Don't Call Me Chief!
Steve Jackson did a wonderful job reporting on University of Colorado professor Ron Grimes's struggle with whether a European-American ought to be teaching Native American studies ("Family Feud," August 3).
Perhaps it would be better for colleges and universities to establish a general rule that Native Americans are to be the only ones to study and teach their own tradition and values. Why? Because even well-intentioned European-Americans have trouble respecting the sanctity and privacy of the many and varied Native American peoples. Because even well-meaning European-Americans have difficulty teaching Native American religion and culture, critically and contextually. Because even well-purposed European-Americans fail to make sure that representative native voices are heard in their classrooms.
We lack the "requisite attitude," to quote Professor Grimes: "a combination of humility, collegiality and sensitivity."
The taxpayers of Colorado have cause to rejoice in the fact that the University of Colorado at Boulder is able to fund Native American studies. This is among the most important knowledge that will help usher the present student body into the 21st century. They will know when to go to the wigwam and beat their tom-tom and when to sit in the tepee and play with their peepee.
You don't have to be a gerbil to teach zoology, but only Native Americans are qualified to teach Native American stu-dies. Obviously these NA teachers will reject all research papers and texts by Euro-Americans. This will put them back to square one, because the bulk of this literature was amassed at a time when most NAs were still on reservations studying Beadwork: Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced, and Thunderbird 101. In fact, if it were not for interested Euro-Americans, there would be little in the way of a collected body of literature to teach from.
If these divisive forces at the university continue on track, one of the best courses in NA studies they could teach would be Survival Techniques of the Great Basin Diggers, because we are all going to end up "picking shit with the chickens" trying to serve these special-interest nitpickers.
Also, doesn't it follow that if only NAs are qualified to teach NA studies, then Euro-Americans should be barred from electing these classes? Isn't what this country needs, is to become more exclusive?
The White Stuff
This letter is in response to Steve Jackson's "Bad Medicine," in the July 27 issue. I was moved and terribly sickened by your article regarding the "rape" of Kayla Moonwatcher, if that is indeed her birth name. Let me preface my opinions by saying that I hold no sympathy for rapists, and I do not condone this act of violence against women. However, there are two issues here: the rape of a woman and the rape of American Indian spirituality.
As an American Indian, I have always been taught that our religion and ceremonies are not for sale and that they are not to be taken lightly and without respect. If you do not perform ceremonies correctly, or if you use the medicine in the wrong way, bad things will happen to you. Apparently Ms. Moonwatcher was not taught this. I do not know of anyone who is legitimate who treats our ceremonies as Ms. Moonwatcher has admitted to in your article. "From now on, house blessings will be $200"--that in itself is sacrilegious.
My friends and I have had lengthy discussions regarding white people in our ceremonies and traditions. Many American Indian spiritual leaders do not allow white people in their ceremonies, because they lack the capacity to truly understand and accept our ways and are always looking for a way to get rich or explain what they cannot. It appears that Ms. Moonwatcher fits into this category.
Ms. Moonwatcher and all of you other want-to-be Indians: Go back to your Christian churches and leave us alone. We don't want you in our spiritual ceremonies or traditions until you have had to suffer like we have. Perhaps only then will you find the true meaning of spirituality and start a religion we might want to belong to (not).
K. Culbertson, enrolled member of the Assiniboine Sioux Tribe
It is most unfortunate that our Native American spirituality has become bastardized to the point that our so-called medicine men are acting like the great evangelists of the Christian faith, e.g., Swaggart, Bakker. P.T. Barnum was once quoted as saying, "There's a sucker born every minute," and these suckers (whites) are part of the problem. If you create a situation for vermin to feed, they will come. As a result of these new-age whites trying to "find" themselves in a religion in which they have no right meddling, they have created quite the feeding frenzy.
If the whites want to involve themselves in an Earth religion, let them explore their white roots. All religions were once Earth-based. But that was before they hung the guy on the cross and discovered that they could control the masses for fun and profit.
Sorry for your misfortune, Kayla.
Well-written article, Mr. Jackson.
R. Ketcher, enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
I read Steve Jackson's article with much sadness in my heart. I have always admired and been proud of my Lakota people, but many have learned the white ways all too well.
About fifteen years ago I was told I could "make money" for what I know, but aside from being a speaker for the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities, I have never charged for any help I have given. I've never capitalized on the quest white people have for native knowledge.
Lakota ways and knowledge are not for sale!
The Lakota must return to the center and hold the pipe and eagle feather in a sacred manner without shame.
What happened to our respect for women--all women? They are the ones that hold the key to our Earth Mother. They are sacred!
Sex is not to be had in or near sweat lodges, in rivers and lakes or on sacred sites or mountaintops.
Most of our spiritual teachers do not follow, teach or endorse any type of ceremonies "made up" to belittle, control or hurt other people, Indian or otherwise.
I will pray with my pipe that there will be healing and understanding between all parties concerned.
In a sacred manner, we live.
Mitakuye Oyasin, all my relations.
Martin V. Knifechief
Good grief!! Please deliver us from the Kayla Moonwatchers that continually haunt us!! She may have dreamed of being adopted by a medicine man, but her kind are a real nightmare to those of us who are legitimate.
How easy it is to say one has Indian ancestry. You can read enough books by other Kayla Moonwatchers and follow their falsehoods and dream up your own name and origin. Just make sure it is sorrowful and mystic enough. Then tell it as many times as you can. There will be some dope to sop it up.
Time and time again our ways are diluted, mutilated and trampled on by some wannabe "Moonwatcher" tired of being a hippie, living with a hermit and then becoming "Indian." Our ways are not hers. One day she will get tired of playing games and go on her way as have many others before her.
Indian traditions have very strict rules or ways to do everything from birth to death and beyond. Charging for "services" and making up your own agenda is certainly not the way. One thing we are certain of is that our "medicine" will take care of misdeeds. Instead of an "eye for an eye," it's more like a "rape for a rape." The whole story is repulsive. All one can say and see is that apparently both got theirs. Indeed, it has been handled in the "Indian way."
Phyllis Pond Culbertson
A Ted Letter Day
Regarding Michael Roberts's "Ted's World" in the July 27 issue:
My big question right now is: Why wasn't Ted Nugent invited to the Promise Keepers convention?
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In reading the recent letters in Westword concerning the Promise Keepers conference, one thing is clear: These are from people who weren't even there.
Their ignorance of what Promise Keepers is gives them zero credibility to voice any sort of informed opinion. If you're going to ramble on about something, at least have some clue. These folks have none.