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How much hogwash is there about Native American traditions?

Have they been so bastardised by New Age subcultures that it is now hard to find the truth of what was authentic before whites arrived?

Are there elders who still carry and teach the old traditions?

Has any of it been recorded for posterity, not by white academics, but by Native Americans?

How varied or similar are the customs and rites in each tribe?

What wisdom from Native American cultures could the world benefit from now?

Posted - July 3, 2019


  • 14893
    I'm afraid that the winners of all wars and colonisation of every country taken over by whoever gets to write the history book.... 
    The Egyptian,Greeks ,Italians-Romans ,Vikings ,Gengis Karn , Persians ,English Royality and so many others have all done and many still do it...
    The rich and powerful will always  do it when others have what they want or need...
    One day it will be over fresh water and crops ...our population is growing at an alarming rate and nature will one day have to take drastic action to cull our population again...
      July 4, 2019 4:10 AM MDT

  • 4282
    Sadly, I must agree.
    The experience is much the same here in Australia.
    The only difference is that due to Malaria, the whites didn't get the chance to conquer every Aboriginal tribe.
    In the Far North and North-West the Aboriginals have a natural immunity to Malaria.
    By the time whites had invented vaccines, their mores and laws had changed, so that they could no longer commit the same crimes with impunity.
    There, in the most remote regions, about 50 nations still speak their native languages and keep all their traditions, knowledge, lore and laws intact. A Pidgeon or Creole is the closest they get to English. They have much to teach us about conservation and land management, as well as there particular take on love, responsibility, respect and wisdom. And, very slowly, some whites are beginning to listen and learn.

    Elsewhere in Australia, it is not the same. Over two hundred language groups have been destroyed. Only remnants of about four hundred words were recorded in dictionaries by linguists before the extinctions. Since the language was integral to the stories, laws and knowledge of landscape and survival, all that was also lost. The devastation to their descendants still carries deep trauma. White education in schools used to be silent on the historical atrocities committed by our ancestors. Now it is part of the syllabus in education from primary to tertiary level. The damage has been so bad that it cannot be repaired, but there are some positive changes. Preferring to call themselves Aborigine or Indigenous Australian or by the name of their specific tribe, they are now demanding political and personal self-determination. They are asking for assistance in closing the gap between whites and blacks in matters of education, medicine, job opportunities, land rights and law. A first generation has already achieved much in these areas and paves the way for more who now follow.
    Indigenous Australians number 3% of the Australian population - but a potent and extremely important 3% because, without healing, Australia is a country with a bad conscience and much shame.
      July 4, 2019 10:27 AM MDT

  • 14893
    No matter where you look in the world  it's still going on to some degree...Not thst long ago ,America took Hawaii from its people for its mid Pacific base..
    The Japanesse don't teach their childred about the atrocities their forbearers did to any captured person during the Second World War...Japanesse women are also still second citizens ,they get raped and mostly the men walk free...
    America infected a whole city of its own citizens with syphilis and left them untreated ,just to study the effects on people...  
    I wonder which country in the world has done the most killing to get what they want...I would hazard a guess and say England must be near the top of the list....
      July 4, 2019 1:23 PM MDT

  • 5487
    A) Much more hogwash than historical fact, to be sure.

    B) Yes. Without question.

    C) Few, at most. The white invaders were thorough in the destruction of native cultures all over the New World.

    D) Writing was not a common trait among the peoples of Pre-Columbian America. The Mayans and Aztecs were among the rare examples.  

    E) The full truth of this may never be known. 

    F) Like with the spread of Ancient Rome, theist religion and colonialism everywhere else, such Native wisdom was erased by the vanity of the conquerors. 
      July 4, 2019 5:36 AM MDT

  • 4282
    Thank you for your concise answers.

    Regarding D), I wondered whether Native American academics today have recorded the lore of the remaining traditional elders. If the Native American systems were similar to those of Indigenous Australians, there might have been ways of training prodigal feats of mnemonics to ensure that lore and laws could not change from one generation to the next. Some remnants might still exist. But with 400 hundred years since the invasion of Europeans, I couldn't guess how much might have survived.
      July 4, 2019 10:37 AM MDT

  • 5487
    If they did, said elders have not disseminated it very well. We can only imagine what hard won local wisdoms were lost to conquest and the passage of time. 
      July 4, 2019 6:05 PM MDT

  • 4282

    I feel disappointed, but I'd rather know the facts, so thank you.
      July 4, 2019 7:39 PM MDT

  • 13941
    I hope that somewhere, somehow, there is a record of the cultures of the Native American Indians.  I know there was a story not long ago that their languages are becoming extinct, which is a shame because it was the Code Talkers, using native languages, that helped us win WW II.  Native American Indians were the first conservationists and we would do well to follow many of their ways.  We have done these peoples a terrible disservice.  Talk about "illegal immigrants."
      July 4, 2019 8:47 AM MDT

