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OfflineNiamhNyx
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Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality?
    #2602710 - 04/25/04 11:42 PM (12 years, 7 months ago)

I've been thinking about this subject an awful lot lately, and I'm curious as to what the rest of you think about it...

White people in North America and elsewhere often feel cultureless and spiritually lacking when they realize the serious flaws in the religious background they are familiar with and will quite often, as of the last few decades, go in search of a form of spiritual expression that they feel a closer affinity with than monothiestic body and earth hating western religion. They (we) journey, searching for a way to express earth based spiritual urges and quite often become impressed with what they learn of Native American, Native South American or other Indigenous traditions. A lot of them will take on these traditions and try to make them thier own.... Picture: white dudes in sweat lodges, paying lots of money to be taken on an "authentic" ayahausca ritual with an "authentic" shaman in Peru, whiteys carrying tomohawks, wearing feathered headdresses and doing the sun dance.... examples could go on and on.

This never used to strike me as a bad thing, and I'd excuse it by saying, well, we white people are cultureless and our earth centred spiritual traditions have been lost. Besides, how could it be bad to take on native spirituality, isn't that a sign of ultimate respect? I've come to totally disagree with that. Lately I've been trying to deepen my analysis of the genocide of Indigenous people and have had it pointed out to me in several texts and by several natives that when white people take on token pieces of native traditions in order to fill the void left by own own "culture" thats contributing to genocide as surely as stealing land and burning sacred sites does. It's the co-optation of something we, as non- indigenous people, have no cultural background in and therefore cannot understand. It's theft of culture, and ultimately distorting. We can't possibly understand what we are co-opting so by taking it as our own we're altering. Altering and distorting indigenous knowledge is genocidal, regardless of intention.

In an essay I read by Ward Churchill, and also the advice of a native friend, was that we white people searching for a means of earth based spiritual expression search our own roots. We say that our own knowledge is lost but its not, perhaps more of it is lost than was lost of many native cultures (although many of those are completely obliterated already), we still have a lot of it intact. The witch burnings weren't that long ago and some knowledge even survived that. It was suggested that we look into that, which in reality would likely be more satisfying anyways since it comes from our own cultural roots. Reclaiming ones heritage is incredibly empowering. The ultimate respect to indigenous people is to allow them to reclaim *thier* roots, while we mutually reclaim our own and together cast off the institutions that attempt to bury or trivialize both.

Anyways, I've said enough. What do you think? Is it cooptation and genocide for a non-indigenous person to lay claim to indigenous spiritual traditions? Why or why not?


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OfflineFrog
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2602959 - 04/26/04 12:58 AM (12 years, 7 months ago)

I haven't heard of any of this, so I can't comment. Some day I'm going to be interested in finding out what is going on in society again.


--------------------
The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.  -Teilard


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Anonymous

Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2602990 - 04/26/04 01:09 AM (12 years, 7 months ago)

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OfflineNiamhNyx
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: ]
    #2603150 - 04/26/04 02:10 AM (12 years, 7 months ago)

I fully agree that white people are searching intensely for a way to express wildness, and that we do indeed need something far beyond that which our own sterile, domineering cultures can provide. Truly, I understand this (which is pretty much why I'm a green anarchist- opposed to civilization and its sterile, vacuous homogenization and expoloitation of all that is wild and free, And fighting for the rewilding of all our bodies and minds, for a primal revolution.) I agree fully that all of us, regardless of our race have the need, the right, and the overwhelming instinct to express ourselves through uncivilized, wild, earth based means but that does not include expropriating the mythology of a culture we are not a part of and have no claim to.

We may all trace our roots to a tribal culture. Mine is Celtic. Every single human being can draw thier roots to an animistic culture, and most can find some remaining base of knowledge for what thier specific ancestors believed. I can be a shaman and still not expropriate indigenous culture.

I'm one of the last people that needs to be told that most of the women and men burned during the witch trials were not actually practicing earth based spirituality, but there were and still are people that have maintained such traditions in a covert manner throughout the persectutions. We still know a lot about celtic spirituality, for one, as well as norse, and other european earth-centred spiritualities. I'm not saying we have to be confined by our blood to only the means our particular ancestors used, we are also free to forge our own path (which is probably the best choice of all.) We are free to rewild ourselves. To step into the forest and commune with wildnerness and experience our own reawakening to animism.

What I'm "condemning" (to use a rather strong term) is the expropriation of cultures we have no connection to, simply because they seem better than our own (and probably are more fulfilling than the more recent path our cultures have taken...) What is offensive is a european donning the tradition garb of, say, the Cherokee to use your own example, and claiming to be representative of Cherokee heritage.

