(stream of consciousness post, with ~~~ separators for the different shiny thoughts running through my mind at the moment…)
So I have run hot and cold over my involvement with a local Pagan community group… partly timing and partly some miscommunications and confusion. Recently however, I have decided I don’t want to be involved with them.
This group is hosting a “Native American Ceremony”, led by a gentlemen who has been involved in the local community, and presented Sweat Lodges at a local Pagan gathering, for years. No problem with the guy personally, it’s just that he’s not Native…
(Lakota in this case as it is a “Lakota Pipe Ceremony”) nor is he a member of the Lakota Nation….his profile lists a long list of tribes whose elder’s he’s studied with and Native Peoples with whom he’s studied… I am rather certain were he a member of one of the Nations he’d broadcast that fact far and wide in his sincere and probably heartfelt spiritual practice service information)
The problem I have with this is that Native Americans do not like it. Many of them feel that it is akin to stealing from them, and insulting to them and their spirituality and culture, and you can read more eloquent and more first-hand explanations here…
~~~ from the Native American Spirituality section of the Online Resources!!~~~
This is a first hand essay on the issue found on the Internet…
This article is from Native Languages (dot) Org, a linguistics and cultural website.
This article is from the Canku Luta, a grassroots non-profit committed to the preservation of American Indian customs and culture.
This excellent Native American run website strives to sort out reality from trickery, and sincere confusion, as it relates to Native American religion and Shamanism
When I tried to bring up my concerns about the issue of cultural mis-appropriation and ritual theft my concerns were pretty much swept aside by the President of the Board of this local organization and I was informed that
“As far as any religion or ceremony belonging to one person or persons as a birthright, (LOCAL PAGAN ORGANIZATION NAME HERE) believes that we each have the right to follow the path that calls us.”
Which sounds all well and good except that part of what makes a Lakota ceremony a ceremony is it’s interconnectedness with and meanings within the Lakota culture. Those threads of emotion and feeling and tradition and power are connected to being Lakota.
The same is true of a Gardnerian ceremony… even if a copy of the Gardnerian BoS were to drop into your lap tomorrow; you might be able to make yourself a Witch with it… and perhaps even reach some sort of connection (not necessarily a positive one) with the Gardnerian Lord and Lady… but you would never be a Gardnerian! Part of being a Gardnerian is being initiated (or adopted) as a member of that particular group…
I feel like I am failing to communicate why this issue is important, not just because it is disrespectful (at best) towards Lakota and other native peoples, but in it’s own right….
Of course, being against Cultural Appropriation presented me with some problems… one of which was easy enough to fix…
I had at one time downloaded a copy of an alleged “Traditional BoS” from an online source, I have since deleted that file and information. Not being an initiate to the Trad in question, I have no business mucking about with their stuff.
The deeper problem, for me, is that where does Reconstruction and Modern Paganism end and Cultural Misappropriation begin?
For me, for now, I think that one of the biggest differences is that in seeking a relationship with and stiving to honor through ritual the Hellenic Gods (Ancient Greece) I am not reaching out to a spirituality of a still living culture… to be sure Greek Culture is alive and well, but the Polytheistic and Pagan culture of Ancient Greece is only now begining to be reborn and rediscovered by modern peoples, even within Greece itself.
Of all places the Celtic Recon FAQ actually has some great things to say to the difficulties and nuances of Reconstructionist paths…
I have this nagging fear that this local groups desire to dress up and play Indian is not only going continue a cycle of theft and racism that Native Americans have been dealing with since “Native American” spirituality became so cool and shiny in the 1980’s and 90’s, but will also negatively impact the local Pagan community.
Then, on a more personal level, I am now looking for a different avenue in which to participate in my local Pagan community… as I am working two part time jobs it is very easy to let myself hold back from involvement in things.. especially from starting things…
… but if I am to follow my gut instincts, including the one that says Community is worth working for, then i am going to have to get involved and perhaps start a group… or join another local one…