Monday, April 09, 2007

In Their Own Words: Indigenous Activists Challenge New Age Frauds

These are a few highlights from websites with in depth information on the issues surrounding the cultural theft that is white New Agers' appropriation of Indigenous spiritual traditions. Check 'em out! Most of these writer-activists are Native American and speak from years of experience with Anglo American racism. These articles make an excellent primer before going on to read about the fraud that is Tamarack Song.

Wikipedia - Plastic Shamans
Though the term "plastic shaman" originated among Native American and First Nations activists, and is most often applied to people posing as Native American medicine men & women, the term has also been applied to those posing as other types of traditional and alternative healers. People who have been referred to as "plastic shamans" include fraudulent spiritual advisors, seers, psychics, or other practitioners of non-traditional modalities of spirituality and healing who are operating on a fraudulent basis.

Critics of those who have been called plastic shamans believe one danger is that students who come to learn from plastic shamans may be exposing themselves to physical, as well as psychological and emotional risk. This is because the methods used by a fraudulent teacher may have been invented, "adapted" or stolen from other cultures and taught without reference to a real tradition, or to the precautions such a tradition would normally have in place in regard to sacred ceremonies and guidelines for ethical behaviour.
Wikipedia - NAFPS (New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans)
Begun in 2001, NAFPS has provided a forum for those concerned about fraud, deceit, money hunger, sexual abuse, racism, control, hunger for power and ego, and cult-like tendencies of the New Age movement and pseudo "shamans." They investigate and seek to warn the public about impostors and exploiters posing as Native medicine people or elders. They believe there are more than two hundred imposters currently posing as Cherokee medicine people alone. Taking account of all five hundred Native nations in the US, this indicates the massive scope of the problem. There have been eight unsuccessful attempts to shut them down, threats of lawsuits, stalkers, identity thieves, libel campaigns, and even death threats.
Our Red Earth
THE DISSEMINATION OF DEATH: TEACHINGS
A typical "new age" collective does not usually openly declare that anything whatsoever is being "taught." This is to ensure a surface appearance of benevolence. If nothing is being "taught," nothing is being "exploited," is the reasoning one often finds within these communities. Additionally, this professed lack of teaching decreases the likelihood of someone quizzing and potentially exposing the community leader as a charlatan.

Instead, "new age" community leaders instruct/mislead their followers by calling the dissemination of their inaccuracies "sharing." They typically disguise the purpose of their community by describing it as a place to "share and discuss" (the leader's interpretations of) American Indian spirituality.

- Edit -

THE PLAYERS
A "new age" community typically includes a Leader and three divisions, these being Co-Leaders, Participants, and Readers. All of these divisions are guided by the Leader, so with him we shall begin.
Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances:
New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality

Lisa Aldred

Consuming Native American Spirituality

Commercial exploitation of Native American spiritual traditions has permeated the New Age movement since its emergence in the 1980s. Euro-Americans professing to be medicine people have profited from publications and workshops. Mass quantities of products promoted as "Native American sacred objects" have been successfully sold by white entrepreneurs to a largely non-Indian market. This essay begins with an overview of these acts of commercialization as well as Native Americans' objections to such practices. Its real focus, however, is the motivation behind the New Agers' obsession and consumption of Native American spirituality. Why do New Agers persist in consuming commercialized Native American spirituality? What kinds of self-articulated defenses do New Agers offer for these commercial practices? To answer these questions, analysis from a larger social and economic perspective is needed to further understand the motivations behind New Age consumption.

In the so-called postmodern culture of late consumer capitalism, a significant number of white affluent suburban and urban middle-aged baby-boomers complain of feeling uprooted from cultural traditions, community belonging, and spiritual meaning. The New Age movement is one such response to these feelings. New Agers romanticize an "authentic" and "traditional" Native American culture whose spirituality can save them from their own sense of malaise. However, as products of the very consumer culture they seek to escape, these New Agers pursue spiritual meaning and cultural identification through acts of purchase. Although New Agers identify as a countercultural group, their commercial actions mesh quite well with mainstream capitalism. Ultimately, their search for spiritual and cultural meaning through material acquisition leaves them feeling unsatisfied. The community they seek is only imagined, a world conjured up by the promises of advertised products, but with no history, social relations, or contextualized culture that would make for a sense of real [End Page 329] belonging. Meanwhile, their fetishization of Native American spirituality not only masks the social oppression of real Indian peoples but also perpetuates it.
White Americans play 'Indian,' professor says
By JODI RAVE
Lincoln Journal Star

- Edit -

Organizations from fraternal orders, to the Boy Scouts, to athletic teams and their fans have succumbed to acting out imagined Indian roles.

Indian people have been both empowered and villainized as a result, said [Philip] Deloria. This paradox powers Deloria's book.

"There is this simultaneous embracing of Indians, which allows Americans to make claims of American identity. But at the same time, in order to make a real physical nation, they have to dispossess those Indians," he said.

One of the best examples in "Playing Indian" examines the 1830s federal policy of removing native people from their Eastern U.S. homelands and sending them to Indian territory in Oklahoma.