What is often portrayed of indigenous culture by those of european descent is a "pick 'n mix" of icons, devoid of context and wholeness. This fracturing of a body of knowledge by one who cannot ever fully contextualize such knowledge serves to break down and after time, demolish the very traditions one was so drawn to in the first place.

I have been trying to search for a particular essay to share, Indians 'R' Us by Ward Churchill (Keetowah band, Cherokee) because its a particularily strong argument, from which I've drawn much of this analysis but all I can find are reviews of the book it's in "Acts of Rebellion."

I understand the desire to express oneself through a spriritual tradition that is wild, animistic, and inspiring but coopting the specific rituals and myths of a culture to which one does not belong is a path to be avoided, if only out of respect for the culture one is inspired by. I'm inspired by indigenous spirituality but I'm not going to wear a headdress, start talking about my "aloha", or dance the sun dance. Rather I'll reflect on how my own expressions relate to the expressions of other tribal groups.


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Anonymous

Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2603308 - 04/26/04 03:18 AM (12 years, 7 months ago)

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OfflineNiamhNyx
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: ]
    #2603458 - 04/26/04 03:48 AM (12 years, 7 months ago)

Well, I have absolutely no Native blood in me whatsoever, not even a drop no matter how far back I look. This fact makes me very cautious about expropriating native traditions. I have no cultural heritage connecting me to it and so I have no right to say "my religion is native american" or "I'm a Haida shaman." There are fully white folks out there that do claim things like that and it makes me rather uncomfortable, not to mention how offended it makes my native american comrades (thier feelings being more important than my own regarding thier own heritage.) It would strike me as, at least, rather silly, if not downright offensive for someone with no celtic blood in them to claim to be a "druid." I'd likely start grilling them on what that means, what they know about druidism, and why they think they have the right (or would even want to) ordain themselves into a spiritual order that they have no cultural connection to. The difference is, druidism isn't a direct connection to a culture that is currently being crushed by colonial imperialism, like many native traditions are. That's a reason it's so important to allow such traditions to remain intact for the members of the community to which it belongs. By coopting these traditions we further colonialism.

As far as the "mutt" question is concerned I would be inclined to think that if you have native blood, you naturally have curiosity and affinity with that culture, and it's wonderful if you want to explore it. I believe it's really important to dig deeply into all of our own roots, wherever they come from, and no matter how mixed we are. Since I'm totally Irish, Scottish and a little bit English that's where my personal exploration lies. It's not my place to explore Cherokeetraditions as if they were there for my taking, because they aren't. I may explore Cherokee traditions for the sake of appreciating the beauty of thier culture and reflecting on how another culture relates to the earth.


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OfflineMixomatosis
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2608185 - 04/27/04 09:21 PM (12 years, 7 months ago)

I hear ya Niam.

The grass is always greener on the other side. Over there the people seem to be spiritual, let's go! I'm sick of white people living out their fantasies of being the white man in another culture.


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Offlinelostsuitcase
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: Mixomatosis]
    #2608259 - 04/27/04 09:38 PM (12 years, 7 months ago)

"As far as the "mutt" question is concerned I would be inclined to think that if you have native blood, you naturally have curiosity and affinity with that culture, and it's wonderful if you want to explore it. I believe it's really important to dig deeply into all of our own roots, wherever they come from, and no matter how mixed we are. Since I'm totally Irish, Scottish and a little bit English that's where my personal exploration lies. It's not my place to explore Cherokeetraditions as if they were there for my taking, because they aren't. I may explore Cherokee traditions for the sake of appreciating the beauty of thier culture and reflecting on how another culture relates to the earth. "

I dont know about all this localist religo-spiritual paradigm-ish stuff. What if the Tibetans never co-opted Indian culture? their very unique and vibrant.....well...before they were systematically raped and expropriated....culture would have never come into existence. Same goes for the Chinese, they stole from the Tibetans, and then the Japanese stole from the Chinese and you have Zen Buddhism, a very "uniquely Japanese" cultural artifact.

To sum it up. All of human culture is just one big rip off. Everyone steals from everyone else and makes whatever they stole their own and then it develops independently from its source. So arguing that a white-boy doesnt have the right to rip-off the Cherokee is quite silly.



