Author Topic: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?  (Read 37871 times)

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« on: March 28, 2008, 05:49:50 pm »
I have a question. This has come up a few times and my question is about teaching using books, and at what point that crosses a line from being educational into being exploitive and distorting the culture.

I see one of the newer members of NAFPS, who I believe is Lakota, is selling a book in which he shares his life story - which seems it would be anyones right to do - but for Native people this gets a bit more complicated when someones life story  is interwoven with culture and Spirituality and traditional teachings and Elders who taught this are named ...   

http://visionoftheworld.com/_wsn/page6.html

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When he was but a child, Chaska's grandfather realized that he was gifted by the Great Spirit. Chaska was raised by his maternal grandparents of the Ho-Chunk Winnebago Tribe. He was mentored by traditional elders of his father, Calvin J. Denny's Dakota / Lakota Nation including Grandpa Frank Fools Crow, Traditional Chief and Holy man.

In WAMINEGA, Chaska's Winnebago name meaning "Grizzly Bear Walks on the Snow," you will be drawn into Chaska's amazing spiritual and earthly experiences. In his first fifty years, Chaska has seen, felt and known ALL of the Agony and Ecstasy which the American Indian has tasted since 1492. Chaska's first book is an overview of his personal life as he seeks to walk in The Spiritual Path of the Sacred Red Power of the Dakota / Lakota Nation and his 40-year-search for The One of his VISION, seen in his first Vision Quest at age 13.
(con...)

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WAMINEGA is a spiral-bound, 240-page, in-depth, fully-detailed book of the Sacred Red Power with seven full-color photo pages and 57 colored illustrations. Each book is numbered and signed by the author, Calvin Chaska, (con..)

Please, make check or money order for $40 (mailing by bookrate US Postal Service included) to Chaska at
(con...)

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Chaska is a noted Speaker / Teacher of Traditional Plains Indian Spirituality having been mentored by Seven Strong Medicine Men and having made 13 Vision Quests in his nearly 60 years to find his own Path and Destiny.

http://www.hochunkmall.com/directory/supp/chaska_denny.htm

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Self-published auto biography of spiritual experiences.  Waminega ("Walks on the Snow") is Chaska Denny's remarkable (Ho-Chunk/Dakota) biography that instructs those, who want to experience Red Nation's Sacred Red Power, HOW to Prepare to Begin. Raised by Ho-Chunk grandparents, mentored by their friend, Lakota Chief & Holy Man Frank Fools Crow, and Dawson Has No Horse, Chaska was instructed to write basic spiritual truths.

I guess I am also wondering about when Native people write up their own philosophical ideas, but this is mixed in with an introduction which makes their own ideas sound like traditional teachings when it is really just their own ideas...

It is a bit murky as no one would suggest that Native people shouldn't share their personal thoughts on what things mean , but when Native people do this , in conjunction with introducing themselves as someone with traditional knowledge , it seems there can be a confusing overlap between sharing personal beliefs and the claim of traditional teachings or ceremonies.

Like Chaska sharing his thoughts here;

http://visionoftheworld.com/_wsn/page3.html

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The Soul began with the first expression which Free Will made of its power, through the force of mind, the first thought which it generated of itself. The first diversion of mind force from its normal path was the beginning of Soul. The nucleus of the Soul was in balance, positive and negative force in equal power producing harmonious activity. The positive (male) irradiating, impregnating; the negative (female), receiving, nourishing.

The steps of this action were the stages of thought: perception, reflection and opinion.

The Soul consisted of two stages of consciousness: that of the Spirit bearing a knowledge of its identity with God, and that of the new Individual bearing knowledge of everything it experienced. The plan for Soul was a cycle of experience unlimited in scope and duration in which the new Individual would come to know creation in all its aspects at the discretion of will. The cycle would be completed when the desire of will was no longer different than the thought of God.

The consciousness of the new Individual would merge with its spiritual consciousness
of Identity with God. And the Soul would return to its Source as the Companion it was intended to be. In this state the Soul would regain its consciousness of a separate individuality and would be aware of its own Free Will.

