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Stolen Indigenous Holidays and Practices

Some people like to whine about cultural appropriation, how anglo western culture has stolen or wiped out indigenous religions wherever it goes. Well, it is true: the western Christian behemoth has eliminated or appropriated the cultures of every people it has come into contact with - starting with the Romans! How many Christian holidays are swiped from pre-christian indigenous religions? Lots!

Let's start with Christmas. Lambing season in Palestine isn't in December, but the heathen festival of Yule sure was. The tree, the presents, the candles? Yep, all cultural appropriation. Easter, has many of the spring fertility rites of the prechristian Europeans grafted on to it, many not even barely disguised, plus stealing a chunk from Passover itself. Lots of "saints" used to be indigenous deities - like Brigid, for example.

I could dig up more examples.

So, when I get accused of "cultural appropriation" by people who celebrate things like Christmas and Easter (mostly stolen holidays and wholesale cultural appropriation), I have to laugh. My bloodlines are European, AFAIK, so if anything I should be screaming about "How dare you take my holidays and rituals and practice them!! They're only for people of *my* bloodline!!" - I'm entitled by blood to celebrate Yule, and other German, Danish, French, Welsh, and Irish indigenous holidays - and arguably new world "natives" *aren't*, regardless of how they're dressed up as "Christian".

Now, I don't approve of wholesale cultural appropriation from indigenous people. After all, my people were the victims of it first, as well as being the first to suffer the missionaries and the political or forced conversions. Don't believe me? Do a little research on the Christianization of Denmark and Ireland. I really am insulted by people who assume that since I'm not new world indigenous, I'm a tool of the Christian machine. Just because Europeans got borged first doesn't mean we like it (if we become aware of how much has been lost.) Some of us feel that we've lost so much we have to reinvent our religion out of whole cloth for the modern era, adding back in the little pieces of our past that we can find. At least it's honest in its newness, and it makes no claim on blood and bone.

But I have to ask: which is the greater loss -
a) a few idiots misappropriating a few rituals, but the general culture and religion surviving mostly intact by respectful sharing and documentation that says "we do it this way, and this is why, this is how you respect our land", or
b) what happened in europe, the indigenous religions being stolen wholesale, mangled beyond casual recognition, or slaughtered, demonized and forgotten, leaving its descendents to try to piece it back together from archaeological finds and distorted accounts by outsiders?

I would say to native americans, whatever else you do, make a history now! Record your verbal knowledge, language and rituals for your descendents. Yes, some doofus will probably get ahold of it and cherry pick a little. But the corpus of knowledge and culture will be preserved for those who come thousands of years after you. It's better to have things recorded/written in your words, from your perspective, than as the observations of an outsider who is clueless about the real meaning. As someone whose "native" religion is buried under centuries of distortion, elimination and misappropriation by the domianant culture, I beg you to not condemn your descendents to the same thing.

BTW, I consider that the Christian behemoth's generification of so much of Europe and elimination of knowledge of our indigenous gods and culture is part and parcel of the social malaise that simmers under the surface of our society.

Yes, people will get annoyed with this, but it's my journal and I'll call it like I see it. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy, regardless of how politically correct it is. If you don't want teenage fluffies stealing your deities and rites, don't be a hypocrite and celebrate Christmas, Yule, or Easter (unless you have european blood).



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 8th, 2006 12:41 am (UTC)
Well put. Had a minor disagreement with a NA friend once, over the sweat lodge thing. I solved that argument with one word .... "sauna". Him, shuffling feet and stammering a bit, "Oh, yeah, I guess I'll have to give you that one." I agree that it's extremely important for indiginous people everywhere to put stuff down in writing, tape, whatever media, in their own words, before it's lost, distorted, misappropriated, whatever. And I resent like hel, the fact that our own northern European culture was pretty much destroyed by xianity, and that the dregs are, to this day, put down by scholars as being somehow inferior to the culture of the Mediterranean peoples. I'd add a rant but you've pretty well said it all.
Jul. 8th, 2006 02:36 am (UTC)
And I resent like hel, the fact that our own northern European culture was pretty much destroyed by xianity, and that the dregs are, to this day, put down by scholars as being somehow inferior to the culture of the Mediterranean peoples.

Very true. In a way, my current interest in NA affairs is partly driven by the facts of what happened to the northern European cultures, and not wanting others to pay as steep a price. Europeans have been mostly Christianized since the 12th century. The North American peoples didn't start to be missionaried until the 15th century, and the printing press was invented in the same decade.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianization, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Christian_missions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press
Jul. 8th, 2006 02:33 am (UTC)
I'm sorry you feel this way.
Jul. 8th, 2006 02:53 am (UTC)
Double standards *always* piss me off. NAs are not the first to be robbed.