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Invisiblekaiowas
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2608320 - 04/27/04 09:55 PM (12 years, 7 months ago)

i don't know if we can ever lay claim to the natives ideas.  we sure can celebrate them.

and everyone has "culture"

don't say the irish don't have culture

nor the scottish.

or the vikings

the british

the french

the spaniards

the greeks

it really goes on what you consider "white"

the thing as you pointed out is that we have religion tied into culture, and since religion is rather flimsy, so then putting a basis of culture upon religion will also make the foundation weak.  to me, having the mentality that any one way is the right way provides a rather weak foundation.

the fact that we differentiate ourselves from everyone else is rather weak minded too.  a lot of it I see is ideology is saying the same things, but in jsut different ways.

this is what is most important, the ideas.

not how you dress, or your rituals, but the frame of mind counts.

the native frame of mind that yes there was a system, but at the same time, it wasn't a ruling govt that we have now. it was moneyless society.  same as the bushhists.  their ideas fundamentally have some similar aspects.  I can still agree with the idea that land isn't something to be owned, but rather the land is here to take care of us.  I would easily go with the idea to live in a tent and migrate.  doesn't mean I have to memorize their gods, their rituals or anything like that.

we are the ones that introduced the idea and gave the definition of "culture"  we just had to define it and try to make sense of it, when back that, it probably jsut was a way living.  ideas like wanting what you do have instead of thinking about what you don't have.  :grin:


--------------------
Annnnnnd I had a light saber and my friend was there and I said "you look like an indian" and he said "you look like satan" and he found a stick and a rock and he named the rock ooga booga and he named the stick Stick and we both thought that was pretty funny. We got eaten alive by mosquitos but didn't notice til the next day. I stepped on some glass while wading in the swamp and cut my foot open, didn't bother me til the next day either....yeah it was a good time, ended the night by buying some liquor for minors and drinking nips and going to he diner and eating chicken fingers, and then I went home and went to bed.---senior doobie


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InvisibleJellric
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2609643 - 04/28/04 02:01 AM (12 years, 7 months ago)

I can see that if someone is coming from a place of cultural pride they might resent "outsiders" coming in and "adopting" their religion. However, I don't see how this threatens their culture. One white guy in a sweat lodge surrounded by 6 native americans does not a threat make. However, I can understand that attitude given the historical context.

I think it's important to remember that spirituality does not belong to any one group or race. When talking of these things one has to carefully distinguish the line between culture/religion and spirituality. Spirituality eliminates barriers such as race; Religion tends to reinforce them.  Mysticism, the undying inner core of all religion, says all boundaries are an illusion. When any person or group puts forth a claim on the intangible, they are suffering from attachment. Not a good thing.

Spirituality is universal.

A lot of them will take on these traditions and try to make them thier own....

No one owns these traditions.
There is no "us" or "them".
There is no inside or outer.

We are One.  :heartpump:


--------------------
I AM what Willis was talkin' bout.


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Offlinefireworks_godS
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2610555 - 04/28/04 07:23 AM (12 years, 7 months ago)

I think this whole thing is sort of silly. If we are looking at culture as some sort of exclusive club that you have to have the right key to get in, then we have a problem.  :eek:

We are all one people. You say that one person with no "ties" to a culture can never fully understand that culture. That is elitist bullshit. What defines a culture? Let's pretend that I am a Native American. What makes me a part of that tribe's culture is NOT simply the fact that people of the same bloodline lived the way they did. I don't get into the culture for free because of that.  :shocked:

What makes culture is the ideas. It is all in the mind. And when it comes down to that, it doesn't matter what colour of skin you have, who your ancestors were, or what understanding you already have. Like I said, there isn't some special essence inside a Native American that makes him a part of that culture. It is all understanding, ideas, and conditioning.  :wink:

This is in the same vein as saying you have to go to an official church to receive God.  :nonono: I'm all for protection of the ideas of a culture. However, ideas are carried in the mind, not the body. Anyone can be brought to understand any idea or concept, as long as the hardware is up to snuff. We are all of the same.  :laugh:

I do think that we as humans have lost some important ideas regarding life along the way. But I don't understand why you feel a "primal revolution" is in order. What is to be gained by "going back to the wild"? If this primal and wild state we once existed in is so worth it to try to "go back to it", then why did we evolve past that state in the first place?