It now acted as a part of God, not diverting mind force, because it was in agreement with
the action toward which this force was directed. Until this state was reached, the Soul would not be a Companion in the true sense of the word. The idea that a return to God
means a loss of individuality is paradoxical since God is aware of everything that happens
and therefore aware of the consciousness of each Individual.

Thus the return of the Soul is the return of the image to that which imagined it and the consciousness of an Individual. Its record, written in mind, could not be destroyed without destroying a part of God Himself. Thus, when a Soul returns to God, it becomes aware of itself, not only as a part of God, but as a part of every other soul and everything
("Mitakuye Oyasin" - We are all related).

Or here;

http://visionoftheworld.com/_wsn/page4.html

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The Ancient Mysteries were concerned with man's problem of FREEING the soul-spirit from the world. In the mystery symbologies, the Earth was always represented as the underworld and the soul-spirit was lost in this underworld until freed from it by wisdom, faith and understanding. It was taught that Persephone was abducted by Pluto, Lord of Hades. Persephone is the soul-spirit of man, whose true home is in the heavens.

The mystery religions were then a preparation for the arrival of Jesus. He would be the fruit of their efforts and his message to be a fuller revelation to the people there in that region of these mysteries. The Essenes, the ones who prepared Mary, selected Joseph and taught Jesus, were initiates of the mysteries. Jesus told them he came to fulfill the law and part of that law was the CABALA, the secret doctrine of the Jews, their version of the mysteries.

Those who became converts to Jesus' teachings, such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, as well as Paul,were all learned in the Cabala. In the scramble which Christianity made to establish itself as the dominant religion of the decaying Roman Empire, the mysteries were denied their proper place, since to grant that they had truth in them would justify their further existence.

Early Christians used every means possible to conceal the pagan origin of their symbols, doctrines and rituals. They destroyed the sacred texts of others among whom they settled or made sacred texts inaccessible to students of comparitive philosophy, believing that they could stamp out all regard of pre-Christian (pagan) origins of their doctrines.

In the beginning of human time, everyone had the sweatlodge and basic purification ceremonies, which today are only seen in the Norwegians who still use the sauna, but without the spiritual ceremony. The Germans are very fascinated in Native American sweatlodge ceremonies because they know this was once part of their ancient purification ceremonies.

I know some greatly respected Elders have had books written about them , or they have given permission for a book to be written which contains some cultural information. The most recent one that I am aware of is the book written and sold , with the proceeds going to the Wolakota foundation , apparently with Arvol Lookinghorse's permission , titled "White Buffalo Teachings".

I don't know what sort of information is in this book , but I do find it's title a bit confusing as I've always heard traditional teachings need to be passed on by Elders in real life situations, not in books or on line , but I would guess this probably depends on what is being taught.... 

On the NAFPS introduction page it says ;

http://www.newagefraud.org/

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Native people DO NOT believe it is ethical to charge money for any ceremony or teaching. Any who charge you even a penny are NOT authentic.

Native traditionalists believe the ONLY acceptable way to transmit traditional teachings is orally and face-to-face. Any allegedly traditional teachings in books or on websites are NOT authentic.

As we are trying to educate people about what sort of behavior crosses the line, I notice sometimes it isn't completely clear where people draw the line. Thinking about this , it occurs to me there is a few things that need to be considered;

Is the information that is offered as traditional teachings or culture really traditional teachings, and is the information that is offered something that can be shared in a book, or on a website , without it loosing some of the most important parts or being distorted ?

Is traditional teachings or culture being offered in a way that undermines the long term health of the culture as a whole, in order to make a profit, either money or an important position ?

Are these considerations an accurate way of defining when an educational book  crosses the line into being exploitation ? Do other people have some other ways of defining this ?



Offline Freija

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2008, 09:15:38 pm »
II know some greatly respected Elders have had books written about them , or they have given permission for a book to be written which contains some cultural information. The most recent one that I am aware of is the book written and sold , with the proceeds going to the Wolakota foundation , apparently with Arvol Lookinghorse's permission , titled "White Buffalo Teachings".

