Bury My SUV at Wounded Knee

By Maggie Duval, June 1998

...fastest growing business in america/ is shame men/ shame women - Chrystos

(from her poem Shame On!)

If I was a real creep living in an alternate reality, and was casting about for a great way to make lots of money quickly, easily, and at other people's expense (in true American fashion), I'd surely become a Native American shaman! And why not? One of my ancestors about 50 generations back was Algonquin - that makes me Indian, right? If not, I could always say I was an Indian medicine woman in a past life. And if those rationalizations didn't work, I could always say I was trying to unify all cultures in a great medicine wheel of light and love using Native spiritual practices!

All I would need to do is absorb some Lynn Andrews and Sun Bear books, listen to Navajo and Lakota language tapes, go on one of I would become one of the great Wannabe Nation, and claim affiliation with the Cherolakota tribe. I would take for myself the name, "Brave Eagle Hawk Bear Wolf Woman Who Runs Better Following a Skinny Latte and a Good Rolfing Session," to let the world know how many spiritual guides had spoken to me during my vision quest.

I would hold workshops showing other Wannabes how to become powerful medicine people. My highly expensive and "innovative techniques" for becoming a shaman would be a mish-mash of the spiritual traditions including the outer trappings of Native culture (pipe, tipi, rattles, smudge fans, drums, sage), EST, wicca, TM, the teachings of Carlos Castaneda, a dash of Christianity, and for good measure, the ol' Ouija Board and Magic 8 Ball. Think of the money that could be made!

But since I'm not a total creep living in an alternate reality....

Is it any wonder that many Native Americans see New Age appropriation of their spiritual practices as a threat to their existence? Perhaps the most frightening part of this is that these "shamans" just don't seem to get it. When confronted by angered Native Americans, these pseudo medicine people usually react by saying that these people are either "greedy" to be wanting to hold on to their spiritual practices, or "jealous" of their powers. This arrogance is appalling, but not surprising, given our nation's history.