Author Topic: More Good Sources  (Read 6672 times)

Offline educatedindian

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More Good Sources
« on: August 03, 2006, 03:42:49 pm »
First one Linda pointed out to me, others I stumbled on surfing.
"Seeking Native American Spirituality: Read This First!
Judging from the email I get, there are a lot of people out there trying to learn about traditional Native American religion and spirituality these days. Many of them are trying to do this on the Internet.
Now, there is a lot of garbage and misinformation on the Internet no matter what subject you're talking about, but American Indian religion and spirituality has got to have the worst signal-noise ratio of any of them. The 'information' out there about American Indian religions ranges from inaccurate school projects by seven-year-olds, to deeply biased generalizations about the 'heathens' written 300 years ago, to hucksters pretending to be Native American shamans to scam money off of people, to useful and interesting information about actual American Indian religious traditions past and present. Sorting through these sites can be a nightmare. I wish you a lot of luck with it. Before you start, let me give you a few words of experience.
There are two reasons to be looking for information on Native American religions. The first, and easier to address, is educational. Either because you're a student who's been assigned to or just out of intellectual and cultural curiosity, you would like to learn more about how American Indians, or a particular tribe of American Indians, view the world. If that's you, then your main problem is going to be identifying the authentic and trustworthy sources. Indians are happy to talk about their beliefs and spiritual practices, both historically and in the modern day. Unfortunately, so are plenty of ill-informed non-Indians (or people of Indian descent) who think they know a lot more than they do. And so are those unscrupulous souls willing to pretend they're something they're not in hopes of making a buck or getting a little attention. My best recommendation is to get a Native American book out of the library as well as looking on the Internet, since any quack shaman can put up a website but it's a lot harder to publish a book. I also suggest ignoring and avoiding information about American Indian spirituality presented by anyone:
1. Offering anything religious for sale. Money is never accepted by authentic holy people in exchange for Indian religious ceremonies like sweat lodges or sun dances, nor for religious items like medicine bags or smudged items. (They might sell arts and crafts, of course. Use your common sense--a devout Catholic might sell you a hand-carved crucifix to hang on your wall, for example, but he wouldn't sell communion wafers over the Internet or charge you admission to bring you to his church! Selling dreamcatchers or fetish carvings online is one thing, but don't believe information provided by anyone who is trying to charge people for smudging or blessing anything, making medicine, or letting them take part in a sweat lodge or dance. They are not authentic sources of information.)
2. Inviting you into their religion on their webpage. Authentic Indians may seek to educate strangers online, but actually adopting an outsider as part of their culture is only done face-to-face and after knowing the person for some time.
3. Claiming to be American Indian shamans , talking about tarot cards and Wiccan/pagan things, or talking about crystals and New Age things. I've got nothing against shamanism, paganism, or the New Age, but a cow is not a horse: none of these things are traditionally Native American. Shamanism is a Siberian mystic tradition, Wicca is a religion based in pre-Christian European traditions, Tarot readings are an Indo-European divination method, and the New Age is a syncretic belief system invented, as its name suggests, in the modern era. None of them have anything to do with authentic Indian traditions, and anyone who thinks they do is likely to be wrong about anything else he claims about Native American religions as well. Wiccans and New Agers don't have any more knowledge about actual American Indian beliefs than you do.
4. Identifying only as 'Native American' or 'American Indian' (an authentic person would list their actual tribal affiliation). Be a little wary, too, of people trying to speak with authority who identify as "mixed-blood" or "of Indian descent" or having a "Cherokee ancestor." There are certainly some mixed-blood people who were raised in their tribe's culture, but many more were not. A person who has rediscovered his Indian heritage as an adult is a seeker, not a teacher. He is not qualified to speak authoritatively about Native American religion or culture, for he wasn't raised that way and doesn't have any more knowledge about it than anyone else learning about it second-hand--including you.
If you're trying to learn about American Indian religion because you want to become a part of it, though, you not only face that problem, but another, much deeper one as well: American Indian spirituality is not evangelistic. It is private and entirely cultural. You cannot convert to 'Native American' any more than you can convert to African-American or Korean or any other cultural identity you would need to be raised in to understand. (In fact, many Indians--myself included--are Christians in addition to our traditional tribal beliefs, just like many African-American and Korean people are Christian in addition to having an ethnicity of their own.) The only way to 'join' a Native American spiritual tradition is to become a member of the cultural group, and it's impossible to do that over the Internet. No one who truly believed in American Indian spirituality would ever offer to tutor total strangers in religious matters online, much less charge anyone money for such a thing. So, by definition, the people who make these offers are those who either don't really believe in Native American spirituality, or don't know very much about it. Is that really who you want to be listening to?
On our site, we have generally given people the benefit of the doubt with our links, including websites unless we are sure there is a reason not to. Regarding Native American religion and spirituality, however, we have decided to err on the side of caution instead. Anyone who is looking for a new religion or seeking spiritual truth is a needy individual and I will not contribute to their being used by irresponsible people. If you are reading this page because you are a person in need of religious and spiritual guidance, I urge you strongly to seek out some religions that are evangelistic rather than cultural (one of the many Christian churches, Buddhism, Baha'i; there are many choices) and talk to spiritual leaders there until you find one that can help you. Falling under the influence of a false 'shaman' will only hurt you spiritually.
Since I have put this page up, I have received many anguished emails saying "But my grandmother was part Cherokee... are you telling me to just forget that part of myself? How can I honor my Native ancestors if you won't share your religion with me?" The answer is simple: honor them the way they would want to be honored. Don't pay some new-age guru $250 to perform fake "Native American" rituals that would have offended your ancestors, go physically to their tribe and re-connect with their other descendants. It will be hard work convincing the people there that you are genuine but if you go with humility and patience you will eventually be accepted, and that is the ONLY way you will ever become part of the spiritual tradition you desire. There is no shortcut to that. Native spirituality belongs only to the cultural group, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to make some money off of you and/or to take a power trip at your expense.
You've been warned. Good luck, with whatever it is you're looking for. You're probably going to need it.

