Ray: Jamie, why do you think many native communities are so resentful of the investigation and use of Native American spirituality by non-native people and religious paths, perhaps especially new-consciousness or New Age people?
Jamie: There are 686 acknowledged tribes in the United States. No one wants to be looked at stereotypically, the way Indians often are by these people. Stereotypes harm humanity by creating assumptions. And it’s not just outsiders or New Agers. Even people raised on reservations, who maybe were taught a tiny bit of their own creation myths and healing practices, may think they know a lot about all Native American practices, when in fact they know very little.
Lots of non-native people seek a spiritual discipline — not just Native American spirituality, but really anything — that can make their lives better. They want to find a spiritual discipline to make them feel better, to make their lives more productive, and to let them contribute to humanity.
But these people don’t realize how offensive it is for them to go to tribes thinking they know everything. They sometimes go in like these arrogant know-it-alls, and it ticks Native Americans off.
New Agers on traditional spiritual paths are just like every other group in the world. There are good people, and there are bad people. Many times people who are invited to ceremonies don’t realize what an honor it is. They don’t know anything about Native American etiquette. They go in, and they sit on their butts.
They rarely ask what they can do to help unless they have been with a teacher for years and around Native Americans for years. Then they would realize you don’t come without asking what you can do to help prepare beforehand, to clean up afterward, or to assist in some way.
I personally believe that’s why certain Native Americans resent not just outsiders like New Agers but even other Native Americans who come from other tribes where they weren’t taught their own traditions, where they didn’t have their own storytellers, so they didn’t learn as a basic part of how they were raised the importance of contributing to the whole of the tribe.