Friday, April 4, 2014

Should White People Be Allowed into Indian Ceremonies?

When you get older you tend to repeat yourself. So I guess I covered this topic before in some fashion, but I hear it come up once in a while with friends and think why not revisit White people in Ceremony?

My friend is having a Ceremony tonight. It is a Cosapachican (tie up) ceremony.  I am sure there will be non-Native people there for sure. I guess everyone wants to take part in Ceremony.  It does cause some secret (and not so secret) resentments from people about White people in Ceremony. Even greater resentment when they are participating or Helping in a Ceremony. 

I remember some White participants in our Reserve Sundance Ceremony. There was this one guy who considered himself a "Windigokan", or a backwards person.

  In the old days the Plains Ojibway were mighty warriors, waging fierce battles with the Sioux, whom they hated with an implacable enmity. The old men can still tell many exciting tales of their exploits.
   One of the most interesting of Plains Ojibway institutions is that of the Cannibal Dancers, or "Windigokan," as they are called. Certain men had the right to make for themselves ridiculous costumes of rags and masks of the same material. When the band was gathered in the great camp circle, one of these persons would dress and search for comrades. Armed with a staff he would go from tent to tent until he found some one whom he wished to associate with himself. At this time he would point his stick, whereupon it was the duty of the chosen party to make himself a costume and accompany his captor, willy nilly. If, however, he saw the "Windigokan" approaching and escaped before the fateful wand was leveled at him, it was well.
   When a sufficient number of recruits had been gathered, a tent was erected to house them, and there they dwelt, issuing forth from time to time to capture food, or to exorcise the demons of disease from some sick person. Their method of procuring food was extremely amusing. The entire party, headed by the leader, would make the rounds of the camp, singing and frolicking. When they came upon buffalo meat hung out to dry, they would immediately proceed to stalk it most elaborately, until finally, one of the party, who was armed with a bow and arrow, would shoot at it. If he missed his aim, the party proceeded, never even picking up the arrow. If the meat was struck, they would flee in pantomime of terror, falling over backwards and performing many ludicrous antics, returning, however, to carry off the food in triumph. When they reached the door of their tepee they never thought of carrying the meat in ; instead they would attempt to throw it in through the smoke hole. If, however, the meat missed the hole and fell outside, the "Windigokan" would never touch it and it became the prey of the bystanders, who thronged to see the fun.
   Another peculiarity of the cannibals was that they used "inverted speech." That is to say, they expressed themselves by opposites. If one wished to drink, he would announce that he was not thirsty, and if a bystander wanted him to dance, he commanded the clown not to do so.
by Alanson Skinner, from the article The Plains Ojibway, within the anthology The Southern Workman, Vol. 43, Issues 1-10.


Anyway this White guy would participate at the Sundance as a Windigokan. That is all well and fine but he acted backwards outside of the Ceremony as well. When he was with Indians that is. Not sure of what he did when he was in his "real" world at work and home?   My friend who is a Windigokan and very knowledgeable Traditional person, "schooled" him about the Ceremony and the Windigokan. I guess the White guy didn't like it so he tore up his Windigokan clothing and left hanging on some trees.  I wonder what ever happened to that guy?Oh by the way we don't refer to any of our attire as "costumes". Just for your info.

You see it is not an act to be a Windigokan. You must know a few of them yourself.  They are the ones that do things in a manner that is not like the average. It is like the Artist. You know Artists think a different way, always being creative looking at things with a different eye than us.  Same with a backwards person. He or she is the one that will make things seem out of place or weird. Rather than take things down a hill they will carry it up the hill. They will not walk a straight road to get some where but will go off in all sorts of directions but get there at their time. You know those guys. It is just the way they are. They laugh and make jokes at inappropriate times but it seems natural to us. Teasing at your Dad's funeral. And wondering why people are giving them the look?  That is a Windigokan, the one that brings healing at times when you don't expect it.  

My friend and Teacher is not open to having White people take part in Ceremony. She is afraid that they will steal it for their own purposes. In some cases She has been right about that. As we seen when James Arthur Ray killed three people in a Sweat Lodge.  You know how that went. A Rich White guy charging outrages amounts of money for people to take part in some type of retreat.  Part of the retreat was to take part in a warrior ceremony.  Didn't work out very well for the warriors and for the head guru, Ray. I think he is out of jail now.
Ray likened the lodge to the Taj Mahal or the Vatican and himself to a priest, according to a transcript of audio recording received.
Participants paid more than $9,000 each to attend Ray's 'Spiritual Warrior' event with the sweat lodge planned as the highlight.


I have many friends that conduct Ceremony, not sure I have seen them "charge" admission. People honour them and the Ceremony with gifts if they chose to. Anyway, some of us are not opposed to White people coming into Ceremony. As one Elder said from my Reserve, "If the Creator does not turn away anyone, who are we to?".  I can see that. I can also see my friend's point of view as well. She talks about the Old Man, deceased Elder Peter O'chieseHe was siting on the ground with his arms out stretched and one of his hands open and the other clinched closed. "We have given some much and they have taken so much, why can't we hold what little we have left?".