Offline educatedindian

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Re: More Good Sources
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2006, 03:56:33 pm »
The phenomena referred to by the term Native American religions pose an interesting and complex problem of description and interpretation?one that has consistently captured the imagination of European immigrant peoples. These phenomena have been misunderstood, maligned, romanticized, and misappropriated. In almost every case the authoritative and definitive analyses of particular Native American religious traditions have been written by non-Indians, and thus nonadherents, who lacked any lifelong experiential basis for their analyses. It seems that now, at the end of the twentieth century, deeply held Indian traditions and beliefs have been politicized?on the one hand by academic experts, and on the other by New Age aficionados who have mistakenly seen Indian spirituality as a new trade commodity. It has become increasingly clear that those phenomena we call Native American religions were and are yet today very complex socially and philosophically and are therefore not easily represented or described by means of either popular interpretation or the critical categories of academic analysis, especially when those categories have been constructed in a cultural context alien to the traditions themselves.

Most adherents to traditional American Indian ways characteristically deny that their people ever engaged in any religion at all. Rather, these spokespeople insist, their whole culture and social structure was and still is infused with a spirituality that cannot be separated from the rest of the community's life at any point. The Green Corn Ceremony, the Snake Dance, kachinas, the Sun Dance, sweat-lodge ceremonies, and the sacred pipe are not specifically religious constructs of various tribes but rather represent specific ceremonial aspects of a world that includes countless ceremonies in any given tribal context, ceremonies performed by whole communities, clans, families, or individuals on a daily, periodic, seasonal, or occasional basis. Whereas outsiders may identify a single ritual as the "religion" of a particular people, the people themselves will likely see that ceremony as merely an extension of their day-to-day existence, all parts of which are experienced within ceremonial parameters and should be seen as "religious."

....Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of American Indian religious traditions is the extent to which they are wholly community based and have no real meaning outside of the specific community in which the acts are regularly performed, stories told, songs sung, and ceremonies conducted. Vine Deloria, Jr., described the communitarian foundations of American Indian existence in his 1973 book God Is Red, his point being that ceremonies are engaged in not primarily for personal benefit but rather for the benefit of an entire community or nation. The most common saying one hears during the Lakota Sun Dance is "That the people might live!" This sentiment becomes the overriding reason for and purpose of this ceremony. Likewise, violations of the sacred become threatening to the whole community and not merely to the one who commits the error. The communitarian nature of Indian ceremonies represents a key distinction between Native American religious traditions and modern Euro-American New Age spirituality, with its emphasis on radical individualism.

Some would argue that the so-called vision quest is evidence of the quintessential individualism of Plains Indian peoples. However, just the opposite can be argued, because in Plains cultures the individual is always in symbiotic relationship with the community. This ceremony involves personal sacrifice: rigorous fasting (no food or liquids) and prayer over several days (typically four to seven) in a location removed from the rest of the community. Yet in a typical rite of vigil or vision quest, the community or some part of the community assists the individual in preparing for the ceremony and then prays constantly on behalf of the individual throughout the ceremony. Thus by engaging in this ceremony, the individual acts on behalf of and for the good of the whole community. Even when an individual seeks personal power or assistance through such a ceremony, he or she is doing so for the ultimate benefit of the community.

Unfortunately, the traditional symbiotic relationship between the individual and the community, exemplified in ceremonies such as the vision quest, has become severely distorted as a shift in Euro-American cultural values has begun to encourage the adoption and practice of Indian spirituality by the general population no matter how disruptive this may be to Indian communities. The resulting incursion of Euro-American practitioners, who are not a part of the community in which the ceremony has traditionally been practiced, brings a Western, individualistic frame of reference to the ceremony that violates the communitarian cultural values of Indian peoples. The key concern for Indian people in preserving the authenticity and healthy functioning of the relationship between the individual and the community is the question of accountability: one must be able to identify what spiritual and sociopolitical community can rightly make claims on one's spiritual strength. In the Indian worldview, this community?this legitimate source of identity?is intimately linked to, and derives directly from, the significance of spatiality, of space and place....

Indian peoples, then, tend to locate sacred power spatially?in terms of places or in terms of spatial configuration. This is in stark contrast to European and Euro-American religious traditions, which tend to express spirituality in terms of time: a regular hour on Sundays and a seasonal liturgical calendar that has become more and more distanced from any sense of the actual flow of seasons in particular places and is therefore both more abstract and more portable than Native American traditions. In the Southern Hemisphere, for instance, Christians celebrate Lent (named for springtime and the lengthening of the days) and Easter during the antipodean autumn. It would be an exaggeration to argue that Indian peoples have no sense of time or that Europeans have no sense of space. Rather, spatiality is a dominant category of existence for Native Americans whereas time is a subordinate category. Just the opposite is generally true for European peoples.

...the religious traditions of Indian peoples are communitarian and have no meaning outside the particular community of reference. Unlike Euro-Americans, Indian people do not choose which tribal religious traditions they will practice. Rather, each of them is born into a community and its particular ceremonial life. Indian traditions are fundamentally spatial in nature and in configuration, which makes them peculiarly difficult for temporally oriented peoples to understand. Because of cross-cultural misunderstandings, distortions are now threatening Native American religious traditions on several fronts. Many Native American religious traditions are undergoing a transformation under intense pressure from New Age would-be adherents. The modern Euro-American appropriation of native traditions is introducing a mutation that is now shaping those traditions in the image of European individualism. Moreover, the systemic pressures of the colonial experience, which have worked variously to eradicate, suppress, or at least erode Native American religious traditions, continue today in the legal and economic activities of corporate and government interests; for example, American Indians have little legal recourse for protecting places of traditional spiritual value to them. Yet the religious traditions and indeed the cultural whole of many Indian peoples continues today to give those peoples hope and life.
George E. Tinker Osage Iliff School of Theology"

