Re: Amerindian resistance mode (was: amerindian an offensive

Stephen W. Russell (
Thu, 22 Aug 1996 09:24:49 -0500

On 21 Aug 1996, Gerold Firl wrote:
> |>
> |> The trendy "adoption" of "Indian values" is merely the projection of some
> |> Euro-American pastoral ideal that can be traced back to Rousseau that is
> |> being *imposed on Indian cultures for validation (the odd reasoning
> |> appearing to be that only what can be linked to "antiquity" has value).
> It doesn't look that way to me. How many copies of _black elk speaks_
> have been sold in the US? Millions? Why do you think people read it?

Surely you must be familiar with the scholarship on how Neihardt shaped
Black Elk into a less threatening posture for white consumption?>

> If the "new agey" drift in american spiritualism is headed towards a
> reverance for nature and all forms of life, together with a more
> diffuse idea of a spiritual reality underlying the physical world (as
> opposed to the anthropocentric judeo-christian tradition), wouldn't you
> say that is moving towards the native american point of view?

Maybe. But I have seen new agers charging admission to sweat lodges! A
couple of years ago, one of them died here in Texas when she went into a
sweat lodge BY HERSELF. Now, I don't know what she was doing in there,
but nothing I have ever seen in a sweat lodge could be duplicated solo.

I have hypertension and an irregular heartbeat. There are at least two
other Indians in my immediate circle who are Euro-educated and have
health problems that would make a sweat inadvisable. However, we all
sweat and none of us feel unsafe.

I am also allergic to tobacco to the point that someone lighting up clear
across the room can start my eyes watering. Never had any reaction to
tobacco during a pipe ceremony--go figure.

The point I trying to roll around to is that Indian spiritual values are
not "studied" or "practiced" but lived.

The Shoshone elder who presided at the medicine wheel last week got a
plane ticket, a place to stay, and food. Not even blanket money.

Once when I was running low on ceremonial tobacco, I asked a Comanche
medicine man to, ah, prepare it. Since I am not Comanche, this is kind
of like a Catholic attending an Orthodox Mass. Not knowing him well, I
offered him money when he brought back the tobacco the next day. This
ancient man who owned no jeans without holes just smiled and reminded me
that the tobacco would lose its power if he took money.

There are commercial "drumming ceremonies" going on monthly in Austin. I
went to one once as a freebie--Indian privilege--and you don't wanna know
about that, trust me.

> |> Indians oppose what's going on in their names because what's going on is a
> |> deception. What my mixed blood mother raised me to call a "lie." A very
> |> Politically Incorrect term these days it seems.
> Why is it a lie?

It is a lie when it is commercialized. Even reimbursement of expenses is
problematic to some elders. I do not consider myself knowledgeable, but
I have traveled halfway across Texas to perform a wedding (which I am
also authorized by the state to do) for Native people. I do not take
money because that is the way I have been taught by my elders.

> Of course, one area where there is a difference is in the attitude
> towards race. New Age adherants are strongly non-racist, while some
> native americans are not. Eric Brunner has written here that it's
> impossible for him to be a racist, since he doesn't have a seat on
> the new york stock exchange; a very convenient position for someone
> who quacks and waddles just like a racist.

Please stick this canard where the sun don't shine. I suspect you know
as well as I the (mostly Marxist) turn that defines racism in terms of
power. I do not find it useful and therefore do not peddle it, but
Eric's position has lots of support in the literature and I have watched
him get in lots of fights on both usenet and closed lists without
resorting to anything like the name calling and other ad hominem I have
seen directed at him. He DOES piss people off. He has pissed me off.
But, on reflection, he knows a lot about many different things and he does
not suffer fools gladly. Indian fools or Euro fools.

> Racism is the natural state of man. cultures which are not racist are
> the exception. The deliberate and conscious attempt by the west to
> eliminate racism is a recent and unprecedented event. If racism is what
> divides native americans from spiritual seekers with similar interests
> but different genetic backgrounds, I see that as temporary.

In my Cherokee Nation, there are blacks and blondes and everthing in
between. Some folks believe intermarriage will be (or has been) the
death of our culture, but it certainly is not a symptom of racism.
> |> Traditional native values don't even *translate into a consumerist culture.
> |> The idea that they are "influencing" US culture is amusing. US culture
> |> isn't even culturally equipped to *understand traditional native values.
> Remember that US culture is made up of close to 300 million
> individuals, each of which have different levels of understanding about
> different aspects of reality. Some of them can even understand
> traditional native values, and by understanding them, you learn from
> them.
I don't see as much understanding as you do.

> I think that your sense of exclusivity was a valuable defense mechanism
> during the forced assimilation period, but it may not be applicable
> now. American and native culture have mutually influenced each other;
> what is the point of denying it?

I don't deny it. Denial would choke on my cornflakes. But I see very
little evidence that Euro-America has ceased to see itself as superior to
nature rather than part of it. Anything less means we will all go to
hell in the same handbasket while wearing deerskin and munching posole.
'Scuse me if I can't work the celebration into my busy schedule.

Steve Russell