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My rant about totems


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#21 o_O

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 01:46 AM

I think some Native American practices are deeper than Native Americanism. I think they come from before. They are not owned by Native Americans. The Native American way of interacting with and describing these things is not the "right" way or the only way.

I am part Native American, but I don't think that is why I have certain rights. I think as a human and a citizen of this earth I have the right to make contact with the forces that have been here from before anyone crossed the Bering Straight.

I don't think a totem needs to always be a secret. I don't believe in many "always".

I think white men disrespect red man religion. And I think red men disrespect white men by claiming white men have no right to claim their birthrights.


I can remember being taught that the magic my Great grandmother taught me was thousands of years old, as old as the dawn of man and was handed to us from the others, who still teach us, and may be older than they are. That stated, no magic practice is original and no one has the rights to certain practices. They all originate from the same place and will come forth in whatever way fits the practitioner best.

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#22 Jevne

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:06 AM

Don't worry, you won't find many of the New Age variety here. A lot of us have no religious element to our practice.

I agree with what Whiterose said, this is a common practice in the New Age/Wiccan/Ne-Pagan group. I look at how they use deities from other cultures and am floored by how little respect they pay to their true meaning and history. Everything has become "white washed" in those paths to best suit their "love and light" agenda.


In all fairness, it is not just the fluffy :bunny3: types that have this problem. I know a few self-proclaimed Trads that feel free to beg, borrow, and steal without demonstrating any respect for the underlying current from which the aspect comes. When I responded with my distaste for the term, eclectic, this is what I was referring to. I am not personally opposed to someone using what is at hand, but I do have a problem with people who jump from one type of practice, pantheon, or magical anything to another without taking the time to truly learn about what they are dabbling in. I have my Path, but if I were searching, I would feel compelled to give a respectable amount of time to learning about the Path before claiming it as my own. For me, that means years of study and practice, not the magical equivalent of 10 minutes of effort, which is all some folks give.

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#23 Athena

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 08:03 AM

1344386215[/url]' post='129964']
I think some Native American practices are deeper than Native Americanism. I think they come from before. They are not owned by Native Americans. The Native American way of interacting with and describing these things is not the "right" way or the only way.

I am part Native American, but I don't think that is why I have certain rights. I think as a human and a citizen of this earth I have the right to make contact with the forces that have been here from before anyone crossed the Bering Straight.

I don't think a totem needs to always be a secret. I don't believe in many "always".

I think white men disrespect red man religion. And I think red men disrespect white men by claiming white men have no right to claim their birthrights.


I don't reallly think it matters what your race is as long as you show some respect for the religion or tradition you choose to follow. You can trace a lot of things back to a different time or place however each group puts their own spin and flavor in its traditions and taking that away from them seems a little cruel to me
I know plenty of NA who have no respect for there spiritual ancestors on the other hand I know many people of other races who have put in lots of time and learned all they can about NA spiritualism I would much rather they participate. That said I do know many elders who do not like outsiders sharing their path, I don't actually agree with that but to each their own.

The reason I feel you should keep your totem secret is the same reason many here keep things that are very personal to them secret it can give others the power to attack you or learn things you might not wish them to know. However if that isn't for you I'm ok with that I'm pretty much ok with any choices people make that are not going to cause me a problem lol.


I agree also that some types of racism work both ways, however I would like to point out that most tribal members feel this way because they feel they have had a lot stolen from them and they want to keep what little of their traditions they have left. On the other hand most whites I know who disrespect NA do so because eather they have deep seated prejudices like all NA are alcoholics or because they feel they should automatically have acsses to our spiritual practices and don't like the fact that in this culture you don't just get baptisied or something. I have been learning all my life and at 35 still am not considered a true medician woman. That is a title of respect I will work towards most of my life as it should be.
That said I still welcome anyone who truelly wants to learn, I believe the best way carry on these wounderfull traditions is to teach them to anyone who wants to actually learn them. On the other hand if it's someone who wants to pervert them into a bunch of new age bs I have no interest in seeing them turned into some weak watered down crap that takes no work to achieve..

