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Pseudo Native American Tarot Decks:
A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

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This is a difficult page for me to put together. From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, three of the decks I'm showing I find very attractive. As a Euro-American Tarotist, it would be easiest for me to simply show the decks that fit the declared theme and be done with it.

"Each student must be encouraged to take responsible measures to confront teachers with unethical aspects of their conduct. If the teacher shows no sign of reform, students should not hesitate to publicize any unethical behavior of which there is irrefutable evidence. This should be done irrespective of other beneficial aspects of his or her work and of one's spiritual commitment to that teacher"
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Letter to the Sangha on Western Buddhism)

As I was collecting links to reviews of the individual decks, it quickly became clear to me that the people being "honored" with dedicated decks would prefer that "Native American Tarot" decks had never come into existence. Ethically, I see now the validity of their objections, and can not set aside the obligation to speak the truth as I see it. Therefore, as with my SCA/Renaissance Faire Tarot page, I am including quite a bit of additional background information on this page. Please understand, I am not trying to "speak for" Native Americans, as I have no right to do so. This page is a sympathetic Euro-American summary of my understanding of the arguments plastic shaman busters are making, with a tiny bit of neopagan response.

Authentic Native American Spirituality

If you are looking at this page because you are considering purchasing one of the decks, you are probably motivated by a desire to learn something about "authentic Native American Spirituality". If that is your motivation, you should at least give careful consideration to the fact that these decks are not authentic.

  • There is no such thing as a single "Native American Spirituality". There are hundreds of tribes, each with their own spirituality.
    Native beliefs are TRIBAL-SPECIFIC. There is NO "generic Indian" form of spirituality. There are as many differences from tribe-to-tribe as there are between Hinduism and the Church of England. No one would think of teaching those two as the same and calling them "Indo-European," yet many of these FRAUDULENT operators teach a thrown together mishmash of bits and pieces of different beliefs.
  • Generally, spirituality is community-based and traditional. These decks do not come out of the community, do not benefit the community and are not traditional. There is no tradition in any of the Native American nations of card-based divination systems. Community-based also means that it's not a matter of whether the person is racially Native American, but whether they are benefitting their local Native American community.
    "Do the names Sun Bear, Wallace Black Elk, Oh Shinna Fast Wolf, Brook Medicine Eagle, Harley Reagan Swiftdeer, Buck Ghost Horse, or Mary Thunder mean anything to you? Well, they should, because these pseudo-medicine quacks are passing themselves off as Native American spiritual leaders. Native American spirituality has become a fad to many New Age non-Indians and their naivete is being exploited to the limit by plastic medicine people, much to the dismay of traditional elders. Practicing Native American spirituality out of the context of Native American culture diminishes the integrity of both.
    Many of these people are actually Indians who are spreading false rituals for profit. The rest are white men and women who claim to be Indian. For the most part they have changed their names to Indian names to lend authenticity to their flock.
    One way to tell if these people are legitimate is whether they go into the Native American communities they claim to be from and perform the same rituals."
    (Wendy Rose (Hopi))
  • Community-based also means that ceremony tends to be done to benefit the community rather than the individual. Euro spiritualities, whether Christianity or New Age, are more concerned with the spiritual development of an individual. Tarot comes from this tradition, and (once it stopped being used purely for a game...) whether used for divination or meditation, use of Tarot is generally intended to benefit an individual.
  • The context in which cultural symbols and practices are expressed is extremely meaningful.
    "When [people] pick and choose from these things, it trivializes their spiritual practices. ... The specificity [of their use] is so complete, that visiting Native Americans do not participate in another tribe's rituals, and to do so would be perceived as foolish. I would not even practice the rituals of my own tribe, because I am not an elder or spiritual leader." If this is true of her own people, then the use of these things by others who share no cultural context is seen not only as particularly foolish and inappropriate. "Not all of this usage is inappropriate, though" she said. "Some taped music, written prayers, that kind of thing, might be alright, but "it's not right to fool around with it. If it's not in context, if the user is not walking with us, if the user is not part of our struggle, then it is presumptuous."
    (Rev. Danielle Di Bona)
  • Information about spirituality is not discussed with those outside the community. Generally, it is transferred orally and in the language of the community (not English).
  • Even offering money makes a ceremony useless. So if "Medicine Cards" were an authentic expression of some particular Native American spiritual tradition, paying someone to have a Medicine Card reading would not be.
    "Someone mouthing a prayer, someone performing an ancient ritual without discipline, understanding and deep belief will have no power. People who deliberately seek such power will not find it. People who pay for medicine, who believe they can buy the Spirit, are fools. ... We are hungry for doorways to the Spirit, to learn that everything and every day is sacred... Spiritual leaders need to encourage all to deepen their prayers and spiritual path... because we non-Natives must first learn to shift our thinking from 'I' to 'we', a concept built into many Native languages." (Dorothy Blackrow Mack)
"Without substantial contact with the culture and fluency in its language, what you feel attracted to is a =stereotype= of that culture--based on books, films, etc. --not the culture itself. In other words, you can't be drawn to something about which you know almost nothing, especially if what you know is inaccurate or incomplete...
Unless or until you are ready to devote many years to learning the language and, more importantly, gaining the acceptance of the bearers of that culture so that you can share in their =daily lives=, their spiritual practices can have no relevance for you. A religion isn't in the masks, rattles, songs and drumming, but in the =hearts and minds of the people who use them=. These hearts and minds cannot be understood by dabblers, however well meaning."

