Home | Contents | Photos | News | Reviews | Store | Forum | ICI | Educators | Fans | Contests | Help | FAQ | Info

Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

The Path of the Feather: A shamanic journey, medicine wheels and spirit animals

The Path of the Feather is about becoming a shaman through your own life as a vision quest.

The Path of the Feather as a teaching, is about becoming a contemporary shaman by seeing and hearing the voices of the living earth. It is about finding out who you are by making medicine wheels and listening to the voices of the spirit animals and ancient ones. It is about you living your ordinary life as your vision quest, as your shamanic journey. It is about you becoming one who sees and one who heals the earth with intent.

This shamanic journey is your personal story of transformation, empowerment, and healing. The Path of the Feather is about your journey right now, embodying the sacred in the simplest ways. Here, the shaman's journey is not presented as something that is unusual or foreign, it is about seeing the earth as sacred, and living your life as sacred, from where you are now. It is about seeing yourself as a shaman, about seeing who you are on earth and what you are about to do. It is about personal transformation, about opening your eyes and awakening.

Rob's reply
The site continues in this vein. I wrote the following to the Path of the Feather's owner, quoting from the site:

To Michael Samuels,

>> You have a right to it. What you learn though your own experience is yours. It belongs to no tribe. <<

But you aren't teaching people only about their own experiences. You're also teaching them about beliefs and objects that are sacred to Native people.

>> None of the material in this book was taken from first nations peoples without permission. Shaman who shared information with us did so specifically so that we could share it with you. They told us that the time has come for this to be available to everyone. <<

I hope you identify these shamans in your book. It would help if you identified them on your site, also. As you may know, there are a lot of phony "shamans" out there.

>> We know that some first nations peoples do not want the terms shaman and medicine wheel used by non- first nations peoples. They have told us that they feel it is being stolen from them like the land. We are sorry that they associate our saying the earth is sacred with the way our ancestors treated them. <<

I doubt they're upset about your saying the earth is sacred. I suspect they're upset about your teaching about things like medicine wheels or medicine bags as if you know about them from firsthand experience. If you're not Native yourself, one has to wonder what experience you have with them.

If you simply like the concept of a medicine wheel, why not call your version a "magic circle" or something similar? Using the term "medicine wheel" implies you're teaching a genuine Native belief or concept. It's misleading at best unless you're a Native person from a tribe that uses and believes in medicine wheels. Then the question arises whether "your" tribe wants you disseminating or selling this information. The answer is probably no.

Rob Schmidt (non-Native)

Samuels might say he doesn't need to understand shamanism, medicine wheels, or vision quests if his sources have informed him fully and accurately. But even if they have, is he correct? Would you learn brain surgery from someone without a medical degree who had merely talked to a few brain surgeons before writing a how-to manual? The situations are analogous.

Related links
Book says Native faith is based on "shamanism"
New Age mystics, healers, and ceremonies
Shamans, medicine men, or priests?

* More opinions *
  Join our Native/pop culture blog and comment
  Sign up to receive our FREE newsletter via e-mail
  See the latest Native American stereotypes in the media
  Political and social developments ripped from the headlines

. . .

Home | Contents | Photos | News | Reviews | Store | Forum | ICI | Educators | Fans | Contests | Help | FAQ | Info

All material © copyright its original owners, except where noted.
Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

Copyrighted material is posted under the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act,
which allows copying for nonprofit educational uses including criticism and commentary.

Comments sent to the publisher become the property of Blue Corn Comics
and may be used in other postings without permission.