At the Lakota Summit V, an international gathering of the US and Canadian Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations, about five hundred representatives from forty different tribes and bands of the Lakota unanimously passed a “Declaration of War against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality”. The following declaration was unanimously passed on June 10, 1993.
- Whereas we are conveners of an ongoing series of comprehensive forms on the abuse and exploitation of Lakota spirituality; and
- Whereas we represent the recognized Lakota leaders, traditional elders, and grassroots advocates of the Lakota people; and
- Whereas for too long we have suffered the unspeakable indignity of having our most precious Lakota ceremonies and spiritual practices desecrated, mocked, and abused by non-Indian “wannabes’, hucksters, cultists, commercial profiteers, and self-styled ‘New Age shamans’ and their followers; and
- Whereas with horror and outrage we see this disgraceful expropriation of our sacred Lakota traditions has reached epidemic proportions in urban areas throughout the country; and
- Whereas our Sacred Pipe is being desecrated through the sale of pipestone pipes at flea markets, powwows, and ‘New Age’ retail stores; and
- Whereas pseudo-religious corporations have been formed to charge people money for admission into phony ‘sweatlodges and vision quest’ programs; and
- Whereas sacrilegious ‘sundances’ for non-Indians are being conducted by charlatans and cult leaders who promote abominable and obscene imitations of our sacred Lakota sundance rites; and
- Whereas non-Indians have organized themselves into imitation ‘tribes’ assigning themselves make-believe ‘Indian names’ to facilitate their wholesale expropriation and commercialization of our Lakota traditions; and
- Whereas academic disciplines have sprung up in colleges and universities institutionalizing the sacrilegious imitation of our spiritual practices by students and instructors under the guise of educational programs in ‘shamanism’; and
- Whereas non-Indian charlatans and ‘wannabes’ are selling books that promote systematic colonization of our Lakota spirituality; and
- Whereas the television and film industry continues to saturate the entertainment media with vulgar sensationalist and grossly distorted representations of Lakota spirituality and culture which reinforce the public’s negative stereotyping of Indian people and which gravely impair the self-esteem of our children; and
- Whereas individuals and groups involved in the ‘New Age movement’, in the ‘men’s movement’, in ‘Neopaganism’ cults and in ‘shamanism’ workshops all have exploited the spiritual traditions of our Lakota people by imitating our ceremonial ways and by mixing such imitation rituals with non-Indian occult practices in an offensive and harmful pseudo-religious hodge-podge; and
- Whereas the absurd public posturing of this scandalous assortment of pseudo-Indian charlatans, ‘wannabes’, commercial profiteers, cultists, and ‘New Age shamans’ comprises a momentous obstacle in the struggle of traditional Lakota people for an adequate public appraisal of the legitimate political, legal, and spiritual needs of real Lakota people; and
- Whereas this exponential exploitation of our Lakota spiritual traditions requires that we take immediate action to defend our most precious Lakota spirituality from further contamination, desecration, and abuse;
Therefor we resolve as follows:
- We hereby and henceforth declare war against all persons who persist in exploiting, abusing, and misrepresenting the sacred traditions and spiritual practices of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people.
- We call upon our Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota brothers and sisters from reservations, reserves, and traditional communities in the United States and Canada to actively and vocally oppose this alarming takeover and systematic destruction of our sacred traditions.
- We urge our people to coordinate with their tribal members living in urban areas to identify instances in which our sacred traditions are being abused, and then to resist this abuse, utilizing whatever specific tactics necessary and sufficient (for example: demonstrations, boycotts, press conferences, and acts of direct intervention).
- We especially urge all our Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people to take action to prevent our own people from contribution to and enabling abuse of our sacred ceremonies and spiritual practices by outsiders; for as we all know, there are certain ones among our own people who are prostituting our spiritual ways for their own selfish gain, with no regard for the spiritual well-being of the people as a whole.
- We assert a posture of ‘zero-tolerance’ for any ‘white man’s shaman’ who rises from within our own communities to ‘authorize’ the expropriation of our ceremonial ways by non-Indians; all such ‘plastic medicine men’ are the enemies of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people.
- We urge traditional people, tribal leaders, and governing councils of all other Indian nations, as well as all national Indian organizations, to join us in calling for an immediate end to this rampant exploitation of our respective American Indian sacred traditions by issuing statements denouncing such abuse; for it is not the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people alone whose spiritual practices are being systematically violated by non-Indians.