  • 4282
    That mention of Code Talkers is new to me. Thank you. I'll look it up.
    I agree about First Nations People as great conservationists. It's the same in Australia. Archeology and paleontology have proved that Aboriginal cultures have existed unchanged in Australia for 40 - 60,000 years - the oldest surviving culture on Earth (though as I said above, only a small portion of it remains alive). Evidence shows they did change the ecology quite dramatically, but over time they learned and maintained a perfect balance. We whites are starting to learn from them, but have much further to go.
    Illegal immigrants - ironic isn't it, that so many whites now object to desperate refugees in large numbers seeking asylum.
      July 4, 2019 10:46 AM MDT

  • 13941
    I suspect that not having the scientific knowledge that we have today, the early natives learned quickly that if they overused certain elements in nature, they would be depleted.  American Indian tribes had winter and summer camps which allowed the opposite lands to replenish.  They killed buffalo for food, clothing, tents, etc. and used just abut every part of the animal.  They did not kill for sport the way some hunters do today.  There is much we could learn from them.  I agree with your comment on immigration.  
      July 4, 2019 11:18 AM MDT

  • 46201
    No TRADITIONS can be bastardized by anyone that holds with traditions.   We have INSTITUTIONS that do nothing more than preserve history.  

    Also I am sick and tired of people who have no idea what NEW AGE is, using the term as something that is a pseudo science that falsifies and makes new old stuff.  NO. NOT EVEN REMOTELY.   

    I don't think you have a true handle on what New Age really means.  Care to elaborate?  You keep asking questions that are not friendly to this site's format.  I cannot write a paper.  You want to get answers from students studying a subject.

    No one can do that with any justice on a site like this.  

    There are TONS of lore that is protected concerning Indian tribes.  I do not have the time to unearth all this, but I assure you there are many REAL Indians preserving real history.  I stand by that idea.

    This post was edited by WM BARR . =ABSOLUTE TRASH at July 4, 2019 10:59 AM MDT
      July 4, 2019 10:48 AM MDT

  • 4282
    I agree with the Yaqui man in that video that we are all relatives (humanity - one big family) and that we need to live in peace.

    I accept the standard definition of New Age - a broad movement characterized by alternative approaches to traditional Western culture, with an interest in spirituality, mysticism, holism, and environmentalism.

    I've lived among predominantly New Age people most of my adult life and am acutely aware of the diversity.
    The majority of New Agers walk their talk with integrity - and offer a range of solutions on living which could literally heal the planet. 

    There are also more than a few quacks who are fraudsters only into the money.
    It is these latter that conventional people use to try to sully the reputation of the larger movement.
    But honesty requires that we acknowledge the truth.
    If we don't, it risks the straight propaganda succeeds - achieves no good at all.

    I count myself as a New Ager: atheist and Buddhist, Vipassana meditator, vegetarian, living a thoroughly green life, working to towards environmental repair, small l-liberal and green in politics, pro-feminist and queer rights, and anti-racist.
    I'm also alternative in my tastes for world-fusion dance, music, performance, art etc.

    It is because I have these values that I like you, Sharonna - and why this long answer is worth the time to write it.

    Some New Age businesses are beneficial.
    Others, like Blackmores Vitamins (that most of us don't need if we're eating a healthy diet), are merely benign.
    The products are designed so they can't do any harm. The Vit A is so low it's unlikely anyone could overdose.

    But a less benign example was Jesmahine, a guru of breatharianism. Her gig - if one can master meditation to a sufficiently high level no one needs food  - we can live on breath alone. She was staying with a friend of ours who was much taken with the idea. During the night our friend heard noises in the kitchen. When she got up to investigate, she found Jesmahine raiding a packet of chocolate cookies.
    A family in Brisbane took her to caught because their daughter died following her advice. Jes spend three years in gaol. 
    A few years later Jesmahine died of anorexia.

    Examples of the New Age at its worst include gurus like Adi Da Sam Raj, who stripped devotees of their inheritances by fraud, made others into slaves, and systematised long term real estate scams.
    Male swamis appointed as heads of ashrams by Satyananda and Swami Prabhupada. The male heads of the ashrams around the world have been convicted of the rape and persecution of large numbers of primary school-aged children - because their now adult victims have come out.

    I don't accept that the New Age is a pseudo-science that falsifies and makes new old stuff. But it does contain a fair few people within its spectrum who do. The Hundredth Monkey Effect is a perfect example.

    Unfortunately, a small proportion of humans everywhere are prone to scams. The occasional scientist in academia and more than a few working for multinationals have been caught at cons. Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, judges, public servants, doctors, politicians - you name it - there's no corner left untainted.


    In our local village, we have two Americans who've immigrated - good people: honest, intelligent, friendly, creative and kind.
    One was a secretary to Tony Robbins for twenty years. Her partner is Navaho.

