Sunday, November 24, 2013

Record a Ceremony and lose your Soul.

This summer The Aboriginal People's Television Network (APTN) in Canada aired a 3 part program recording of a SunDance Ceremony held in Manitoba. 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 and mean".  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?  It's all context people!  Of course, Tobacco is sacred and it's 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, the Birth of our Children. 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? I think the colonial laws outlawing and the persecution, prosecution of Indians over their Spiritual beliefs affects us today. Our ancestors had to hide the Ceremony, so those actions, attitudes and need to hide is still practiced today. We may now think it is sacrilege to be open about Ceremony but really it was about protecting themselves. I know this one Elder who said, "our Ceremonies are strong and survive being recorded."
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.


  1. Well said Steve, Well said. I had this same conversation with a 'traditional elder' awhile back. I even used the sacred tobacco analogy as he puffed away on his Sago. Made for a strong point for my point of view.
    Although he was upset about the use of video technology he did see its use.
    Thanks for your posts. I enjoy reading them.
    Giga-waabamin naagaj

  2. You are right about our self harming and not so sacred sacredness. However I think that it’s fair to say some of us don’t fear the recording itself but rather the misuse that follows. Brings to mind a confrontation I had with some tourists who spotted a turtle and their first thought was ”let’s take the beast to the city”. What would make one want to “take” the turtle or to cage a bird? It beats me, must be the same thing that makes one wear a breastplate on arse, a dream catcher nose piercing or a blond “Mohawk” hairdo. Recordings for our kids, grandkids –yes, but we will be pissed off to see fragments of our ceremony in an idiotic video clip or as a “background” for a kardashian style show. We must be vigilant with the misuse that follows-it’s a fact. We can have a rattler like sense of humor, so folks who enjoy sporting Hollywood-steroid “Indian” stuff should be vigilant too. Payback is hell so they shouldn’t complain if they spend a fortune for “Cochise’s authentic socks”, first mobile phone of Chief Joseph or toilet paper already used by Go Kla Yeh…

  3. Yeah there will be always be those that exploit. Not sure if that can be stopped.


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