Respect and Good Intentions

It is difficult to say who do you the most harm: enemies with the worst intentions or friends with the best.
(Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton)

According to the authors notes, each of these decks was developed with the intention of showing respect. But you should be aware that good intentions are not always enough. To differing degrees, these decks are perceived as disrespectful. A few reasons why:
  • They perpetuate the "noble savage" stereotype.
  • They clump incredibly diverse cultures together into a single identity.
  • By showing 19th century lifeways they imply that Native Americans don't exist anymore in the 21st century.
  • They are inauthentic (see above) and mislead people into thinking that they actually have something to do with "Native American Spirituality".
"In that you have public domain cartoons, movies, nicknames, icons, logos, commercial appropriation of Indian images - it goes on and on. You have to look at each one of those and do an analysis.
"The analysis I use is twofold. The first one is called Anaweg, that is my 8-year-old daughter. Does it teach her the truth about Indians? If the image doesn’t, I have no use for it. The second is Nedsin, that is the name of my deceased father. Does it honor our ancestors? If it doesn’t, I have no use for it. That is how I look at all the stuff I see about Indians.
(Chad Smith, speaking on the overall issue of Indian imagery)
Of course, it would be yet another racist fallacy to say that there is a single "Indian viewpoint". The level of passion against "pay to pray" and "plastic shamanism" is apparent given that Lakota elders in 1993 issued a Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality. Some don't care. Some are merely amused. "Native American" divination cards are said to be one of the signs of a "twinkie".
"So, what is a twinkie? Everyone knows that a Twinkie is an all-too-sweet mass-produced sponge cake with cream filling. The twinkies we're talking about believe in a sickeningly sweet and artificial version of American Indian religion." (man_in_black529)

Vine Deloria, Jr. said it more gently,

"Jamake Highwater, Lynn Andrews and Castaneda are all of the same genre. Their writing is interesting but it has nothing to do with Indians. It's about what what white people think Indians should be."

A Twinkie, Moi? - A Tiny Bit of Neopagan Response

As a woman who has practiced an alternative Western spirituality for the last 20 years, I think we need to be careful about stereotyping from both sides. Certainly there are many elements of the new age and neopagan movements that are very well described by the term "twinkie" (our own term for it is "fluff-bunny"), but there are other things that are not, things that are deeply meaningful. Sometimes the anti-plastic activists seem to me to go too far in denigrating a spirituality that they have as shallow an understanding of as twinkies have of Ojibwe culture. In both cases, it is only the exterior material artifacts that are easily visible, and in both cases, the real action is taking place quietly and out of sight.

Yes, fluff-bunnies may think you can become a witch after reading a single book, and may be more interested in how big a pentagram they can wear, but the genuine tradition is obscured by the rampant marketing, and after enough years in one of the neopagan traditions, most people do manage to get a clue.

