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What should the role of white people be in discussions about appropriation?

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I have a question for the forum.

Being Wiccan, I often participated in esoteric events on the East Coast of the US. For the most part, the people there were educated enough to stick to their own trads and didn't try to poach from NDN practices. But now I've moved to Switzerland. And "Le Chamanisme Amérindien" is IN.

I've brought up the cultural appropriation issue, and people are like, "Yes, it's wrong for fakes to be fake but of course it's ok for sincere seekers to study," and they'll point me to some webpage of some british guy or other selling classes and say, "But this guy is for real!"

They think the reason that US Neopagans and other esoterics don't use much NDN stuff in our rites is because we're racists who don't see the value in NDN traditions. I keep saying its because there's been a lot of actual discussion about cultural appropriation and that people don't want to step on anyone's toes. But the Swiss don't really believe me.

I mention that the NDNs feel we've taken a lot from them, but of course the Swiss feel that yes, the AMERICAN whites have taken a lot, but the Swiss haven't.

I guess my question is, when the subject comes up, should I continue to say something? To be fair, the Swiss tend to read about stuff more than actually practice it. People get very touchy when you suggest their spiritual role model may not be entirely ethical. Someone got very excited defending Carlos Casteneda on a forum the other day, for example, and very angry at the suggestion that his teachings might not be great. Yes, they say, the books might be fictional but there is still a lot of value in them.

On the other hand, who the heck am I to speak up on behalf of NDNs, I'm not one, so maybe I shouldn't say anything. Do NDNs even need me or want me to speak up when I see these things happening? Is it presumptuous of me to say anything? Is it any of my business?

And the last thing they need is some American coming along and telling them how they should or shouldn't practice.  I mean, if they want to cobble together some spiritual practice based on Hopi igloos, Cherokee war bonnets, Zulu sweat lodges and Siberian rain dances... who am I to tell them they shouldn't?


I believe they should ask us! :o
As a native person Living on the reservation among my people and
no one asked me, no white person talks for us and i see the european
being the worse offenders,

I agree! That's why I am asking! :)

What should a white person do when coming across someone who introduces themselves as being all into Native American Shamanism? Should we say something? But then we risk looking like we're trying to speak for the Indians. Should we not say anything? If we should say something, what should we say?

That is the question!

No, that's not quite the same thing, but plenty of exploiters will try to pretend it is. You'd be claiming to speak for us if you were saying something different from what NDNs actually think. (And that is exactly what exploiters or imposters do and part of why it's so offensive, wrong, and damaging.)

No one has to be Jewish to stand up to anti Semitism, or Black to say slavery and segregation are wrong. They just have to be good decent humans.

That other argument they're using is wrong in a couple ways. Most of Europe can't claim their nations never did harm to NDNs or other indigenous people. Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, even Sweden and Denmark did but on a smaller scale. And Germany, Italy, Russia, even Belgium and the Netherlands have ugly histories of colonialism.

Switzerland, along with Ireland, may be just about the only place that can claim to not have been victimizers. But that doesn't change the fact that these Swiss, by promoting exploiters, are taking part in another kind of victimization.

I did a speaking tour in Europe a few years ago, and it was my experience that most Europeans just didn't know any better. Once presented with the evidence, most changed. Invite any you think may be open to listening to come here to the forum and see for themselves.

You approach it from yourself - say "I do not like this.", "I do not think this is correct.".  You are speaking for yourself, and your values.  If they question you why, you can say why you feel the way you do.  If someone said a racist joke that everyone else is laughing at, and you said you find it offensive, you represent your values.  They may dislike you for stating your opinions, but you have the choice of violating your own values or not.  

If people want to know the reasons for your opinion, then you could direct them to this forum or others, where they can research and read what has been said.  The problem lies in the fact that they want to continue doing what they have been doing.  They do not want to be told "no".  Their reasons that they give is their way of continuing to do what they are doing.

However, by stating your opinion, "I do not like this", you keep your self respect, and may prick their defenses.


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