For All Those Who
Were Indian in a
by Andy Smith
The New Age movement has sparked new interest in
Native American traditional spirituality among white
women who claim to be feminists. Indian spirituality,
with its respect for nature and the interconnectedness of
all things, is often presented as the panacea for all indi-
vidual and global problems. Not surprisingly, many
white "feminists" see the opportunity to make a great
profit from this new craze. They sell sweat lodges or
sacred pipe ceremonies, which promise to bring indi-
vidual and global healing. Or they sell books and
records that supposedly describe Indian traditional prac-
tices so that you, too, can be Indian. Lynn Andrews,
Medicine Woman, Jaguar Woman,
et al., is
one of many profiting from Indian spirituality these
On the surface, it may appear that this new craze is
based on a respect for Indian spirituality. In fact, the
New Age movement is part of a very old story of white
racism and genocide against the Indian people.
The "Indian" ways that these white, New Age "femi-
nists" are practicing have little grounding in reality. For
instance, Agnes Whistling Elk, the "medicine woman"
in Lynn Andrews's works, is undoubtedly fictional. She
is Cree, but she speaks Lakota and Hopi.
describes no genuine Cree practices.
True spiritual leaders do not make a profit from their
teachings, whether it's through selling books, work-
shops, sweat lodges, or otherwise. Spiritual leaders
teach the people because it is their responsibility to pass
what they have learned from their elders to the younger
generations. They do not charge for their services.
Furthermore, the idea that an Indian medicine woman
would instruct Lynn Andrews, a white woman, to preach
the "true path" of Indian spirituality sounds more remi-
niscent of evangelical Christianity than traditional Indi-
an spirituality. Indian religions are community-based,
not proselytizing religions. For this reason, there is not
Indian religion, as many New Agers would have