Also be aware that new agers and neopagans are actually different groups, (though some members of both groups use Tarot cards), and neopagan is an umbrella term encompassing an incredible variety of traditions, from Wicca to Asatru. Blanket statements are just as difficult here as they are with Native Americans.

At any rate, I am completely on board with the argument that when someone who is not a part of a particular culture and religion attempts to dictate their own wishful thinking and misunderstanding of another culture to someone else, they are being a twinkie. Especially when they try to sell it back to the members of the culture they only think they understand! Those of us enculturated in the dominant (middle-class) culture need to be extremely careful that we are not interpreting another culture's experiences for them using our own norms. We have been very guilty of doing this in the past, and our past victims have every right to view us now with suspicion.

Fake "shamans" and "spiritual leaders," both Indian and white, operate openly in public without fear of retribution, bilking thousands of innocent people out of their money and dignity. Our ceremonies, arts, and images are for sale everywhere, after having first been bastardized beyond any recognition. Everything we once held sacred is now on the market.... for a price.
(Plastic Shaman Busters)

There is a continuum between celebrating cultural diversity and cultural appropriation. There is a big difference between saying "How cool! There are bears in the neighborhood!" and doing the Goldilocks thing of barging into the bears' cabin without knocking or being invited in, and eating up Baby Bear's porridge because "it's just right".

Tarot is obviously not genuine to any Native American tradition - kings and queens are purely European, cards meaning accomplishment / gain / accumulation are contrary to Native systems of values. So jamming Native American cultures into a Tarot deck AUTOMATICALLY does some violence to the truth of those cultures. I can see this. But some decks are worse than others.

From my perspective (which is, remember, a sympathetic Euro perspective), while a deck like Medicine Woman is pretty close to the Lynn Andrews end of the spectrum, some of these decks (like Vision Quest) seem to be more at the level of Disney's Pocahontas movie in the harm they are doing. Still appropriating images, still depicting an unrealistic "noble savage" stereotype, but not selling ceremony.

The exploitation issue is a substantial one among many Indian adults today, where the idea of "cultural patrimony" as a kind of property (since everyone but Indians seems able to make huge amounts of money off it) is beginning to be much discussed in Indian country. See, it's not just distortions of our history, culture, religion that are worrisome. It's how come everyone except Indian people seems to be able to cash in on it bigtime? (Native Opinions on Pocahontas)

And the Southwest Sacred Tribes probably wouldn't be nearly as offensive if it didn't insist on calling tribes "sacred". (It's the same error as saying all Asians are "inscrutable".) Southwest Sacred Tribes is purely an art deck, and other than the name of the deck (which might have been chosen by the publisher) does not seem to be trying to make claims about "Native American Spirituality" - just doing a RWS variation in an art style inspired by Native American art.

Medicine Cards is not a Tarot deck. It is quite possible that it has made its creator and publisher boatloads of money. And its creator fits into the workshop-giving sector that plastic-shaman busting is coming out against. But none of the so-called Native American actual Tarot decks has that kind of market presence, and only one of the creators has a history of actually selling ceremony, to the best of my knowledge. I guess there's still a question in my mind as to whether the actual Tarot decks are quite as much a plastic shamanism issue as Medicine Cards. This is just a quibble though. We need to be more sensitive.

"...we must recognize that we are not entitled to the rites and traditions of cultures that did not birth us. We are not entitled to take something from someone else, whitewash it and proclaim it the same as or better than the original. When we do that, we slap that community in the face, because we say to them, "This used to be yours. It used to define you. Now it is ours." That community, especially minority communities already struggling to maintain a unique identity, becomes that much closer to being absorbed by the dominant culture."
(Amber Laine Fisher)

To my fellow tarotists - So am I telling you that you can't buy one of these decks? No. You need to make your own decisions. My point in putting this page together is to ask you to think about your motives, and to be less susceptible to the marketing angle.