If you read some of the sheer crap that passes for scholarship about the indigenous Europeans, and realized that people are talking about *your* people, you'd be pissed too. Then some other culture comes along and says "no, you're Christians now, you can't have *any* indigenous culture or knowledge - even your own".

Do you know how many of the dialects of the indigenous Celts or Angles are still spoken as active languages today? More people speak latin or dine.

If you chose to unfriend me and stay that way, fine, but I can't truly respect any culture/lifeway/religion that won't respect mine. And mine is not Christian, but yet another grease spot on the Roman Christian road of conquest.

NAs are *not* the only peoples whose ways have been appropriated. At least it's only the lunatic fringe that steals yours, not an entire multistate religion.
Jul. 8th, 2006 02:59 am (UTC)
No one ever said we were the only ones. It's all about respect. I respect what flows in your blood, and what you choose to follow. But seeing entries like this on my friends list makes me want to cry, because I truely respected you as a strong woman I could look up to. Maybe you don't see it, but there's things in your post that were just downright mean. I'm sorry.
Jul. 8th, 2006 03:29 am (UTC)
Like what? I've said nothing to others that hasn't been siad in the other direction to me, only with much greater insult behind it.

I see a lot of demands for respect coming *from* the NA community, but I see primarily insults and derision aimed at the people trying to rebuild the pre-christian religions of Europe - "Wiccan/Pagan/Ecclectic/SilverravenWolf" used as a broad brush insult.

How is it mean to call tribalists on their hypocrisy? How is it mean to encourage native peoples to write it down, and preserve their own ways and history in their own words before it dies or is absorbed? Is it mean to tell the truth? Is it mean to ask tribalists (ie people who want their culture "reserved" only for their own blood kin) to practice what they preach?

Did you know that there are tribalist heathens, too? People who take the (IMO racist) opinion that unless you have the blood of the people where your religion comes from (i.e. Germany, Scandenavia, Ireland), you aren't allowed to practice that religion? That if you're not Danish, you can't be allowed to practice the rituals of Danish heathenry? How is the NA view *not* racist, when the other is? It's the same thing!!

This diatribe isn't aimed at you, because at least you are willing to think and explain you own viewpoint, and you have not been hypocritical. That's why I made the post public - because I didn't think that nativeamerican was an appropriate place to discuss my reaction to the attitudes.
Jul. 8th, 2006 03:29 am (UTC)
You've given me lots to think about. :-D Thanks!
Jul. 14th, 2006 09:17 pm (UTC)
You Go Gurl<G>!
Excellent rant. Couldn't have said it better(or as well-mannered. I tend to be a touch "mean-spirited";>).
Double Standards, IMMHO ARE Evil. It's the same as being considered 2nd Class. I had little trouble with the Dineh or Piute folk I Knew on the subject, mainly because they Thought following thier Ancestor's Ways Satanic except purely as a "folk" tradition, like Dutch wooden shoes. Most thought I was Wierd for being Interested in my Ancestor's Ways because, well Christianity's the Way, don't-yah-know;)......
Blaming Heathenry for the JCI Culture's Actions is Wrong. Look Deeply enough and they'll find a Cross in that box of Booze, Blankets or Trinkets....
Pat(Purveyor of Apples to Dwarf-sitters since 1962)
Jul. 24th, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC)
I read your reply on the NA Livejournal and followed your journal over here. I hope you dont mind that I added you as a friend.
You said everything that I want to say over there in the NA LJ but cant because I would get ripped to shreds.
I am half Italian, yet do I get mad when people cook *REAL* authentic Italian food, or have a little Italian flag on thier cars when they just have some ancestor a few generations back? No. Okay, it isnt 100% the same, but it is in the same vein.
You are so 100% right here. It is hypocracy, and unfortunatly many are so blinded by pure rage that they cant see it.
Jul. 26th, 2006 04:09 pm (UTC)
I too followed you here from nativeamerican. Would it be OK to friend you? What you say resonnates deeply with me. And besides, I'd be really interested to hear where your shamanic research leads.

Saying that though, I really battle with the whole culteral appropriation thing. Whilst I understand and respect where people come from on this issue, for me, it goes deeper that mere bloodlines. What about where your soul is? And where you where born and the culture you grew up with? Like I was born in and grew up in South Africa (for 28 years). I feel a deep connection with Africa and her/my people. I am not African by culture and do not claim to be. Yet I feel a deep need to understand more and experience more. I do not want to take - I want to understand. And now I am in the US and I feel the same need with the Native Americans. Phew...what a complex issue!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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