I was at a Sundance Ceremony years ago at Punnichy or Gordon's Reserve and there was a big ply-board nailed to a tree. The sign said "no white people allowed".  It was the Sundance Chief who had placed the sign there. And it was his Right to do so.  I read that years ago, the Sundance in some communities made it a spectacle, like a Fair or something. With people dragging Buffalo Skulls with harness on. Not in a real Traditional manner. I think those are the situations that scare our People. The mockery, the stealing of the Spirit and Intent of the Ceremony. Like what Ray did. 

Am I offended when White people come to the Ceremony.  I guess sometimes I am. But other times I am not. Not sure of why. It is a conflict for sure. I think it is a hard situation to really embrace. As my cousin said "people are seeking for the good life". That is the constant you will hear in Indigenous Ceremony and that is mino bimaadiziwin  - good life. We are all seeking good life, what ever our heritage. 

I told this story before and cause I forget will share it again. Not much people have read the old post anyway. (I see the read count of posts). You must know with Creation the Creator had Teachers in other peoples' worlds. Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Brahma, and so on.  Well on this day Nanabosho or Wesakechak.was to meet his brother Jesus.

Wesakechak was standing on top of Sweet Grass Hills looking over at the country side. He was looking over at his people. Way of in the distance someone was walking. He was walking towards Sweet Grass Hills. He kept walking. Wesacechak didn't know him. Didn't recognize this guy. As the guy got closer, Wesakechak could see this guy was beat up. He looked awful. As the man got closer, Wesakechak started to recognize him. He came close to him. "Ho my brother Jesus, what happened to you?" Wesakechak asked.  Jesus was all beat up and blooded.  Jesus told him, "My people did this to me. They beat me, they whipped me. They stoned me. They killed me." Wesakechak asked him why?   "Cause my people are not satisfied.  I healed the sick, made the blind see, fed the hungry and still they beat me, they killed me."

You see White people were not satisfied. They had their place, their way of life, their home. But they were not happy so they went off to take things.  They had Europe. Not happy they went to India, China, Australia and Turtle Island and took them.  Still not happy they went on. Ships to space, hotels under the ocean. They took the Earth, the Sea, the Air, the Moon, and Mars. They took everything. Now they want your Spiritual Life. They take your Language, your Pipe, your Ceremony, . Yet they have their own?  

So I guess you can be a little more understanding when someone puts up a sign, No White People Allowed. 
\\

Update: This is why so many Indians are afraid of White people corrupting the Sacred.  http://news.bme.com/2005/02/25/spiritflesh-the-energy-pull-part-1-fakir-rants-raves/


Taking something and somehow making it ??? Perverse? 


8 comments:

  1. Kia ora Steve,
    When we white people also "appropriate" all the negative aspects of colonization as well as the bits that are more readily easy to embrace perhaps the welcome will be more forthcoming. I have the fortune here in Aotearoa to be invited to some amazing marae experiences, and quickly learned the best way to really learn was to keep my white mouth shut. We tend to feel we have the right to dominate no matter what setting we are in, to lead instead being led. Sad really. Hope you are well e hoa.
    Robb

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  2. Hope all is well over in Kiwi and hope you are still loving nature. Steve

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  3. I thought white people had their own things :-)

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    1. white people had NOTHING!

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  4. Thank you Steve, I am honoured that you invited me as a google+ friend, and I thank you for all that you share. To answer your question here (and I have read the post on your blog): I am a Dutch woman and as white as goat cheese and I am inclined to say that I would feel an intruder at any of the Native Ceremonies. I already sometimes feel that in contact with my dear Native American friend. Most of the time I am reluctant to even comment on a Pow Wow post she shares. But she knows that I respect the Indian Way with my heart ... and it is my heart that knows. And it recognizes the Sacredness of the Indian Ways, and learns from it. And the heart also knows that the white people still have to learn a lot more before they can even contemplate the thought of inviting themselves into a Ceremonie. I am inclined to agree with your friend and teacher: as I see it the white people still have a long way to go in terms of being humble. I also agree with the Elder who speaks from a higher source, when he says that the Creator does not turn away anyone. We can learn from each other and we should. But all in the right time. For some that time has come, for others not yet. If we want to take part in these ceremonies, first we need to give something back, and the first thing to give back is a due respect.

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  5. In the process healing from ancestral, historical, spiritual, sexual traumas and genocide, we need our safe, private spaces including our safe group spaces. It is crucial that these spaces are defined by us, no matter who "us" is. Intruders who don't respect this boundary, or who are unaware the boundary even exists, often are operating from relentlessly ignorant, unexamined positions of (mostly white, often male) privilege. They just don't get the basics: Were they invited? Do they know the protocols? Are they respectful? Can they listen, not talk? Can they give without any expectations of return? Will they be a positive force in the ceremony as a whole? If these and other perhaps un-asked questions cannot be answered for whatever reason, one thing is certain: It is NOT the responsibility of the ceremony holders to explain themselves at all. Rather, it IS the responsibility of the white people to leave. And often, they still don't get it! Then, posting the sign becomes necessary : "No White People Allowed!"

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  6. Interesting. The difference between culture is that white culture is hiarchial and first Nations is a circle. I noticed that when some whites join in ceremony, it becomes a competitive thing.where as the circle is not hiarchial in nature, it is equal and is to remain equal.

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