To deck designers - I would personally prefer that designers of decks did as Ursula LeGuin did in creating Kesh in her book Always Coming Home and imagine the idealized earth-loving society in the future instead of trying to project it onto Native Americans. Let Native Americans own their own images. They have asked that we respect their privacy, and I think we should honor their request. So few indigenous cultures have survived the Christian steamroller and the Manifest Destiny attitude as well as the First Nations of North America. Native Americans are still here. Let's give them the space to preserve and recover their spiritualities in their own communities. Let's wait to be invited before barging in.

More Miscellaneous comments on specific decks

The Rock Art deck's images were largely drawn from art found in Southwestern North America, but there are some figures from Australia and African rock art represented as well. Motifs were not selected in context with any knowledge of Hopi clan symbols, but rather their intuitive impact on the designer.

Structurally, the Vision Quest deck is a reinterpretation of Thoth to a large extent, while the Southwest Sacred Tribes deck is a fairly close RWS (Rider-Waite-Smith) "clone".

The Santa Fe Tarot borrows motifs from Navajo sandpaintings and sometimes arranges them in such a way as to remind one of a RWS image. The designers seem to either have insufficient synthetic knowledge of Navaho philosophy beyond a disconnected reading of various "folktales", or insufficient knowledge of Tarot (or both).

Medicine Woman has almost entirely removed any depiction of negative experience. It may be the most sweetness-and-light deck possible to acquire of all the tarot decks in existence (not just among the Native American tarot decks).

Why do I say Medicine Woman is closer to the Lynn Andrews end of the spectrum? Because although it is full of pipes, medicine wheels, feather headdresses, shields and so on, it is not actually depicting a particular Native American context. It is actually presenting New Age spirituality - the book is full of talk about Guiding Beings, chakras, and so forth. If the deck were about an invented future society, or even a contemporary Hippie society, and dropped the regalia and terminology (which it could easily do, as it is purely superficial) it seems to me that would not be an issue. On the other hand, it would have had much more difficulty being marketed if it were not able to piggyback on the public fascination with Indians. In the deck's defense, it was first published several years before the Lakota Declaration of War.

In addition to the decks shown, the following decks contain some cards depicting Native Americans or regalia from one of the Native American peoples (some decks dedicate an entire suit, some just a few cards):
Ancestral Path, Gendron, Guardians of Wisdom, Haindl, and Healing Earth (106 cards). In these decks as well, there is variation.

Just to put a limit on this effort, this page does not Aztec or Maya-influenced decks at this time. There are at least three that I know of fitting that criteria.

Click on the name of the deck to get to more information about the deck and a review

DeckHierophantDevilQueen of WandsFive of CupsAce of SwordsNine of Pentacles
Medicine Woman
Carol Bridges (1987)

deck coverDeck    book cover

"Carol now teaches classes and offers workshops and ceremonies through The Church of the Earth Nation in southern Indiana. She is a voice channel for the Guiding Beings... She has been a sacred teacher at Sun Bear's Medicine Wheel Gathering..." (from accompanying book)
Medicine Woman Hierophant
Medicine Woman Devil
Medicine Woman Power Lodge of the Pipes
Medicine Woman 5 of Bowls
Medicine Woman Ace of Arrows
Medicine Woman 9 of Stones
Native American
Magda Weck Gonzalez (Star-Spider Woman) and J.A. Gonzalez (Rattling Bear) (1990)

deck cover    book coverBook

Magda: "My mother is half-Kentucky-Shawnee and half-Boston-Irish, and is from the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky. Her mother, a Kentucky-Shawnee "half-breed," was a spirit speaker; her father, also part Kentucky Shawnee was a wild-crafter. My papa was gypsy and Dutch." J.A.: "I am first generation on this side of the Great Waters. I am not Native American and don't pretend to be." (from accompanying book)
Native American Shaman
Native American Devil
Native American Matriarch of Pipes
Native American 5 of Cups: Warrior Woman
Native American Ace of Blades
Native American 9 of Shields: Thunderbird
Rock Art Jerry Roelen (1996)

deck cover

"I've spent thirty years traveling to rock art areas and visiting the descendents of these ancient artists...I have chosen to express what these images mean to me and not interpret their accepted tribal meaning..." (from accompanying book)
Rock Art Hierophant
Rock Art Devil
Rock Art Queen of Wands
Rock Art 5 of Emotions
Rock Art Ace of Intellect
Rock Art 9 of Sensations
Santa Fe
Holly Huber and Tracy LeCocq (1996)

