Many people who’ve tried to make a difference on a greater scale than usual face a challenge in their lives. It’s a staple of movies that a person who stands in a leadership position is attacked either on good or not-so-good grounds. Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi – most leaders I can think of had to deal with one of more instances of it.
Now Little Grandmother (Kiesha Crowther) must deal with it. Someone from her native background has posted a video to Youtube called “A Message to Kiesha Crowther and her Followers,” which the poster has renamed “New Age Fraud Appropriating NDN [native Indian] Traditions, Rites, Regalia.”
The video says: “Living in the heart does not mean charging our brothers and sisters US$ 195 to help them find their totem animal.” One rhetorical strategy by those who make allegations against another is to take one action from among many and represent that as what the person in question is about. Here all of Kiesha’s two-day workshop is reduced to finding one’s totem animal.
As proof of this allegation, the purpose of the workshop is cited: “This workshop will present a rare opportunity for participants to receive personal guidance from Little Grandmother regarding their own unique healing color and animal totem, and to participate in transformation sacred circle with a heart-attuned group.”
There is no suggestion that the writer has attended Litttle Grandmother’s workshop, so the allegation is probably being made on the basis of reports of the workshop, including its promotional literature.
The video suggests that “living in the heart means preserving the traditions and culture of the Old Ones.” This is a challenging position to take today because we know that everything old is going to be brought into question in the years ahead. Little Grandmother has taken on the difficult work of bringing an old tradition to bear on the birthing of a new.
Few of our traditions and cultures are going to survive the impact of the events of the next two years. Taking the position of trying to preserve these may not prove the most appropriate response in the times ahead – whether it’s the Catholic Church that’s speaking, or Jewish leaders, Muslims, Hindus, or natives.
The video continues: “It means respecting sacred traditions by not using them with new age ceremonies or for monetary gain and profit.” What Little Grandmother is attempting to do, as far as I can see, is to bring people together using the vehicle of her own native background as one of her tools, the tool that has people listen to her message of unity, harmony and love. Most workshop leaders that I’ve encountered use some vehicle to get people’s attention and deliver their underlying message.
The video then asks where the money from these ceremonies goes? To the tribes that she says she was made shaman over? Notice that the writer assumes that charging money is a for-profit activity, rather than simply paying for the costs of the event and Kiesha’s living expenses. It suggests, not that money should not be charged, but that it should go to the right people – in this case, the tribes. So the money is going to the wrong people, not that no charges should be made.
A voiceover of slightly-menacing character (not in the words perhaps, but in the tone) says, “Perhaps you think that the Creator sent you here to dispose of this as you see fit. If I thought that you were sent by the Creator, I might think that you had a right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me but understand me fully with reference to my affection for the land. I never said the land was mine to do with as I choose. The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who has created it. I claim the right to live on my land and accord you the privilege to return to yours.”
I’m not sure how this relates to Little Grandmother’s work, but it seems to be an issue the maker of the video wishes to present.
Meanwhile, as the voice speaks, the video says in text: “Kiesha, these are the Old Ones and they deserve our respect. Their ceremonies were never for sale.” There follow the photos of several imposing figures and tribesmen and women.
Now we hear where the voiceover’s comments come from. It continues, “Brother, we have listened to your talk. Coming from our father, the Great White Chief in Washington, and my people have called upon me to reply.” So Kiesha is being somehow associated with the takeover of native lands by the white man, a sorry chapter in our history, no doubt (among many sorry chapters), and one that, as I understand it, will be addressed in the coming years, as it should be.
Kiesha herself is then shown saying, “Then at age 30, I was called to be the shaman for the Sioux and Salish tribes and to start my own tribe, which would be called the tribe of many colors.” She may have mis-spoke herself there. She may have meant “a shaman from the Sioux and Salish tribe.” She may have been trying to make it as simple as possible for white people to understand. She may even have not understood her position completely because she came from a mixed background, if I remember her other talks correctly, native and white.
Evidently the matter has been discussed in native circles because a “cease and desist” request then plays on the screen:
“December 18, 2010.
“The Culture and Elders Committee of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation protect the intangible cultural resources of the tribes including language, songs, stories, etc.
“No tribal Elders or elders have met with nor do they condone the claims and actions made by Kiesha Crowther.
“She is not their ‘shaman,’ she has no right to claim this title and the Elders and elders of the CSKT of the Flathead Reservation would like her to cease and desist immediately from making such false claims that erode the traditions that members of the CSKT Culture and Elders Committee are trying to preserve.”
So there you have it. Little Grandmother has encountered resistance in her work. Many people when they start out on their “mission” – and I mean the word as we use it here, as self-chosen work, and not as something somehow bestowed on us by God – make mistakes in how they discuss it, mistakes they live to regret. But these mistakles are not fatal, if the other side is sincere and not devious.
Prior to encountering resistance, they can make statements that may not prove to be well-founded, or well-thought-out, or as formal as may be required, etc. Little Grandmother is now being brought to task for statements she may have made that have irritated and angered others.
The maker of the video then adds: “Kiesha,” – notice the rhetorical device of refusing to use the name “Little Grandmother” bestowed on Kiesha by her mentors – “our ceremonies and traditions are sacred to us. They have no price tag. Our brothers and sisters should not pay to pray.”
“Kiesha, without permission you have taken sacred traditions and rites, and merged them with your new age beliefs. You are charging people to learn false traditions.
“You are telling people that you were made a ‘shaman’ over the ‘Sioux and Salish’ tribes.
“But they do not know you.
“The ceremony is not for sale.”
The music in the background says, “You don’t stand a chance against my love.”