I don't understand why some essence of our being can't be reached from where we are right now. Society doesn't need to be deconstructed. It needs to be rearranged. If there was some true nature of us that we were in contact with as primal people, there was also a hell of a lot of misunderstanding and unknowing as well.  :lol:

Maybe we originally disconnected from the essence of being temporarily to gain understanding, so that we may one day reconnect with the experience within, and know what the hell was going on the whole while? There is blissful ignorance and there is blissful awareness. I myself prefer blissful awareness. :mushroom2:

And I completely agree with you, Jellric. :thumbup:

:headbang: :headbang: :headbang:
Peace. :mushroom2:


--------------------
:redpanda:
If I should die this very moment
I wouldn't fear
For I've never known completeness
Like being here
Wrapped in the warmth of you
Loving every breath of you

:heartpump: :bunnyhug: :yinyang:

:yinyang: :levitate: :earth: :levitate: :yinyang:


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Offlinerecalcitrant
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2610597 - 04/28/04 08:12 AM (12 years, 7 months ago)

Quote:

NiamhNyx said:
In an essay I read by Ward Churchill, and also the advice of a native friend, was that we white people searching for a means of earth based spiritual expression search our own roots.




I don't see how Thor is more closely related to me than Osiris. You're telling me that I should stick to bread waffers on Sunday over peyote sacraments because I am stealing an element of a culture that I cannot understand, and would be more "myself in my own culture if I stuck to my own cultural norms."

THat is a crock of horse shit. For years, years and years and years, I felt different. (Maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way. Hell, hopefully I was going to be Jesus2, and save the world, and my name would live on in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.) I always felt like I had some hidden talent, or some great invension locked away in my mind. Like I was better than everyone else.
Then I found drugs. I realized that I am no better than stephen hawking, Hitler, the severly retarded or even an insect. Different yes, but no better. It was through an act of rebellion (rebellion of an ignorance, though, so what's that called?) against my culture that I discovered MANY profound truths and experiences to call my own.

Yes, our culture is missing a few things. Like a respect for nature for one. But when individuals decide to "trip ayahuasca style" or do whatever else that's normally outside their cultural status quo, they really aren't stealing a culture, nor are they harming their own culture in some way.(I would like to allegorically tangent for a second: it is absolutely NOT like the humingbird who is fed nutrasweet. their tummies are full, but they have no calories.)


WHen a persons lifestyle diverges from typical cultural lifestyle, the culture isnt destroyed. Perverted, surely. But cultures are changing and morphing constantly. We are creatures who feel the need to reinvent ourselves. That is why spanish is a little different from latin, why man has set foot on the moon...

When cultures, or parts thereof, are forced to stagnate, terrible consequences are likewise brewed. My examples? the legal system (in britain, canada anyway) participants wear black gowns and curly white wigs. Whats up with that? just another stupid tradition. But, you get these Men's clubs together, you give them their secret societies (The Skulls anyone? http://www.movietome.com/movietome/servlet/MovieRecapPage/movieid-5061/The_Skulls/ ) and corruption replaces justice.

Is the prohibition of psychedelics fair, just and reasonable? HELL NO! but you get the propagative hegemony of the White House involved and they'll continue to excersize their measures of control.

I don't live for the law. I don't live for my culture. I don't live for my house full of trinkets. I don't live for tomorrow, or "the children." I live for myself, and my personal connection with the universe and whatever the fuck created it. And we're doing just fine now. Now that I know not to give a shit about what you give a shit about.


--------------------

We have to answer our own prayers


Edited by recalcitrant (04/28/04 08:14 AM)


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Anonymous

Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: fireworks_god]
    #2610605 - 04/28/04 08:26 AM (12 years, 7 months ago)

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Offlineeve69
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: ]
    #2611351 - 04/28/04 02:36 PM (12 years, 7 months ago)

I equate Christianity with McDonalds materiality. One can say that two things are known worldwide and that is the words McDonalds and Christianity. Strange that a religion should seek to perpetuate itself still into this uncertain world mind that has been orchestrated. Christianity has and still does seek to expand with new people going to Russia and Indonesia and other places still, not to mention India, even now. And just what exactly are they teaching again? I mean, ideally l-o-v-e right? But exploitation also went hand in hand in the past, and does it not also now? Is not Chaney/Bush Christian, believing in a new world and so on. The Christian nature is towards hegemony. Just as most religion is about seeking a place or sense of control over ones surroundings or appeasement of it. For good fortune. We are all cargo cultists of the worst sort ultimately and I'm saddened that government money doesn't generate any good karma anymore. No federal art or education funding. Even now the Christian right is sabotaging our own country believing in their Christian wholesale right to plunder. We all know how if your Christian in school you're cool, but if you not then you get all these geeky questions like - you're what the religion of the Buddha? The fat guy religion right? If they're smart. And they leer at you like John Ashcroft in Inquisitian garb right? But I'm white. It's what I am. I found Shiva and then Buddha and they work for me outside my skin color. I found service sometimes. Not enough by far. I don't care personally about getting more into this shit that everyone mafiad out of the world. I'm into getting the heck out of it. It's all like they say about trouble - getting into it is easy, but getting out isn't. People are like plants and destroyed by too much contact.