"Lifetime residents of New Mexico, sisters Holly Huber and Tracy LeCocq have been long fascinated with the unique Navajo sandpaintings and their mystical qualities..." (from accompanying book)
Santa Fe Hierophant
Santa Fe Devil
Santa Fe Queen of Wands
Santa Fe 5 of Water
Santa Fe Ace of Rainbows
Santa Fe 9 of Buffalo
Southwest Sacred Tribes Violeta Monreal (1996)

deck cover

"I have been deeply impressed by Native American art from the first time I visited the United States... The aim of this project was to approach Native American images not as a researcher or a scholar, but as an artist impressed by the rich aesthetic found in the artwork of the Southwestern tribes." (LWB)
Southwest Sacred Tribes Hierophant
Southwest Sacred Tribes Devil
Southwest Sacred Tribes Queen of Wands
Southwest Sacred Tribes 5 of Cups
Southwest Sacred Tribes Ace of Swords
Southwest Sacred Tribes 9 of Pentacles
Vision Quest
Gayan Sylvie Winter and Jo Dose (1998)

deck cover

No information about creators' backgrounds. "Since the symbols of Vision Quest Tarot are inspired by Native American wisdom, they contain not only the spirit of the traditional Tarot, but that of the tribal shamans and the spirit of the medicine wheel. ... This Tarot does not purport to embody the teachings of the Red Way. Nevertheless, it helps us view the events and changes in our lives from a fresh and more profoundly insightful angle." (LWB)
Vision Quest Shaman
Vision Quest Torment
Vision Quest Mother of Fire
Vision Quest 5 of Water
Vision Quest Ace of Air
Vision Quest 9 of Earth

Non-Tarot Divination Decks

Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards (Chief Lame Deer & Helene Sarkis)
Medicine Cards (Jamie Sams and David Carlson)
Sacred Path (Jamie Sams & Linda Childers)
Shaman Wisdom Cards (Leita Richesson)
Spirit of Truth Native American Reading Cards (Maurice "Ezira" Ramsey)
White Eagle Medicine Wheel (WaNaNeeChe & Eliana Harvey)
Wolf Song Cards (Lew Hartman)

Learn More About Cultural Appropriation and Twinkieness

Why do Native Americans Find it Offensive When People Take Bits and Pieces of Cultural Traditions from Several Different Nations, Mix Them Up with Karma, Reincarnation, Crystals, and Card-Based Divination and Then Call the Resulting Mixture "Native American Spirituality"?

Isn't it obvious from the question? Because it's not Native American Spirituality. It's something completely new and different. Call it something else. Call all the bits of pieces something else so that it's clear it's a new thing, and no marketing capitalizes on people's intrigue with Native Americans. Let the new creation survive on its own strength without making false impressions with talk or use or images of medicine wheels, totems, pipes, feather headdresses, sweatlodges, Great Spirit, or the rest of it. Burning herbs to consecrate a space is a part of western as well as native spirituality - learn about our own historical uses, and don't call it smudging. Much is also projection of our own concepts - for instance, the New Age concept of a medicine wheel is really a "dressed up" magical circle. Totems have more to do with Euro notions of familiars. Sweatlodges are not just dressed up saunas. A Vision Quest is something like a Bar Mitzvah - it is a rite of passage for 12 to 14 year old boys. Don't take it out of context. (Do middle aged folks generally get Bar Mitzvahs?)

"Indian beliefs say that each nation got their own message just for them." - man_in_black529

Be aware, too, when messing with things you don't understand, that consequences can be consequential. There are reasons that things are in their original contexts, and messing with the balance by decontextualizing can be dangerous - but that's a different problem.

I Have a Right to Learn Native American Traditions So I can Create my own Eclectic Tradition and I Have a Right to Teach it For Pay to Whoever Wants to Learn it

Native Americans have a right not to teach you. They also have a right to demand that you not call the result by any name or dress it in any garb which implies that it is Native American.

