Sunday, October 19, 2014

If You're Not A Metaphysical Shop, Why Act Like It?

You know, I don't miss updating this blog at all...

A new shop opened up in Omaha called The Conjure Shop. I held my breath because I don't have a good experience with occult-type shops, but the first visit went rather well with just minor problems. Then the second visit was...well, "Diet Racism" type of things that are still racist but not necessarily worth boycotting. But on the third visit I saw something that made me contact CAORANN: a book by Momma Starr entitled Black Hawk: Working with His Spirit

I messaged CAORANN first about what to do. They wrote back to me, "Well, when it comes to Black Hawk, he didn't much like white people so white people who are using that book and think they communicate with him are idiot.  The woman who wrote the book knows nothing of Sauk culture.  What she is doing is seriously offensive."

After further discussion with both CAORANN and my fiance (who is a diplomat trained in the ways of How to Win Friends and Influence People), I draft my message to the store owner:

This was sent all as one message but I reposted my name to make it easier to know who is writing.

She then messaged me back:

My Social Anxiety flared up when she messaged me that. I have trouble talking on the phones as it is, but talking about such a tender matter as racism and spirituality (two things people tend to get very defensive about) filled me with heart palpitations. But my phone did really die Friday night and hasn't been able to charge since (another, unrelated source of anxiety for me at the moment.) I've never been so relieved that my phone was out of commission than I was after that message...

Someone suggested that this was the owner's way of trying to get me to back down, but the problem is I won't even in person or vocally which is why I'm anxious about phones. More over, I'm pretty sure she just wanted to talk instead of type, which I don't blame her since she's not part of the Internet forum generation like me.

I copied this to CAORANN, and they commented that "The 'Blackhawk Bucket' seems to me to be based on an Ogun Pot. Ogun is one of the warrior Orishas. You set up an altar for him that includes an iron cauldron with iron weapons in it. I think someone just modified that idea to try to exploit Native spirits." The mish-matching of cultures is definitely not something any Native activist has been okay with, and this is some serious mish-matching.

As for Mr. Roberts, I found the part of the website the Conjure Shop Owner was discussing. The first thing I noticed was that Robert J. Duplantis is/was part of the Houma Tribe, not the Sauk Tribe, and therefore has no more of a cultural connection to Black Hawk than I do. CAORANN confirmed this observation: "Black Hawk was Sauk.  No person from one Nation has the right to grant permission for another Nation.  That's settler mentality." Then they mentioned calling a person they know in Hauma about Robert J Duplantis (which is why I talk to CAORANN--if they don't know, they know someone who does. They have so many connections within the First Nation communities.)

They also had this to say about the incorporation of Black Hawk in a "Hoodoo" tradition: 
"The neo-hoodoo community has simply decided it's okay to appropriate a dead indian into their practices.  I am sure they are not being respectful and communicating with his in his own language (though he was fluent in english).  The fact that hoodoo incorporates christianity and they are using it in conjunction with a man who lived his life traditionally is pretty rude and obnoxious.  The fact that they simply don't care that it's offensive to the indian community and the Sauk in particular just tells me that they are extremely selfish."
Unfortunately, as soon as the owner of the Conjure Shop mentioned she personally "worked with" Black Hawk...all this information doesn't mean anything and is just a way of someone trying to dictate her life. While I respect the owner's ferocity to open her own business, create her own product line, and lead a life she finds fulfilling despite Omaha's Christian climate... She still is not immune to racism and Cognitive Bias. To which, CAORANN summarizes what all she wrote back to me comes means: Selfish.

From both this message and the message prior about my understanding of Conjure, I am guessing that the Conjure Shop owner thinks if I understood her point more, there wouldn't be a disagreement. Unfortunately, I understand her point very well and it doesn't justify the book, the practice, and the exploitation.

I am glad it ended on a rather...muted note, rather than turning into something more violent. But that's mostly because I had to give up a battle I knew I wouldn't win. I wish I would have sent her information that CAORANN shared with me, or waited until they heard back from the member of the Houma Tribe they know, but anything I shared would just be--as the owner puts it--"telling [her] whom to honor.'" It'd be a battle I'd lose, she'd lose, and we'd just both end up frustrated.

I do stand by my last message in that I can't be an ally while supporting someone who thinks exploitation of a Native leader such as Black Hawk is okay and actively participates in it. I understand how Conjure is a mish-mash of Catholicism and African Diaspora practices, but Native spiritualities do not need to be involved. More over, the owner is a white person like myself who needs to listen to the cultures we claim to know about instead of speaking over them. I hope I am still only boosting the Native activists' messages and not talking over them, which is why I make these conversations public. I also think it's important for a store to be held accountable for attitudes and products that are harmful.

Oh well. So much for having a shop in Omaha I could go to for herbs and candles. I guess that is what the internet is for.

PS-- I also find it ridiculously cute that she implies this is a problem that Metaphysical Stores don't have. It's a problem in any/all magic-type shops I've been in.

1 comment:

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