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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7 Comments on “Appropriation Vs. Rewilding”

  1. “We’re all indigenous somewhere.” – Blackfire, Dine’ punk band

  2. I think that accusing rewilders of cultural appropriation is just another way civilization tries to keep its hooks in us.

    Anyway, indigenous peoples have long said that if we want to learn their cultures we have to live like them. So then we… try to live like them… and get accused by whites of appropriation? Uh, no, I’ll take indigenous advice here, thanks–you don’t get Non-Racist Brownie Points by speaking for them.

    Although, more to the point, if I adopted indigenous technology it wouldn’t be to become part of X tribe unless they specifically invited me to do so–it would be so I would be able to survive in a particular watershed/biome/whatever. The way you survive at the juncture of, say, the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers is not to behave as though you live on the Thames or the Hudson, it’s by looking at people who naturalized living at the juncture of the Olentangy and Scioto and imitating what THEY did.

    This is what used to annoy me about Neopagans–still does, really. Along with the fact they’re largely apologists for agriculture and civilization, just not Abrahamic civilization, they also talk a great game about respecting Nature and yet do not know how to be where they are. I am not in the Northlands of Europe so I’m not going to celebrate Yule. I’m not in Egypt so there’s no need for me to worship dung beetles. And if I’m in the Southern Hemisphere, all the seasons are opposite! They at least grok that last part sometimes… but they’re not quite *there* yet.

    They also say animism isn’t a religion, even though they understand that the original meaning of “religion” is “re-linking,” to whatever you perceive as divine or sacred. Do tell…

  3. Well spoken Brother,
    These skills are universal truths…and they belong to all peoples.

  4. Another thing that bothers me is when people accuse me of wanting to go backwards in time

  5. Alright, Scout, I follow you on this, but this brings me to the question, why did you feel so inclined to learn a native language? I can see why you would if there was a population where you live that speaks this language, but I don’t see why it helps in the rewilding process.