individual who made the bad descision to trust these dubious characters . The persons family , community and friends all get draged through it .

The true traditional Elders are awesome and inspirational human beings . And it isn't all about ceremonies . It is in the way they carry themselves and live their lives . All the true traditional elders and medicine people i have known have been humble . They avoid the spot light , expect when something needs to be done that requires they step into it .  I have never seen a true traditional person advertise themselves in any way, or engage in self promotion .  Traditional leaders tend to consider the welfare of others before they consider the welfare of themselves . They tend to have a deep understanding of what is going on from the point of view of the person they are communicating with and they get to the point . Traditional leaders are self disciplined and tend to be gentle , kind and polite and respectful , even when people do not deserve this , in yet they usually manage to do this while being entirely honest and truthful . Traditional leaders are suprisingly intellegent and tend to see the big picture . This expanded vision causes their actions to truely be for the good of the People . Traditional Elders give us a sense of direction and a inspire a sense of faith and the aspirition to mature into the goodness we all have as our potential.
 
For anyone who knows the power and goodness of true Elders and traditional leaders , it is doubly painful to see the traditions they carry corupted into a tool to take advantage of people . 

The cause of this coruption gaining the power to do this damage , is that people do not seek out and recognize proper tribal authorities when looking to learn about their heritage , together with the willingness of a non native audience to support exploiters and frauds because  it appeals to some romantic fantasy of "Indian wisdom" .

One of the common patterns of colonization has been the failure of colonists to recognize the authorities who were selected from within the Native community to represent the community interests. Instead , non native people all too often have only recognized those who they think will benifit nonnative  intrests . This lack of respect for the voices of the true Spiritual leaders within native communities , is very much the same racist attitudes that led to genocide in the past and that continue to lead to genocide today .
« Last Edit: April 04, 2007, 04:40:40 pm by Moma_porcupine »

Offline Freija

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2007, 04:35:15 pm »
I probably would like to contribute to this thread myself , but there is so many problems , begining to explain them all is a bit overwhelming . It seems some people honestly don't understand what the problems are , so maybe we could try and explain this for them , in this thread ?

And maybe the saddest part of it all: why should you even have to explain? Shouldn´t it just be enough with a "Don´t do it!" from the different cultures that have built their communities round ancient wisdom and spirituality. We non-Natives should just take "no" for an answer and the only questions asked should be to prevent the wrongdoing to happen again. Native people should not have to explain and rectify and defend themselves for wanting to keep what is theirs.

Oh well....just dreaming, Moma_porcupine, :-\   I am dreaming of a perfect world sometimes... ;D

Offline debbieredbear

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2007, 05:21:09 pm »
I wish it was just that easy too.;)

And I wish people that I like and care about didn't get so defensive when I tried to tell them why it is wrong. "But there is a lot of love there so what's the harm?" "But I heard him speak and what he said didn't seem so bad so what's the harm in it?" "But a person has to support his/her self so if he charges what's the harm?" The latter I answered with "Well, he could do like husband's cousin did and GET A JOB!" Imagine that. A person doing cereemony and working a regular job too. But that's what the two people tht I know.knew (one has died) did in their lives,. They worked all day, 40 or more hours a week and then did ceremony/healing/whatever. And they rarely kept any of the money they made beause after tay paid their bills and bought groceries, there was always someone who needed what was left more than they did. And being the kind of people they were/are, they gave the money away. So I get kinda pissy when I see some fat assed jerk, claiming to be a "shaman", with his hand out for money.

Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2007, 11:01:09 pm »
Excellent post, Moma_porcupine.  Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Laurel

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2007, 12:49:38 pm »
"But there is a lot of love there so what's the harm?"

There is no such thing as love without respect.  Why isn't the following OK?

"You're Catholic?  Wow, I love Catholics, you're all so cool and spiritual!  Hey, who's your patron saint?  I'm 1/32nd Catholic, you know.  I can't prove it, but my mom always told me my great-grandma was an altar boy.  Can I come to your church and run a Mass?  Why not?  Father Supercool High Pooh-Bah Popeman Two Saints made me a priest last Tuesday at a Zen Catholicism workshop!  Look, here's my rosary, it's rilllly sacred!  Anyway, you're just a bigot!  Stop judging me!  Crapping on your heritage and belief system is my spirituality. I had a vision where Jesus told me to do it and it makes me happy!  By the way, can I touch your holy medal?"

Offline debbieredbear

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2007, 04:34:46 pm »
Laurel,

ROFLMAO!  ;D ;D ;D

I will try and tremember that the next time I get that response! Haha!

weheli

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2007, 08:36:16 pm »
Laurel,
You have spoken so very much and with few words. VERY well spoken.
Thanks. the bottom line is what you have spoken PERIOD!
                                                                                  Wado Weheli

Laurel

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2007, 11:20:29 am »
Thanks, weheli and debbieredbear.  If only there were no need for me to be so very snide....

debbie, your point about money is very well made.  No community is obligated to provide complete financial support for a spiritual leader.  Seems to me that can only lead to trouble in most cases.

I've been on this planet for 42 years now and I still don't get how we white folks can be so rude.  Like the guy who drove up to an Indian museum near Memphis in a complete lather, saying his wife, "a Cherokee shaman," was waiting in the car and he wanted to know if anyone there could teach her.  Now.  (Never mind that the folks affiliated with the museum were all Choctaw; he hadn't bothered to so much as call ahead to find that out.)  He said he had just driven there from NC, where the Cherokee "weren't very friendly," which I interpreted to mean they didn't want to hand his wife all their "shamanic secrets" in a fast food bag when these two just showed up there out of nowhere too--knowing nothing but that there had to be lots of Indians where there were so many plastic tomahawks, I guess.... >:( 

Really.  He walked right up to the ticket counter and started his tale of woe with "My wife is a Cherokee shaman."  I guess instead of wondering how he could be so rude I should ask how the folks who had to deal with him could be so polite.   

Offline debbieredbear

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2007, 04:13:53 pm »
OMG! I don't know how they could be so polite either! But I have seen this type of ignorance. I went to hear Wilma Mankiller speak. She gave a wonderful speech about how the Cherokee Nation had helped build syotm drains, water systems, sewage trtment etc in the surrounding white communities because it was a good thing to do. Both for their neighbors and for them. And after this speech she asked for questions,. I swear, the first question was "My great great grandmother was a Cherokee princess so how do I get enrolled and how much money can I get?" To her credit, Mankiller was very polite and suggested the woman call the tribal office.

Offline Freija

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2007, 05:55:54 pm »
 :-[   Ewwwh, I experience these kind of things every time I bring over a Native guy on a speaking tour. I remember this really nice Navajo guy who came over to speak about the Elders/elderly people up Big Mountain and their struggle for survival. He spoke for one hour about this, it was very emotional and very sad. Then it was quiet for a couple of minutes and suddenly I heard this woman saying: "Can I tell you about my Indian spirit guide now?" 

It´s like punching someone right in the face, it is like saying: "I don´t care a **** if your people live or die over there, let´s talk about me instead." It is surprising that they don´t even hear how rude they are!

Laurel

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2007, 05:58:20 pm »
debbieredbear--How mortifying.  Some people really know how to keep it together.  Maybe it's something she got used to though.  In my experience, no matter what race or who the speaker is, there's always a yutz in the audience.  I'm just happy when it isn't me.  


frederica

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Re: "But whats the harm?"
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2007, 06:36:43 pm »
That's part of the problem with the Nuage it is all about them. frederica