Indian role-playing soon broke out in those areas from which the Indians were removed, Deloria said. "The dynamic at work is to get rid of Indians; then you become Indian." The desire to know Indians peaked in the 1950s when non-Indians sought knowledge of Indian culture directly from Indians. Those days are gone, he said.

"Today it's all about reading books (on Indians) and then working it out with a buddy. Books are personal and individual. They can be interpreted any way you want."
Spiritual Commodification and Misappropriation
What Native People Want You To Understand
Compiled by Mariah Jones

There is a disinformation campaign in progress in Sonoma County to undermine Native peoples' nationwide efforts to protect their ceremonial processes from abuse. The promulgators would have you believe that only a few "militant" Indians are concerned about this exploitation by those who have no real knowledge of the deep inner meaning inherent in these ceremonies. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Native people DO object to this phenomenon.

If you stand with Indian people, then you respect their moral right to decide under which circumstances their ceremonies will be "shared" with non-Indians. Please read the following statements by Native people. They are spiritual leaders, authors, attorneys, anthropologists, scholars, activists, educators and tribal leaders. Though they represent just a small percentage of those who have spoken out on this issue, the concepts presented will give you some idea of the perspective you are being asked to consider.

"What's at issue here is the same old question that Europeans have always posed with regard to American Indians, whether what's ours isn't somehow theirs. And, of course, they've always answered in the affirmative. Now, being spiritually bankrupt themselves, they want our spirituality as well. So, they make up rationalizations to explain why they're entitled to it."
What Genocide Has Done For Me
by Eugene Johnson

Genocide is the intentional destruction of a people or culture in order to benefit the destructor.

I, being Indian of Alsea, Klickitat, and Lower Umpqua ancestry, would like to tell you about the things that affect me in present-day life.

Sports Teams

Native Americans are used in advertising and as sports team names. We are mocked and made fun of so a few non-Indians can amass great amounts of wealth. These stereotypes and caricatures have a dehumanizing effect. By "dehumanizing" I mean: to make other than human of that which is human. What dehumanizing does is make it easier for humans to do inhuman things to their fellow human beings. If you don’t consider Indians to be a people, it makes it easier to attempt to separate us from our remaining lands – which is genocide. When Indians protest these names and advertising, people don’t care because we have been dehumanized in the eyes of most people through the use of advertising and sports team names. Advertising and sports team names are a tool of genocide.
Would the REAL don Juan Please Step Forward:
Plastic Medicine Men and White America's
Desperate Search for Native Spirituality.

"They're trying to find their own memory," says John Trudell. "If you get right down to the reality of it, what are white people? White people are the descendants of tribes also. The civilizing process is to erase the tribal or ancestral memory. It's just that the erasing of their tribal memory started 3,000 years ago. For us it started 500 years ago. If you look at most Caucasian people, they don't even remember their Great Grandparents. They don't know what their spiritual perceptions of reality were, their practices, or how they lived with the earth."

The other side of the coin is a tangle of self-deception for white colonizers, now trying to appropriate the spirituality of the very same people they've colonized. Western culture was built upon shame and guilt of the natural world. Whites descended from tribes and barbaric societies, which Christianity smashed down to create a controlled atmosphere devoid of darkness and the unknown.

"The so-called "Barbarians"-the non-Christianized Indigenous believing peoples of Europe-had to be conquered, subordinated, indoctrinated and transformed into the opposite of themselves first, before you had the critical mass-the core entity that allows for this exportation of the same dynamic to the rest of the planet," says Ward Churchill.

Labels:

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for all these articles and links. Very, very helpful. The Red Earth link appears to be down.

Looking forward to the new organization and focus of the site.

4/12/2007 11:56 AM  
Blogger Nemeses said...

Cheers Anon - for the encouragement and the heads-up on the broken link.

It has been repaired.

4/12/2007 6:58 PM  
Blogger Blair said...

It's odd that you should cite Ward Churchill, an Indian role player is ever there was one. Not only has the University of Colorado terminated him for academic fraud, he apparently can't remember who his great grandfather was. His family says his claim to be of Native American descent is false.

4/18/2007 10:14 AM  
Anonymous nemesis said...

Nonsense, Blair. Churchill makes perfectly good sense on any number of issues concerning the European Americans' historical and ongoing genocide of Native Americans.

By the way, may we see your racial identity papers please? We also need to see the permits you have from the Indian Nation that gave you permission to be on their land. When you can fork up either of those, you may ask Churchill for his papers.

Kevin Flynn, a reporter with the Rocky Mountain News, confirmed with Churchill family members from across the country that they had heard the family story of having had a Cherokee ancestor. As none of us at this website can prove our ancestry with any absolute certainty, we are not about to go around arrogantly and hypocritically insisting that Churchill prove his.

Say, what part of "Little Eichmanns" do you not understand?

4/18/2007 6:20 PM  
Blogger Fraud-hater. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/20/2007 3:03 PM  
Blogger Saladman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/28/2009 11:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home