Winnetou and Old Shatterhand (AP)

Germany's Obsession With American Indians Is Touching—And Occasionally Surreal

Red Haircrow
March 23, 2013

Jürgen Michaelis, who lives near Dresden, was standing in front of the small, improvised tipi he keeps in his back garden, wearing a homemade deerskin suit and a matted black wig that had a lone blue feather stuck in it. “I’m 75 percent Indian but still German,” the retired locksmith told a writer for Der Spiegel, adding that his Indian name is The Lonely Man.

Michaelis is not the only German who likes to pretend he is an Indian. Hobbyism or Indianism, the desire to copy Native Americans is a puzzling and persistent passion for many Germans. Every year, there are dozens of pow wows arranged, managed and run by non-Natives at which, Der Spiegel reported, “thousands of Germans with an American Indian fetish drink firewater, wear turquoise jewelry and run around places like Baden-Württemberg or Schleswig-Holstein dressed as Comanches and Apaches.” There are several German Wild West theme parks like Eldorado, a popular vacation spot featuring staged cowboys vs. Indians or small reenactments of notable battles, as well as dancers performing choreographed sets that combine dance styles and forms.

Michaelis’s life as an “Indian” mostly consists of emulating Natives who roamed the Great Plains of North America over two centuries ago, and now that he’s retired, he spends the majority of his time making and selling Native-inspired trinkets and small leather goods to sell. Some Germans don’t limit their dress-up to their backyards. They periodically put away their mobile devices and other modern tools for the weekend and recreate tipi encampments, dress in animal skins and furs, prepare and cook food over an open fire and address one another by Indian-sounding names such as White Wolf, all while discussing their feelings of invoking the spirit of what it is to be an Indian. There are also websites like Tipis.org, which declares itself “dedicated to all the people around the world who have ever studied the American Indian tipi and wanted to live the life of freedom on the Plains that this structure represents.” Posted there are photos of Europeans who have abandoned their own culture, either permanently or occasionally, to “live like Indians”—or what they have rather fancifully imagined what living like an Indian entails. Some of these people actually roam the countryside wearing buckskin, living off the land and practicing their peculiar brand of American Indian religion.

An estimated 40,000 Germans pay dues at more than 400 clubs so that they can pretend to be Indians. Some of these clubs serve a dual purpose because it is illegal in Germany to fire a rifle, ride a horse or camp unless you belong to a registered club and engage in those activities on club premises. Some of the more popular ones are the Cheyenne Indian Club, Western Club Freising and the Wild West Club. The Cowboy Club of Munich, founded in 1913, is the oldest club of its kind in Germany, and regularly hosts events in which members dress up and act as they believe Indians did hundreds of years ago, insisting upon what they believe is authenticity, although they call themselves rote Indianer—red Indians. They organize pow wows; make, sell and trade handiwork; and drum, sing and dance. Some even take lessons on horseback riding or shooting a bow and arrow.

Krisztina Szabo, who was interviewed for Linda Holley’s book, Tepees, Teepees and Tipis: History and Design of the Cloth Tipi, told the author, “Our camp is always in summer, in July for two weeks. During this time we live in tipis, we wear only Indian clothes. We don’t use technology, and we try to follow Indian traditions. We have those [pretending to be] Lakota, Oglala, Blackfoot Blood, Siksika, Pawnee…and we go on warpath against each other day and night, anytime at all. In two weeks, every tribe can fight each other. We don’t know when somebody will attack or when they will come to steal our horses. And the battles are always exciting, too. I really enjoy them.”

A Karl May novel

Adults playing dress-up might seem vaguely comic, but these people are shockingly earnest in their love for Native culture, regardless of how poorly many of them understand it. Many even acknowledge that their events—and even their costumes—aren’t about Native American life as it is today, or even was 200 years ago. They just consider their dress-up to be good fun and do not mean to give offense.

Some champions of Native culture don’t find these hobbyists funny or benign. Susan Marcia Stan, who wrote an essay about the impact of Native misrepresentation in children’s literature says, “ ‘Playing Indian’…assumes that being Indian is something that can be put on or taken off at will and completely ignores the cultural heritage of Native people.”

But not everyone with Native bona fides is disturbed by the hobbyists. Laura Kerchee, a young Comanche and jingle dress dancer serving in the Air Force is stationed in western Germany. When she recently spoke at a cultural diversity day on her base, she was impressed by how enthralled the Germans there were by Native Americans. She says some of the adults told her they were very eager to see a Native up close because “when they were little, Indians were like fairy tales or a dream.”

Kerchee has lived in Germany off and on for almost 13 years. “I often see things which are Native-themed,” she says. “For example, games at festivals where the ‘cowboy’ shoots the ‘Indians,’ or at a theme park called Phantasialand, where they have your stereotypical racist Peter Pan–style Indians climbing rocks and all that. I’ve noticed a few ‘twinkie’ stores—twinkie is a slang term for non-Natives who claim to be Indian—as well as vendors at festivals selling twinkie Indian supplies, such as dreamcatchers, crystals, et cetera. They must make a lot of money because I was in one shop that was charging $44 for a small bundle of sage. All of these items are of course mixed with rip-offs of other cultures, such as Hindu and Buddhist statues and tie-dyed T-shirts.”

