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5 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2009 - 8:22PM #1
Anesis
Posts: 1,542

I wonder if anyone has any information they could share with me about First Nations culture. Normally I ask questions for my son's sake, but this time I am looking for input on culture for a course I'm taking in Aboriginal Social Work.....I would invite comments on social expectations, such as social hierarchy, responsibilities, inclusion. My understanding is that being very community minded, that even in spite of social hierarchy, everyone's needs were met, and everyone had a function that contributed to balance in the community (I am speaking primarily historical, as in prior to colonization).


I would also be interested to hear about lifestyle. I know that Aboriginal peoples are very social as they worked, played, celebrated and lived together. Apart from that, I know nothing, and would like to learn about the lifestyle.


The other thing I would like to know about is ceremony. This goes along with the social part of culture and the two often overlap...in fact, it seems there is much overlap in many aspects of culture. I am becoming familiar with a few of the Ojibwe ceremonies, but would like to learn about some of the more uncommon ceremonies that white people don't know about....


Many thanks to everyone who contributes....

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 02, 2009 - 6:23AM #2
MilesB
Posts: 4,304

I'm an urban indian so... much of my culture is like everyone else. Just a few foods here and there. Maybe a few words... 


What specifically are you looking for that a common person would be able to tell you?

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 02, 2009 - 12:39PM #3
Anesis
Posts: 1,542

I guess what I was looking for is the traditional social hierarchy, and social expectations, values, and that sort of thing. Do you practice the ceremonies, pass on your language to the younger generations, have oral traditions, and that sort of thing? The First Nations people in my area are urban as well, and life for them is very different than it was hundreds of years ago. They are still trying to reclaim their culture because they are having a cultural identity crisis. They are trying to figure out how to maintain their culture in white, urban society. There are some things that are similar to before, and some things that are different....for example, their social hierarchy used to be shown by way of the wealthy hosting a potlatch where they would give away all thier possessions to those who have little. Then they would amass more, and do it again. What they lost in possessions was gained in status and honour, and it was a means of redistributing the wealth to ensure those who were poor did not go without. Now, their status is like the white person - they have status based on education, jobs and title. My instructor has found a way to balance her First Nations spirituality with her Roman Catholic upbringing, so she can balance her spirituality according to the medicine wheel, etc. That's the kind of thing I was looking for.

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 05, 2009 - 1:39PM #4
Tenlionz
Posts: 1,790

eveningrain.com/Ethics.html As a Traditional NDN I don't have much room for the Christian Christ, its a middle Eastern concept taken on by a European hierarchy which was simply used as a means of control. Part of the assimilation process was to become Christian and fall completely under the control of not only the Government but the church and their set of rules accordingto their sense of morality, which is for the most part hypocrisy in the highest order. I see the Christian faith as little more than slavery.

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 05, 2009 - 2:10PM #5
Anesis
Posts: 1,542

Tenlionz, you're right. I know this historical issue and although as a Christian white person I did not create the issue, I would be perpetuating it if I did not do something about it now. The more people like me can learn about First Nations culture now, the more understanding there will be in generations to come. It takes work on both parts in order to learn to live together side by side on the same land.....it's too late for the Europeans to go home.


Learning the culture (language and how it shapes thinking, traditions, ceremonies, values, beliefs, lifestyle, social hierarchy, etc) is imperative to ensuring that First Nations people have access to more power.....after all, what has happened is a power imbalance. From my view, it is the white people who have to give up that power in order to give power back to First Nations.

Tim Wise is an advocate for black people in the US. At the beginning of every speech, he says that he knows absolutely nothing about what it means to be black, and all he speaks about, he learned from black people. He has been "preaching" what they "preached" for years....but no one would listen to the black people....but they listen to him because he is white, and he says the exact same things the black people have said for decades.


The same can be true of First Nations - at least in Canada.....there has to be a starting point. We need to learn, to really listen to what First Nations say they need - and from what I can see, they need power and freedom to practice their own culture without persecution. I would like to understand that culture......not take it away, but in order to advocate..... Like Tim Wise, I do not have a clue about what it is to be First Nation - my husband was, and my son is, but seeing that from a white perspective is different than seeing it from First Nation eyes.


Culturally speaking, is there a trend now to re-adopt traditional ways? How can culture be enacted while stlil being immersed in dominant white culture? What are some things about culture that have become extinct and what aspects do First Nations people embrace? What are some of the traditional ways of healing for First Nations as a distinct culture?


Thank you for the link. May I read it in my presentation on Monday?

