‘Buying’ Native American customs

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  • #10322

    Angela-P
    Participant

    Why do some whites attempt to use aspects of Native American tribal religions, often through paying money for something? And when they do, why do they insist it’s an attempt to ‘honor’ or ‘join’ us, when for the most part they don’t live in or work for the benefit of our communities?

    User Detail :  

    Name : Angela-P, Gender : F, Race : Mandan/Hidatsa/Cree, Age : 22, City : Minneapolis, State : MN Country : United States, 
    #44196

    Steve-J27830
    Participant

    As white people, we have been repeatedly told to embrace multiculturism and diversity. Your question reinforces the axiom of “you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” By that I mean that society demands that we explore and accept Native American and other cultures, but then when we try to do just that, we are criticized for doing it because we don’t live in the community. I suspect Native Americans and other groups don’t like or appreciate what they see as “white do-gooders” in their community anyway, and many whites realize this. So maybe that’s why many whites are just content to let their tax dollars and charitable contributions work for the benefit of the communities. Also, most people don’t realize the extremely high percentage of whites (as well as blacks) who have Native American in their ancestry. I heard recently that 97 percent of whites whose families have been in America more than 150 years descend from Native Americans on at least one branch of their family tree. The same source said 90 percent of whites whose families have been here more than 150 years descend from at least one black person in their lineage. So wanting to honor or join you may not be as far-fetched as you seem to think.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Steve-J27830, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 42, City : Warrensburg, State : MO Country : United States, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #18948

    D-Meerkat31795
    Participant

    I am very interested in your question, but could you expand upon it some more, as I am not really sure what you are asking? Are you referring to things like people buying “dream catchers” and other First Nations items? Even though I do not have any First Nations background, I do have a very deep interest, respect and admiration for your people. Many of your culture’s ideas, religion and respect for the earth and fellow beings are aspects I identify with and want to learn more about and if possible become a part of. In addition, I find your culture very interesting, beautiful and peaceful, as well as in harmony with animals and nature, which makes up an important part of my paganistic theology.

    User Detail :  

    Name : D-Meerkat31795, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Bisexual, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Pagan, Age : 27, City : Vancouver, State : NA Country : Canada, 
    #35062

    A.C.C.
    Member

    It’s because they don’t really understand or respect our beliefs, so they think spirituality can be bought, sold and used up like tampons or a used car. These people don’t see that the money completely corrupts what they claim they are trying to do, or they just don’t care. And going to someone selling a pretty, idealized myth is also much easier than having to deal with the consequences of living on land taken from another people. It allows them to erase the ugliness in their own ancestors’ past. Much of this does come from a genuine spiritual hunger. It’s just sad that many, like Carlos Castaneda and Heheyosts Storm, have exploited this for their own greed and ego. To any whites who want to learn about us, why don’t you try talking to us and not these snake oil salesmen? Come to a powwow or read God Is Red, one of the best books out there on native spirituality.

    User Detail :  

    Name : A.C.C., Race : Mexican and American Indian, City : W Lafayette, State : IN Country : United States, Occupation : Grad student, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, 
    #32617

    Marg
    Participant

    Good question. I work in a gift store and had a white guy here ask me if the “Native people here are close to their roots like they are in New Mexico?” I told him he would have to ask them; that I had no idea. Anyway, it seems to me there is spiritual competition among many of my peers. They feel better than those who don’t do the native thing, or the Buddhist thing, or whatever is turning them on these days. I don’t get it either, but there seems to be a lot of arrogance involved.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Marg, Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 38, City : Halifax, State : NA Country : Canada, Education level : High School Diploma, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #33919

    Nkenge
    Participant

    It’s the same when whites appropriate aspects of black culture but run like hell from black people. They want your stuff, not you. Acting as “culture vultures” lets them sample your cultural wares without having to get within 10 miles of your people and face the reality of how they live.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Nkenge, City : Chicago, State : IL Country : United States, 
    #27241

    SB-Greendance
    Participant

    I am a Pagan who utilizes learning tools from many different traditions, including yours. My primary interest there is in animal totems, and I usually ride the web for free information from knowledgable individuals. Living all my life in a rural environment, I can relate to and better understand the lessons learned from animals than any of the Anglo Tarots. A skunk can tell me a lot, a 4 of cups means nothing to me. I am not trying to join or honor you. I am not even trying to learn from you. I simply utilize some of the same tools in my own learning. I do know some New Agers who go about throwing money around to buy anything from dream-catchers to crystals to pre-prepared candles for rituals. I still haven’t figured out what they are gaining from it, hopping from one tool to the next without serious study of any of them. But perhaps this is what you are talking about when you mention the money thing. I use a lot of candle magick in my craft. I do not sell or even give away rituals, nor do I cast spells on anybody who has not given me permission to do so. Yet go into any New Age store and anybody can purchase a candle magick ritual for love. This goes against everything I believe in, yet all I do is shake my head and sigh. Maybe I mention it to the proprietor of the store. But I do not begrudge the buyer or the seller for using something they do not understand. Here is how I see it. The seller is out for a buck, the buyer is desperately grasping at straws. I can’t change either of them. What I can do is concentrate on myself and my own emotions regarding the situation. Perhaps it would be a good idea to discuss the anger you are feeling with an elder that you respect.

