Wednesday, 4 December 2019
Focusing on Native American spiritual practice, and why I am not so keen on certain cultural appropriation arguments...
This book, "Dancing with the Wheel" by Sun Bear, is a wonderful guide on how to pursue practice in Indigenous based spirituality. I had a copy, but lost it, and had to get another copy a couple years back. Now that things are moving forward with usage of tobacco for prayer, I am once again turning to this book for ceremonial use of this plant. There is quite a bit of information about plant medicine and other methods of practice and tools, and I have not read this cover to cover, but I refer to it on and off, more so as of late. Using tobacco, I am focusing on opening more to the Creator, and in working with the spirit keepers of the Four Directions, because of their attributes and how they might aid me in healing and growth. Eagle was showing up a lot as a vision, I came to assume it indicated a need to work with the Eastern spirit keeper, so I began with that, and today I started to consider the other directions. I used tobacco as an offering on a burning charcoal and made requests based on the attributes these keepers might be able to help me with. Now I wait to see how things move forward. Just an update.
I wanted to briefly discuss the concept of cultural appropriation on here, something I assume I am bound to be accused of again and again because of my interest and workings with this branch of spirituality. First off, I want to mention that every elder I have talked to encourages my exploration of indigenous spiritual practice, and none have deemed me using smudge or tobacco the way I have offensive or appropriative. Maybe I was appropriating tobacco when I was smoking it recreationally, but not anymore. Secondly, this medicine has made a significant change in my health (sweetgrass and tobacco, mainly), I know it has worked, so this is not for some angry "activist" to decide whether or not I should use it, this is something the gods want me to use. I do have a bit of ancestry that is native on my Mom's side (I think it's Cree), not strong enough for me to be considered Metis, but that's really not the point. If this kind of spirituality is not some fad for me, if it serves a purpose and fulfills a need, is this truly worth criticizing simply because I am (mostly) white? I kind of feel that cultural appropriation becomes a problem when it does harm, and when there is ill intent involved, but if something is done in a positive manner, I don't see it as particularly offensive. Perhaps there are other components to consider, and I can't speak on a native person's behalf, only that the First Nations people I talk to see no problem with my approach when they understand it. I don't even see the German obsession with native culture as harmful, even if they look funny about it. They love it so much they want to experience it, and though they don't get it quite right, I have heard that a lot of elders have smiled at how they want to explore it, and often fall short. (BTW, Germans are often to Native American spirituality as the Japanese are to "Anne of Green Gables", if you want some idea of this obsession.)
So I get that it's a touchy subject, but I also, as a person with an intense call to explore several components of spirituality (and a need to do so), feel I should be allowed to practice without criticism, and it shouldn't ever come down to race, no matter what race it is. I hope to one day meet an elder / medicine person who might be a close guide... I know some, but I don't have a regular teacher in that regard as of yet.
UPDATE: I am gathering that I am meant to focus on the Eastern spirit keeper, that the others won't necessarily work with me. So Eagle shall be my focus from this point on in this respect.