Saturday, April 12, 2008

Official Statement on Cherokee Spiritual Leaders

This is an official statement by Richard L. Allen. EdD, who is the Research & Policy Analyst for the Cherokee Nation. I am reposting it here (and over at the CAORANN board), because we still have the problem of people thinking that any person of American Indian ancestry, or who claims such ancestry, is somehow a representative or spiritual leader for a particular Nation, or indeed all Native Americans. Hopefully this will clear some of that up.
Greetings --

The Cherokee Nation is overwhelmed with those charlatans who fraudulently claim to be shaman, spiritual leaders or descendents of a Cherokee princess.

Such individuals make such claims without ever having lived within the Cherokee communities. They claim to be descended from some nebulous and mysterious ancestor who was from "a reservation in North Carolina" (there is only one) or "a reservation in Oklahoma" (there are none). The ancestor is never just a plain ordinary everyday Cherokee citizen but a "Cherokee Princess," a "Cherokee Shaman," or a "Cherokee Pipe carrier" none of which actually exist or ever have. Those who claim to be "shaman" do not reside within the known boundaries of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

Cherokee medicine people and spiritual leaders are known to the Cherokee people and do not practice medicine for a fee nor sell "shamanic" lessons to anyone. They do not advertise their services through any form of media and certainly not over the internet.

Traditional Cherokee healers and spiritual leaders provide their services to the Cherokee people. A Cherokee medicine person or spiritual leader is fluent in the Cherokee language and would conduct any medical or spiritual practices by using the Cherokee language. Therefore, our medicine people are those who were born of a Cherokee mother and a Cherokee father and would have been reared within a Cherokee community speaking the Cherokee language. Our traditional Cherokee healers and spiritual leaders are humble people and would not present themselves as such nor "hang out a shingle" so to speak.

Cherokee medicine people are acknowledged and recognized by members of the Cherokee community as effective healers and leaders. It is the recognition of the Cherokee people that validates these persons as medicine people and healers not self-proclaimation. We may provide them small gifts, a token amount of money or foodstuffs in payment for their services. They do not charge for their services nor would they withhold their services when asked and they certainly would not prescibe payment by credit card.

Cherokee medicine people may provide services to recognized members of other tribes or may provide services to non-Indians who would seek them out for treatment, but certainly would not mix their spirituality or medicine with that of other nations.

Cherokee medicine and spiritual practices do not include tarot cards, palmistry, psychic readings or sweatlodge ceremonies.

One may assume that anyone claiming to be a Cherokee "shaman, spiritual healer, or pipe-carrier," is equivalent to a modern day medicine show and snake-oil vendor.

You have my permission to print this response as is.

Richard L. Allen. EdD
Research & Policy Analyst
Cherokee Nation
P.O. Box 948
Tahlequah, Oklahoma 74465

Additionally, if someone claims to be a spiritual leader, ask for details: who trained them, where are they from, and then contact their claimed tribe to check on their claims. If you don't know a respected member of that person's claimed Nation to ask, come over to the New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans site and search from the main page of the forum to see if others have already discussed the person in question. Indian Country is a pretty small and interconnected place and, if the person is not already known to the community, it usually only takes a phone call or two to find out whether someone is legitimate. Even better, by learning some things about cultural protocols, you can learn to hone your own bs detector.

This video by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma also explains the problems of fake Cherokees and the dangers posed by fake tribes:

Cherokee Nation: What is a real Indian Nation? What is a fake tribe?

Visit the Cherokee Nation Taskforce
Note: The CNO website has been undergoing a prolonged period of reorganization.
For now, these links go to the archived version of the page.
Check for updates at the main site:


Darrel said...

My wife, a Cherokee woman herself, laughs at people who talk about how their ancestors included a "Cherokee princess." If someone asks how to prove that they are Cherokee, she starts talking about roll numbers and CDIB cards, and usually their eyes start to glaze over and that is it. We are friends with a few Cherokee traditional believers. They don't always "look" Cherokee as there is quite a bit of Anglo blood in the tribe, but they are as religious as the Christian believers we know.

Anonymous said...

- my favorites are the cherokee princess' in past lives, reincarnated as a lowly caucasion to keep the old ways alive LOL

rev jinxsy said...

y for how long ago you posted this article but i just came across it. I am wanting any information i can receive on modern(today) marriage ceremonies off reservation. I have a couple who are native american(cherokee) and i am quite interested in who conducts the ceremony, can it be a "christian" minister who is not bound religiously? any help you offer would be apreciated, this article was very interesting and informative, thank you for sharring.

Kathryn Price NicDhàna said...

@rev jinxsy: As with any marriage, it depends on the religious beliefs, or lack thereof, of the people wanting to be married. They may have traditional ceremonial people they are connected to, or the couple may follow another religion or religions entirely. Or they may choose a civil ceremony. It's really up to them.

If they want a traditional Cherokee ceremony but do not know any ceremonial people themselves, they should ask their relatives who to go to. They should not try to find someone on the Internet.

I am not Cherokee, so I can't advise you beyond these basic principles. I can only reiterate that real ceremonial people do not advertise on the Internet, and real ceremonial people do not publish whole ceremonies on the Internet or in books. I hope the couple in question finds someone they and their families trust and respect to perform the ceremony, and that all goes well for them. Slàn.

kingaling said...
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Unknown said...
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