Edited by Athena, 31 August 2012 - 08:09 AM.

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#24 ShadowKing

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 10:02 AM

I am curious about totem animals. I have had my own experience and I was quite shocked about the animal I was shown at the end of that particular journey, I'll give you guys a hint its stationary and plant-like but it is an animal think along the lines of a sea anemone, sea sponge or coral. I find myself really annoyed by people who think that a totem animal is only a select group of animals like bear, eagle, hawk, otter, etc and then comes up with a quasi-mystical correspondence to said animal. The totem is an important tool and more focus should be put on the wisdom it shows and the connection with nature it brings rather than the bragging rites you get. whether its a bear or a common garden slug.
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#25 Abraxia Thalgus

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 12:13 PM

When I was working near Uluru (Ayers Rock), the thought crossed my mind to go and visit it but I never did. I never had the desire and I felt I was kind of being 'pushed' away from it, definitely not welcome. Later I found out it was considered sacred men's business (for men only). Not only are women not welcome there, nobody should actually climb it. I think the reason I felt this was partly because I'm Aussie born, so have that connection to the land but also I'm more sensitive to the land/vibration that what a lot of people would be.

With regard to totems, power animals, god/esses, etc, I've always felt they won't work with anyone who does not show the proper respect for them or approach them in the right way. It can be so maddening at times, but really my only business is my own and what I am doing. If Joe Blow down the road wants to muck about and ends up getting zapped, that's their problem.

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#26 CrowMusings

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 06:31 PM

For me my totem animal is the one I identify with both internally and externally. The crow comes to me often, talks to me, pokes fun at me. My entire personality over the years has become more crow like, I collect crow things, I have crows on me at all times, everyone knows about my totem. My animal guides, the ones that help me when doing shamanic work are my own, they are internal only, what happens with them is always kept hidden, those are our secret journeys and their help to me is not my secret to tell as how my help to the person needing help is not their secret to tell.

That's the best way I can describe it for me, it's probably just a different use of the term totem and guide.

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#27 BirdieMcCloud

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:26 PM

I can see where the OP is coming from with getting frustrated about the use of the word and concept of 'totem.' I had a non-magically inclined friend who took some sort of college class on spirituality or something like that (it's been a while and my memory's fuzzy). She was initially interested but became both offended and weirded out the first day when the teacher told all the students to meditate and come up with their totem animal right there in the class.

When I heard that, I was appalled by the cultural appropriation, the non-chalant approach, the lack of respect to the practice and concept, the lack of respect to those students who were NOT comfortable with going outside their own religious practices....there was just a lot that was not right.

Sometimes I think 'white guilt' is responsible for this casualness with respect to what is a serious practice - it's viewed not as cultural appropriation and disrespectful, but as somehow inclusive and properly acknowledged in a clumsy, overeager attempt to be non-discriminatory. Like, "Hey, look, we can do it too, we're all the same here, isn't that great?"

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#28 Jevne

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 09:42 PM

No disrespect to anyone here or elsewhere, but I had an interesting conversation with a Native American woman in our town, who expressed annoyance with all of the people who claim to have a Native American Princess in their family line. According to her, there is no such thing as a Native American princess, as in many tribes, there is not even a corresponding word for this. A Chief's or Elder's daughter would not have been referred to as such. She did note, however, that in the 1970s young women, who applied for and earned some type of scholarship could use the title Princess, but such a designation is unheard of prior to that. I am not speaking to the veracity of her statements, but she was fairly adamant about it. I thought this was as good a place as any to mention it, if anyone of that heritage cares to comment.
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#29 Whiterose

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 10:28 PM

No disrespect to anyone here or elsewhere, but I had an interesting conversation with a Native American woman in our town, who expressed annoyance with all of the people who claim to have a Native American Princess in their family line. According to her, there is no such thing as a Native American princess, as in many tribes, there is not even a corresponding word for this. A Chief's or Elder's daughter would not have been referred to as such. She did note, however, that in the 1970s young women, who applied for and earned some type of scholarship could use the title Princess, but such a designation is unheard of prior to that. I am not speaking to the veracity of her statements, but she was fairly adamant about it. I thought this was as good a place as any to mention it, if anyone of that heritage cares to comment.


