This isn't about Pokemon, but it needs to be said.
A few weeks back, 3 people died and another 18 were hospitalized due to
heat-related injuries from a misguided sweatlodge ceremony in Sedona,
Arizona (a noted hotbed of New Age nuttery). The perpetrator? None other
than James Arthur Ray, proponent of "The Secret" and Oprah Winfrey's
favorite guru. A homicide investigation has been set up, and I hope Ray
gets a long prison sentence for this.
64 people paid Ray several grand (yes, up to 10,000 bucks apiece!) to
engage in a number of cult-like activities that included fasting for 36
hours, going out in the desert with no food or water, and pigging out on
a big breakfast before cramming into a so-called "sweatlodge" made from
plastic and heavy blankets.
This is wrong on so many levels.
Simply put, white guys like Ray shouldn't dabble in Native Amercian
traditions. Now I'm about as white as they come, but I've known quite a
few Native Americans over the years, including a very talented one (whos
is unfortunately in college in Orlando now) who went to my Pokemon
League for a long time. All of them would say that what Ray did was
bastardize the most sacred elements of some of their cultures.
Now, I've done some research on legitimate sites, and there are numerous
differences between what real Native American elders do vs. what New Age
"plastic shamans" like Ray practice. Needless to say, the differences are striking.
Here are just a few ezamples:
Real Native elders don't go around the world trying to preach love and
peace to everyone; they stay on the reservations, where they are most
needed by their people.
Real Natives don't charge money for their ceremonies. A symbolic
offering (usually tobacco or blankets but varies from tribe to tribe) is
offered in exchange for an elder's services. Sometimes donations to
cover the cost of food, gas, or the like may be requested, but never the
exorbitant prices that "plastic shamans" ask for.
Real Native elders don't take elements from other cultures (this
includes other Native American tribes) and mix it with their own. Native
American religions are highly culture- and tribe-specific: a ceremony in
one culture would lose most of its context if performed outside the
culture. They're also highly proprietary: oftentimes, non-Natives are
not even allowed to participate, let alone stand and watch.
I could go on and on about this, but I'll let sites like
http://www.newagefraud.org/ do the really detailed talking. We white people
should look to our own cultures' ceremonies and find something
enlightening in them before horking others' cultures, especially from
peoples as downtrodden as the Native Americans. We've taken too much
from them over the past 500 years; can't we at least leave something of
theirs for themselves?