Understanding Your Own Culture

Cultural Appropriation

Kim Recalma-Clutesi, Kwak waka 'wakw

While this shared information creates a greater understanding between people, there is also the danger of getting things mixed up by appropriating another's cultural and spiritual practices, bringing them home and making them your own. Thus begins the melding of the distinct nations of the Aboriginal people, the creation of the pan-Indian, the hybrid. 

 The people we've interviewed for Buffalo Spirit warn against this appropriation. Learn from your own people, use their teachings, find your identity within your own tribal group.

The difficulty is unraveling people's belief systems from what they've learned in text, from ethnographical material, and in the recovery centres that often use sweats, smudging and other spiritual practices of the plains people to aid in the healing process.

"There is a school of thought out there that if it's helping people, leave it alone. But there is a stronger school of thought from people who are technicians within the culture, how many of us would wash our feet in the holy water? It's akin to that. It's that serious. For some reason we are supposed to forget the rules to help people. But in a lot of ways, they said, forgetting the rules is very dangerous, because these things come as part of supernatural energy. If we are going to have the discipline to know who we are, we need to have the respect to turn the temperature down in our discussions with each other. To respect each other and to respect those people who actually own the teachings. "

Chief Adam Dick, - Kwak waka ‘wakw

"What's happening now with my people is that they're lost. They don't know who they are now. They don't know what kind they belong to. The problem is what we call long arms. You know they will reach into other people's boxes and they play with it. And they do lots of that. I have seen one of our boys where he has regalia on, everything on and dance like your people (plains people), wearing all the Indian blankets and everything. They want to dance like your people back there. There was a powwow and he was right in there with his outfit on. That we don't do."


Mary Thomas, Shuswap

"My grandmother used to lead the sweat. And this is what I find so different today; what the young people are doing today. They are borrowing from other nations and doing it. And that was something our Elders warned me. You don't borrow from other people's spirituality, because you don't understand it. Look at what the Catholic Church did to us. We don't understand that spirituality, and it's destroyed us. So if you borrow from other nations and try to follow it, it's not yours. Be very careful, she cautioned, adding, "respect other people's belief, and respect what they do. They will respect you for the way you believe. "

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