One of the realizations you will eventually have to embrace in your journey is that you are fulfilling the old prophecies of several Native cultures which predicted that a day would come when all of the other races of Man would come to the red race and seek their wisdom in saving this present world.
It is ironic that I hear those prophecies repeated often by leaders of the various tribal cultures and, yet, they never seemed to be applicable when the non-Native seeker attempts to join themselves to one of those tribal cultures. Again, this is not without reason.
There was an outgrowth of the hippie culture of the 1960s that sought to return to a more symbiotic relationship with the Earth we walk on. The blossoming of the ecology movement, the rebellion against the industrial machine and the relentless pursuit of material gain, and a desire to live more simply fed the “Back to the Land” movement which spawned communal farms across the continental United States. And who better to guide them than the original stewards of those lands, the Native peoples.
Perhaps it was coincidence that the Native youth were simultaneously rising to national prominence, demanding the justice that they had been being deprived of for hundreds of years. Suddenly, the reservations became a “Mecca” for non-Native people to seek the wisdom of the people who had been repressed for so long and yet had survived.
A very complete account can be found in the writings of Vine Deloria, Jr., particularly Custer Died for Your Sins. The Native people were rather forthcoming with their wisdom, perhaps being too perplexed by the sudden interest in their culture to consider the long-term effects of such an action. Or perhaps, as with the original colonization of their lands, they could not anticipate the sheer numbers of people who would show up.
In essence, these were the original hobbyists. It was not so much an attempt to reconnect with a personal Native heritage, as it is for some of us in the 21st century, as to reconnect with the Native philosophy and cosmology. It is not hard to imagine that these people may have been seen at that time as the fulfillment of the old prophecies.
Regardless, what was apparently not anticipated was the non-Native penchant for appropriating and adapting cultural philosophies and traditions. Misuse and distortion of cultural and sacred traditions began to disseminate into the non-Native counter-culture.
Now, 50 years later, the Native elders are much more cautious about what is revealed to people outside their culture. Hobbyists are looked upon as “culture vultures” regardless of their professed sincerity. Tribal membership is safeguarded, for many reasons. Even close descendants can be denied access to the culture of their parents if they are not found on the tribal rolls.
There is little that can be done to reverse the damage and reluctance on the part of Native elders to divulge cultural information. Patience and persistence are the only avenue available, as futile as it might seem. It will be necessary to demonstrate the sincerity of your pursuit of information; to earn the trust of those who safeguard the cultural traditions you wish to learn.
It cannot be emphasized enough that the quest to reconnect with the Native culture of your ancestor must be undertaken with absolute seriousness and determination. It is a difficult undertaking, made only the more difficult by the ill feelings that those who have preceded you have left in their wake.
Among the Lakota, people of European descent are referred to as “wasichu”, which translates literally as “fat-takers”, meaning they are self-serving, seeking always to take the best of everything for themselves. It is a term that has been well-earned over hundreds of years of colonization and exploitation. It is an unfortunate reality that the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, seems to embody these characteristics and could well be called the Colonizer-in-Chief.
Perseverance in every aspect of your pursuit must be exercised. Never stop learning; seek sources of information wherever they can be found. Grasp any opportunity to meet authentic Native people; look for opportunities to serve their needs. Perhaps, in time, your sincerity will be recognized.
Nevertheless, recognize that you will always be an outsider. There will be places you will not be invited to go. There will be limits to what you are told and allowed to experience. Accept that you will always belong to the culture you were born into; that cannot be changed and it will always color how you see the world, regardless of how hard you try to think otherwise.
The prophecies predicted that the other races would come to the red race for instruction. It did not predict that the other races would merge into the red race. That would disrupt the balance of the universe. We would be foolish to imagine any differently.