I don't know what sort of information is in this book........,

.....Well, I do. LOL

I´d say that 75% of the book is about why sacred ceremonies should not be exploited and the fact that people are charging for spiritual "services". The rest is about the work with World Peace and Prayer Day, it´s about Big Foot Riders and about environmental issues like global warming. There is some brief info about the seven sacred ceremonies, just why they are being done, not how, and also the legend about how the Pipe came to the People.

If I look at the title "White Buffalocalf Teachings" and combine it with the book, I´d say the teachings are: take care of Mother Earth  AND Lakota ceremonies are not for sale, they should be protected for coming generations.

Hope you didn´t mind me jumping in with that info, Moma. As for the rest, I think it is a very important question although not my business....but I am looking forward to read the discussion in here :)

Oh - by the way, sold Arvol´s book to a New Age group here, sent them an invoice and they refused to pay. Because the book wasn´t what they wanted to read. (New Age logic??)

Offline Chaska

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2008, 09:57:46 pm »
My Manuscript doesnt authorize anyone to be anything except themselves, it does point out the protocols of the ways, and it does explain that anyone that is on the Path, must get authorizations from the Medicine Men or Medicine women, and there is ceremony that is done before ALL, and IF anyone objects then it must be put aside.....The Manuscript is my life story and the blessings that come with my birth....How my Grandparents raised me....and if a person truly looks at the trials and tribulations of following the ways, it is difficult, because it requires alot of fasting, ceremonial fasting....all sponsored by the relations, the medicinemen and elders....
On the website is various issues that were given to us, so we put it out there....one even on violence....on anger on various things......I was born and raised on NDN Reservation in Nebraska....1949.....old school....born by my Hochunk Mother and my Dakota father, the renegades who were forced from Wisconsin and Minnesota......I have relations who were executed in 1862 in Mankato......My Manuscript does not authorize anyone to be Pipe Holder, Pipe carrier, Medicineman or Medicinewoman, it does give basic knowledge that those on the path should know, it is a preparation before a beginning.....it advises those to seek out Spiritual advisors or spiritual person on NDN reservation.....it tells the protocols for requesting advice or knowledge from those who are NDN spiritual leaders or advisors......it tells those who read it where their particular place in the design of the Great Spirit....if anyone has any questions they may call me anytime....865-922-1920.....

Offline Chaska

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2008, 10:00:07 pm »
and also but most importantly....I was advised by my Elders and by these and those mentioned in my manuscript to write it down so the generations coming will see how it must be done, so they will know we have never strayed from our ways and do not change them.

Offline Chaska

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2008, 01:58:55 pm »
and lastly, I just don't sell my manuscript to ANYONE.....it is for NDN only, and even if you were non NDN and got ahold of it, you wouldnt be able to understand it, because it is written in rez NDN style.....my manuscript is for NDN's who were raised off rezervation and didnt have elderly to help them understand the ways....it is not published like ordinary books, I publish it myself, that way nothing is changed in it.......my opening statement comes from what the Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman said to over 180 of us in Ceremony.
"Someday, in this Sacred Land, all the nations of people will come together to pray to the Great Spirit in one voice under the direction of THE RED MAN."

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2008, 02:41:56 pm »
and lastly, I just don't sell my manuscript to ANYONE.....it is for NDN only, and even if you were non NDN and got ahold of it, you wouldnt be able to understand it, because it is written in rez NDN style.....my manuscript is for NDN's who were raised off rezervation and didnt have elderly to help them understand the ways....it is not published like ordinary books, I publish it myself, that way nothing is changed in it.......my opening statement comes from what the Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman said to over 180 of us in Ceremony.
"Someday, in this Sacred Land, all the nations of people will come together to pray to the Great Spirit in one voice under the direction of THE RED MAN."


Chaska, I haven't been responding because I'm not sure what to say . I know Earth is Lakota and is in touch with Lakota Elders, and I have been guessing this is a bit of a gray area as no one is saying much one way or another. Which is why I started this thread in ect and as a discussion of general principals , not your book specifically.