- We urge all our Indian brothers and sisters to act decisively and boldly in our present campaign to end the destruction of our sacred traditions, keeping in mind that our highest duty as Indian people is to preserve the purity of our precious traditions for future generations, so that our children and our children’s children will survive and prosper in the sacred manner intended for each of our respective peoples by our Creator.
This document was made available through the efforts of Tom Kunesh, Hunkpapa, and James Eagle, Ogala. Please feel free to copy it and distribute it.
This copy keyboarded and uploaded by Jim Kirk, aka Silverflame, of Silverflame Typesetting & Production Graphics, Houston, TX. Any typographic or other errors are mine. September 1994.
Commentary on the “Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality”
by Beket-Asar Edithsdatter, Editor of Notes from Taychopera the newsletter of Sun Raven Protogrove, ADF, and of Goddess Chapter, an informal network of Neopagans whose familial roots stretch back to the Colonial Era in the New World.
I’ve been using computer bulletin boards for just over a year now. I spend most of my time on Native Net and FidoNet-Indian Affairs. Although very few non-Native people are on Native Net, the same cannot be said of the Indian Affairs echo. For some reason, of the non-Natives who post in Indian Affairs are Pagans. While most are like me, there to learn, we occasionally get a newcomer who thinks it’s perfectly all right for non-Native people to ‘borrow’ bits and pieces from various and sundry Native American spiritual traditions without a by-your-leave. These folks tend to get creamed — a case of the airy-fairy fluffy-bunny brigade meets the Klingon kids.
Early this summer the echo erupted into a flame war that nearly caused a melt-down on the net when a high priestess in Florida pissed off an AIM member from Pine Ridge, a Kiowa combat veteran, and an extremely verbally-adept Coushatta-Alabama author — ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!! Even a very kind and caring soul who, mark my words, will be a top-notch medicine man some day, got into the act and handed down some home truths.
The message was very clear: most Native Americans don’t want non-Natives messing around with their spiritual practices.
As the smoke started to clear away, a Pagan woman in New Jersey commented that the views of the Native Americans are not generally known in the Pagan community. It’s high time that changed. I am enclosing with this issue of the newsletter [see above – Jim] a copy of the “Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality.” I would like to see this declaration spread as widely as possible among Pagans.
It is strongly-worded and there are many in the Pagan community who may be offended by it and the opinions expresses. I’m not really interested in that. Agree with it or disagree with it as you will, but it does represent the opinion of most Native Americans. I am not presenting it as an item for debate, but to make that opinion known.
The sentiments in the declaration may not be ones that some Pagans want to hear, but they are ones that all Pagans need to hear. I never want to hear Paganism slandered again by the boorish, encroaching, and patronizing behavior of a Wiccan high priestess. I never again want to hear a Pagan brother or sister say, “I didn’t know you felt this way; these things are not known by the people in my religion.”
Notes from Tachopera Volume VII No.1, Summer 1994. Copyright 1994 Beket
[Keyboarded and uploaded by Jim Kirk, aka Silverflame, of Silverflame Typesetting & Production Graphics, Houston, TX. Any typographic or other errors are mine.]
Another note: When I received this issue of Notes from Taychopera with the Declaration, I called my local (Houston, TX) Intertribal Council to see if they had heard of it. The Program Director was out of town that day, so I said that I would send them a copy of it. They in turn asked if I would like a sample copy of their newsletter and an application blank to join the Intertribal Council.
I did, they did, and I’ve sent them a completed application to join (as an “associate” member – i.e., I don’t know if I have any American Indian blood or no). But — in the newsletter they sent me, there was a notice of a meeting to be held concerning “such issues as the teaching of Indian ceremonies by non-Indians and the possession of eagle feathers and artifacts sacred to Indians.” Among the speakers are the tribal administrator for the Oglala Lakota Nation and a member of the American Indian Bar Association of Austin, Texas.
So – there it is. Read the Declaration and think about it. If anyone has any disagreements or questions, join — or at least contact — your local Intertribal Council and talk to the people whose opinion means something – the ones who worship the Gods, Goddesses, and spirits of this land.
Goddess Bless, Jim Kirk (Silverflame)