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Let me start by admitting that i can't learn anything FROM anybody if i do not spend some time with them and develop some relationship, some intimacy, a student/teacher connection.  By reading their ideas out of a book, i might learn a little bit ABOUT them, but that is all.  This is especially true if the teacher is from an oral culture and the student is from a literary (or worse, a technological) culture.  Learning an oral culture, especially its spiritual and mystical aspects requires long hours of apprenticeship , long periods of sitting and listening and smoking and silence.  Such secrets are properly shared with one's kin.  Yes, these oral cultures are dying out at a very rapid pace.  Perhaps it is better that we have watered down or corrupted copies of these traditions than have nothing at all.  But many of them are not dead yet, and some are showing signs of renewal.

The First Peoples have a legitimate complaint.  First we stole their living space and killed too many of them in the process; then we tried to convert them into third class versions of ourselves, and now, as our own culture threatens to self destruct because of its esssential nonviability, we try to take their's from them on our own terms.  Some "real" Indians are raging about "fake" Indians; or (now that Senator Warren's bio has come into the mix) "Pretendians."

From my very limited understanding, the rage focuses on at least four points;

First there are non Indians or people with very remote Indian ancestry who claim minority status when applying for jobs or benefits.  They did not share in the pain and struggle; they have no right to share the benefits.  This has both just and very unjust versions (Black Seminoles who did share in the pain and struggle being denied tribal status),

Then there are non Indians claiming spiritual power, "Indian spirit guides," or expertise in aboriginal spirituality.  They make a living off seekers/suckers who come to them for enlightment.  Their misuse of traditional rituals can be downright danerous ("Sweatlodge" burnings and deaths).

There are those who wittingly or unwittingly combine half remembered traditions with new age teachings and modern psychology to create a teaching which they call "Lakota," or "Toltec." or "Mayan," etc.

Finally there are those unenrolled persons raised without traditions who, as adults, feel called to rediscover or reinvest in some version  of their ancestral traditions.  To me, these people lost everything, even their connection to a tribal society and they should not be criticised for trying to recapture it.

Well,  which group is the author of Quest, in.?  Possibly none or several.  All i can do is study her book and see what, if anything, i get out of it.  So far it is promising.  She seems "interspiritual; she knows of Lame Deer and Black Elk.  She knows what qualities a good teacher should have.

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2016 10:01 pm (UTC)


My wife and I won a trip to northwestern Ontario this coming July which is using Ray Mears as their ad man. He produced a video which is the above link about one of the greatest pretendians of them all: Grey Owl.

Anyone who has spent any time looking into Grey Owl can see that he wasn't really all that redeeming of a person. That being said, his image seems to be undergoing a makeover as of late given the flirtation with collapse that our species is currently infatuated with.

The thing that I find most fascinating about Grey Owl is that the tribe that took him in never really had an issue with him pretending to be native. I don't claim any authority on the subject, but from what I know, it was fairly common for the native groups in my corner of the world to adopt people into their tribes and consider them to be one of them. This is why Archie Belaney was not really acknowledged as an Englishman until after he was dead. As far as the natives of the Temagami were concerned, he was one of them.

Anyway, if you aren't famaliar with Grey Owl, then I suggest you look him up. His conservation work helped to re-establish the beaver in Canada and also began the movement to control logging in Canada.

I think one of the main reasons his legacy is being rehabilitated right now is because we are at another turning point in Canadian history with resource development and we really need a pushback to save what is left.

Jun. 6th, 2016 01:04 am (UTC)
Good to hear from you, man!

Thank you for your comment.
I will look up Grey Owl
Jun. 10th, 2016 07:25 pm (UTC)
This ... it's we euro-Americans (and, I think, Canadians) who redefined tribes as strictly racial, or ancestry-based. Even we ourselves still like to call ourselves "Irish-American" or "Italian-American", e.g., but the leap to "English-Temagami" seems to be one too far -- maybe it's because we don't want to acknowledge the "nationhood" of aboriginal groups within what we like to claim as our exclusive borders.
Jun. 7th, 2016 11:17 am (UTC)
I think you explained this quite well.
Jun. 10th, 2016 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jun. 10th, 2016 07:19 pm (UTC)
Finally there are those unenrolled persons raised without traditions who, as adults, feel called to rediscover or reinvest in some version of their ancestral traditions. To me, these people lost everything, even their connection to a tribal society and they should not be criticised for trying to recapture it.

This is my Aunt - formerly known as Babette, has taken the name Tekakwitha. Her grandmother was Cherokee, and I guess she had a good relationship with her, whereas she has not been on speaking terms with her parents for many, many years. She and my uncle have reinvented themselves as Cherokee in a big way, in some ways: learning the language, writing songs in it and recording them -- have been nominated for Nammy awards a couple of times --, doing the Powwow circuit with heavy investment of time and effort in making their own regalia, etc. But they are not bound to genuine Cherokee culture and tradition, either -- they mix it up with Reiki and whatever New Age hogwash they like, and you know, it works for them. And it works for the Powwow circuit, which is a modern pan-Indian innovation in itself. I think they're kind of a couple of crackpots, but they are happy and have made a niche for themselves, and there is at least a link to a lost family tradition in her case. I admire them for the courage to be such crackpots, actually.
Jun. 10th, 2016 08:42 pm (UTC)
This is not a slam at your aunt, who has every right to her chosen identity, but i find it interesting that such a large portion of non-enrolled persons who claim Native American ancestry say that ancestry was "Cherokee" You would think that half the pre-contact population of North America were Cherokee or that they were by far the most fecund people ever.
Jun. 10th, 2016 08:53 pm (UTC)
True! And odd. They must have better marketing than any of the other 100s of native nations in the US. In my aunt's case, although she does make stuff up (e.g., she one told me "Tekakwitha" was her middle name, but Mom said it was actually Elaine), I believe her grandmother actually was Cherokee.
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