I haven't read your book , so I don't know what is in it , but I see Valerie Ohle has twice mentioned you give step by step instructions on how to build a sweat lodge ;

http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php?topic=1464.0;all   
Re: John Roos, claiming enrollment with lakota nation
« Reply #37 on: March 16, 2008, 10:53:26 am »
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He sells a book about how to do certain things like build sweat lodges, etc.

http://disc.yourwebapps.com/discussion.cgi?disc=199489;article=25929;title=Issues%20Affecting
%20American%20Indians%20in%20Tennessee

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"JC" aka "Calvin Denny" has a webpage all about himself including step-by-step photos on how to construct a sweat lodge!

And I see you don't really deny this is in there ;

http://disc.yourwebapps.com/discussion.cgi?disc=199489;article=25935;title=Issues%20Affecting%
20American%20Indians%20in%20Tennessee


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As far as Step by step, it is BASIC knowledge that is contained in my Manuscript. My Manuscript clearly points out that in no way does this knowledge make you or anyone a medicineman, a spiritual leader, a spiritual advisor, a pipe carrier or pipe holder...it does give you understand of what a Person will have to know and understand on that Red Road, the Pipe Ways, the Sundance Road......that is better than just going into something without know what it is your going into....
As I say , I haven't read this book and I don't know if what is there is a step by step guide on basics, like how to approach an Elder and basic sweatlodge ettiquette, or if it is what Valerie says, an explanation of how to build a sweatlodge.

One thing I do see, is your book is advertised on line and your address is there and the instructions to send you $40 in exchange for the book, so I don't see how it can be true that you don't sell your manuscript to "just anyone" and it is for ndn only ... 

You seem like a nice person with some good traditional teachings and I am sorry to have to bring this up .
« Last Edit: March 29, 2008, 02:44:56 pm by Moma_porcupine »

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2008, 03:21:50 pm »
Freija
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Hope you didn´t mind me jumping in with that info, Moma. As for the rest, I think it is a very important question although not my business....

Gosh I don't mind that you jumped in at all,  and I really appreciate hearing about the contents of the "White Buffalocalf Teachings" book ! I am relieved to hear it doesn't sound like cultural exploitation, by any stretch of the imagination. As for this being none of your business, as i see it, what people read in books , becomes everyones business who knows anyone who reads one of these books. How many people have you known that have come out with a distorted commercially manufactered Shamanism idea they want to apply to a real life situation , that impacts both of you , and when you try and reason with them they insist this idea is real...

In an unfortunate way , books that distort Native culture become everybodies business .
« Last Edit: March 29, 2008, 03:28:59 pm by Moma_porcupine »

Offline Chaska

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2008, 03:55:44 pm »
At first Ohle tried to interject that I had photos of Sweatlodge construction, that was a outright LIE....
I was confronting Ohle about her support of someone who claimed to be a enrolled Lakota (John Roos)....
Our face to face meeting DID resolve that issue and she knew she made a mistake and that John Roos was not a lakota.....
I do not sell ceremonies, I do not support anyone who sells ceremonies....I will answer any questions to help those who seek understanding, but they must be NDN or have NDN blood....I do not authorize anyone, NDN or Non NDN to do anything or be anything in the spiritual ways.....except themselves....
I do explain that with each pole or willow used in the sweatlodge, it represents a part of the whole, and that it also represents a attribute of the Great Spirit (16 in 1)....this basic understanding gives more meaning to everything....and I am sure that there are other deeper meanings and understandings, but what I explain is BASIC.....

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2008, 04:30:31 pm »
Thanks for explaining more of what is in your book. I'm sorry if someone has misrepresented what your book is about .

I don't know enough about what is considered the right way to teach these things to comment on this.

But I do see some implications in some of what you have said that makes me wonder;

Chaska
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I will answer any questions to help those who seek understanding, but they must be NDN or have NDN blood....

