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Reaching people just learning about their heritage

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A recent incident brought the topic of reaching people just learning about the heritage of an ancestor, to my attention.

There are many websites out there started by well meaning peoplewho had an ancestor from one tribe or another, usually a tribe from the East that has disapeared or has nearly disapeared.

It is VITALLY important that for these people to understand the importance of not just "making up" a do it yourself religion" to accompany their new found interest in the great grandparent they have discovered.

It is VITALLY important these people understand that they MUST teach newbies that this practice is NOT acceptable -- otherwise they are just playing a game. Otherwise people who today are just discovering that their great grandma had "Saponi blood"  will be proclaiming that they are a "Saponi Shaman" or a "Cherokee pipe-carrier" ten or twenty years from now, and the will be teaching others (for a fee) how to become one. They'll wear Plains regalia and learn to make tee-pees, et cetera . . . they'll do things their Saponi or Cherokee great great grandma or ancestor never did.

They feel free to do this because they are so far removed from most American Indian Culture. You can learn a lot from reading a book, but not everything. They need to be around known American Indian people who were raised in the culture who will guide them away from new age ignorance -- they know no better.

They need to know not everyone with their surname was "Indian", most weren't. They need to know to do better research and learn the true history of their ancestor and not a made up history.

But basically my fear for the present is that if these groups don't teach they can not just "make up a religion", if they instead stifle the voices of those who warn them that they can not do this -- then they run the risk of being nurseries for the next generation of self-proclaimed "chiefs", "shamen" and "pipe-cariers".

They might perceive any outside intervention into their little kingdom as some type of "inquisition" or "witch hunt" -- they may think they are sincere and they may be sincere in  other ways.

I fear I have stated more of a problem than a solution, but it is a problem that worries me.


I agree with you, Vance. I see people who have just discovered their Indian ancestry and they flock to the frauds. Or read books by Lynn  Andrewes or worse.  I tell them to learn about Indian things they must get involved with the community. Thatr is how they will learn. I try to tell them who to steer clear of. They don't always listen, but I try.

Perhaps what's needed is a list of the better sites and books for them to learn from. Start with genealogy sites, then sites about enrolling, sites for learning the basic heritage. Probably good sites on the Cherokee since that's what everyone seems to think their heritage is. Perhaps even a write up like "Do You Think You Have Cherokee Ancestors?" explaining that they might be actually be Saponi, Melungeon, etc.

I'd really like to hear from our newest members from the Saponitown forum about what they think would be the best ways to help.

I'd kinda like to see them here too.


This discussion might be also helped by some input from those aforementioned "known American Indian people who were raised in their culture".

As the articles written by Susan Adame , " New Age steals Native spirituality , identities ", posted by Debbie Bear , in this Etcetera section , ? on Dec 10 says , and I quote

"Furthermore, after centuries of
exploitation, imprisonment and murder for practicing their own religion,
most tribes maintain a strong tribally enforced silence surrounding
their religion. Outsiders are rarely, if ever, invited to participate in
any ceremonies of significance, and in many cases, urban Indians may not
even be allowed into a ceremony if their ties to the reservation
community are not strong. "

I am wondering how these "known American Indian people who were raised in their culture", feel about "guiding" distant relatives who have a "new found interest in the great grandparent they have discovered."

or maybe a
"Saponi or Cherokee great great grandma or ancestor"

Do some of these distant or disconnected relations sometimes create problems for Native communities , and if so how do they do this ?

Is there a way for these people to reconnect that is actually beneficial to the Native communities involved?

If some people in a community are welcoming to distant relations , but others are not , is it right for people to try and be involved , if some people don't think they should be ?

Be interested to hear what people out there think .


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