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Respect and Responsibility

North American religions have been under attack for centuries. European settlers started the attack by labeling Native American people as “devil-worshippers,” even burning some of them at the stake, and outlawing their religions. They destroyed and stole sacred objects, and continue to withhold them from their rightful guardians. The U.S. Army massacred Ghost Dancers at Wounded Knee, repressed Sun Dances, arrested and roughed up medicine people, persecuted the peyote religion: countless violations.

Much of Indian religion was forced underground, and not until the 1930s did Congress offer even the slightest legal relief to the persecution. Transmission of the old ways continued to be interrupted by the seizure and forcible deculturation of Indian children in boarding schools and by adopting them out to white families. Through all of this, Indian people have suffered from white media stereotyping of their religious practices.

Over the past two decades, Indian people have grown increasingly concerned about misrepresentation and theft of their religious sacraments. In 1984, the American Indian Movement issued a resolution against exploitation of Indian traditions by unauthorized “teachers” who commercialize ceremonies. The Traditional Elders Circle circulated a warming about “plastic medicine men” in 1990, and continues to speak out against those who claim to represent native spiritual ways for a price.

Read the original article at: Suppressed Histories

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