Appropriation Vs. Rewilding
A few (always white) people have attacked me as a cultural appropriator. If I learned a Lakota song, recorded it and sold it to others, that works as cultural appropriation. If I make a fire using a bow-drill, that doesn’t count as appropriation because it represents a piece of technology widely distributed around the world and carries no dogmatic cultural practice with it. I don’t benefit financially from the sale of particular indigenous traditional cultural practices. You won’t see me sell a line of Traditional Chanupa Pipes.
If I made a traditional NW Coast mask, in their particular artistic style, that would look like cultural appropriation. But I will talk about how the NW Coast cultures encouraged biodiversity through their perception of, and practices with, the land. I will talk about how we can restore this relationship in our own way using the same practices. You cannot call that appropriation.
Many indigenous authors/teacher, such as Martin Prechtel and Gilbert Walking Bull have always explained that no one owns these skills. Martin says that everyone has an indigenous soul and that our culture works to destroy it. Now, that doesn’t mean I practice particular, long-standing traditions of a particular indigenous people (such as the potlatch), but that I study their systems and create my own using the same principles.
For example Brian and I led a sweat lodge at our A-Team Camp. That does not count as cultural appropriation because we didn’t use any particular native culture songs/themes. Cultures from around the world use sweat lodges. You sit in a little room with hot rocks in the middle and pour water on them. We also call it a steam bath. The basic principle here involves sweating out toxins to cleanse yourself. Now if you dress it with Lakota songs, and have no Lakota ancestry, that works as appropriation. If you make up your own songs or sing the songs of your own culture (I like Cat Stevens “If You Want to Sing Out”) than you have started to rewild.
This subject has a lot of emotion in it from many parties. Cultural appropriation has really destroyed and further disrespected indigenous cultures effected by civilization. Rewilding does not mean appropriating native cultures, it means respectfully learning from them and honoring their long-standing traditions so that we can reestablish a sustainable relationship with the land.
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