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Dr. Henrietta Mann -
Cheyenne Elder, Educator and Author.

"From my frame of reference, Bear Butte is my spiritual center and I would want to keep it as sacred as possible and hope that other people would not defile it by putting others up on that mountain for money, or whatever. That is the point of our origin as a people. Everything about Cheyenne spiritual life surrounds Bear Butte. Desecration has already occurred there because of development. When you alter the landscape of a site that is sacred you've already desecrated it and violated it - the visitors center, the parking lots, the hiking trails and especially those abhorrent overlook stands. I've had people tell me that they've been fasting and people have stood and looked at them from those! Several years ago, Montana State University put a video together called 'Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men', that essentially talked about those of our own who are selling ceremonies for certain prices. Whether it's a sweat lodge in downtown Los Angeles, or putting non-Indians up on the mountain at Bear Butte, I would have a certain amount of pity and compassion for them - but only in terms of the consequences that are going to come full-circle to them because of their actions. Indian spirituality and Indian sacred lands - anything Indian - has no price tag on it, just like the Black Hills are not for sale."
 
Dr. Mann has served as the Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs and National Coordinator of the American Indian Religious Freedom Coalition. She presently serves on the Council of Elders; the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian; the Advisory Council for Women of Vision and Action; and on the Board of Directors for the Native Lands Institute. Dr. Mann recently completed her term as Commissioner for the National Commission on Head Start Fellowships. Rolling Stone magazine named her as one of the ten leading professors in the United States. The National Women's History Project featured her as one of only five '20th Century Women Educators'. She has been honored as 'Cheyenne Woman of the Year' and 'National American Indian Women of the Year'. Dr. Mann has appeared in numerous TV documentaries.
  
 
Steve Reevis - Blackfeet; Actor (Dances With Wolves/Geronimo/Last of the Dogmen etc.)
 
"Of course there are the Wannabes.You can tell those that aren't sincere because when they go to reservations and realise what it's all about they turn away because their thoughts are based on the romanticism of Native people. As far as actual Wannabes are concerned, they have to appreciate that it's not a good thing and realise how we look at spirituality and that it's not 'convenient'. It's not someting that we just do on a weekend, or that we do for show among the outside world. It's truly one on one with the Creator and a lot of times out there people don't realize what the Creator is about and they don't give sincerely of themselves and seek the Creator's guidance. I see alot of non-Natives drawn to our spirituality who are actually opening up their minds and looking inside themselves but of course there are still a lot who just don't understand and I really don't know what they think. It's kind of crazy to me! It's hard to see how Indian spirituality has been dragged out there and abused like it has been and I really don't agree with it. It's a downtrodden thing and those who abuse it are just pulling us down. Their intentions are all self motivated and that's where ego comes in, and that ego comes into play with a lot of Wannabes. They have that desire for leadership. 'Look at me, I'm a leader. I'll set up a sweat and you can pay me x-amount of dollars and I'll perform a ceremony for you' and in reality they won't know anything about ceremonies, and they probably won't know anything about themselves. They've probably never looked at themselves enough. If you're asking for money in a spiritual situation you really have to start looking at yourself. You can't buy a prayer. As far as the people up in Browning who I'm around in the 'Pipe life', you never see them asking for money, and most of them don't have high incomes - most just get by - but you will never see them asking for money for the spiritual gift that was given by the Creator. People have to realize that these spiritual gifts have been given to Native people by the Creator solely so that we can understand the Creator's plan for us and the earth and it has nothing to do with money."

 
Joseph Medicine Crow - Crow Elder, Tribal Historian and Author. 

"It's a big problem all over the Indian country. It's terrible. Phoney people giving themselves Indian names. I remember being in Missoula, Montana about 10 years ago and seeing a poster advertizing a Sun Dance. I checked up on it and they charged $2000 to get in. The supposed 'leader' wasn't an Indian. So what's happening now is that these non-Indians are taking away our cultural activities. We have to watch them. I belong to an organisation called the Circle of Elders, consisting of very old people, old medicine people, leaders from Indian nations and tribal members from different reservations. The purpose of this organisation is to keep our tribal religious traditions alive; our spiritual values alive. We try to tell people all over the United States and the outside world - the non-Indians; blacks, yellows, whites, whoever they are - we try to influence our non-Indian brothers to respect our tribal religious systems with the hope that some day we might influence them to treat our Mother Earth with a little more respect, and try to tell them not to exploit her gifts. So that is our mission, to try to influence these people, but it's difficult. About 10 years ago, this medicine man thing started coming in, the 'Wannabe Indians'. Now they are claiming themselves as being medicine men and holding ceremonies, so we were concerned. We have to do something. So we have to tell them that what they are doing is wrong, absolutely wrong. It is not right. They are mean and sometimes dangerous too. So that is our big problem now. These 'Wannabes' write a lot of books, Chief So-and-So writing about Indian religion or whatever, so they're quite active. And they're not reserved like our regular Indians are, they're forward, brazen. It's quite a situation."

