> One point speaker made is - children copying Kachinas which are not
> part of their culture would be like someone drawing Christ on the
> cross without understanding what they are doing. Cultural objects
> are often laden with meaning and are sacred to a particular group.
> They are not just designs or patterns.
A friend (must I specify that she was native american?) once pointed out
to me that the classic anglo Kachinas were Santa Claus and the Easter
Bunny -- they represent the spirit of a season as might a Kachina -- the
spirit putting on the costume of human form for the purpose ceremony. Or,
on the case of the society dancers, "entering into" a costumed dancer who
may be your uncle.
This insight has changed my personal relationship with Santa Claus who
has now become part of my patrimonial inheritance. Now I search for other
"Kachinas" in my society and from my heritage. Some day, when the vision
is clear, I plan to carve them.
I see no point in continuing to trivialize my heritage after I have
accepted it. Santa and the Easter Bunny need not be "cute" parts of
childish experience; the also can be gateways to a meditation upon a
heritage which is too often denied and even claimed NOT to exist. Were we
to seek it we might find "the dominant culture" to be only a container for
remenants of a thousand other, older, cultures to which we might find
access if we wished.
My grandmother was not an "indian" but the people who cared for me when I
was just entering school were. I know the difference between Helen's
stories of her people and tales of my Euro and possibly African heritages.
I now begin to appreciate what she shared with me and I find I don't need
to "use" her heritage except, perhaps, to remind and teach me of my own.
People make things, among other reasons, because they are people. THAT is
one certain thing we share with all peoples. The things we create define
us, identify us; they form the core of culture. Wise peoples see and
teach their own culture. They do not exoticise or trivialize the cultures
of others tho the may well acknowledge and respect such things.
Just because we once built a culture of consumption, (Culture Consumers)
doesn't require that that we idolize it. We discard cultural artifacts and
we recover them. Thus it ever was. We do get to choose. (And perhaps, like
drawing realistically, the choosing seems too hard. We deny our role as an
active participant in culture and leave it to professionals...
For most of my life I have been fascinated by other cultures. "other"
Now it seems time to find my own.
As a teacher tho, what is my responsibility? As an "employee" my
responsibility may be one thing. As an "awake" agent of a culture I need
to understand and represent that culture from the inside. Once again I am
confronted by the issue of discrimination, distinguishing difference. I
am urged to deny such practice but it seems then to lead to a universalism
a subsumption of culture, mine and others; that I can't really subscribe
to. (It's a cultural thing, you see. Would you subsume me into/under your
culture and require conformance because you perceive me as a fellow
member of "the dominant culture"? I get to choose, and I choose not to
accept membership. :) I'm only another "subaltern", as much by force as
Well I'm sure I've rattled on here longer than Katherine did. I usually do.
In class last spring I found myself in a group of people who believed
that they had no culture... that was something evidently reserved to
people with "ethnicity" and, in at least one case, reserved to
non-"Americans" with ethnicity, ethnicity alone being inadequate.
How strange to accept such a situation. But stranger still was the
apparent belief that tho they were all "without culture" they were all
prepared to teach "multiculturalism" as an appreciation of culture.
How very very strange.
who's people once painted themselves blue and hunted Auroch in the
forest and marshes, who had totem animals, and walked (and occasionally
floated) around the world selling things. Magdalenians all, once upon a
time... and before that? Who knows?