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 06, 2009 - 9:01PM #6
MilesB
Posts: 4,304

Dec 2, 2009 -- 12:39PM, Anesis wrote:


I guess what I was looking for is the traditional social hierarchy, and social expectations, values, and that sort of thing. Do you practice the ceremonies, pass on your language to the younger generations, have oral traditions, and that sort of thing? The First Nations people in my area are urban as well, and life for them is very different than it was hundreds of years ago. They are still trying to reclaim their culture because they are having a cultural identity crisis. They are trying to figure out how to maintain their culture in white, urban society. There are some things that are similar to before, and some things that are different....for example, their social hierarchy used to be shown by way of the wealthy hosting a potlatch where they would give away all thier possessions to those who have little. Then they would amass more, and do it again. What they lost in possessions was gained in status and honour, and it was a means of redistributing the wealth to ensure those who were poor did not go without. Now, their status is like the white person - they have status based on education, jobs and title. My instructor has found a way to balance her First Nations spirituality with her Roman Catholic upbringing, so she can balance her spirituality according to the medicine wheel, etc. That's the kind of thing I was looking for.




I would tell her the two can not co-exist.


That's my answer.


As to the first part, yes. My mother's generation marched and was a part of the American Indian Civil Rights Movement.

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 06, 2009 - 9:02PM #7
MilesB
Posts: 4,304

"Culturally speaking, is there a trend now to re-adopt traditional ways? How can culture be enacted while stlil being immersed in dominant white culture? What are some things about culture that have become extinct and what aspects do First Nations people embrace? What are some of the traditional ways of healing for First Nations as a distinct culture?"


Your first step is to realize nothing died.


If you are truly curious, read "God Is Red" by Vine Deloria Jr.


He did a good job of trying to keep a brush stroke broad but not cementing that idea all Indians are the same. It'll show you differences.


Most peoples around the world are not different; if I take a string instrument or a flute to another area of the world I may get a question "what is that?" but if I were to take a water drum or any other drum all people would know it's a drum. We all had drums.

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 16, 2009 - 7:19PM #8
Tenlionz
Posts: 1,790

Dec 5, 2009 -- 2:10PM, Anesis wrote:


Tenlionz, you're right. I know this historical issue and although as a Christian white person I did not create the issue, I would be perpetuating it if I did not do something about it now. The more people like me can learn about First Nations culture now, the more understanding there will be in generations to come. It takes work on both parts in order to learn to live together side by side on the same land.....it's too late for the Europeans to go home.


Learning the culture (language and how it shapes thinking, traditions, ceremonies, values, beliefs, lifestyle, social hierarchy, etc) is imperative to ensuring that First Nations people have access to more power.....after all, what has happened is a power imbalance. From my view, it is the white people who have to give up that power in order to give power back to First Nations.

Tim Wise is an advocate for black people in the US. At the beginning of every speech, he says that he knows absolutely nothing about what it means to be black, and all he speaks about, he learned from black people. He has been "preaching" what they "preached" for years....but no one would listen to the black people....but they listen to him because he is white, and he says the exact same things the black people have said for decades.


The same can be true of First Nations - at least in Canada.....there has to be a starting point. We need to learn, to really listen to what First Nations say they need - and from what I can see, they need power and freedom to practice their own culture without persecution. I would like to understand that culture......not take it away, but in order to advocate..... Like Tim Wise, I do not have a clue about what it is to be First Nation - my husband was, and my son is, but seeing that from a white perspective is different than seeing it from First Nation eyes.


Culturally speaking, is there a trend now to re-adopt traditional ways? How can culture be enacted while stlil being immersed in dominant white culture? What are some things about culture that have become extinct and what aspects do First Nations people embrace? What are some of the traditional ways of healing for First Nations as a distinct culture?


Thank you for the link. May I read it in my presentation on Monday?




Dear Friend, I am NDN which means I tell the truth even when it hurts, it is my solom duty according to my Elders, that's what got us in so much shit with whites in the first place. They lie diplomatically and we tell it like it is, and if you break your word we kill you. plain and simple. But times have changed I understand, but your religion has not, we are pagans according to the Christian religion, the Bible says that Christ is the way and the light, that we must accept him to be saved. The Christians religion is much like the Star Trek BORG assimilate or die. well I don't want your Christ, he is not my God nor my savior, nor will he ever be. I honor the Great Spirit in the way taught to me by my Elders and I don't need a Bible to do this. I don't want to hook up with Christians and mix our religions to find enlightenment, to me this is simply polluting my traditions and my culture. If you want to learn NDN ways to go with your religion, hey that's kool, but it wont go the other way for most of us as we do not see the Christian religion as a healing path, but as a destructive path. As Miles said--They cant co-exist. Some People may be able to, but the Christian religion can not.

