I’m currently finishing Spirits of Blood, Spirits of Breath by Barbara Alice Mann, which was published in 2016 by Oxford University Press. While it has many, many, many truths the majority of the non-native world, academicians, scholars, so-called experts and others have overlooked, ignored or missed, there is some which some natives don’t or only minimally know, also. Not excluding myself from some of that reality either. Much of it I was aware of or had learned on some level, but some, not in depth at all.
Yet for this post in particular, and considering the situation at the camps at Standing Rock who remain determined in the face of what others might see as overwhelming odds, the challenges of interpretation of native motives has always been an issue since Europeans first invaded. Misinterpretation is the more apt word, but the interpretations and labels placed on natives and native behavior, beliefs or traditions, especially by self-termed allies or “friends” has been problematic, arguably even as much as outright mendacity. It can all serve the same purpose in the end.
“The dangers of native enthusiasm and interpretation in translation of native concepts by non-natives (sometimes with natives facilitating this) has led to some of the greatest massacres and aggressive response by the USA military. Wounded Knee was a response to interpretation and sensationalization by those who returned from a Ghost Dance (Wovoka, Paiute). While (textbook) history does say the US feared the Ghost Dance Movement, they only knew more about it as scholars interpreted it as a “Messianic” movement and military deployed to kill.”
Similarly, the dangers of fabrications, lies and sensationalization such as we’ve seen at Standing Rock, the fearmongering, rumors and gossips on both sides of the DAPL issue has been the cause of much unrest, trauma and turmoil, even if one side may consider themselves pro-Standing Rock. It can be seen to serve the same purpose of villification and reduction in the eyes of the “corrupted” law, especially as arrested and arraigned water protectors are now facing trials.
“The myth these scholars started was that Wovoka wished to replace Jesus with himself, which was nothing of the sort. And these things were written by enthusiasts/experts on “Indians”, even making themselves spokesmen, to detrimental, deadly effect even while they were making a name for themselves who, since they got the natives killed, had no or few to gainsay. “Friend” of the people. Why are natives so wary? This is why.”
Barbara Alice Mann goes on to debunk the origin of the Bering Strait theory using their own reasoning, the myth that natives were all fighting each other anyway, that they were sworn enemies, the reality of how missionary Christianity and Catholicism were the main components of native genocide and ethnocide, particularly deadly to sacred ones such as medicine people, women’s societies and two-spirits (using the modern intertribal term). Full review coming soon for NAIS, Native American Indigenous Studies Association.
I classify this an essential read for Native American/Indigenous Students students, natives and non-natives alike, but particularly for anyone who believes any of the myths about the original peoples of Turtle Island. Some of which they likely do not realize as such, and have accepted as fact. This book is classified widely as one pertaining to religion, but that’s again an interpretation of non-natives. Spirituality is inseparable from traditional native life, cultures and traditions. So this is about NATIVES, past and present. Simply that.
To learn much more about “U.S. Colonial Policies Impacting Indigenous Spirituality & Sacred Sites”, because yes, ethnocide & genocide of the original peoples of Turtle Island is still ongoing, please visit Indigenous Action Media.