"But the understanding of the racial question does not ultimately involve understanding by either blacks or Indians. It involves the white man himself. He must examine his past. He must face the problems he has created within himself and within others. The white man must no longer project his fears and insecurities onto other groups, races, and countries. Before the white man can relate to others he must forego the pleasure of defining them. The white man must learn to stop viewing history as a plot against himself." (Vine Deloria, Jr.).

Those of us socialized into mainstream Euro-American culture have a very difficult time getting past the individualist reality filter we were raised with. Even as we try to grow out of our colonialist imperialist past, we simply don't realize that not everything is faith-based and individual-based. Traditionally, our religions have had a mission of attempting to convert individuals into believing in them. "Believe in Jaysus and you will be saved!" Some cultures are experience-based and community-based. It's hard to believe that there can be a religion that does not want to convert; that, in fact, doesn't want anyone not in that community to read a book and try to practice it. But that is the case. No matter how much you believe that Earth is your mother, and that we are all related, it doesn't instantly make you a member of the community. Belief is beside the point. It isn't about belief at all.

Arguments coming from an experience-base or community-base are very difficult to understand. So I'll attempt to provide a couple of individual-based analogies so you can get an idea of the emotional impact of seeing a deck that is presented as "an authentic portrayal of Native American spirituality".

1. Copyright. You are an artist and you have made a set of digital images. You visit another web site and see those images on their page. What's worse, the person didn't have much skill in digital manipulation, and they have cut up your images and made a mess of them. They didn't write to you for permission to use your images or to modify them. They are presenting them as their own work. Do you have any right to feel angry?

2. Identity Theft. You are a consumer. You have worked hard to establish a credit history so that you can get loans when you need them. Someone uses your SSN and name to establish credit lines and messes up your credit record. It does enough damage that you aren't able to get the car loan you were counting on when you needed it.

"Suppose a white man should come to me and say, "Joseph, I like your horses. I want to buy them." I say to him, "No, my horses suit me; I will not sell them." Then he goes to my neighbor and says to him, "Joseph has some good horses. I want to buy them, but he refuses to sell." My neighbor answers, "Pay me the money and I will sell you Joseph's horses." The white man returns to me and says, "Joseph, I have bought your horses and you must let me have them." If we sold our lands to the government, this is the way they bought them."
- Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

In the 19th century, Native Americans lost their land for a variety of reasons; one of which was the refusal of white Americans to honor community-ownership rather than individual-ownership - or even to believe it possible to have things done at the level of community rather than individual. The 19th century is past, but offenses are still occurring today. A particular culture has the moral equivalent of copyright on its spiritual traditions. It is identity theft when someone pretends to be an Indian to sell ritual or pretend ritual objects.

We ARE the children of a People of Peace.
And war. And hunting. And trading. And everything else that societies consist of. We did it all, laughed and loved. After all, we were nothing more than individual civilizations within the same racial group.
And we did share freely.
We shared the land which no one owns with the newcomers.
The killed us and took it all, because their great God Of Peace told them that they had dominion over the earth and it was their Manifest Destiny to do so.
So they took it.
And now their children are so spiritually bankrupt that they want our beliefs, too.
- Article at Our Red Earth website

Good Advice for the Sincere

(From Native American Sacred Traditions and Western Culture)
  • Native Americans owe us NOTHING. Our culture's spiritual poverty is our own responsibility to explore and address creatively.
  • Our first task is to be silent. We must learn how to listen. Even (especially) to the rage. Without imposing our own definitions. Without rushing to conclusions or defense.
  • By listening deeply and not rushing to apply our own categorical explanations, we begin the second task -- which is to taking responsibility for the damage done by our own ancestors as well as by us. We must own our own histories.
  • In claiming our past, we open ourselves to the future. Our third task is to be about the work of transforming our own culture from its very roots.
  • And when we have done our own work in earnest, let us begin it again.
We have a responsibility to clean up our own act. I believe there is a reason we were born into the culture we were born into. I agree that there there is some validity to the charges of escapism leveled at wannabes.
However, white women seem determined NOT to look into their own cultures for sources of strength. This is puzzling, since pre-Christian European cultures are also earth-based and contain many of the same elements that whites are ostensibly looking for in Native American cultures. This phenomenon leads me to suspect that there is a more insidious motive for white "feminists" latching onto Indian spirituality.
When white "feminists" see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming to very close to destroying the earth, they often want to dissociate themselves from their whiteness. They do this by opting to "become Indian." In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.

