Authentic Wisdom Traditions

About Elders

"The teachings are for all, not just for Indians...The white people never wanted to learn before...Now they have a different understanding, and they do want to learn. We are all children of God. The tradition is open to anyone who wants to learn. But who really wants to learn?"

Don Jose Matsuwa, Huichol, 1989

The Non-Indigenous Connection with Indigenous People

You might be wondering what all these “white folks” are doing teaching at a Center that promotes the honoring and preservation of indigenous traditions. We understand the serious problem of cultural appropriation of indigenous practices, the theft of traditions that are not our own, for personal possession or to place feathers in our caps.

As you will see from the stories of our elders and teachers, our work within a culture that lives mostly outside indigenous traditions follows a respectful approach to indigenous wisdom. It is not ours to take. We can request the sharing of that wisdom, but we must be prepared to hear and accept, “No” if an elder does not wish to share. We can ask to receive teachings, but we must be prepared to fulfill conditions of acceptance in exchange for those teachings.

Many indigenous elders envision a reconnection with our non-traditional culture as a crucial step toward the survival of humanity in the world. They find themselves between two different worlds, with one foot in their indigenous homelands and the other in our western consumer culture. From this place, they have the advantage of being able to impart traditional wisdom to our non-traditional culture, and perhaps change our present course. Malidoma Somé, for example, was declared by his ancestors before birth to serve as just such a “bridge”. Others amongst our teachers, like Eliot Cowan (read a recent interview in Indian Country Today and a letter to the Huichol people in Sacred Fire Magazine) and Colin Campbell, were “called” into their work by the traditions they now practice.

The creation of programs at the Blue Deer Center follows strict criteria in determining both the authenticity of the work to be offered, as well as the ongoing relationships the teachers maintain with their traditions. Only in this way, in complete respect and humility to the ancestral lineages of wisdom keepers, can we grow together in this work.

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