I found the following statements, made by sincere Native Americans, at the website http://www.geocities.com/ourredearth/plastic.html. I believe this states the conservative end of the plastic shaman discussion.
Do you think you are "Indian by heart" or were "an Indian in a past life?" Do you admire Native ways and want to incorporate them into your life and do "your own" version of a sweat lodge or a vision quest? Have you seen ads, books, and websites that offer to "train you to be come a shaman" in an easy number of steps, a few days on the weekend, or for a fee?I do see these as conservative statements. I am not saying that this view is the only view that Native Americans project. It is conservative though, and should be considered as a base-line possibility.
Have you really thought this all the way through? Have you thought about how native people feel about what you might want to do?
Please think about these important points before you take that fateful step and expend time, money, and emotional investment:
- Native people DO NOT believe it is ethical to charge money for any ceremony or teaching.
- Any who charge you even a penny are NOT authentic.
- Native traditionalists believe the ONLY acceptable way to transmit traditional teachings is orally and face-to-face.
- Any allegedly traditional teachings in books or on websites are NOT authentic.
- Learning medicine ways takes decades and must be done with great caution and patience out of respect for the sacred.
- Any offer to teach you all you need to know in a weekend seminar or two is wishful thinking at best, fraud at worst.
- Most of these FRAUDULENT operators are not the slightest bit reputable.
- Most of these FRAUDULENT operators have been caught making complete fantasies of what many whites WISH Natives were like.
I am torn here. I would agree with these statements if there were a black-n-white concept of what a traditional teaching was. Sadly, I don't see this being the case. When the conservative views are fully embraced, the traditional teachings of the Native Americans would only be available in face-to-face encounters with tribal teachers. Is this a problem? The really fuzzy part is the hard definition of a traditional teaching. The Native traditions inherently vary from tribe to tribe. The influence of these very varied beliefs have been disseminated widely. While accurate traditional teachings are not available, the influence of the traditions have spread far from the Native cultures. People have gained much wisdom and insight from these sources. The published guidelines would rule out the books of Carlos Castaneda, Ted Andrews, Jamie Sams, Tom Brown and more. Any material, be it printed or electronic, would have to be neutered of all traditional influence. IMO, the remaining material would be wholly new-age, largely void of the animist (the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls) roots of shamanism.
My questions are these... is it possible to be in full compliance with the wishes of the Native American website? Are they asking for the removal of all signs of traditional Native American influence from white shamanic lives? Consider if all of the books based on Native American beliefs were removed from the bookshelves, all of the white shamanic teachers vanished, and no shamanic-friendly websites were available (including this forum!). Where would the modern shamanist be? Would the modern, non-indigenous shamanic movement continue on? If we do not comply with the wishes of the website, are we all plastic in our ways, encouraging the propagation of plastic shamans? Does it benefit anybody if the modern expression of the shamanic path is eliminated?
I have no easy answers. What is your opinion?