Related thread: http://www.tradition...as-you-see-fit/

I have heard that legend in my family as well, even though I realize its bullshit. It was actually quite common for tribal Chiefs to try to make peace with the local white folk by marrying off their daughters, from what I read. This all before the government claimed their land, tried to kill them off and banished the rest of them to nearly inhabitable places. This knowledge has prompted me to digging in to my family history to get the actual names of these people and places where they lived and grew up which is proving to be very difficult with the different NA tribes in my family. I have tracked one individual down but the others are proving difficult because they stem from early American history when records weren't so good. I think the white folk misunderstood their culture so much back then, they tried to pop them in to the mold of what they knew and hence, the mysterious Native American Princess myth was born.

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#30 Lynn

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 02:18 AM

Possibly it was a term used by white people to describe a chief's daughter, because they had no other word for it. I remember when I was a little girl--back in the 70s---and I was taken to a fourth of july celebration that our small town held every year that involved carnivals, parades, fireworks, and the whoile thing lasted about a week. Well, there was a group from a Mohawk tribe and they did some dances and then formed a circle and invited the people watching to join. My mom took me into the circle and I happened to be end up beside an elder NA woman and we were all holding hands. I remember stoling glances at her face but she would not look at me nor did she ever smile. I was a shy kid and stopped trying. Later my Mom told me, "you know honey, that was an Indian Princess you held hands with and danced with today."

So I think it was a term for a lack of a term in this case.I'll never forget it though, it made an impression on me and I've been fascinated by the culture ever since. I still remember how warm and dry her hand was and as an adult, I see her face as grim--but memory is a tricky thing and who knows? She may have been an ancient 30 yrs old from my little girl eyes! But at that point in time, and dealing with an all white small town, even as a visitor, I don't doubt she had reason to be grim.

Edited by Lynn, 25 June 2013 - 02:23 AM.

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#31 Athena

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 05:36 AM

I just have to respond to this because I think its a fairly common experiance especially with certain tribes. A lot of NA don't show tons of facial exp<b></b>ressi&#111;n or look blank to those who are unfamiliar, in some tribal customs smiling is considered almost inappropriate because its simaliar to a growl or gimice. Also most have customs about being calm and not showing outward emotions in places outside family settings. This is not true of every tribe and today you see it less but at powwows and ceremonies you deffinatly see it more because people want to pay respect to the ceremony. I know I have trouble with meeting people's eyes while talking, this along with smilining was considered challenging and disrespectful something I think happened because they lived so closely with large preditors that they revered so they emulated them. I could be wrong about that though its just my own little hypothesis. Its deffinatly not because they are unfeeling or angry interesting some NA actually smile when angry but most people are aware from the body launguage that its not a real smile.

In my own family me and my children actually growl at each other I'm not entirely sure that's normal lol but its what we do.

Edited by Athena, 25 June 2013 - 05:37 AM.

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#32 Theneva

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 12:25 AM

I understand you. I don't call my animal guides my totem at all. It would feel odd to me to have a totem animal. I have spirit guides which include but are not limited to animals. Thanks for bringing this up, I like you to note that I respect your traditions!


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#33 BriarCreek

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Posted 07 September 2013 - 08:04 PM

Okay, first let me say that I do not have a totem animal that I use in magic.  I have found that the older I get the more I work with the chaos energies and I don't need either the anchor or the guide (depending on which of my ancestors I draw from) to interfer with my workings.