But as far as I can see, you have no way of knowing who people are who buy your book. When people see your advertisement on line , and order a book , how can you tell who is buying this book ?

Chaska
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and lastly, I just don't sell my manuscript to ANYONE.....it is for NDN only, and even if you were non NDN and got ahold of it, you wouldnt be able to understand it, because it is written in rez NDN style.....
Um Chaska..  Most people , when they misunderstand something, don't realize they misunderstand this , so what you seem to be saying here is that you don't see a problem with selling a book to people who will often totally misunderstand what you are saying and get the wrong idea, but they will think they got the right idea and argue it came from an enrolled Lakota with recognized traditional teachings. If  you aren't in their lives to notice there is a misunderstanding , how will you correct this ?

Chaska
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my manuscript is for NDN's who were raised off rezervation and didnt have elderly to help them understand the ways....

From what I have seen,  though there is ususally underlying roots that can help guide them , most Native people raised away from their traditions have big gaps in their understanding and are just as vulnerable to misunderstanding some parts of their culture as non native people . I can see where a book might be helpful in some things ( like understanding basic history , social structure , ettiquette , learning how to avoid frauds and why exploitation isn't OK )

But beyond that I'm not sure ...   

Offline Freija

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2008, 05:40:50 pm »
As for this being none of your business, as i see it, what people read in books , becomes everyones business who knows anyone who reads one of these books. How many people have you known that have come out with a distorted commercially manufactered Shamanism idea they want to apply to a real life situation , that impacts both of you , and when you try and reason with them they insist this idea is real...
In an unfortunate way , books that distort Native culture become everybodies business .

I should have made my sentence longer - was in a rush. LOL
What I MEANT to say was that it is not my business where Native communities draw the line for what to teach outsiders. That must be up to each and every tribe to decide. But I thoroughly agree with you, Moma, that unfortunately each and every published "teaching" made by Native people with good hearts, for the purpose of saving those words for coming generations, is a potential New Age how-to-do-it manual. It is really, really sad!

I think all of us who are proud of our ancestry, our culture, our land, like to present it for visitors and people who are interested. Usually we take a great joy and pride in doing it and most of us would never have to worry about this information being misused. But for Native people, constantly knowing that every piece of information could be misused, sold, exploited and even turned against them..... can´t even imagine what that would be like!!  It´s like giving a precious gift to someone and see that person smashing it to pieces.  But it´s 100 times worse....



 

Offline Chaska

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2008, 05:57:04 pm »
I usually correspond to those who inquire about my manuscript, my email is on the site....and those who inquire usually let me know basic info about themselves and their search.....My manuscript actually dissuades people from attempting to promote themselves as something they are not, Pipe Carrier, Pipe Holder, Medicineman or Medicinewoman.....I am very careful and have to correct those who had their own interpretations or guidenence that would lead them down the path in misunderstandings.  I believe that anytime knowledge is given, then the understanding must be understood and not misinterpretted....Whatever I involve myself in, I want it clear and understood...so when I come forward about these Fakes and Frauds, I will leave no stone unturned to expose them, and IF they try to counter me, I will prodouce docuementation to resolve it.   In the late 70's through ceremony I was delegated by the elders and medicinemen  to visit to those fake Pipe Carriers/Holders and to correct them, which I did in a good way, and before the next winter had collected over 90 Pipes from those frauding themselves and misguiding people...so that is also why I am careful but straight forward about protecting ceremonies and sacred instruments....

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2008, 06:39:35 pm »
I really appreciated Freija's words about how awkward it must be to have to consider how someone might misinterpret or abuse anything that is shared, if it overlaps with traditional knowledge.   

For myself, when I participate here I often point out when people are not thinking things through , or doing damage they hadn't realized, and I'm sure what I say can sting . I don't ever like to hurt people , especially if this is unfair ,  so it's really important to me that if I criticize anyone , there is understandable underlying principals and reasons behind any criticism I may give.

