From: Mike Storm (STORMSTUDIO)
Okay, folks, here we go... some warning signs of cultural abuse are:
Those who immediately offer information about their 'native' experiences unrelated to the discussion, or as an interruption to a conversation they are not involved in.
Realtime example: While in a local shop, I was talking to a person about Indian matters... a customer came to me & out of the blue
said,"I'm a shaman". This is equivalent to saying,"I am
wise"- surely indicates the opposite. A true medicine person does not call her/himself one, though others may. Let alone the fact that, though there are perhaps a few similarities between medicine practice and 'shamanism', the term is not Native.
Online example of cultural abuse: http://shamans.freeyellow.com/ is the 'Lone Wolf Cherokee Shaman' page. Beyond the mistaken and irrespectful public establishment of the title 'Cherokee Shaman', there is a mixing of tarot and astrology, neither of which is Cherokee. (Note: indications are this person at one time had a more expansive site, and has since narrowed it down to a response/reply via email).
Use of other incorrect, offensive and indicative terms like 'shaman', in connection with native cultures, such as: peace pipe, war bonnet, squaw... Cliche' terms and 'Noblespeak': 'May the winds of the wolf bless your path to the stars' is the kind of presumptuous statement uncommon among Indians, fueled by Hollywood stereotyping.
The charging of monies for ceremony such as sweat lodge, sundance, etc. A big warning buzzer.
Online example: www.dreamweaverlodge.com/rates.html .
There should NEVER be a monetary charge for traditional sweat lodge, it is one of the worst offenses; the running of a lodge by a person, whether native or non-native, is patently wrong if they are advertising it publicly; to claim it as native or authentic without having been trained and given permission is also an abuse of tradition.
About online behaviors: Often you'll see Indians on the net, pursuing a protective stance in chats and forums. This may appear as a conflict
especially in 'spirituality' areas of the web- why would a people of
spirit seem to be so 'nonspiritual' & resistant? It is due to the
cultural standards that require tribal experience and ritual instruction over verbal and typewritten 'knowledge' when dealing with the sacred. And it is especially due to recent history, that has moved from appropriation of lands and wealth to appropriation of traditions.
Realtime example: I have a friend visiting from England... she was in
Dine' country at a cultural center, and had asked a question of a
tribesperson about a point of tradition that was described right there on the wall, on display. Yet, the tribesman could not speak to this point, according to tribal guidelines- his knowing, experience, was & is vastly different than the words on that wall.
From www.netgsi.com/~fcowboy/appropriation.html ...Native American Links: Cultural Appropriation: "...All this is part and parcel of 'cultural appropriation'. Cultural appropriation is when somebody else gets to decide what 'Indian' is and is not, and when non-Indians feel they have the right to adopt any aspect of Native culture they desire, and castigate those Native Americans who resist. One hundred years ago we resisted with force of arms, and the 'wild Indians' were massacred and the survivors herded onto reservations; nowadays we resist with words and non-violent action, and are sent to jail
and excluded from polite society. In each case, Indians are taught that they must submit to the white man's way of seeing things because he is right, and Indians who don't go along with it are savages and
troublemakers. Many people who claim to be supportive of Native Americans spend a lot of time critiquing how we present ourselves instead of forwarding our message."
From www.u.arizona.edu/~ecubbins/webcrit.html ...regarding questionable websites involving native culture:
"It is ethically wrong, and in some cases illegal, to sell Native
spirituality, either by Native or non-Native people. Unfortunately this is big business on and off the Web, and a site that does this exploits American Indian peoples. Native or non-Native persons may also "peddle" Native spirituality for free, but the payback to them is self-aggrandizement, to make themselves appear more "Indian",to gather followers, to pretend they have something others don't, to gain power in some way. This is wrong, and sometimes dangerous. Injuries and death have occurred to some of those seeking an "authentic Indian spiritual experience" from unscrupulous people. Protect yourself and protect Native spirituality. Don't buy it with money or with the "worship" for someone who is exploiting spirituality to gain power in some way."
From www.december.com/cmc/mag/1998/jul/baird.html ...this study gives
excellent insights into the 'warning signs' that can indicate
'pretindians': "American Indians in general resist assimilation and take offense at someone who is trying to pretend to be Indian, and are vigilant about protecting Indian identity on the Web. Clues are watched for that give identifiers, and questions to the person are worded to elicit a specific response. Ironically, it is the Indian participants who sound more mainstream than non-Indians..."
As Vine Deloria stated: "They (whites claiming 'Indian-ness') often popularize Indian culture so that it becomes the common property of everyone instead of the living customs of a particular group of people, When tribal customs become widespread among non-Indians or even mixed bloods remotely related to the tribal community itself, they are really a part of the larger society and no longer play an integral part in the Indian milieu. If this trend continues, eventually non-Indians will define Indian identity and then no political or blood tie can rescue the tribe from extinction."
For those of us who are mixedblood, or fullblood with access to public
media sources such as the net, it is a cultural duty to be extremely
careful with sacred & detailed traditional aspects, guard against
misappropriations that distort the truths, and more importantly, to be
involved in tribal life as we can, & not allow it to be freely diluted by the larger society.
All Natives Forum www.delphi.com/nativesignals