Sites about Spiritual Commodification

  • Respect = Gohiyuhi
  • Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality by Lisa Aldred - "Why do New Agers persist in consuming commercialized Native American spirituality? What kinds of self-articulated defenses do New Agers offer for these commercial practices? "
  • Ownership of Indigenous Cultures - "Are the Indigenous cultures fair game for anyone to pick up and use to their own advantage? This question is not only directed to the New Age practioners, but at the "artists" who make money selling sometimes respectful, but sometimes twisted, versions of rock art figures and other Native American images. It applies to the lodges and clubs that use pseudo-Indian ceremonies and to the fake Indians who are "moderators" in AOL chat rooms and radio talk shows."
  • Readings on Cultural Respect - Including "Exploitation of Native Spirituality", "Shame On!" by Chrystos, "I Am Not Your Indian Princess" by Chrystos, "For All Those Who Were Indian in a Former Life" by Andy Smith, "500 Years Since the Invasion of Europe" by "Wanblee Johnson", "Spiritual Commodification and Misappropriation What Native People Want You To Understand", "Top 10 Things You Can Say To A White Person Upon First Meeting", and "Watch your language!"
  • "New Agers" and native wisdom by Nora Bunce, Eastern Cherokee. February, 1995 with a comment by Robert Johnson, an anthropologist - "What my grandmother taught me about the beliefs of the people are as opposite from the New age beliefs as any one can get. Because the differences between the two systems, there is no way that there can be any merging of the two without one group giving up their basic fundamental beliefs and adopting the others beliefs. I am not willing to give up what my Grandmother taught me. NO! THE NEW AGERS DO NOT DO A GOOD JOB OF REPRESENTING THE BELIEFS OF MY PEOPLE. "
  • Lakota Oyate: To defend and preserve Lakota culture from exploitation. - "Today, as from the first moment Europeans called us 'Sioux', the reality of who we are and the issues we fight to contend with are submerged in stereotypes and fiction. Non-Indians 'wannabe' us without ever having spoken with us or knowing what it's like to live one day in our lives. People who have never visited with us argue about what's best for us as if we are incapable, reducing us to a 'hobby' or 'interest'. They still take without asking and enter without being invited."
  • Differences between Indian beliefs and New Age - "I decided to compare and contrast Indian beliefs with New Age. One of the main differences being that less than one in a hundred Americans is a traditional Indian, but one in five has New Age beliefs."
  • Cultural Appropriation and Responsible Eclecticism - "What many pagans (and Americans in general) really don't understand, is that culture is holistic. It is ecologic. We do not live in Cartesian systems where we can extract something, analyze it on its own, and stick it into another mechanism to see if and how it works. Religion is more than just the relationship between an individual and a deity-religion is a method for building community, and when we begin to borrow religion, we are in essence borrowing community. When we take something which isn't ours, whitewash it and call it by its original name, we commit the crime of cultural appropriation. We are invaders of community. We are thieves."
  • Cultural Imperialism in Witchcraft (Siubhan's Little Pagan Page Musings) - "Over the years, I've been troubled by the way that modern Witchcraft appropriates goddesses and gods from all around the world with seemingly no respect for the religions these deities come from. This abuse takes two major forms, and both are disrespectful in their own way. ... I don't believe it's ethical to take deities from living religions and use them outside their proper religious and cultural context... Another practice that bothers me is that of conquering peoples using deities from the conquered."
  • How to Recognize an Exploiter - "The following check-list can help you to identify frauds. Most of the sites authored by exploiters will have some, if not all of these characteristics"
  • Iktome Wall of Shame - "Some of these culture vultures have been prosecuted and found guilty of fraud, yet they continue. Listed below, you will see some links to web pages of people who are using Native American culture and spirituality for their own personal gain, or those who co-opt or infuse New Age beliefs into Native beliefs or ceremonies. Make no mistake, while many of these people are whites pretending to be Indians, there are in fact some bonafide Indians, enrolled ones at that, on this list. One doesn't have to be white to be abusing Indian spiritual practices. If you sell or MISLEAD and you are in fact Indian, you're just as bad as the whites or non-Indians who do it! Indian spiritual practices should not ever be sold, nor should they be misrepresented. And most certainly, a book or the Internet is not a place for such information to be listed, discussed, posted, etc. If you want to learn about a tribe's spiritual practice, go to the reservation and ask a real spiritual leader for help."
  • The Official Wanabi Tribe Home Page - "Researching and listing websites that make fraudulent claims of Indianness for the purposes of self-aggrandizement or profit. Those websites which offer Lakota ceremonial or cultural property are my specific targets, but websites which rip off other tribal nations' cultural property will also be listed."
  • Americas: indigenous people, New Age, and cultural appropriation (A collection of links)
  • Wannabes and Newagers - "So why is it you guys get so irritated at the wannabes and NewAgers? A fair question. Sure they make fools of themselves in front of Indians and non-Indians alike -- most non-Indians realize that they are goofs, so why not let them be? For the most part I do leave them be. But sometimes, they get real old. I guess what gets bad are those that appoint themselves to the lofty position of holy man or leader, and go around spewing crap about Indians this and Indians that, when they have absolutely no idea of what they are talking about...."
  • The Ripoff of Native American Spirituality - "This page is to discuss the borrowing of Native American spiritual rituals. This issue has become a grave and very sensitive issue to many of us. They say that imitation the sincerest form of flattery, but we don't view it this way. While I feel that learning about others views is a good thing, borrowing from our beliefs or otherwise bastardizing them is a very insulting and bad thing to do. These people don't realize, that genocide is more than the killing of the physical body, it includes the destruction of the culture and spirituality. And taking the spiritual practices and blending them with other culture's practices does effectively kill the spirituality."

