Two New Documentaries on Native Stereotypes & German Cultural Appropriation-Ours Hits the Reality for Natives

For those of you in Canada, you should be able to check out this documentary debuting on Jan. 28th on CBC Docs. It follows Drew Hayden Taylor’s “search” in Germany on the “why” of hobbyism. I was invited to write a counter-point essay that will be published next week at CBC, and have a small part in the film.

Our film, which is the “flip side”, on natives living Germany, the repercussions and realities of how appropriation and Native stereotypes heavily affects their life, etc. very different from occasional visitors or contract performers, debuts on Feb. 11th. Forget Winnetou- A Documentary Film at the Delphi Theater in Berlin.

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2 thoughts on “Two New Documentaries on Native Stereotypes & German Cultural Appropriation-Ours Hits the Reality for Natives

  1. One of the reasons that Natives living abroad are shut out of their cultures, is the same reason that Native Americans living off their reservations, are also being rejected by membership on reservations is the POWER struggle going on. Our reservation has about 6,500 members that live on the reservation and about 11,000 that live off. But i would say that one of the real reasons is the lost of traditional native america beliefs and religion. On are reservation there are about 17 or more different religions, than are traditional religion. Probably only about 3% practice traditional native religion, so after thousands of years most tribes like ours have lost their spirits and souls.

    • Not all of the Natives living abroad are shut out of their cultures. There are many misconceptions, rumors, gossip, very judgmental attitudes which are circulated, but not much of it is from personal knowledge or conversation with them. Many confuse Natives who travel abroad for work as performers, for those who live abroad quietly, just going about life. They may be there by choice or circumstances. Back home, Natives only hear circulating stories of those getting rich at shows, etc. or those who collaborate with non-Natives to sell ceremonies or other unacceptable practices. That’s flashier and juicer, so that’s what is remarked on and believed as ALL natives abroad are like that. There are Natives who live here, for example, and as will be shown in my documentary, who may live abroad but who are very close spiritually and personally with their tribe and relatives. This is by need, necessity and for some, strongly reciprocated. They visit as often as they can, and maintain ties. Exactly as in my article at CBC, no one ever talks or asks about them.

      So actually one of the main reasons some other natives or young Natives especially, may get shut out of their cultures is because other Natives shut them out. It is done deliberately. Many I’ve met here in Germany or even back in the States where I worked in Indian Ed programs, usually had fathers who were Native, and abandoned them after they broke up with the non-Native mother. The kids are left in limbo, rejected by their fathers, and then in turn by the native relatives, though they didn’t ask to be in this circumstance. These are two examples, but of course, as I mentioned above there are those who do or want to, and help as much as they can with Native issues here and in North America. They don’t go along with the appropriation or work as “Indian” performers either, and I am not downing that choice. That’s an individual’s to make. But then they get attacked by Native performers feeling sensitive because they are performers for non-Natives, AND also by Natives back home. In society, on top of it these residing Natives are invisible or derided because they are not the stereotypes the performers reinforce. Some of the older Natives I know who don’t go back home, don’t do so because they’ve been poorly treated by Native relatives because of where they chose to live. Some are emotionally reclusive because of criticism on all sides when they’ve done nothing wrong at all. They just chose to live outside North America, for a short or longer time.

      The shut-out is occurring because Natives are letting it, those with the power of a kind, who make the choice to reject relatives because of their being away. They are voluntarily choosing to see their traditions and cultures die instead of embracing those want who want to and need to be embraced. It is the tribes choice, however, but a kind of indirect disenrollment or dis-memberment. Like the phrase, “Native languages are being lost”, I am more exact on terms, as a writer and a psychologist who is working to specialize on native trauma: it is not being lost, like traditions and cultures aren’t necessarily being lost. In this case, it is a lock-out, and choice. As far as traditional goes, that is not the traditional way of belief and treatment of offspring and relatives for many native nations until greater interaction with Europeans who were stridently separatism of perceived “pure”. That is a part of the cycle of genocide, self-imposed, acceptance of non-Native mentalities and dictation.

      I’ve been called “enemy” and “sell-out” by some of the same people who remark on how nice it is Native performers are representing at circuses and entertainment venues, but I teach sometimes on contemporary native cultures in university lectures and schools. I practice traditional teachings I’ve learned and been taught since I was a small child, but I don’t dance in public for other people. I and others have been angrily yelled at and told, “You’re not doing anything to help other natives. You’re just living for yourself!” And they don’t even know what we do or don’t do. They just assume. I’ve been told I deserve no support because I don’t live in my homeland when I came only to Germany for my son’s medical care. Should I have let him die to satisfy some Natives idea that you can only be loyal to your people if you are living down the street from them? It is very hard to be away, it is sacrifice and some family and friends have passed and I couldn’t even be there, yet I have Natives assuming ugly stuff, and spreading it about as fact. I’m not alone in having that happen. I try not to let it bother me, because I know some of the collective trauma and issues behind it, but it does seriously hurt many younger Natives I know. It still does hurt me when I hear it sometimes, or when you get pointedly ignored, but I remind myself I am not doing anything for me, what I do is for the People. All the People, all our children. You do that work from wherever you happen to be. If the tribes shut out other Natives, even relatives from connecting and learning, it is not something just being lost. It is a choice to let it be gone.

      I was invited by CBC to write a counterpoint essay to the recent “Searching for Winnetou” documentary. I address some of this there http://www.cbc.ca/cbcdocspov/blog/native-hobbyism-is-modern-day-colonialism

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