    User Detail :  

    Name : SB-Greendance, Gender : F, Race : White Mutt, Religion : Pagan, Age : 36, City : Lincoln, State : MI Country : United States, Education level : 4 Years of College, 
    #14806

    A.C.C.
    Member

    The problem is not that you want to learn about us. It’s that so many of you think of us as creatures of the past, as quaint holdovers. So some of you will do things that you would never do to other groups, like dress your kids up as ‘Indians’ on Halloween or have them do rain dances as boy scouts, or use insulting cartoons of us as sports mascots. Would you ‘honor’ Jewish people by having your own version of a Bar Mitzvah? Would you crowd out Jewish worshippers from the Wailing Wall so you could sell crystals? Would you get your information about Jewish beliefs by people who claimed ‘the Jews are too weak to carry on their old ways, now it’s up to whites to do it’? Yet these types of things are exactly what most New Age/would be shaman/Men’s movement types are doing now.

    User Detail :  

    Name : A.C.C., Race : Mexican and American Indian, City : W Lafayette, State : IN Country : United States, Occupation : Grad student, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, 
    #45691

    L. Chaos
    Member

    I’m not exactly sure what was meant by the question above. But as to the last reply, I must comment. My reply has to do with the following statement ‘…much easier than having to deal with the consequences of living on land taken from another people. It allows them to erase the ugliness in their own ancestors’ past…’ From that statement I’m inferring that you hold ‘Americans’ responsible for the taking/stealing of land way back when. I do not feel responsible, and I think what happened was horrible. I live in a nation conceived by hypocrites. I don’t like it, and I feel a great sadness for what happened, but I don’t think it’s fair for you to judge me for something one of my ancestors may or may not have participated in. I think your statement is the kind of prejudice that the Y Forum is trying to help eliminate by education. Maybe I’m just young and stupid, but if it makes you feel better, I formally apologize for what some hypocritical ancestor of mine may have done. I’m sorry to have been born into stolen land…

    User Detail :  

    Name : L. Chaos, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Atheist, Age : 16, City : Vemont, State : VT Country : United States, Occupation : student, Education level : Less than High School Diploma, Social class : Middle class, 
    #16984

    Roch
    Member

    Based on nothing but my opinion and 48 years of observation …

    Some white people adopt aspects of Native American and Eastern religions because of the novelty, because those practices seem closer to nature and/or because they’ve become alienated from their own religious tradition and are seeking to fill the void. You might understand if you spent 12 years in Sunday school hearing a starched church matron explain how followers of all those ‘other’ religions were going to hell.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Roch, Gender : M, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 48, City : Kansas City, State : MO Country : United States, Occupation : Computer/technical, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #19679

    Beth23377
    Participant

    I am a white woman working for a Native Alaskan Health Care organization. I am not quite sure I understand your question, but I think what you are referring to is a cultural issue that American whites (and other cultures) seem to be dealing with. I think the impression is that by buying native goods, we (white folks) feel like not only are we helping native folks, but also we are buying into parts of native culture. I think there is a great deal of native culture that is very difficult for many of us (including me, and I do this for a living) to understand – and remember, to many Americans, spending money on something is considered a huge honor. The native culture holds huge mystique for the average American – so of course they want to buy it. If you could give an example of an attempt to honor, join or buy native culture, that would be helpful and easier to address.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Beth23377, Gender : F, City : Anchorage, State : AK Country : United States, 
    #28226

    Bob
    Member

    The gentleman who feels he is in a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ bind is missing the point of diversity (and it is easy to miss): At the center of this sort of impulse is something often referred to as ‘white guilt.’ Much of the rhetoric of multiculturalism, diversity, civil rights and so on does vilify white people, especially men. But only we know the true nature of our guilt or innocence. I am a white male, and you will never hear me apologize for that. If we are innocent and proactive, we need not worry about whether someone will think we are racist, sexist, etc. (I think most white people who come into contact with people of other backgrounds have been accused of this at times). If we are guilty, no amount of Native American trinkets, african art, Latin music, urban slang or Asian spirituality will exonerate us. The point of diversity initiatives is to understand, accept and, most importantly, transcend differences. We tend to forget this last one.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Bob, Gender : M, Age : 30, City : Tampa, State : FL Country : United States, Occupation : educator/diversity/dialogue, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, 
    #32719

    Rob-S
    Participant

    I think some people are just bored with their own religion and or have shallow religious views, so they wish to adopt or partake in Native American culture because it is seen as hip or cool and not a major conventional religion with structure. It’s a light-hearted religious fantasy to them, a way to act spiritual without being spiritual. Some people honestly wish to support Native American life, perhaps, a piece of Americana.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Rob-S, Gender : M, City : Forest Park, State : IL Country : United States, 
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