Quest to Become a Modern White Ally Week 3 and Questions About Culture Appropriation

I’m behind…like way behind.

I haven’t done what I said I would do in the first week of my quest – which was to find out more about my ancestors. But something keeps coming up to veer me on a different track. This week it was my illness which led to thoughts on culture appropriation.

So…to make a long histamine induced story short, I have an allergic reaction to sugar and all kinds of carbs (not just gluten), that causes swelling and inflammation all over my body but also in my brain. This leads to ridiculously uncontrollable moments of irrational thought and intense emotion. These extreme experiences are short but they have become so much more severe than in the past. It’s gotten to the point where I’m scared of myself while I’m in ‘an episode’. That’s what I call them – my episodes.

I had an episode this week that was the strongest and scariest of any I’ve had in the past. I had to call a neighbor over. Which, let me just say, I have grown to love neighbors. I’ve never had relationships with neighbors in the past. But ever since I moved away from family and friends, I’ve had to rely on neighbors in some very critical emergencies. This neighbor and her family have been there for me unconditionally and we’re not even close friends or anything. But I know if I need them, they will be there. That’s such a comforting feeling when your support system has been reduced to the dog and a handful of friends.

Anyway, back to the point.

This angel of a neighbor came over during my embarrassing crisis and comforted me, calmed me, worked to ground me and waited with me until the episode passed. I told you she was an angel. The next day, as I was researching for people who might help calm these episodes, I came across the website of what appears to be a white middle aged woman who used a lot of indigenous imagery in her marketing. There were First Nation women on her book cover, dream catchers, drums with feathers etc. Although I felt intrigued by her services, her imagery and borrowing of First Nation terminology gave me reason to pause.

I’ve been in the New Age industry a long time. There are so many inappropriate things that happen in this industry. One of which is culture appropriation, a term I wasn’t familiar with until a couple years ago but one I try my best to remember and respect (I’m not perfect. I screw up and I want to know when I screw up.) If you’re not familiar with what culture appropriation is, here is a link to an article that discusses it. Simply stated, it’s when a dominant cultural group (like white people of European descent) borrow cultural elements from historically marginalized cultures (like First Nation people). The white woman’s website I was visiting seemed to be a classic example of culture appropriation but you can’t judge a book by its cover. For instance, just because her skin tone makes it seem like she is a white woman strictly from European descent, that doesn’t mean she is so I spent more time on each page of her site becoming more familiar with who she really is.

This only led to more questions to which I don’t yet have the answers.

It appears this spiritual healer is of white European descent but she’s been taught in a First Nation tradition by a First Nation elder. This left me confused. I’m trying my best to make conscious choices with my money because in this consumer based society, I think where I choose to spend my money makes a statement and I believe it’s my responsibility to thoughtfully consider who and what I want to support.

My money is saying YES or NO all the time.

The question I’m now left with is should I give my money to a white woman who was taught in a First Nation healing tradition? Wouldn’t it be better to support someone from that tradition instead? What are your thoughts? Is there anything you think I should consider while making my choice?


Photo by Micheal Kahl

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