Offline educatedindian

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Re: More Good Sources
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2006, 03:59:08 pm »
"Cultic Studies Journal
Psychological Manipulation and Society
Vol. 11, No.1, 1994
The New Age in Argentina: Fraud or Spiritual Growth?
Alfredo Silletta. Beas Ediciones, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1993, 220 pages.
Reviewer: Gladys Martin
La Nueva Era en Argentina: Engaño o Crecimiento Espiritual? (The New Age in Argentina: Fraud or Spiritual Growth?) is the author's latest publication on the subject of dangerous, thought-repressing groups and movements. This time Silletta has chosen to concentrate on what he describes as a "nontraditional cultural movement"—namely, the New Age (Nueva Era) in Argentina. His book is a brief, extremely condensed, pocket guide to an array of themes, history, theories, and people connected directly or indirectly with the New Age movement.

In the introduction Silletta proposes to study the roots of the movement in the South American country, and to also look at the sociocultural conditions that made the soil fertile for the New Age to flourish there.

The first chapter gives the reader a general overview of the rise of New Agers in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, and also outlines the different techniques alleged by New Age practitioners as ways to reach a deliberate change of consciousness. In the second chapter the author briefly explains in layperson's terms the different sets of ideas from which the New Age has borrowed its beliefs, including esoteric and occult theories, psychology and alternative therapies, Eastern religions, Christianity, astrology, shamanism, and ufology.

Chapter 3 mentions the influences of certain scientific theories on the New Age movement—ranging from positive (the movement's concern for the environment and the planet Earth) to negative and dangerous (their belief in the individual being almighty)—which often result in utter narcissism, selfishness, insensitivity, and psychotic crises. Silletta also points to what he perceives as the parallelism between Nazism and the New Age, including allowing feelings and intuition to dominate the intellect, or the irrational to control the rational.

The fourth and final chapter gives the lowdown on Argentina's entertainment paparazzi and prominent public figures who have been victimized by the latest fads in mind-altering techniques. Like their U.S. counterparts, they too have become the movement's perhaps cheapest and most effective way to advertise.

At the conclusion of his book, Silletta laments how the New Age movement attempts to find a common denominator to both science and religion, reason and magic, East and West, minimizing world problems as "states of mind" easily resolved once humanity awakens to New Age consciousness. Silletta criticizes the movement's emphasis on sending telepathic messages or channeling the advice of extraterrestrial beings to improve the world, instead of acting to bring about change.

The New Age in Argentina is a very practical quick-reference guide for the person with background knowledge of the New Age movement, as well as a useful overview for the reader who is exploring for the first time the main characteristics of the movement. The book's brevity, unfortunately, is also its major disadvantage. The book is condensed and abbreviated in character; Silletta simplifies his arguments, thus shortchanging certain topics and assuming too great a familiarity on the part of the reader. The book, nonetheless, highlights the positive and negative aspects of the New Age movement, thus whetting the reader's appetite for further research."