So there you have it. Little Grandmother, in attempting to reach out to a world in transition and transformation, coming from a background where she was not strictly raised by solely-native parents, accepting a commission for which she was trained but, as I understand it, not necessarily understanding all the circumstances, politics, issues, etc., has encountered her first stiff resistance.
She can now see if she can win over those who oppose her. Or she can drop all native elements and just go forward on her own say-so, which I’m sure her admirers will accept. Or she can tough it out and face whatever comes her way, not probably the wisest course of action.
Hers is not an enviable position, but it’s also faced by many people who accept a challenge given them or walk a new path or appeal to a wider audience. The challenge could be the end of her work or it could be the occasion for a tremendous breakthrough, for everyone concerned – Kiesha, the confederated tribes, us, the world. All presently hangs in the balance.
This is not something shameful, regrettable, outrageous, etc. This is just the conflict that rises in life all the time, conflict that we have seen all over the world. In some cases, the issues are sound and just; in some cases, not. In some cases, the outcome is negotiated; in some cases, legislated; in others, litigated, etc. Some cases are resolved; some are never resolved.
It does offer us a glimpse into what we may be seeing a lot more of in the near future as so many people’s established cultures and religions are brought into question.
I don’t envy Little Grandmother having to face this resistance. But, if she can access her heart and appeal transparently to what unites people, if she can hear the complaints completely and address them fairly, she may be able to overcome it.
Speaking as a white person (is that not what I “am” in this situation? One of the many things I am), I can say that I appreciate the work of Little Grandmother, that I see her as a force for peace and reconciliation in the world and a force that invites understanding of the native point of view, as well as she is able to express it, that I will miss her influence if she is defeated by these initiatives, and that the world may be lesser for the loss of her. I also appreciate the apprehensions of the confederated tribes of the Flathead Reservation and hope that something can be worked out.
We can expect to see dramas like this acted out all over the world as new initiatives are born. They will probably follow the same general pattern as this one, as I have described it. All of us, I think, have seen in our own lives what happens to those who step outside the box and accept the incredible circumstances that then face us.
So I wish Little Grandmother and the representatives of the tribes in question much success in resolving their disagreement and bringing into the outworking of the coming years all the influence of the people which they both claim to derive from and, in some way, represent. The eyes of the world will be upon you, weighing every action. Please, avoid the rhetoric and the posturing and make us proud.
The video is accompanied by the following text:
shadowfax1920 | December 20, 2010 | 68 likes, 3 dislikes
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I have several things to address today:
Kiesha stated that she was going to step away from native traditions, however a recent advertisement of her in fake regalia has recently put on the internet:
Kiesha is still appropriating NDN regalia and using NDN’s in general to sell her new age ceremonies.
Every day, Kiesha changes the information on her bio. The story about how she was made a shaman is constantly changed and more is added in as this ordeal goes along:
“Falling Feathers personally guided Kiesha’s initiation and taught her how to conduct ceremony, how to pray in traditional ways with the chanupa, how to pray while in inipi and he conferred upon her the name “Little Grandmother”.”
This part about teaching her the Inipi and how to smoke the Chanupa is brand new. And I’m only guessing this was added in so that she can give herself permission to go ahead and use them.
“Recently, Kiesha called the tribal council office to inquire about her official standing in the tribe. She was surprised to hear that Falling Feathers had not acted with the permission of the tribal council and therefore could not necessarily convey tribal authority.”
Falling Feathers is Salish according to Kiesha. I’m curious as to why a Salish elder was teaching her how to perform one of the Lakota’s seven sacred rites, the Sacred Chanupa, given to the people from White Buffalo Calf Woman.
What else does not make sense in this story:
“For example, this past year, when one elderly woman on the Flathead Reservation died at the hospital and no family could be located, Kiesha was called. Her name was given by an official as a recognized spiritual representative of the tribe. Though she was not raised on the reservation, Kiesha had every reason to accept and believe her status as “shaman” came with tribal recognition.”
If Kiesha called the tribal office and was told they don’t recognize her, then why did they call her to the reservation when someone passed away and the family could not be located? The Salish and Kootenai tribe have already stated they not only do not recognize Kiesha as their shaman, they have said the do not know her. Period.
Below are two sources where Kiesha’s story is that she was initiated as shaman by “sioux salish tribal grandmothers”. But before you go there, please allow me to take a moment to address the fact that Kiesha dresses in jeans and slacks. If she were truly directed by an elder or grandmothers, she would have been taught that one conducts ceremony in traditional skirt.
Who initiated Kiesha as shaman? She says it is falling feathers, but on another website back dated June 29, 2010 she states it was by “Sioux and Salish tribal grandmothers” http://www.worldpuja.org/archives/201… If you look here, it’s the same information on another site. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rainbowv… Apparently last summer, Kiesha was saying it was tribal grandmothers of Salish and Sioux peoples. If it was not falling feathers that made her a shaman, who are these grandmothers and how can we contact them?
DEC 29 Kiesha writes on her website that the elders on the Salish and Kootenai reservation called her when someone had died, because Kiesha is important and the elders could not contact the deceased’ family. Kiesha please explain to me why is it that the elders contacted you to come to the reservation because they see you as someone important to the tribe, yet at the same time you claim that you called the tribal council and they said they don’t recognize you as their shaman. This story does not make sense at all. When people call up to the Salish and Kootenai reservation, they are told that they don’t know who you are.
DEC 28 Kiesha states she will now step away from using any regalia, pipes, bags, and will not use Native American traditional rites in her ceremonies. We intend to hold Kiesha to this. She still claims she was made a shaman by someone called falling feathers. No one knows who this is. Kiesha is still intent on hiding who her mother is,that supposedly lives in the Flathead res. Kiesha, real medicine teachers do not hide their lineage. If anyone has questions please call the reservation.
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