I found this fearful, ethnocentric post on the web. This article claims to have been written by Tim Giago, president of the Native American Journalists Foundation and the publisher of Indian Education Today Magazine. I am not a professional writer, but this piece seems to lack the polish of someone of such high distinction, so I cannot say that this is the actual author, only that it claims to be. My argument is with the content and not the polish though, so here is my reply.
I’m saddened to see how acrimonious my brothers and sisters have allowed themselves to become; it only shows how disconnected from Spirit some of us have grown to be.
This onslaught on the “fake shaman” who are popping up all over the place, like fry bread in a powwow; this whole piece of writing, is dedicated to a racist agenda hidden in an attitude of righteous indignation, attacking a matter that no one has a right to touch!
It begins by stating that these “shaman” have no documentation proving their heritage, they are not enrolled. Brothers, have you been brainwashed into believing that a piece of paper makes you an Indian? If you have bought into the idea that only enrollment in a federally recognized tribe makes you a bona fide Indian, wake up!! Have you forgotten that not all the original peoples of this side of the world have been recognized by the Federal Government? Are you not aware that there are tribes- no! families- separated by the political fences put up by the U.S.? And these fences are not only physical- do you know that Lumbee people of NC have been fighting for federal recognition for 100 years!! They were only recognized this year. What were they last year? Or the year before that? Where they any less Indian than they are today?
Historically, it was only those tribes who had “worked” with the government (as scouts and mercenaries), those who were tricked out of their lands and a few of those who were forcefully conquered and removed that received federal recognition as an Indian. This recognition was not a good thing, my brothers; it meant you were a ward of the state and, as such, a being who could not take care of their own affairs without white male supervision; someone who needed to be provided for. Indians were recognized as savages, part of the local wildlife, not as people. We were not legally recognized by the U.S. as people until 1879; a century after the U.S. was established. Furthermore, Indians, the original American people, were not granted citizenship until 1924, and it would be another 20 years or so before we would be allowed to vote. So don’t be fooled, my brothers, enrollment doesn’t make you an Indian; it makes you an Indian with a number, much like the Jewish people and the Nazis.
I also found it interesting that Ms. Little Eagle’s “personal bad happenings” were so easily dismissed by the author as unrelated to her exposure of these shaman. Her experiences were described as “fear developing in her mind”, as if she were some superstitious twit that needed coddling and reassurance. With this mental image, this portrayal of her as not knowing any better, the author no only devalues her intelligence and opinion about her circumstances, but supports his own agenda that these shaman were fake and didn’t have the kind of Power needed to follow through with their threats. However, he also ends the piece describing these “fake shaman” as delving into “illicit shamanism” and having the Power to blow her monitor into flames from a distance. So which is it? Either they have the Power or they don’t. Once he admitted their Power, to keep true to his separatist, puritanical and racist point of view of non-Indians not being allowed this Power, he makes them out to be Evil.
Talk about chasing your own tail!
I’ve written about people’s relationship with the Creator before, how I feel is no secret. When it comes to tradition, the relationship between a person and their Creator is between THAT person and the Creator-nobody else! Yes, we had a variety of medicine people, those who worked with the body and those who worked with the spirit, and some who did both. But besides that, you were expected to have your own personal relationship with the Creator. This is the way it was traditionally. Hemming and hawing over who has a right to use rattles and drums in medicine today is distracting us from what REALLY needs our attention, our anger and our energy. The sacred will take care of itself, brothers! Trust that the Creator knows what’s happening and has a handle on it. We have more than enough to worry about without adding the wasteful argument about who has the right to God and in what way. Let those who will call themselves Indian, do so- imitation is the highest form of compliment. Those who come to our sacred ceremonies with an open heart will learn the ways and become brothers to the Red people. We are all One family anyway- Mitakuye Oyasin!
We need to start walking the Good Red Road for ourselves, Walking in Beauty; the same paths that our cousins so admire. It’s sad to see when others are behaving more like Indians on the Red Road than Indians themselves!
We become angry because we don’t want to be stereotyped as bead weaving, feather wearing, teepee dwelling, drum beating Indians of old, and yet we get pissed when others choose to fill that roll. Why are we so worried? What is it that has us so scared? Is it because we are identifying these things with what and who we are? Beads? Feathers? Drums? Looking into yourselves is what tells you who you are, not what you are wearing. Lands were stolen, cultural identity was stolen, yes! But self identity, self esteem, one’s connection to the sacred cannot be stolen- that can only be given away.
Don’t give it away!
This same passion can be directed to working FOR our people instead of AGAINST our cousins. The U.S. refuses to return the Black Hills, even after they admitted to having stolen them. Mt. Rushmore needs to be torn down, reservations are in threat of being taken over by mining corporations, people are being kicked out of their homeland, some people are still striving for governmental recognition while blood quantum requirements are slowly eroding the Native American Indian population, reservations are falling apart; neighborhoods are being overrun by gang violence, alcoholism and drug abuse is rampant, our old people are dying and our ways are dying with them; the waters and the lands our people are living off are poisoned, our people are dying prematurely of cancer and diabetes; birth defects are twice as high in some reservations than in the whole Nation; our children don’t believe in themselves, domestic abuse is normalized, sexual abuse of our little ones by those who are supposed to protect them… Our future is going down the toilet!! And these horrors are being committed native to native. We have become the savage animals the Europeans claimed to have found when they got here! And you are worried about someone making a profit using feathers and beads?
Redirect yourself to what’s really important. If things continue the way they are, we will lose everything! The only ones left alive to carry our traditions will be the “fake shaman” you are fighting so hard against.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I cannot understand the bitterness that my brothers carry in their hearts; I do!! I am a Taino woman, one of the Old People. The first thing that comes out of other’s mouths when I say this is: “Taino? Never heard of them”. The saddest part is that this comes from the mouths of Indians and non-Indians alike.
And just in case you have never heard of the Taino, we are the people who greeted Columbus.
Yeah, THOSE Indians; the first Indians.
Sad to say, we are not recognized as historical figures, let alone recognized by the Federal Government. The only recognition we received was to have 62 children shipped to the Carlisle Indian School when the U.S. took Puerto Rico over as spoils of war.
How’s THAT for a reason to be embittered?
But I choose not to be.
May you be blessed with the same peace.
© A. Nanu Pagan, September 2008