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 16, 2009 - 7:56PM #9
Tenlionz
Posts: 1,790

Native American Elders' Reactions to Castaneda and 'don Juan'


I. Resolution of the 5th Annual Meeting of the Tradition Elders Circle
[Contributed by Linda Zoontjens]


It has been brought to the attention of the Elders and their representatives in Council that various individuals are moving about this Great Turtle Island and across the great waters to foreign soil, purporting to be spiritual leaders. They carry pipes and other objects sacred to the Red Nations, the indigenous people of the western hemisphere.


The past twenty years have seen the birth of a new growth industry in the United States. Known as "American Indian Spiritualism," this profitable enterprise apparently began with a number of literary hoaxes undertaken by non-Indians such as Carlos Casteneda, Jay Marks (aka: "Jamake Highwater", author of The Primal Mind, etc.), Lynn Andrews (Medecine Woman, Jaguar Woman, Crystal Woman, Spirit Woman, etc.). A few Indians such as Alonzo Blacksmith (aka: Chunksa Yuha, the "Indian authenticator" of Hanta Yo), "Chief Red Fox" (Memoirs of Chief Red Fox) and Hyemeyohsts Storm (Seven Arrows, etc.) also cashed in, writing bad distortions and outright lies about indigenous spirituality for consumption in the mass market. The authors grew rich peddling their trash, while real Indians starved to death, out of sight and out of mind of America.


These individuals are gathering non-Indian people as followers who believe they are receiving instructions of the original people. We the Elders and our representatives sitting in council give warning to these non-Indian followers that it is our understanding this is not a proper process and the authority to carry these sacred objects is given by the people and the purpose and procedure is specific to time and the needs of the people.


The medicine people are chosen by the medicine and long instruction and discipline is necessary before ceremonies and healing can be done. These procedures are always in the Native tongue; there are no exceptions and profit is not the motivation.


There are many Nations with many and varied procedures specifically for the welfare of their people. These processes and ceremonies are of the most Sacred Nature. Council finds the open display of these ceremonies contrary to these Sacred instructions.


Therefore, be warned that these individuals are moving about playing upon the spiritual needs and ignorance of our non-Indian brothers and sisters. The value of these instructions and ceremonies are questionable, maybe meaningless, and hurtful to the individual carrying false messages. There are questions that should be asked of these individuals:


1.      What Nation does the person represent?


2.      What is their Clan and Society?


3.      Who instructed them and where did they learn?


4.      What is their home address?


If no information is forthcoming, you may inquire at the addresses listed below, and we will try to find out about them for you.


We concern ourselves only with those people who use spiritual ceremonies with non-Indian people for profit. There are many things to be shared with the Four Colors of humanity in our common destiny as one with our Mother the Earth. It is this sharing that must be considered with great care by the Elders and the medicine people who carry the Sacred Trusts, so that no harm may come to people through ignorance and misuse of these powerful forces.  


Signed,
Tom Yellowtail, Wyola, MT 59089
Larry Anderson, Navajo Nation, PO Box 342, Fort Defiance, AZ 86504
Izadore Thom, Beech Star Route, Bellingham, WA 98225
Thomas Banyacya, Hopi Independent Nation, Shungopavy Pueblo, Second Mesa via AZ 86043
Philip Deere (deceased), Muskogee (Creek) Nation
Walter Denny, Chippewa-Cree Nation, Rocky Boy Route, Box Elder, MY 59521
Austin Two Moons, Northern Cheyenne Nation, Rosebud Creek, MT
Tadadaho Haudenosaunee, Onondaga Nation via Nedrow, NY 13120
Chief Fools Crow (deceased), Lakota Nation
Frank Cardinal, Sr., Chateh, PO Box 120, Assumption, Alberta, Canada, TOMOSO
Peter O’Chiese, Entrance Terry Ranch, Entrance, Alberta


----
II. Vine Deloria, Jr. on 'don Juan'
From Sandy McIntosh


In trying to understand the problems that people from one culture (ours) meet with when they try to understand something fundamental in another culture (the "wisdom of the shamans of ancient Mexico"), I came upon the following by Vine Deloria, Jr. in his introduction to The Pretend Indian: Images of Native Americans in the Movies: Here he is discussing one of the strongest images whites have about Indians: the "old chief" stereotype.


