Do you think you are "Indian at heart" or were an Indian in a past life? Do you admire native ways and want to incorporate them into your life and do your own version of a sweat lodge or a vision quest? Have you seen ads, books, and websites that offer to train you to be come a shaman in an easy number of steps, a few days on the weekend, or for a fee?
Have you really thought this all the way through? Have you thought about how native people feel about what you might want to do?
Please think about these important points before you take that fateful step and expend time, money, and emotional investment:
Native people DO NOT believe it is ethical to charge money for any ceremony or teaching. Any who charge you even a penny are NOT authentic.
Native traditionalists believe the ONLY acceptable way to transmit traditional teachings is orally and face-to-face. Any allegedly traditional teachings in books or on websites are NOT authentic.
Learning medicine ways takes decades and must be done with great caution and patience out of respect for the sacred. Any offer to teach you all you need to know in a weekend seminar or two is wishful thinking at best, fraud at worst.
Most of these FRAUDULENT operators are not the slightest bit reputable. Some, such as Robert "Ghostwolf" AKA Robert Franzone and Forrest Carter, have actually been convicted of fraud. Some are sexual predators who prey upon their followers. "Sun Bear" AKA Vincent La Duke was a serial rapist who was facing numerous charges when he died, including the rape of girls as young as fourteen.
Women should be extremely wary of any " teacher" who claims sex is part of an alleged "ceremony." Most of these FRAUDULENT operators have been caught making complete fantasies of what many whites WISH natives were like. Another way to say it is that they are outright liars and hoaxers. Some, like Carlos Castaneda, were exposed as long as three decades ago.
You probably are asking yourself, "Aren't any of these people for real and a good way for me to learn?"
We (native people and our supporters) realize that most of you do not know any better, at least not yet, but we hope you learn about these matters from more reputable sources and in a more respectful manner.
If it says New Age or Shamanism on the cover, it's not a good source for learning about natives. Find out which authors can be trusted before you pay money to operators who harm us all.
Please understand the following points about native spiritual ways:
Native belief systems are COMMUNAL, not focused on the individual's faith like Christianity, and are TRIBE-SPECIFIC. There is NO "generic Indian" form of spirituality. There are as many differences from tribe to tribe as there are between Hinduism and the Church of England. No one would think of teaching those two as the same and calling them "Indo-European," yet many of these FRAUDULENT operators teach a thrown together mishmash of bits and pieces of different beliefs.
TRADITIONAL elders are very cautious about changing rituals and mixing different customs, it does happen, of course, but only after lengthy discussions that can take decades. FRAUDULENT operators are very casual and haphazard in what they do, in a manner that shows they have no understanding of or respect for the sacred.
TRADITIONAL elders DO NOT believe that any ceremony can be done by anyone who feels like it. It's that same caution and respect for the sacred. Yet these FRAUDULENT operators will let anyone do their inaccurate version of a ceremony if they have the money. Vision quests, for example, are intended for young boys age 12 to 14, but boys don't have much money, so these FRAUDULENT operators sell "quests" for hundreds or thousands to mostly middle-aged men and women.
There is also the matter of telling people they can be shamans and charging them for it. If you were interested in Judaism, would you pay money to someone who said he could make you a rabbi in just one weekend seminar? If someone did this and then claimed Jewish objections were foolish, we would recognize he was anti-Semitic. Think about the lack of respect these operators show to native people and beliefs, and to their own followers, by defrauding people.
Native people DO NOT use the label "Shaman."
Think also about how it makes it harder for natives and whites to get along when whites have been given an untrue picture of native cultures. We have to learn to get along and we can't do that as long as whites give support to operators who push a fraudulent version of what we are like.