Offline educatedindian

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Re: More Good Sources
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2006, 04:33:26 pm »
"Native American Elders' Reactions to Castaneda and 'don Juan'
I. Resolution of the 5th Annual Meeting of the Tradition Elders Circle
[Contributed by Linda Zoontjens]
It has been brought to the attention of the Elders and their representatives in Council that various individuals are moving about this Great Turtle Island and across the great waters to foreign soil, purporting to be spiritual leaders. They carry pipes and other objects sacred to the Red Nations, the indigenous people of the western hemisphere.
The past twenty years have seen the birth of a new growth industry in the United States. Known as "American Indian Spiritualism," this profitable enterprise apparently began with a number of literary hoaxes undertaken by non-Indians such as Carlos Casteneda, Jay Marks (aka: "Jamake Highwater", author of The Primal Mind, etc.), Lynn Andrews (Medecine Woman, Jaguar Woman, Crystal Woman, Spirit Woman, etc.). A few Indians such as Alonzo Blacksmith (aka: Chunksa Yuha, the "Indian authenticator" of Hanta Yo), "Chief Red Fox" (Memoirs of Chief Red Fox) and Hyemeyohsts Storm (Seven Arrows, etc.) also cashed in, writing bad distortions and outright lies about indigenous spirituality for consumption in the mass market. The authors grew rich peddling their trash, while real Indians starved to death, out of sight and out of mind of America.
These individuals are gathering non-Indian people as followers who believe they are receiving instructions of the original people. We the Elders and our representatives sitting in council give warning to these non-Indian followers that it is our understanding this is not a proper process and the authority to carry these sacred objects is given by the people and the purpose and procedure is specific to time and the needs of the people.
The medicine people are chosen by the medicine and long instruction and discipline is necessary before ceremonies and healing can be done. These procedures are always in the Native tongue; there are no exceptions and profit is not the motivation.
There are many Nations with many and varied procedures specifically for the welfare of their people. These processes and ceremonies are of the most Sacred Nature. Council finds the open display of these ceremonies contrary to these Sacred instructions.
Therefore, be warned that these individuals are moving about playing upon the spiritual needs and ignorance of our non-Indian brothers and sisters. The value of these instructions and ceremonies are questionable, maybe meaningless, and hurtful to the individual carrying false messages. There are questions that should be asked of these individuals:
What Nation does the person represent?
What is their Clan and Society?
Who instructed them and where did they learn?
What is their home address?
If no information is forthcoming, you may inquire at the addresses listed below, and we will try to find out about them for you.
We concern ourselves only with those people who use spiritual ceremonies with non-Indian people for profit. There are many things to be shared with the Four Colors of humanity in our common destiny as one with our Mother the Earth. It is this sharing that must be considered with great care by the Elders and the medicine people who carry the Sacred Trusts, so that no harm may come to people through ignorance and misuse of these powerful forces.  
Tom Yellowtail, Wyola, MT 59089
Larry Anderson, Navajo Nation, PO Box 342, Fort Defiance, AZ 86504
Izadore Thom, Beech Star Route, Bellingham, WA 98225
Thomas Banyacya, Hopi Independent Nation, Shungopavy Pueblo, Second Mesa via AZ 86043
Philip Deere (deceased), Muskogee (Creek) Nation
Walter Denny, Chippewa-Cree Nation, Rocky Boy Route, Box Elder, MY 59521
Austin Two Moons, Northern Cheyenne Nation, Rosebud Creek, MT
Tadadaho Haudenosaunee, Onondaga Nation via Nedrow, NY 13120
Chief Fools Crow (deceased), Lakota Nation
Frank Cardinal, Sr., Chateh, PO Box 120, Assumption, Alberta, Canada, TOMOSO
Peter O’Chiese, Entrance Terry Ranch, Entrance, Alberta

II. Vine Deloria, Jr. on 'don Juan'
From Sandy McIntosh
In trying to understand the problems that people from one culture (ours) meet with when they try to understand something fundamental in another culture (the "wisdom of the shamans of ancient Mexico"), I came upon the following by Vine Deloria, Jr. in his introduction to The Pretend Indian: Images of Native Americans in the Movies: Here he is discussing one of the strongest images whites have about Indians: the "old chief" stereotype.
"Carlos Castaneda parlayed the old man image into a series of best sellers that have much more relationship with an LSD travel tour than with Indians. Whatever Don Juan is, he is far from a recognizable Indian except to confused and psychically injured whites who have a need to project their spiritual energies onto an old Indian for resolution…. The whites are sincere but they are only sincere about what they are interested in, not about Indians about whom they know very little. They get exceedingly angry if you try to tell them the truth and will only reject you and keep searching until they find the Indian of their fantasies…. The obvious solution to the whole thing would be for the whites to achieve some kind of psychological and/or religious maturity. But the whole psychological posture of American society is toward perpetual youth. Everyone believes that he or she must be eternally young. No one wants to believe that he or she is getting or will ever get old. Somehow only Indians get old because the coffee table books are filled with pictures of old Indians but hardly a book exists that has pictures of old whites."