 

Having said that I come from 5 different ancestries, all very different from the other but all of them blended to make me who I am today.  From the European side I have the French.  These ancestors of mine are probably the most colorful.  They embodied the term, wretched refuse.  These were the people who truly sucked at living and surviving back in France.  Even when they came here there were, for the most part, con artists and male whores.  No kidding, they slept with anything that moved.  Then there were the Welsh that came over from the mines in Wales and began to mine the lead in Wisconsin.  Then there were the Norwegian.  These were farmer's kids who were unfortunate enough to not be the eldest son so they could not inherit land.  They came here to the US to buy land to set up their own farms.  From the North American side of I have the Ojibwe, who were conned by the French to give up their daughters as wives to build unions.  The Ojibwe people are from the Eastern Woodland tribes.  They came here in search of the sacred food that grows on the water (or wild rice).  They live a semi-nomadic life moving from one seasonal village to the next.  Then there were the HoChunk, they married the Welsh miners because they were such good providers.  The Hochunk speak the Siouxian language, they are nomadic people of the plains that followed the game.  All of these people are very different and yet their decendents now live a life that is a blend of them all. 

 

If I was to speak of the HoChunk use of totems I would say that they are not secret at all.  You are born into a totem clan and with that have very special duties.  For example, if you are born into the wolf clan you are in charge of building houses and burying the dead.  If I build a house I need to have someone from the wolf clan check it out and give his approval.  If my cat dies I ask someone from the wolf clan how to go about burying it.  If I didn't know who was from what clan I could not go to the right person.  It is not only known but well known. 

 

The Ojibwe people do not cling to their totems as much, except in death or in certain aspects of their spirituality.  Such as people of the water totems (snakes and panthers) are buried different than people of the earth totems (bears and wolves).  They also will use their totem as a mark to say something is theirs.  Such as my sugar shack has the mark of my family's clan.  I didn't put it there but a member of the family did so if I pass away it will be able to be used by our clan.  It's not a secret so much as it's just not talked about as much as it is in the HoChunk people.  I mean in HoChunk you introduce yourself by stating your totem.  *Hi, I'm so and so, from the family so and so, from The Thunderbird clan.*

 

Okay, having said all of this I can understand why people get upset when people who don't understand a darn thing about totems suddenly say they have one.  "Oh, I have wolf as a totem."  Dang, here's my dead cat, please bury it.  And they don't get that is part of their duties if they have wolf as their totem.

 

Still, when I was in college I tried many different religions.  I tried Christianity and found that I was not allowed to go outside their docterine and question the virgin birth.  I tried Buddhism and found I could not question karma.  I tried Wiccan and I found out that I could not question the law of returns.  Most religions put tons of rules on me that seem to get in the way of practicing magic, especially since most of these rules have no basis in the way energy works.  So with that in mind, and because I come from such a blend of cultures myself, I don't care if someone wants to dress in black, wear black lipstick and say they have a wolf totem.  I promise I won't ask them to bury a darn thing (wolves from both my people are very down to earth and probably wouldn't wear black lipstick.  I would probably be able to tell the difference).  It won't change the way I raise energy or even some of my strange but tried and true religious beliefs.  I don't want to be like all these other religions that say "my way or the highway."  People do what feels right to them.  Personally I would like to see many more of them put down the books and find their own way but we each follow a path.  Some of us feel better if we are led down that path, no matter how many different religions and cultures we take from.  Others of us don't take from many cultures because we are following energy itself and there really isn't a path that we can follow. 

 

To each their own.  I hope they find the best way for them (but don't be surprised if I snicker at a wolf totem not buring my cat). 


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#34 Hagred

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 01:26 AM

I think you bring up an excellent point. In the "New Age movement" alot of traditions and cultures are seemingly basterdized as people in this movement blend beliefs and practises from many different cultures in to popular wicca or whatever other name they adopt to sound more ligit. The Native American traditions are no exception. Their beliefs have been ripped off the same as the beliefs of ancient greece, hinduism, buddism, many native african religions, freemasonry and other lodge type systems, chinese medicine and many others.

Now with that said, I work with a spirit animal representation but I do not call it a totem as I feel that term belongs to the NA system. I could use it, but I feel that is disrespectful as I am decended more from the "white man" than the Native Americans and I wasn't brought up in that system. Great topic.