--------------------
...or something







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OfflineMixomatosis
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: lostsuitcase]
    #2611675 - 04/28/04 04:02 PM (12 years, 7 months ago)

Never disagree with me ever again


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OfflineNiamhNyx
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: Mixomatosis]
    #2671352 - 05/13/04 12:29 AM (12 years, 6 months ago)

I would like to make it extremely clear that when I suggested we whitey's look to our own culture's spiritual roots I didn't mean we have to chose Christianity. Christianity is as invasive a parasite to the Irish as it is to the Cherokee. There is much to be gathered from our own pagan mythologies, and what is still known of the old ways. If someone is attracted to "native" spiritual traditions it's most likely because they are searching for an animistic framework through which to express themselves, such a framework is offered by ones own ancestors. We don't need to co-opt someone else's culture to find that.

One thing that has begun to drive me utterly nuts about this message board is the "pick 'n' mix new ageism so many people put forward. We are utterly free to form our own types of spiritual expression based upon our own, direct, experience and informed by inspirations and concepts we consider from our own (and sure, even other) cultures. I also don't have a problem with anyone partaking in entheogenic sacraments of any kind, but if, say, some white guy takes peyote and claims he is a huichol shaman because of it, he's more of a parasite than anything else.


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Offlinefireworks_godS
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: Jellric]
    #2672005 - 05/13/04 03:17 AM (12 years, 6 months ago)

Quote:

Jellric said:
I can see that if someone is coming from a place of cultural pride they might resent "outsiders" coming in and "adopting" their religion. However, I don't see how this threatens their culture. One white guy in a sweat lodge surrounded by 6 native americans does not a threat make. However, I can understand that attitude given the historical context.

I think it's important to remember that spirituality does not belong to any one group or race. When talking of these things one has to carefully distinguish the line between culture/religion and spirituality. Spirituality eliminates barriers such as race; Religion tends to reinforce them.  Mysticism, the undying inner core of all religion, says all boundaries are an illusion. When any person or group puts forth a claim on the intangible, they are suffering from attachment. Not a good thing.

Spirituality is universal.

A lot of them will take on these traditions and try to make them thier own....

No one owns these traditions.
There is no "us" or "them".
There is no inside or outer.

We are One.  :heartpump:




--------------------
:redpanda:
If I should die this very moment
I wouldn't fear
For I've never known completeness
Like being here
Wrapped in the warmth of you
Loving every breath of you

:heartpump: :bunnyhug: :yinyang:

:yinyang: :levitate: :earth: :levitate: :yinyang:


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OfflineHypnoToad
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2672576 - 05/13/04 09:44 AM (12 years, 6 months ago)

I dont see white,black,asian,native american,spanish,etc. people.I only see people.People who are my brothers and sisters,my mothers and my fathers...my family.We are all related by blood.We are all children from the same earth.People of one earth that share all sorts of cultural aspects with each other.

I dont see Judaism,christianity,pagan,wiccan,etc.I see spirituality,I see the practice of self expression.

And if I see a fellow human being I greet him as family because he is family.I have love for my fellow human beings no matter what they cast upon me or do to me.Because I understand that they do not understand.

And while I am being irritated by some accusations and in the manner I am being treated.It is only because it is born of ignorance,hatred and misinformation.But I hold no grudges or ill feelings.

Is it wrong for my father to have adopted me and taught me his ways as my own?Is it wrong for him to have treated me as his son,as his own flesh and blood?Is it also wrong that I happen to be of strong european heritage and he is of strong native american heritage?

Is not that what we want? Two people from different backgrounds sharing in culture and loving their fellow man as their family?


--------------------
"There is no fire like lust, no grip like hate, no net like delusions, no river like craving."



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InvisibleDoctorJ
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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2674854 - 05/13/04 07:16 PM (12 years, 6 months ago)

what bothers me even more is when I see mexicans with Jesus stickers on their car. Think about that for a minute.




The only thing I could think of that would be even remotely similar to a mexican with a jesus sticker would be a jew with a swastika.



I mean, those people arent europeans. They are aztecs. And yet they have been so thouroughly and utterly conquered that even their deepest spiritual beliefs have changed to those of their conquerors.

Its really sad when you think about it.


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peace, pot, and microdot!


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Re: Co-opting Indigenous Spirituality? [Re: NiamhNyx]
    #2675123 - 05/13/04 08:28 PM (12 years, 6 months ago)

It is generalizing to say that white people do something, or wester religion hates the earth.  :thumbdown:


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