There are also some tribes in North America reaching out to their fans in Europe. They realize that this is an opportunity to promote understanding and education and a way to market Native culture to a highly sympathetic audience. Several members of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association were at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism convention, which was held in early March. “They are looking for tribes,” Camille Ferguson, executive director of the group, says of the German hobbyists. “They are looking for Indian country. They want to know more about the Native people in America; they want the real stories.”

She says the association’s mission is to help introduce, define and grow American Indian and Alaska Native tourism, “and part of our program is international outreach, so that we are telling our own stories.”

Two members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians take pictures while attending the Karl May Festival Days outside Dresden in 2011. (AP)

She adds that European travelers who visit Indian country seek authentic experiences. “The European people will be interested in more of the cultural aspects of tourism, [such as] the local venues—from food to dance to art.”

This was the fourth year the association was part of the ITB Berlin convention, and Indian country representation has been getting stronger every year. For the first time, members from Native Tourism of Wisconsin, which represents 11 sovereign nations, the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota and the Chickasaw Nation were there. “We are not afraid to show the world what our culture can bring as well as capture the hearts of people who haven’t seen or heard it,” says Jason Morsette, a member of the Arikara Tribe (Fort Berthold Reservation), who represented the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota in Berlin this year.

Where did this obsession with Native Americans come from? You can thank (or blame) the novels of Karl May (1842–1912), the best-selling German author in history. Many of his most popular books were about a German explorer and wanderer who traveled through America’s Old West and eventually became blood brother to Winnetou, a fictional Apache warrior. This German explorer comes to be called Old Shatterhand, and with his Indian companion battles and overcomes evil of all kinds. Winnetou is the stereotypical figure for many Germans of what a “real” Indian is like: how they dress, speak (broken English) and behave. The country’s long fascination with Native Americans spiked in the 1960s, after several of May’s books were made into films.

May was a fascinating character and an inveterate fabulist. From an early age, he also had a propensity for thievery, fraud and conning people, which landed him in trouble—and occasionally in jail. By the age of 32, he had already done a couple of stints in jail. His deep fascination with Indians and his imaginings about them expanded while he was incarcerated, for the prisons in which he was housed had libraries that offered the titles he craved, such as James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.

When May was released from prison in 1874, he was determined to make his living as a writer. He declared he was going to emigrate to America. Instead, he became an editor for a publishing company, and over the next 38 years, he published almost 70 books, 15 of which feature Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. May adamantly insisted his novels were based on actual experiences, but they were all the creations

May’s novels had little basis in fact, which may explain their worldwide appeal. (Courtesy karlmay2012.de)

of his fertile imagination, with some liberal cribbing from source material and maps. He didn’t come to America until he was 66, where he met his first Indian near Buffalo, New York. Buffalo was as close to the Old West as he ever got.

Many Europeans grew up reading May’s novels, which have been widely translated, and his popularity endures. Following World War II, he was very popular in areas controlled by the Soviet Union—East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Russians living under strict Soviet rule say they sought relief from their oppressive government through imagining life as Native Americans: wild, free, often oppressed but somehow happy. They began emulating the characters and situations in May’s books, and they created clubs and groups dedicated to Native culture.

Many young Germans are dismissive of the opinions and concerns of “the old folks,” yet they, too, eagerly visit Indian theme parks, are interested in the art, music and traditions of Indigenous Peoples and incorporate—rightly or wrongly—some elements of Native ceremonies into their own hybrid forms of religion.

Berlin’s HeileHaus is a popular meeting spot for younger hobbyists. It once offered Native American healing, meditation, vision quests and ceremonies that are said to help people find their spirit guide, animal totem or even their secret Indian names. Through Google you’ll find pages of results for such New Age groups, some with their personal Indian shamans, leaders or someone who says they’ve studied with Indians and have now brought these teachings to Europe, often for a fee.

Julian Crandall Hollick is a writer who has interviewed many German and European hobbyists and aficionados. “These are intelligent men and women—computer programmers, truck drivers, interior decorators—for whom the American West offers another identity necessary for their mental stability, a means of going back into history to make sense of as world in which they often alienated; another way for Man to renew the search for identity and his relationship with Nature,” he has written. “Of course, many ordinary Europeans have now visited the [American] West. They know full well their dream is about an America that no longer exists, may never have existed. But they are content with the myth because it fulfills [personal] needs.”

For some it goes far beyond weekend fun or a chance to adopt certain Indian values or beliefs; these hobbyists don’t limit themselves to occasionally procuring authentic garments, decorative items and handicraft projects. Such is the case with the self-proclaimed chief, Gerhard Fischer, known as Old Bull, who heads the Karl May fan club, which hosts a festival on the author’s birthday. Fischer and his kind have romanticized long-gone Native Americans to a degree that they think “latter-day” Indians are poor examples of their ancestors—whom they revere as noble savages. Old Bull’s followers believe Natives today are being perverted by modern culture and that they, not Native Americans, are preserving Native culture.