"Carlos Castaneda parlayed the old man image into a series of best sellers that have much more relationship with an LSD travel tour than with Indians. Whatever Don Juan is, he is far from a recognizable Indian except to confused and psychically injured whites who have a need to project their spiritual energies onto an old Indian for resolution…. The whites are sincere but they are only sincere about what they are interested in, not about Indians about whom they know very little. They get exceedingly angry if you try to tell them the truth and will only reject you and keep searching until they find the Indian of their fantasies…. The obvious solution to the whole thing would be for the whites to achieve some kind of psychological and/or religious maturity. But the whole psychological posture of American society is toward perpetual youth. Everyone believes that he or she must be eternally young. No one wants to believe that he or she is getting or will ever get old. Somehow only Indians get old because the coffee table books are filled with pictures of old Indians but hardly a book exists that has pictures of old whites."


III. Excerpts from Spiritual Hucksters: The Rise of the Plastic Medicine Men, by Ward Churchill
[Contributed by Linda Zoontjens]


Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux - Author/Professor)


"White people in this country are so alienated from their own lives and so hungry for some sort of real life that they’ll grasp at any straw to save themselves. But high tech society has given them a taste for the "quick fix". They want their spirituality prepackaged in such a way as to provide instant insight, the more sensational and preposterous the better. They’ll pay big bucks to anybody dishonest enough to offer them spiritual salvation after reading the right book or sitting still for the right fifteen minute session. And, of course, this opens them up to every kind of mercenary hustler imaginable. It’s all very pathetic, really."


Oren Lyons (traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation)


"Non-Indians have become so used to all this hype on the part of impostors and liars that when a real Indian spiritual leader tries to offer them useful advice, he is rejected. He isn’t "Indian" enough for all these non-Indian experts on Indian religion. Now, this is not only degrading to Indian people, it’s downright delusional behavior on the part of the instant experts who think they’ve got all the answers before they even hear the questions….The bottom line here is that we have more need for intercultural respect today than at any other time in human history. And nothing blocks respect and communication faster and more effectively than delusions by one party about another. We’ve got real problems today, tremendous problems, problems which threaten the survival of the planet. Indians and non-Indians must confront these problems together, and this means we must have honest dialogue, but this dialogue is impossible so long as non-Indians remain deluded about things as basic as Indian spirituality."


Janet McCloud (longtime fishing rights activist and elder of Nisqually Nation):


"First they came to take our land and water, then our fish and game. Then they want our religions as well. All of a sudden, we have a lot of unscrupulous idiots running around saying they’re medicine people. And they’ll sell you a sweat lodge ceremony for fifty bucks. It’s not only wrong, it’s obscene. Indians don’t sell their spirituality to anybody, for any price. This is just another in a very long series of thefts from Indian people and, in some ways, this is the worst one yet….These people run off to reservations acting all lost and hopeless, really pathetic. So, some elder is nice enough, considerate enough to be kind to them, and how do these people repay this generosity? After fifteen minutes with a spiritual leader, they consider themselves, "certified" medicine people, and they run amok, "spreading the word" - for a fee.


Some of them even proclaim themselves to be "official spiritual representatives" of various Indian peoples. I’m talking about people like Dyhani Ywahoo and Lynn Andrews. It’s absolutely disgusting….We’ve also got Indians who are doing these things. We’ve got our Sun Bears and our Wallace Black Elks and others who’d sell their own mother if they thought it would turn a quick buck. What they’re selling isn’t theirs to sell, and they know it. They’re thieves and sell-outs, and they know that too. That’s why you never see them around Indian people anymore. When we have our traditional meetings and gatherings, you never see the Sun Bears and those sorts showing up."


The late Matthew King (Oglala spiritual elder):


"Each part of our religion has its power and its purpose. Each people has their own ways. You cannot mix these ways, because each people’s ways are balanced. Destroying balance is a disrespect and very dangerous. This is why it’s forbidden….Many things are forbidden in our religion. The forbidden things are acts of disrespect, things must be learned, and the learning is very difficult. This is why there are very few real "medicinemen" among us; only a few are chosen. For someone who has not learned how our balance is maintained--to pretend to be a medicine man is very, very dangerous. It’s a big disrespect to the powers and can cause great harm to whoever is doing it, to those he claims to be teaching, to nature, to everything. It is very bad."


