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Re: “Burners Torched Over Native Party

You stated: "Culture is not religion....."

While I can agree to that statement by definition, I would also argue that Native American culture is deeply entwined in "spirituality". It's moot though because I never made the statement that it was. I only made a comparison to how things could be perceived either way.


Rio Morado

Posted by Rio Morado on 04/03/2009 at 11:41 AM

Re: “Burners Torched Over Native Party


I hope to explain why this generates anger from a middle ground so to speak.

Disclaimer: I am only part native (Iroqouis) and am not a member of any tribe although I have thought about it often and I am deeply immersed into Native American culture as well as an advocate for civil rights and Secular Humanism.
I do stone tool manufacturing from a archeological interest. But that doesn't make me any more tribal or indian at all. All that gives me is an understanding of primitive weaponry and a little knowledge of some cultural differences in weapon styles. Simply a hobby. Does it tie me to their culture?... Absolutely not!

What I believe the people (Native Americans) mostly get upset about it that you are trying to take bits and pieces of their culture (many of which are sacred) and try to tie it to an event it has nothing to do with. Be it a rave party, burning man, your own artistic expression from your culture, it's simply very insulting.

I will not even pretend that I know every custom of every tribe and there is so much diversity, but it is insulting and i'll try to paint a picture why.
In my opinion, interest in anything tribal for other cultures is generated because they lack the measure of spirituality or get excited after watching such tripe as "Dances With Wolves". I don't think outsiders should be shunned, don't get me wrong. But when something is borrowed you are turning it into something different... It is no longer is what it used to be because the ideology behind it in abandoned. It becomes a football team... or much worse.

While burning man in its inception was very artistic, now it has become close to completely commercialized. I'm not enthused by it anymore even though I have a few friends that go every year. People running around nude, high on whatever does not constitute anything close to what a Native would call spiritual at all, so let's take burning man out of the picture altogether. It shouldn't even be part of the argument.

To make more of a comparative point... Say you are deeply Christian and somehow you find out an atheist gave you communion to you, your spouse, and to your church full of religious believers during your wedding. The insult is to the institution and things that are sacred therein.

Making a statement that "Native Americans culture should not be proprietary" is like that same atheist making the statement, "Since I gave you communion, you are now an atheist too". Maybe that is a bit drastic eh? Maybe not! It cheapens what is dear to their culture. That is the point.

Not getting it yet? Then think about one thing. A feather and what it means to both sides.

Attaching a feather to your hair does not make you part of any tribe except maybe an ignorant tribe. To a Native, It is the meaning behind things that are symbolized, they have meaning in a spiritual way represent tribal status ideas and beliefs. You see just a feather and it looks cool in an Indians hair. To an indian, a feather can mean a number of things. They are mostly awarded for things done for the tribe perhaps in bravery or in other ways, it is recognition not just decoration. Costumes for dancing are individually made by the dancer himself and use feathers as well other materials. Here all the decoration is representative to the individual and can mean so many different things, spirits, or representative of tribal story. These costumes are very special to the owner and never bought in a store, or much worse... worn to a PARTY. Therefore a Native seeing an outsider wearing such items will of course be upset because they would know you have no idea what they mean and are associating with something completely different. It cheapens to other cultures what it means to theirs.

Ceremonial costumes, Calumets, Tribal stories, Artifacts, etc... all of these things are extremely special to these people, it is their identity and heritage. If someone outside your family dresses up like your parents and raves about on drugs in an obnoxious manner pretending to be like them, you would also be offended.

If you really want to be part of a tribe or get to know a real Shaman. You do it very respectfully by learning how to act and respect the customs they have. For example, with tribal elders...If you are invited to visit an elder... you need to know where to sit, which way to face, you never speak first if you are the guest and there is usually a long period of silence before anyone says anything. Another example is knowing what events are acceptable for outsiders to participate in and what is strictly Native only.

But I'm not here to teach all this, if you are interested you will learn on your own. My goal here is attempt to help people understand why this can be offensive.

Hopefully I made sense.


Rio Morado

Posted by Rio Morado on 04/03/2009 at 9:28 AM

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