Did you know that back in 1910 when the Boy Scouts was founded, it was because “they” believed that in a few years the indigenous peoples of the United States were going to be extinct and so they wanted to create a program to help preserve some of the indigenous ways of being in the world.
A bunch of white guys taught a bunch of white boys “indigenous” ways of being because other white guys had presumably been successful in their genocide against the indigenous.
Books and movies such as The Last of The Mohicans, Dances With Wolves and Avatar have also given voice and fuel to the idea that indigenous cultures need a white outsider to become an insider and to then save them.
It’s ridiculous. Offensive. Created for the white gaze (because the media, including the Boy Scouts, has been created for a white audience and it’s assumed that a white person cannot or will not put themselves in a person of color’s shoes, so the lead character needs to be white, specifically a white man). It’s a sign of a lazy imagination. And, I’ll say it again, it gives voice to the idea that indigenous cultures need a white outsider to become and insider and to then save them.
Let me bring this home: It is not your spiritual calling or responsibility to become an insider to any indigenous culture save your own. It is not your spiritual calling to save an indigenous practice by using it, selling it performing it. This includes punctuating prayer with languages you don’t speak such as using the word “aho” or using Sanskrit words, repeating Sanskrit prayer because you learned them at a retreat once. The Native speakers of these languages were once punished for doing these things by white colonizers. I myself don’t speak my mother tongue because it was beaten out of my grandmother in an Indian boarding school. I cringe every time a white person says “Aho” in my presence. It’s not your spiritual calling and it’s not your spirituality (hey! it’s not even MINE).
This IS Your Spiritual Calling:
Make space for indigenous people at your events. Honor the ancestors of the land you are on. Invite elders to speak. Don’t say “Aho” when they’re done (it’s not a pan-Native expression). Say “Thank You.”
And honor your ancestors. Find out what your ancestors said and did before they were colonized by the Roman Empire/Christianity. What was their version of “aho” or “namaste”? What smoke clearing practices did they use and how? What was their prayer, in Gaelic, Norse, Etruscan, [insert their native tongue here] to bless all of the beings? THAT is a language and a heritage you should be trying to preserve and reclaim. THAT is your spiritual calling and responsibility.
THIS is ancestral activism.
If you want to learn more about this, if you want to be held in a space to ritually tend your ancestors and to discover their ways of being in and with the earth, you may be interested in my offering, Rooted Here. We’ll spend six months tending our ancestral connections to food, home and land. You will be guided heavily by your own ancestors in this program and it will look different for everyone. No matter where you are on the race or gender spectrum, you are welcome. You MUST be on the open-ended spectrum of open-mindedness though 🙂 We begin this Sunday, May 6th. Learn more here.