IV. Reactions to Florinda Donner
[From Linda Zoontjens]


Florinda Donner has been singled out for opprobrium. In the July13, 1996, issue of The Deseret News (Salt Lake City), an article noted that Native Americans resent thievery of native traditions by the likes of people like Florinda Donner, Lynn Andrews, etc. Donner was also mentioned in Psychology Today as one of the people Native Americans don't like because they are tired of being ripped off by "white shamans and plastic medicine men."

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 16, 2009 - 8:41PM #10
Anesis
Posts: 1,542

Dec 16, 2009 -- 7:19PM, Tenlionz wrote:


Dec 5, 2009 -- 2:10PM, Anesis wrote:


Tenlionz, you're right. I know this historical issue and although as a Christian white person I did not create the issue, I would be perpetuating it if I did not do something about it now. The more people like me can learn about First Nations culture now, the more understanding there will be in generations to come. It takes work on both parts in order to learn to live together side by side on the same land.....it's too late for the Europeans to go home.


Learning the culture (language and how it shapes thinking, traditions, ceremonies, values, beliefs, lifestyle, social hierarchy, etc) is imperative to ensuring that First Nations people have access to more power.....after all, what has happened is a power imbalance. From my view, it is the white people who have to give up that power in order to give power back to First Nations.

Tim Wise is an advocate for black people in the US. At the beginning of every speech, he says that he knows absolutely nothing about what it means to be black, and all he speaks about, he learned from black people. He has been "preaching" what they "preached" for years....but no one would listen to the black people....but they listen to him because he is white, and he says the exact same things the black people have said for decades.


The same can be true of First Nations - at least in Canada.....there has to be a starting point. We need to learn, to really listen to what First Nations say they need - and from what I can see, they need power and freedom to practice their own culture without persecution. I would like to understand that culture......not take it away, but in order to advocate..... Like Tim Wise, I do not have a clue about what it is to be First Nation - my husband was, and my son is, but seeing that from a white perspective is different than seeing it from First Nation eyes.


Culturally speaking, is there a trend now to re-adopt traditional ways? How can culture be enacted while stlil being immersed in dominant white culture? What are some things about culture that have become extinct and what aspects do First Nations people embrace? What are some of the traditional ways of healing for First Nations as a distinct culture?


Thank you for the link. May I read it in my presentation on Monday?




Dear Friend, I am NDN which means I tell the truth even when it hurts, it is my solom duty according to my Elders, that's what got us in so much shit with whites in the first place. They lie diplomatically and we tell it like it is, and if you break your word we kill you. plain and simple. But times have changed I understand, but your religion has not, we are pagans according to the Christian religion, the Bible says that Christ is the way and the light, that we must accept him to be saved. The Christians religion is much like the Star Trek BORG assimilate or die. well I don't want your Christ, he is not my God nor my savior, nor will he ever be. I honor the Great Spirit in the way taught to me by my Elders and I don't need a Bible to do this. I don't want to hook up with Christians and mix our religions to find enlightenment, to me this is simply polluting my traditions and my culture. If you want to learn NDN ways to go with your religion, hey that's kool, but it wont go the other way for most of us as we do not see the Christian religion as a healing path, but as a destructive path. As Miles said--They cant co-exist. Some People may be able to, but the Christian religion can not.




Tenlionz, I am only one person. I am not the whole of Christianity, particularly historically speaking. When I posted on this board last regarding my son who is First Nations, you welcomed me, and extended warmth. I am not here to proselytize. I respect that you do not want my God and I respect that my son can make his own choice as well.


I am here to learn. My interest is not only personal, pertaining to helping my son learn about his culture. It is also professional. When I work with First Nations people, it is important for me to know cultural boundaries and expectations, not to mention resources available to them by way of their culture - such as healing circles and sweats.These cultural things are what I want to learn about, not only for my son but for my clients, who desperately need healing.


I went to a drum-making workshop at a local longhouse. While I was there I could imagine what it was like when the whole village would be there making drums or tanning hides for clothes, and the children playing among them. And I realized with perfect clarity that while they welcome me, there is no way that I will ever know what it is to be First Nation. The best I can be is who I am, and that is white. But I don't have to be like other whites and contribute to the oppression of First Nations. It is helpful to learn the culture....for example, is it appropriate to participate with a client in smudging, or is that taboo for a white woman? Or is it appropriate for a white mother to do the naming ceremony with her First Nations child?


I had an amazing time at the workshop, and learned more from that than I did all term in the classroom. I learned about social life, community values, connection with the land (nature), and about hard work and I could see the necessity of spirituality in every aspect of a First Nations person's life. It was an experience that I hope to take part in again.


Again, I am here to learn, not to proselytize.

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