Offline educatedindian

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Re: More Good Sources
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2006, 04:39:08 pm »
Pt 2

III. Excerpts from Spiritual Hucksters: The Rise of the Plastic Medicine Men, by Ward Churchill
[Contributed by Linda Zoontjens]

Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux - Author/Professor)

"White people in this country are so alienated from their own lives and so hungry for some sort of real life that they’ll grasp at any straw to save themselves. But high tech society has given them a taste for the "quick fix". They want their spirituality prepackaged in such a way as to provide instant insight, the more sensational and preposterous the better. They’ll pay big bucks to anybody dishonest enough to offer them spiritual salvation after reading the right book or sitting still for the right fifteen minute session. And, of course, this opens them up to every kind of mercenary hustler imaginable. It’s all very pathetic, really."

Oren Lyons (traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation)

"Non-Indians have become so used to all this hype on the part of impostors and liars that when a real Indian spiritual leader tries to offer them useful advice, he is rejected. He isn’t "Indian" enough for all these non-Indian experts on Indian religion. Now, this is not only degrading to Indian people, it’s downright delusional behavior on the part of the instant experts who think they’ve got all the answers before they even hear the questions….The bottom line here is that we have more need for intercultural respect today than at any other time in human history. And nothing blocks respect and communication faster and more effectively than delusions by one party about another. We’ve got real problems today, tremendous problems, problems which threaten the survival of the planet. Indians and non-Indians must confront these problems together, and this means we must have honest dialogue, but this dialogue is impossible so long as non-Indians remain deluded about things as basic as Indian spirituality."

Janet McCloud (longtime fishing rights activist and elder of Nisqually Nation):

"First they came to take our land and water, then our fish and game. Then they want our religions as well. All of a sudden, we have a lot of unscrupulous idiots running around saying they’re medicine people. And they’ll sell you a sweat lodge ceremony for fifty bucks. It’s not only wrong, it’s obscene. Indians don’t sell their spirituality to anybody, for any price. This is just another in a very long series of thefts from Indian people and, in some ways, this is the worst one yet….These people run off to reservations acting all lost and hopeless, really pathetic. So, some elder is nice enough, considerate enough to be kind to them, and how do these people repay this generosity? After fifteen minutes with a spiritual leader, they consider themselves, "certified" medicine people, and they run amok, "spreading the word" - for a fee.

Some of them even proclaim themselves to be "official spiritual representatives" of various Indian peoples. I’m talking about people like Dyhani Ywahoo and Lynn Andrews. It’s absolutely disgusting….We’ve also got Indians who are doing these things. We’ve got our Sun Bears and our Wallace Black Elks and others who’d sell their own mother if they thought it would turn a quick buck. What they’re selling isn’t theirs to sell, and they know it. They’re thieves and sell-outs, and they know that too. That’s why you never see them around Indian people anymore. When we have our traditional meetings and gatherings, you never see the Sun Bears and those sorts showing up."

The late Matthew King (Oglala spiritual elder):

"Each part of our religion has its power and its purpose. Each people has their own ways. You cannot mix these ways, because each people’s ways are balanced. Destroying balance is a disrespect and very dangerous. This is why it’s forbidden….Many things are forbidden in our religion. The forbidden things are acts of disrespect, things must be learned, and the learning is very difficult. This is why there are very few real "medicinemen" among us; only a few are chosen. For someone who has not learned how our balance is maintained--to pretend to be a medicine man is very, very dangerous. It’s a big disrespect to the powers and can cause great harm to whoever is doing it, to those he claims to be teaching, to nature, to everything. It is very bad."

IV. Reactions to Florinda Donner
[From Linda Zoontjens]

Florinda Donner has been singled out for opprobrium. In the July13, 1996, issue of The Deseret News (Salt Lake City), an article noted that Native Americans resent thievery of native traditions by the likes of people like Florinda Donner, Lynn Andrews, etc. Donner was also mentioned in Psychology Today as one of the people Native Americans don't like because they are tired of being ripped off by "white shamans and plastic medicine men."