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"Nature" Not "Native"

Dear Marcie,*

I am a Co-Counselor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. I am of mixed heritage on many fronts-religious, ethnic, and race-and have Native American ancestry several generations back. I am currently involved in a pipe circle. It is led by white women who were taught the ceremony by Native elders. These women are connected to the Bear Tribe which, as it's been explained to me, is a group of people who were taught by a Native man named Sun Bear who followed a vision to teach white people Native American traditions, ceremonies, and ways of living.

I've identified as white my whole life but have had an awareness of my Native American roots since I was little. I remember always having been proud of it-mostly because it made me feel like I was "special" in some way, not because I had any real sense of what it meant to be Native American. Over the past few years I began to read a bunch about Native American beliefs around our connection to nature and animals, etc. This has really spoken to me and is now a huge part of how I relate to the world. I feel more connected to myself when I am walking in the woods and noticing my connection to the earth than I do at any other time. I also know that this doesn't leave me with a full picture of what it means to be Native American, but it has given me some sense of connection to it.

I guess I'm writing to you with two questions. First, do you have any thoughts about what it makes sense for people who have distant connections to Native American ancestry to do in terms of discharging about it? Are there any particular directions that have been helpful? (I guess part of me is worried that I am being pretentious in wanting to claim this as an identity, and I'm probably looking for a session on being welcome to look at this and discharge about it.) Second, I would love to know what thinking has been done by Co-Counselors about white people taking part in Native American ceremonies like pipe circles, sweat lodges, drum dances, shamanic journeying, etc.




I have enclosed a letter I recently received. (See above.)

I told this person to connect with Dan Nickerson as he has been the clearest, non-Native, thinker/counselor about the spirituality path so many reclaimers get hooked on.

In her second paragraph, A- says: "I began to read a bunch about . . . our connection to nature and animals, etc. . . . I feel more connected to myself when . . . walking in the woods and noticing my connection to the earth . . . ."

For the first time today, after hearing this statement ad nauseam from reclaimers and non-Native people, it dawned on me that we are dealing with a human frozen need here.

It is such a stereotype that Native people have this magical connection to the earth that somehow is genetically passed down, and that anyone who feels peace in the woods or outdoors must be part Native. I'm sorry, but this is crap. Capitalism, the industrialization of the world, and computer technology serve to keep people isolated from each other and have destroyed the tribal concept of all for one, one for all. If everybody, once again, had to really connect with the space of earth their feet landed on, they could not knowingly continue with the exploitation of resources which we as humans have carried out in order to ensure our survival as a species.

It is a human need that gets met when people actually have the time and space to notice the natural world around them. One of the ways non-indigenous people have been oppressed is the forced division between themselves and the natural world around them. My guess is that if you blindfolded yourself and listened to any farmer, rancher, herdsman, logger (who actually lives in the woods and cuts), or cotton/fruit/vegetable picker, after asking them about the natural world, their responses would make you think they were Native-not Norwegian, German, Portuguese, etc.

So, I'm ranting . . . .

It's about human beings not Native heritage.


Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

P.S. I have been telling all reclaimers to spend one year with the direction of taking complete pride in being a white American before working on reclaiming Native heritage. I have also been saying to them: "Welcome home."

* Marcie Rendon is the RC International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans

(Present Time No. 110, January 1998)

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00