Re: Amerindian resistance mode (was: amerindian an offensive

Gerold Firl (
26 Aug 1996 20:13:35 GMT

In article <>, "Stephen W. Russell" <> writes:

|> On 21 Aug 1996, Gerold Firl wrote:

|> > 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?>

No, I don't know any of that history. If you can explain, I'd like to
hear about it.

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

Good examples.

I wasn't suggesting that mainstream american culture would completely
adopt indian values. When cultures meet, people learn from each other
and adopt those ideas and values which work for them. Commercial,
money-based exchange mechanisms are deeply imbedded in western culture,
and as you point out, exposure to native american attitudes hasen't
made much of a dent there. There have been communitarian groups which
have tried to develop ways of living without money, but they comprise a
very small percentage of the population. Many people have a feeling of
dissatisfaction with american commercialism, but nowhere near the level
you describe above.

Other areas of indian spirituality have resonated more strongly with
mainstream american culture.

|> 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.

Actually, I would. What did you think of the whole affair?

|> > Why is it a lie?

|> It is a lie when it is commercialized. Even reimbursement of expenses is
|> problematic to some elders.

That is one area where I wouldn't expect convergance with traditional
views. To most americans, that doesn't make sense. It doesn't negate
the sincerity with which other areas of native american ideas are
adopted, however. People will pick and choose. Those beliefs which
appeal to them will be adopted, the rest will not. That is the
individual filter of cultural diffusion.

|> > 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.

As long as you're being so polite about it, I'll just say no thanks.

|> 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.

Then you haven't been following his "contribution" to sci.anthro. He
has been consistantly rude, and is always the first to resort to
insults and personal attacks. I can not recall a single occasion where
he has argued his case on a factual basis.

|> > 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.

Note that I did not claim that indians are all racists. Some are
racists, not all. The claim that white racists are racists, while
black or native american racists aren't racists is laughable. You say
that you don't find it "useful", which is an interesting spin to put on
a tactic which is ludicrously inane, but then go on to say that it has
"a lot of support in the literature"? It appears to me that you are
unwilling to break ranks with brunner on this, despite the fact that
you recognize he's wrong. What is the basis of this solidarity? Allying
yourself with every lunatic who calls himself a "native american" is
not healthy for your cause.

|> > |> 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.

And I don't see as much prejudice as you do; some of that is
undoubtedly a legitimate matter of perspective.

|> > 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.

How do you view the eradication of smallpox? Was that the act of people
who were part of nature, or superior to it?

|> 'Scuse me if I can't work the celebration into my busy schedule.

That's ok. The work of understanding will go on.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf