Subtle Signs You Might Be More Pretendian Than You Think

If you use tobacco in the chanunpa…you might be more pretendian than you think.

If you think the black drink is really strong coffee…you might be more pretendian than you think.

If you don’t know whose heart is buried at Wounded Knee…you might be more pretendian than you think.

If you don’t know who the 1491s are…you might be more pretendian than you think.

If you don’t know who A Tribe Called Red or Supaman is…you might be more pretendian than you think.

If you think Buffy Sainte-Marie could be the latest supermodel…you might be more pretendian than you think.

If you’re not sure whether the Black Lodge Singers are the house band at a resort in the Catskills…you might be more pretendian than you think.

If you think Saginaw Grant could refer to a parcel of land…you might be more pretendian than you think.

If you don’t know why these are preposterous…you need to pay more attention to what is going on in Indian country.

These are not as pithy as the previous offerings; they are not intended to be. These are intended to make you think. If you don’t know the correct answers to the first three, you haven’t read widely enough. If you don’t see the silliness in the last three, you are not very aware of current affairs in the Native community.

Honoring the Earth – Honoring the Medicine

A few years ago, my lawn tractor broke down. I could not get it to start; I concluded it was something in the ignition system. Anyhow, I stopped mowing the entire seven and one half acres we own. I still hand mow the acre or so around the house; the horses and goats nibble at the rest but, to my neighbors’ consternation, most of it now grows wild.

Somewhat simultaneously, I began to develop a serious interest in herbalism. I had long held a passing interest in natural medicine and alternative healing modalities, but I really began to study herbalism. And then I discovered what grew up in the places I no longer mowed.

Last year, my rather relaxed work schedule permitted me to do a fair amount of foraging and gathering. I began to make tinctures and dry roots and leaves. And I began to pay attention to what was growing up in the places I no longer mowed down and elsewhere.

Actually, even the part I was trying to keep mowed got away from me and I found myself trying just to keep pathways cleared to allow access to the barns and outbuildings and such. So, this year, I determined that I would make a concerted effort to keep up with the acre or so, and began to mow fairly early in the growing season with the intent to mow each week.

The front yard area and the areas toward the barns didn’t arouse my attention much. There is burdock and dandelion scattered throughout, but there is plenty of that elsewhere. I mowed around the patch of stinging nettle we allow to propagate next to the garden. But I ended up leaving the back yard area for the next day.

I had planted some flowering tree starts, which I had received from the Arbor Day Foundation, around the back yard area, so I knew I would have to be careful around those. But then I began to notice other interesting plants and shrubs around the periphery of the yard area. I realized that a sharply defined yard area no longer matters to me. There are still raspberry canes and wild roses growing at the edges of the slightly diminished yard area and what appears to be an unexpected domesticated rose bush growing in the middle of the yard area. And I found myself apologizing audibly to the canes and plants I did choose to mow off.

In the course of my herbal studies, I have read several authors, and heard at least one speaker, who talk about getting to know plants personally; going and sitting with them to “hear” what they can tell us about themselves, asking their permission to harvest from them and giving back to them to honor their gift to us. Each of these authors and speakers attribute these practices to Native origins. Indeed, I was already aware that these practices were a part of most indigenous medicine traditions.

In the course of my career as a farrier, I have grown more and more into intuitively practicing kinship with the horses I interact with. Likewise, I have found this to be true of all the creatures that inhabit our seven acres. I have come to realize experientially that we really ARE all related.

My wife has had to become accustomed to my conversations with mice, spiders, snakes, flies, bees, wasps, fleas, ticks and so forth regarding respecting our space so that no forceful confrontation will be required. Grudgingly, she is learning to do the same, though our limits of tolerance are not necessarily the same.

I find myself thinking that this post did not live up to the noble sentiment the title suggested. The words that rolled off of my fingers do not quite match what I had originally anticipated. But, really, the concept of honoring the earth is contained in the concept of honoring the medicine (plants). And, really, both concepts end up being rather elementary:

When you learn to internalize the precept that everything in the creation carries a spark of the Creator, animate and inanimate, you cannot see the world as a colonizer any longer. As I heard Chief Arvol Looking Horse state recently, “You begin to see the earth as our source, not a resource.” When you sense the kinship we share with the plants and animals around us and learn to appreciate the interdependence of everything in the web of life, you will not even mow your yard in the same way.

More Signs You Might Be A Pretendian

If you live east of the Mississippi and own a tipi…you might be a pretendian.

If you have a medicine wheel in your back yard…you might be a pretendian.

If you won’t use a butane lighter to ignite your smudge…you might be a pretendian.

If you have ever regarded the sweat lodge as an endurance contest…you might be a pretendian.

If your spirit name involves a bird or animal near the top of the food chain…you might be a pretendian.

If your computer desktop and screen-saver are Native themed…you might be a pretendian.

If you don’t understand what all the fuss is about fashion models and rock stars wearing war bonnets…you might be a pretendian.

If you don’t understand why sports team names and mascots, brand names and logos are not appropriate ways to honor the Native peoples…you might be a pretendian.

If you think the four sacred herbs are tobacco, marijuana, peyote and ‘shrooms…you’re just ignorant.

If you don’t understand the problem with any of these…you might want to do some more research.

Editor’s Note: I recently came across a similar list older than this blog. I don’t recall seeing it before, so I don’t think I was influenced by it. But it is enjoyable.

I Am a Pretendian

[shuffles feet, clears throat] Umm…yeah…hi… I am called Suckachsinheet, the blacksmith, and I am a pretendian… But that doesn’t have to be a problem.

I hesitate to publish this post because it is completely personal and yet, it is the present state of my journey. I offer it for what it is worth, leaving myself open to criticism from all quarters. Still, I am not seeking approval, merely stating my present viewpoint and giving you a window into how I see myself; which seems only fair and necessary.

After decades of trying to earn a place in Native circles, I now refer to myself as “Native by choice”. I offer no logical reason why I belong in the Native community, other than my personal affinity for the cultural worldview. I permit others to see me as they wish; as a hobbyist or as a Native.

When you stand in my position, it is difficult to find authentic elders to offer instruction or guidance in the culture you aspire to. Consequently, my ongoing learning is largely from books and intuition. Fortunately, there are plenty of written resources available to assimilate and expand upon. Unfortunately, there are many more written resources of questionable worth to wade through and discard, particularly on the Internet.

From the beginning, I have been drawn to the spiritual aspects of Native culture. Though it is the most dangerous part of the culture to venture into unassisted, I continue to be drawn into learning the ways of a healer. I do not wish to elaborate further, except to say that, as I have learned, your medicine is effective only to those who accept it as such.

I am certain there are those who would call me a hypocrite for writing a blog detailing all the ways we embarrass ourselves in front of the very people we are hoping to impress. Yet, that is the very reason that I am qualified to write these posts: I have lived the life and made the mistakes. Indeed, without a doubt, I continue to do so.

This blog is not, in any sense, intended to be a recovery program for wannabes. We can have a place in the Native community if we conduct ourselves properly and properly represent the culture. This blog is about helping us wannabes figure out how to do that. This can become a community forum in which to exchange ideas and share our missteps and our successes. Hopefully, it can be a mirror in which we can see our own missteps and learn to laugh at them and ourselves, because we may be certain that we are being laughed at by others.

Our journeys encompass our lifetimes. There is much to learn and much to be encountered. As long as I live, I choose to follow the Native ways to the best of my knowledge and ability and hope that I find acceptance in the eyes of my Creator.

Toward the end of the movie Grey Owl, there is a scene in which the protagonist has the opportunity to meet with several First Nations chiefs and elders. One of these elders looks at him very closely and apparently recognizes that he is actually non-Native. He then pronounces: “A man becomes what he dreams. You have dreamed well.” I hope the same will be said of me.

[stands tall, speaking confidently, arms raised to Creator] I am called Suckachsinheet, the blacksmith, and I am a pretendian. And that is not a problem!

10 Signs You Might Be A Pretendian

If your group’s history prior to 1970 is purely oral…you might be a pretendian.

If your group is not predominantly composed of extended families…you might be a pretendian.

If your group has almost as many chiefs and clan mothers as regular members…you might be a pretendian.

If your group has a war chief and you are not presently involved in an armed conflict…you might be a pretendian.

If your group has a medicine chief but not a medicine society…you might be a pretendian.

If you proudly endorse yourself as a pipe-carrier or a medicine person…you might be a pretendian.

If you call yourself a shaman or know a shaman…you might be a pretendian.

If your Eastern Woodlands regalia includes a war bonnet…you might be a pretendian.

If you have ever worn your regalia to a costume party…you might be a pretendian.

If you have ever crafted regalia from a McCall’s pattern…you might be a pretendian.

If you don’t understand the problem with any of these…you need to do some more research.