Respect Page 12 of 17

"Indian" has been romanticized and spiritualized, the fantasy image of the "witch" is a sinister and belittling as ever, despite occasional "good witch of the North."

When I face my spiritual ancestry as a European descent woman, I face this loss, this tremendous assault on female power and value, perpetrated upon us by my own people. To embrace woman-valuing spirituality that is Euro-based implies a rebellion against the dominant "spirit-world" of Euro-Christianity. For White women, we must ask ourselves how the word "witch" is used against us, and whether we might reclaim the word, to bring this rebellious aspect of our search into the open. There is a risk in this and tremendous power.

If we jump into a quick fix. "Indian spirituality" we end up neglecting the real and serious spiritual questions in our own lives, in our own communities. By turning away from using others as surrogates, we are able to do our own spiritual and communal work, bear our own spiritual "children." For some that may mean going back to the distress which sent us searching in the first place, to see what's going on in a deeper way. We need to acknowledge our own oppression, so that we are able to fight our own political and spiritual battles. We need to find or create our own ceremonies for our struggles. This too can be a life-long journey. And why not? To take our own spiritual path seriously is to honor our place in the universe and the importance of our lives.

Are There Any Times When Non-Indians May Take Part in Native Rituals?

At this point, some might still ask the question, are there any times when it might be appropriate for non-Indians to take part in Native rituals and ceremonies? The answer is complex, since it involves cutting through the stereotypes and understanding certain dimensions of Native religions, differences which are often overlooked.

"Indian religions are community based, not proselytizing religions." [Andrea Smith, "For All Those Who Were Indian in a Former Life," Sojourner, Vol. 16 #3, Nov 1990, p. 8] They tie together the heart and life of a specific group of people. In contrast, many of us are more familiar with religions like Christianity or Islam, which have an evangelizing impulse which encourages the conversion of others to their way of belief [Jewish White women are an exception here since Judaism, like Indian religions, is a community based religion]

Indian religions are not something one can convert to as one might to Christianity, by adopting a set of beliefs or principles. Indian religions are built upon systems of relationships.

So, if one is entering into relationship with Indian people, participating in an Indian community's life and struggles, often one will be included in various elements of 8/18/01