    He told me there are plenty New Age guru types love to run Native American spirit quests using sweat lodges, fasting and three days of solo reflection in the wilderness - but they have nothing to do with the authentic traditions of any native Americans - they are bastardised versions which cannot produce the intended results.

    I've met five Australians and a New Zealander who've done these courses, a few thousand dollars each, either here or in America. What they said about their experiences didn't match with the way they behaved.

    I thought aM might be able to give me a broad spectrum of answers reflecting different experiences and opinions - and it has done exactly that - for which I am grateful. Thanks to J.A.'s answer, I now have a few clues as to where and how to look online.

    As to questions "not friendly to this site's format", I acknowledge that the last six or so of my questions invited long and well thought out answers.
    Some of those questions resulted in an interesting range of responses and made a few conversations possible. For me, they were successful.

    I would have imagined that a site like this would have room for each Mugger to express their personality in their unique way.

    What kinds of questions would you prefer that I ask?

    This post was edited by inky at July 4, 2019 9:39 PM MDT
      July 4, 2019 9:18 PM MDT

  • 7885
    I'm not an expert by any means. Actually, my knowledge is quite rudimentary. But, I do live in a state with multiple tribes and reservations. Pima, Maricopa, Navajo, Apache, Hopi, and probably ten more tribes. I think there's something like 20 reservations in all. Fun fact: you can change time zones in my state three times because of the reservations- Arizona does not observe daylight savings, but the Navajo reservation in the northeast corner of the state does, and the Hopi reservation in the middle of the Navajo reservation does not. It's essentially a time warp doughnut.  

    But, yeah. Their culture is bastardized by white folks a fair amount, especially here. It's sooooo freaking weird when you get up north to areas like Sedona that are supposedly spiritual. You'll get these white folks who have adopted part of the culture, which basically means they wear a lot of turquoise jewelry and moccasins and talk about how spiritually connected they are, but they know none of the history and don't share the values. Heck, we get that down here too. For decades, we had a mountain called "Squaw Peak." The problem is, "squaw" is a derogatory term for a Native American woman, and we just left it. It was renamed in the early 2000s to honor a female Native American soldier, but they didn't change the roads named after it at the time and people threw fits about the shift as it was. 

    We live by the white man's history here. For a while, my kids and I were going up north a lot and we'd always pass an area known as "Bloody Basin." We looked up the story of how it got its name. The prevailing history is white history, which claims the area is named to honor early settlers who were massacred by a tribe. We look at the Native history- not so. There are two different stories, both which include settlers slaughtering Native Americans. In one, the tribe was peaceful and didn't even engage in war or skirmishes with others. The whole thing is offensive. Imagine living in an area where the whole culture demeans your people and promotes the slaughtering of your ancestors. Frankly, we've rewritten history to our liking, and they know we did. Most of us don't. 

    Once you get on a res, the culture and traditions are still passed down. I do know a few who live on different reservations and it's a whole different world- not in the sense that they're backward or anything, but one family I know, the grandmother still tells all the stories and is their matriarch. She's the one they go to for advice or medical help. When we get to the younger generations, say in their 40s and younger, it is a bit different, but I suppose it's not unlike what the rest of us have as the generations pass. On the flip side, some tribes on certain reservations are very private. They only interact with outsiders on a limited basis. For example, they may raise money by letting people hunt on their land or take tourists rafting, but you're never allowed on the res without your guide and you're not allowed to wander. They're very kind and generous people, but also very protective of what and who they let in.  

    All that said, I think they're internally preserving their culture and history, but it's not something the rest of us get to see/ hear and I don't know how much is written. I suspect it varies greatly by tribe and reservation. 

    We could have thousands of discussions comparing the similarities and differences of each tribe and reservation. 

    What wisdom could we benefit from now? Oh man. That's thousands of discussions too. Preservation and conservation would probably be tops. Historically, self-care was huge too.  
      July 4, 2019 10:54 AM MDT

  • 4282
    Thank you, J.A.
    I feel heartened and happy to know that the traditions are being preserved in some places, probably many.

    You've given me hope and a few clues about where I could look for authentic info.

    I am aware that every year there are international conferences where indigenous people share their similarities and differences of tradition, history, activism for equal rights and political goals.
      July 4, 2019 7:47 PM MDT

  • Hogwash is everywhere, but hogs still get dirty.

    I'm not a scholar, and certainly not Native American myself. But  I think its probably accurate to say that many of their traditions were deliberately destroyed by white society, and much of their true history has been lost.

    However its also wrong to think that everything is gone and that no real Native culture exists today. This just leads to more blindness that leaves whites ignorant,  but still in charge. 

    If you hang out in university libraries or have the chance to  talk to tribal leaders,  you'll find that there were actually a few fairly accurate accounts of Native spiritual beliefs given to early missionaries, traders, and explorers . We can still learn things worth knowing. This post was edited by Benedict Arnold at July 4, 2019 6:10 PM MDT
      July 4, 2019 12:41 PM MDT