Module 1 - 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. They may have read a book (probably written by another non-Indian or "spiritual leader for hire" like Sun Bear) that told them something or the other, and suddenly THEY BE THE MAN!

I actually had a wannabe start telling me how the Comanches believed this and the Comanches believed that. I told him, "no they didn't and don't." Man he started in again. I eventually got ticked and asked him how he got his information. "I read it in a book." I said, "Well my father is a Comanche elder and he never told me anything like that, and if you would like to bring it up to Old Man you can." The guy instantly shut up.

Then there was the guy at a powwow here in Texas who claimed that he was a Cherokee elder (big surprise among the wishiwas tribe). Old Man was blessing the area, when this "elder", with his turkey feathers in hand, literally got into my father's face and started giving him the what for and telling him how he was doing things wrong! How dare he do this to a man who is full-blood Comanche, grew up and still lives with those ways, and is highly respected among the people? Old Man took things as he does, in humility, but he had several sons (both blood and adopted) who took care of this "Cherokees" insult.

You might say, "Well, those are isolated cases." No, I hate to tell you, but they are not. Many wannabes use their weak claims to Indianess to swindle money, to commit sexual crimes, to gain publicity for themselves, and a myriad other illicit uses. Don't believe me? Read this excerpt from a letter a Delaware friend of mine sent me. If you just read that, understand, that this isn't uncommon. Granted, the majority of wannabes are not of the criminal ilk, but it does happen way too often.

The NewAgers are a subclass of the wannabes. For the most part, they are harmless. They are simply searching for something to make them happy. Whether from disillusionment with the "mainstream" religions or a fascination with the mystical, they like to dabble with the so-called "native american religion." I basically leave these guys alone, as I think they are silly people chasing rainbows and looking for some sort of solution from without to their own problems whatever they may be. The problem that I have with the NewAgers is their indiscriminate use of native symbolism and tribal rituals without really understanding them. Our ways are passed down orally, and we continue to learn throughout our lives. There is no book that can teach you that. What gets me is when one of these books or people say things like, "Native Americans believed this or that", "I'm following that Red path", "I practice Native American religion". Within these statements lies the problem. Let me be very clear about this -- ahem --


Native American beliefs varied greatly among the tribes. Comanches, Pimas, Apaches, Hopis, Lakotas (the NewAger Favorite), Senecas, etc all had different belief systems. The differences in tribes could be as subtle as those between the myriads of Protestant denominations, as dissimilar as those between Catholics and Protestants, or as wide as those between Christians and Hindus. Then on top of it, they take what bits and pieces they like from several different tribes, mix them with other stuff (yoga, Buddhism, wicca, paranormal junk, and who knows what else), and you have your NewAge cocktail. If that's what they want to do, that's their business. They cross the line when they go about announcing their concoction as being "Indian". When this happens, it continues to keep myths about Indians alive, and we certainly don't want the general public thinking we're as weird as your basic NewAger. We spend most of our time laughing at them, but sometimes they downright piss you off. If they want to play Indian or guru or whatever, that's their own thing. But, I know that I would appreciate it if they would keep it to themselves and not pass something off as being Indian when it's not.

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