This is so true, and many do not do any research on these traditions in order to enrich thier own paths.  This brings to mind a quote (I don't remember where from): A young "white" man goes to see a Native American elder asking him to teach him the NA path.  The elder answers "Young man, first go and make peace with your ancestors then we can talk". An incredibly wise answer!  I feel deep roots have been cut off from under our feet in Western culture through centuries of persecution and brain washing by the Church, leaving a lor of folk groping in the dark. 


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#35 Jevne

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 06:23 PM

Another thread with a power animal connection.
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#36 MaryElizabeth

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 07:45 PM

Related thread: http://www.tradition...as-you-see-fit/

I have heard that legend in my family as well, even though I realize its bullshit. It was actually quite common for tribal Chiefs to try to make peace with the local white folk by marrying off their daughters, from what I read. This all before the government claimed their land, tried to kill them off and banished the rest of them to nearly inhabitable places. This knowledge has prompted me to digging in to my family history to get the actual names of these people and places where they lived and grew up which is proving to be very difficult with the different NA tribes in my family. I have tracked one individual down but the others are proving difficult because they stem from early American history when records weren't so good. I think the white folk misunderstood their culture so much back then, they tried to pop them in to the mold of what they knew and hence, the mysterious Native American Princess myth was born.

 

One of the key things to understand, though, is that Native American cannot just be viewed as a monolith, there are hundreds of nations within that categorization, it extends from the Inuit peoples to the Mayas, Incas, Aztecs, etc. So, where there was an empire system (south and central america) there were women who were princesses. For North American Indigenous peoples there were really no empires at the time of contact with white settlers. (not that you don't get that, just waned to have a reminder in the thread that there are nuances)

 

The whole myth of the Cherokee Princess also stems in part from miscegenation laws in the US. Miscegenation laws did not always apply to Native Americans. It was less socially stigmatizing to claim Indigenous ancestry than African.  Plus, the Cherokee Nation was seen as the most "civilized" of all the nations in north america. 

 

The other part is that for many Eastern Woodlands Nations (Specifically, for my purposes let's look at Algonquian nations, like Powhatans of which Pocahontas' father was chief) power descended matrilineally. That made zero sense to English settlers. They had no idea how the power structures worked, they claimed Pocahontas was a princess because her father was, effectively, king (he had control over at least 8 tribes, about 20,000 people). However her father had many many many children, and the fact that we don't know anything about Pocahontas' mother almost certainly means that her mother has no political or military sway. (For further reading on the topic I recommend Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma by Camilla Townsend)


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#37 Whiterose

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 09:21 PM

One of the key things to understand, though, is that Native American cannot just be viewed as a monolith, there are hundreds of nations within that categorization, it extends from the Inuit peoples to the Mayas, Incas, Aztecs, etc. So, where there was an empire system (south and central america) there were women who were princesses. For North American Indigenous peoples there were really no empires at the time of contact with white settlers. (not that you don't get that, just waned to have a reminder in the thread that there are nuances)

 

The whole myth of the Cherokee Princess also stems in part from miscegenation laws in the US. Miscegenation laws did not always apply to Native Americans. It was less socially stigmatizing to claim Indigenous ancestry than African.  Plus, the Cherokee Nation was seen as the most "civilized" of all the nations in north america. 

 

The other part is that for many Eastern Woodlands Nations (Specifically, for my purposes let's look at Algonquian nations, like Powhatans of which Pocahontas' father was chief) power descended matrilineally. That made zero sense to English settlers. They had no idea how the power structures worked, they claimed Pocahontas was a princess because her father was, effectively, king (he had control over at least 8 tribes, about 20,000 people). However her father had many many many children, and the fact that we don't know anything about Pocahontas' mother almost certainly means that her mother has no political or military sway. (For further reading on the topic I recommend Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma by Camilla Townsend)

 

I realize that there are many, many different tribes of peoples in North America and they all have different societal rules.  We also have to remember that there were no written records for these peoples, for the most part before the census rolls in the 1800's  and the inner workings of their society were not apparent to white peoples as they were considered outsiders.  They have much in common with craft families in that regard.  You do make a good point that the Cherokee were considered more civilized among native peoples, especially over the those of African decent and that may have something to do with the fact that had their own written language, even if only fairly recently.  This, though, unfortunately, didn't keep them safe from those who would covet their land and hence were persecuted with anyone non "landowning, protestant white". 

