This summer The Aboriginal People's Television Network (APTN) in Canada aired a 3 part program recording of a SunDance Ceremony held in Manitoba.
Parts, 1,2, 3 in the links below.
Let's say the shit hit the fan over this program. APTN had to deal with a fall out of Traditional Indians attacking them and telling them they had no right to record a Sacred Ceremony. Many of the Traditional people were down right nasty and hateful. I guess they are protecting what they feel should be protected. I get that for sure. A few, mind you a very few, thought it was beautiful to see the Ceremony being shown on television.
With many Traditional people angry over the airing of the show, and strongly voicing their outrage, the news show, APTN invited a couple of Traditional people to speak about recording Ceremonies. One of the people to speak was a Sundance Chief and the other speaker was a Helper. They spoke about how wrong it is to record Ceremony.
The words by both speakers condemned not only APTN recording of the Ceremony but also attacked the integrity of the people that invited APTN to the Sundance. Listening again to their comments made me think, "holy heck our people are stupid". Yikes, who in the heck do I think I am, to say something like that. A blanket statement yet! Of course we are not stupid. We are survivors, we are strong, we are adapters, we are still Indian. But yet we do say some crazy and stupid things.
What I do think is that we do fall into a place that is right in line with colonial thinking. I mean, really?, "our people never allowed recording." Give me a fucking break. How asinine of a statement is this? Are we that unsophisticated that we can't allow something to be remembered? Jesus H Christ, our Ancestors were some of the best recorders in history. How do you think, some Ceremony songs are still here after centuries? Or how come we know the Creation Teachings? Our people recorded things. Of course we didn't have a camcorder or youtube at the time. We recorded in many ways; oral Teachings, Wampum Belts, Scrolls, Totem Poles, Paintings, Beadwork, Language, Petroglyphs, Pictographs, Cave Paintings, Geoglyphs, Tattoos and Petroforms are just some examples of recording significant instances or Teachings.
We have adopted some of Hollywood influences into our everyday consciousness and even into folklore. We have become our own colonizer. We think we should be static as a Nation in order to be truly Indian. That ship has sailed folks. We are still here and we are still Indian. Only thing is we do drive cars, have cell phones and can use a camera without thinking it is going to steal our soul.
One of the arguments made was that not recording would keep it Sacred. I call Bullshit on that. Tobacco is sacred. Sacred in the value and the use of it. How sacred is tobacco when you smoke a pack a day. You throw your cigarette butts on the Ground. Mother Earth, our Sacred Mother? Its all context people! Of course Tobacco is sacred and its not going to be less Sacred just because others use it for personal pleasure. It is Sacred in how you still use it in that way, the Traditional way. So Sundancing for the people is Sacred, so what if there is a camera. Is your prayer or your sacrifice that much weaker? Of course not. As for the decreasing of its Sacredness I know that could happen. When we commodify things. When we make it into a money maker, commercialize or for entertainment, I see that and get that. This is not the case. Our whole way of living is Sacred: The Hunt, the Trapline, Fishing, Praying, Ceremonies, the Roles of the Youth, the Carrying of a Pipe, the Taking a Tree, the Naming Ceremony, the Feast, the Role of Parents. Is it any less if we take a god damn picture? More of our people know more about the Bible that our own ancestral Teachings. How sad is that? And we still want to deprive our people of seeing our Ceremonies/Teachings? How sad is that?
Our people are here. Many people do not have the luxury or wherewithal of being able to attend a Sundance Ceremony, let them be able to rejoice in the Sundance in a medium that is available to them.