 
Larry Sellers - Osage/Cherokee/Lakota; Actor (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman/Revolution etc.) and Educator.
 
"Unfortunately today we have a lot of people who are identified as phoney Medicine men and Medicine Women, and it's for economic gain and self agrandizement. I run into people all the time who tell me 'Hey, I'm a sweatlodge leader'. Yeah, but do you pray while you're in there, or is the important thing that you're leading a sweat? Particularly in Native beliefs there is no such thing as just a sweatlodge leader. A lot of people can lead a sweat and it doesn't make you anything exceptionally special, it just gives you responsibility. I think the difference between responsibility and recognition is misunderstood. They want to be somebody so they say 'I'm a healer' or ' I'm a sweat lodge leader' and what they're actually saying is 'Look at me, look at me', which is totally the opposite of what Native beliefs are about. In the Sun Dance people offer a piece of themselves - the blood, sweat tears and pain - because that's the only thing we truly have to give of ourselves, the only thing. That's not to say that people who don't pierce don't get their prayers answered, but if you're going to give anything, the Creator doesn't care if you put fifty thousand dollars there, He can't use it. He doesn't care how sincere you are with that fifty thousand dollars but if you offer a piece of yourself - blood, sweat, tears and pain - for the prayers that you're offering, that's what he wants to see. He wants to see how sincere you are. He wants to see what you're willing to give and what you're willing to commit of yourself. There are non-Natives who are very sincere. They don't come out and say, 'I am a healer, I want to do this ceremony', or 'I'm a Medicine Woman, I want to do this ceremony', or I'm a sweat lodge leader, I want to do this ceremony'. They are the ones who come and put the sweat and the work and the time into whatever is going on. They are the ones who will go the extra distance to help everybody, not just themselves. They don't show up the day before and want to dance. Some people show up the day before and have no idea what the sweat is about, no idea what the pipe is about and no idea what the ceremony is all about. They just seem to want that vision for self-agrandisement. They make things up, 'Oh I saw this, this and this'. They want to elevate themselves to make others believe they've really had this vision. If you believe in the values of the pipe you can't determine what somebody else's spirituality is. But they know. The spirits know. What we need to do is ensure that the sanctity of ceremonies is not sacrificed for the egos of the people who are there for it. I have seen it time and time again when non-Indians come and their egos are accomodated by the people leading the ceremony, whch is really unfortunate because it hurts that ceremony. The first indicator with insincere people will be the first words out of their mouths - 'I studied with' - because in native beliefs you don't study with anybody, we live it. We learn from experience. You don't go to a school or read a book and you don't sit and listen to someone pontificate on how spiritual you need to be! Native beliefs teach you to conduct yourself by incorporating true values every second, every minute every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year, all of the time. It is a way of life. A lot of the New Age people want a metaphysical experience they can have a conversation piece about."

 
Fern Eastman Mathias - Sisseton/Wahpeton Dakota; American Indian Movement, Director.
 
"We have to do everything we can to stop and expose the charlatans who degrade our spirituality. It must be understood that these phoney shamans, New Age rainbow tribe mystics, or whatever they call themselves, are threatening the very foundation of all indigenous peoples' survival - our spirituality. Our traditional ways and values are what our societies need to be rebuilt upon. Our children need exposure to our spirituality and culture so we will not only survive but grow and regain our strength. How can we allow these plastic medicine people, and those who follow them and contribute to the degredation of our spitiuality, to operate at the risk of our children's futures? We must stand up against them and unite to expose them."

 
Elva Stands In Timber - Northern Cheyenne Elder and Educator.
 

"I think these people are crazy. They don't understand the damage they are causing to our people - and themselves. I don't understand why they do it."

 
Leslie Caye - Kootenai; Cultural Interpreter.
 

"One thing I notice now is that some people get disenfranchised from the so called structural religions, so whatever answers they might be looking for, they just don't find. Then they look at the Native American cultures. They want to have a bit of what the tribal religions offer but they don't understand that it's not something we choose or do for personal gain, it's a way of life. And it's not tribal people's way to say 'it's ours, not yours and we don't want you to be a part of it'. You're always free to practise what you believe, but one of the things that is asked of tribal peoples is that we must believe with one heart, and a lot of times that is something that other people don't recognize. You can't have wavering thoughts, you have to believe with your heart not your mind. You have to put your faith in the Creator, totally. A lot of these people want instant gratification without giving the sacrifice and a lot of times that is the problem Native peoples have with that 'New Age' or 'Mystic' side where they just try to cash in on the beauty of our religions without giving the pure sacrifice. They forget that it's a hell of a tough way to live. It's hard to live like a Navajo or a Lakota or a Kootenai or whomever, because you have to give so much of yourself. Sometimes the elders will say 'I don't believe in your faith'. Sometimes a person will go for years and years before the Creator will look at them and say 'I believe your faith and I will help you now'. Whereas these New Age people now say 'We can go to the mountains and sweat, then you can have your sacred name, or you will become a Medicine man...but it will cost $150-3000 for that ceremony'. In our way, the individual is always the last in line. We live for the benefit of the people."