I can't in good conscience say to one person, " The culture and ceremonies can't rightly be learned outside of the context of living in a Native community " , and then turn around to someone else and say, " Thats great your making money selling a book with traditional Spiritual teachings to people who won't understand because they don't live in a Native community. "

It was mostly out of concern for my own integrity - and the integrity of what is done on this message board , that I asked about this. I wanted to understand the underlying principals which guide the decision about whats OK and whats not. If it isn't clear to me it probably isn't clear to other people either.

As Feija rightly says , it is for each tribe to decide what parts of their culture can be shared through books, and I guess if the Lakota have any concerns someone will say something. I appreciate Chaskas patient responses to what may have been very rude questions. I will leave it here for the Lakota to say what is OK and what isn't.

Offline Chaska

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2008, 01:15:06 pm »
finally, for those NDN peoples who have my manuscript, they are free to call me with their questions or even their understandings, most often I am able to guide them to Bonafide spiritual persons who may directly help them on their path.  I feel that it is best for a person to be able to help themselves first, their family, and their tribe.  I always caution those that "In these Ways, we do not change the ways to accomodate ourselves, WE change ourselves for the Ways"..... with that concept then this basic knowledge helps those on the path.... these footsteps on the path doesnt happen overnight, it takes years of dedication and determination, and along that path at some point a person must correct the wrongs, by word, thought or deed, then that person has centered themselves and has learned to listen....it begins and is most beautiful.
I know of many Tribe ways and I hold deep respect of them, I believe Creator has given them these Ways, so I cannot say one is greater than the other.  I do not argue the ways....yet I protect the ways...

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2008, 02:35:13 pm »
I'm sorry to give you a hard time because I mostly hear good things in what you say, but I still don't understand how you see this.

Chaska
Quote
I protect the ways...

But you are also selling Spiritual teachings. You are also doing this in a book and on line.

On one hand I think books and the internet is a great way to connect with people, and if people are authentic maybe all communication is a good thing. Books can travel  where Elders cannot , and for someone in prison or otherwise isolated I can see a book of traditional teaching by ones own people might be a life line. 

On the other hand , this is confusing to me because I've always heard books and the internet are not a good way to share Native traditions, culture or Spiritual teachings. On this message board this comes up a lot, and over and over it gets said that Spiritual teachings are not rightly bought and sold. I know self publishing is more expensive than mass production but still, at $40 a book this appears to be being sold for profit. 

So , Chaska, ( or anyone else that has some thoughts on this ) you clearly say you oppose anyone selling ceremonies, but do you think it is OK to charge for Spiritual teachings ?

What effect do you think this practice has on the culture ?

Is it OK to sell Spiritual teachings if it is in a book because a book has production costs but not face to face ?

Is it OK if the teachings are "basic" and what exactly is basic and who defines that? The information about the meaning of the willow supports in the Sweat Lodge doesn't sound basic to me , but maybe it does to other people.

I understand that you are a Native person who grew up with their traditions and you do have some real knowledge and good things to share , and you say you are managing to only sell your book to people of Native blood, and from what I have seen of you, I have the impression you sincerely mean well. I see your website does have an email for questions and answers and that you have some responsibility towards people you are sharing with.

But I'm still not clear why is it OK for you to sell Spiritual teachings , in a book , and on line , but it isn't OK for someone else to do this ? Do you think it is OK for everybody who is Native and who has some real traditional knowledge to to do this ? What would make it not OK ?

It would help with protection if you could clarify this. Could you please explain how you see this ?

Offline earthw7

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Re: Books & Spiritual teachings - education or exploitation ?
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2008, 02:49:16 pm »
Hi Moma
I do have to say I am mixed, I am Lakota and Dakota.

We are now living in a different world today where people
are trying to find a balance between the written word and our
oral ways.
I have been requested to write a book but it is of history.

I am fight myself bewteen putting my stories down in words where
the world can interrupt or misinterrupt my words. Or where my stories
will be the same one I was taught.

It is hard to write about our people in best way we know without touching
on our spirituality because it is in everything. Everything has meaning.

Our people are looking for ways to do this but written word has always
been a problem for us.
In Spirit