 

This is also why if you are not part of their culture and society, tracking your native family history can be, and most often is unfruitful, due to the lack of written records, differences in social hierarchy and the forced movement and persecution of native peoples. 

 

But, anyway, this is a rant on totems and cultural appropriation.  

 

I do believe that "abilities" run in Native families as well as in people's of other races. Native peoples, though, have a tendency to cherish and hold them sacred, versus fearing and persecuting them.  This, I think, is the allure many people now have towards native culture; people like "us" (witches as defined by an affinity with the otherworld ) are acceptable to them. In their need to be accepted, new age witches/spiritualists don't understand that they are stealing and bastardizing a culture that they didn't earn through birth or interaction with those people and they are most likely part of that culture which persecuted them to begin with, which is very insulting.  It would be like Christians claiming to be witches without understanding anything about the particular tribe/coven of witches they are trying to connect themselves with. It pisses people off. Oh wait, that has already happened the us. #christian witches. 


Edited by Whiterose, 13 February 2014 - 09:24 PM.

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#38 Jevne

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 01:14 AM

. . . . In their need to be accepted, new age witches/spiritualists don't understand that they are stealing and bastardizing a culture that they didn't earn through birth or interaction with those people and they are most likely part of that culture which persecuted them to begin with, which is very insulting.  It would be like Christians claiming to be witches without understanding anything about the particular tribe/coven of witches they are trying to connect themselves with. It pisses people off. Oh wait, that has already happened the us. #christian witches. 

 

I do not like to hold individuals or even groups of people liable for ignorance within their ancestral past.  Some in my family tree committed unthinkable acts by today's standards, such as being slave traders and owner, just as example.  But, I very much agree with this comment by Whiterose.  I love learning about different cultures, practices, and peoples, but I am not going to lay claim to their Traditions without ample amounts of earned respect. 


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#39 Sinnergy

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 01:23 AM

No disrespect to anyone here or elsewhere, but I had an interesting conversation with a Native American woman in our town, who expressed annoyance with all of the people who claim to have a Native American Princess in their family line. According to her, there is no such thing as a Native American princess, as in many tribes, there is not even a corresponding word for this. A Chief's or Elder's daughter would not have been referred to as such. She did note, however, that in the 1970s young women, who applied for and earned some type of scholarship could use the title Princess, but such a designation is unheard of prior to that. I am not speaking to the veracity of her statements, but she was fairly adamant about it. I thought this was as good a place as any to mention it, if anyone of that heritage cares to comment.


I can only speak about a coworker who was a NA princess of the Powohatan tribe, up until 2000. It was a title given to the female dancers/ tribal ambassadors. They also have a version of some of tribes that is like the U. S. girl scouts.

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#40 Sinnergy

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 04:21 AM

Totems is a NA word in orgin but I never took it to be exclusively a NA term. I can understand Athena's frustration and respect your point of view, for you have a deeper understanding of the culture than so many will ever know.

Totem is used to describe many cultures with animal conections. One of recent news stories is about the Denver museum returing totems to Kenya. I have not seen it as disrespect so much as a term readily known to US audiences. I wonder if the term fetishes would have headed a UK article.

I think it's misguided to think something is your spirit animal cause it's cool. To me without a deeper connection that requires work; it's simply that a cool animal. To me it's deeper than just a new age thing, a huge part of the non fiction market is self help. I 'm robably too jaded, but I blame alot of the basterdization on the quest to have the next self help best seller. Equally quilty is anyone who wants the results without the work, jumping from fad to fad for a cure all.

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