Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Hometown Indigenous Native American Cultures Were Swept Away!

Here's a two part question that I have mulled over, both intellectually and as it has shaped my own magical practice, for years. For me, the absence of indigenous Native America cultures from/in/around my hometown as I was growing up has nudged me toward paths that do not look toward those cultures as magical resources. As my own practice developed, I never felt much need to draw upon hometown, or other, Native American magical traditions.

A. ) What were the pre-contact indigenous cultures of your hometown (say, within a 20 miles radius)? What I mean by "hometown" is where you grew up, not where you reside now.

B.) Did those indigenous cultures influence how you thought about magic and spirituality? Did you know, or know of, any living representatives of those indigenous cultures in your hometown? Or nearby? Did they influence how you thought about magic and spirituality? Did any of them act as teachers or guides in learning about magic and spirituality? Did they teach or talk about their culture's magic and spirituality?

Here's my take:

A.) I grew up in Vallejo, CA, at the North end of the San Francisco Bay/Delta region. Pre-European contact, the region was inhabited by a diverse constellation of Native American cultures, including Karkins, Bay Miwoks, and Patwins (Suisunes and others). Vallejo was at the boundary of several different tribal areas.

European contact in this part of Northern California happened rather late, especially North of the SF Bay complex. San Francisco was discovered in 1775. Because it was difficult to cross the bays, Europeans did not have much contact with the peoples to the North until the early 1800s.

Following missionization, the Gold Rush, and subsequent American settlement, virtually none of these indigenous Native American cultures survived. Disease, warfare, coercive resettlement, and flight from an intolerable situation had conclusively disrupted or extinguished them.

By the time I was growing up in the mid-20th Century, only place names and sketchy local folklore commemorated these indigenous Native American cultures of my hometown. (My home town county, for instance was named Solano after the Spanish name of a Suisune leader, Sem-Yeto, who lived during the early to mid 1800s.)

B.) The indigenous Native American cultures of my hometown influenced my thinking about magic and spirituality mostly because they were not present to provide any influence. Even if I'd wanted to (and I don't recall any pressing curiosity), I could not have learned much about them or found any living teachers or guides.

My early explorations of magic and spirituality involved Western occulture and direct contact with the Land around me. Unlike many others who grew up with surviving indigenous Native American cultures, I had no opportunity to look to them as mediators in my poking around--magically speaking--the Land and the various forces and presences inhabiting the Land.

The later result of virtually no indigenous Native American presence on my practice has been less cultural borrowing or poaching from any Native American sources. Because I grew up without any hometown Native American cultures to poach even if I'd wanted to, and so had to turn to Western occulture and direct contact with the Land, I didn't look at any Native American culture as inherently more magical or spiritual than what I was doing myself.

So I didn't feel much of an impulse to poach or borrow much from any Native American magical tradition or spirituality. Or to resurrect or reconstruct the tradition of my hometown indigenous Native American cultures.

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1 comment:

SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

"Poach"? I don't know, the whole "cultural appropriation" idea to me is beginning to sound like political correctness. Culture IS borrowing, it IS plagiarizing, it's the sharing of ideas!!! Since when has "borrowing" automatically become something disrespectful?

I think it's great that you're thinking about the relationship between your practice and the indigenous people where you live. I always seek to honor the Tongva and Chumash, and let people know just exactly whose land this is, where I am very honored to be.