Sites about Being a Twinkie

  • Twinkies for Dummies - The Essay - "Okay now, if you want to hang around Indians, there are some rules. Don't be a twinkie. ... Real Indians don't charge for spiritual wisdom. And we rarely reveal our spirituality to outsiders. ... The problem therefore is when you claim that your beliefs are ours. Or when you attempt to convert to, say, Lakota beliefs. Or when you mix and match religions."
  • What is a Twinkie at Planet Twinkie - "A Twinkie is a person, almost always a white, privileged person who peddles spiritual junk food. Just as the Hostess version is all sugar and chemicals containing very little nutritional value, the New Age Twinkie is artificial and valueless in a spiritual sense. ... Twinkies are often heard preaching about how everyone is entitled to Native American Spirituality. However, no one can have their graphics. It's a subtle distinction that often proves hard to grasp."
  • You Might Be a Twinkie if...

Other More General Sites

  • Tribal Wisdom Foundation - An all volunteer, non-profit organization committed to the understanding and support of Native American Culture.
  • American Indian Stereotypes: 500 Years of Hate Crimes by Steven W. Baggs - People are taught to stereotype other people. Stereotyping is a learned form of classifying and labeling others based on inaccurate information or assumption rather than on factual knowledge. ... Today's modus operandi seems to be one of total avoidance of the fact that negative stereotyping of American Indians exists, as well as one of highly stylized mockery under the guise of "honoring" indigenous peoples.
  • The Best Indian Books (Blue Corn Comics site) - Here's a list of the best Indian books as voted by our correspondents. By "Indian books" I mean books by and about Native Americans, fiction or nonfiction. By "best" I mean the books we love or enjoy the most—the books we would recommend most heartily to others."
  • Oyate - "Oyate is a Native organization working to see that our lives and histories are portrayed honestly, and so that all people will know our stories belong to us. For Native children, it is as important as it has ever been for them to know who they are and what they come from. It is a matter of survival. For all children, it is time to learn the truth of history. Only in this way will they come to have the understanding and respect for each other that now, more than ever, will be necessary for life to continue."


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Updated March 6, 2004

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