Instead of empathizing with the very real struggles of Natives now living in North America, these “new Indians” of Europe see the societal problems, substance or alcohol abuse, poverty and internal difficulties

May dressed as Old Shatterhand (1896); striking a writerly pose (1907)

within some indigenous communities as evidence supporting their conclusions. They believe their activities are keeping Native American traditions alive, because—they believe—most Natives neglect or do not appreciate their own heritage.

The website for the “Indians and Mountain Men” club declares that “the purpose of the club is to maintain the customs and traditions of the North American Indians and Mountain Men.… We call ourselves practicing anthropologists and take our hobby and the related work, either in theoretical or practical shape, very seriously. The tipis, all the clothing, as well as all items are lovingly made by hand and decorated by us. Many of us even tan the leather itself and sew it together with animal sinews, as the Indians did before. We practice in many skills and craft techniques of this cultural group, and even in songs and dances we strive to achieve the utmost authenticity.”

David Redbird Baker, Ojibwe, told Noemi LaPinto for an article in the Canadian monthly magazine, Alberta Views, that when he first came to Germany, he was amused by the hobbyists, but his feelings changed as he spent more time amongst them. “They take the social and religious ceremonies and change them beyond recognition….They’ve held dances where anyone in modern dress is barred from attending—even visiting Natives. They buy sacred items like eagle feathers and add them to their regalia.” In his opinion, these hobbyists, by claiming the right to improvise on the most sacred rituals, have begun to develop a sense of ownership over Native culture.

LaPinto also talked to John Blackbird, Cree, a minor celebrity in Germany known for his Native dance performances and his documentaries on the hobbyists. He often feels frustrated by hobbyists who feel they are more Indian than Indians. He told LaPinto that he made a documentary entitled Powwow in 2005, which follows several people as they perform dances from across a broad spectrum of Native traditions. Blackbird says he was “trying to show Germans that Native dances are evolving art forms, not the ancient rituals of an extinct people.” While promoting this film, he sent an e-mail to a hobbyist organization, explaining that his film was about ‘Indian life.’ He says he received a quick, curt response informing him that the proper term was ‘First Nations,’ and that he would do well “to not use racist terminology.”

An actor portraying Winnetou rehearses for a 2007 festival performance in Northern Germany.

“ ‘I am an Indian!’ Blackbird shot back. ‘My friends are Indians. My family are Indians. We have always called ourselves Indians. I have a status card from the Canadian government that tells me I am an Indian. You have no right to tell me what I am.’ ”

Like John Blackbird, I am Indian living and working in Germany—I am of Chiricahua Apache and Cherokee heritage, with a couple of splashes of other cultures. Like John Blackbird, I generally find life comfortable in Germany, and for the most part I am accepted for who I am. I have met many Germans who are genuinely interested in and respectful of Native American cultures and are aware of the struggles we’ve had in the past and continue to face today.

But I have met other, less-endearing hobbyists. Through Facebook and other websites or social applications, I am sometimes contacted by enthusiasts who avidly want to talk to a “real” Native American. And sometimes I oblige them. I recently had a conversation with a middle-aged German man who was looking for a Native American with whom to discuss his thoughts and beliefs. He believed he was a reincarnated Nez Percé chief, and repeatedly spoke of “our people, our culture, our beliefs, our blood.” He vehemently objected to the idea that real Native Americans might take issue with his claims. His final message to me was: “No people should be allowed to keep their culture just for themselves.”

As a Native American in Germany, when I am asked honest questions, I give honest answers, and if I don’t know something, I direct the person toward a reliable source of information. When I am dismissed by hobbyists who think they know more about my people and culture than I do, I do not let them bother me. Instead, I try to educate those who are willing to listen and hope they will support causes that help improve the life and future of Native Americans.

RELATED: Marty Two Bulls's cartoon, "German Native Enthusiast"



Michael Joyner's picture
Michael Joyner
Submitted by Michael Joyner on

Thank You.


As a Native American in Germany, when I am asked honest questions, I give honest answers, and if I don’t know something, I direct the person toward a reliable source of information. When I am dismissed by hobbyists who think they know more about my people and culture than I do, I do not let them bother me. Instead, I try to educate those who are willing to listen and hope they will support causes that help improve the life and future of Native Americans

Jack Enright's picture
Jack Enright
Submitted by Jack Enright on

Very informative article, I would like to know what you think of a book I wrote Return of the Ancient Mariners. It is the story of how people came to the Northwest by boat across the Pacific Ocean during the Ice Age. Buffalo hunters and Salmon eaters greeted the new arrivals in a land full of wonder and abounding in game. People lived together in tight communities and were free to roam as they pleased. But beware of terrible beasts that may be hunting for you.

Michael von Pallutz 's picture
Michael von Pallutz
Submitted by Michael von Pallutz on

first of all , it is not illegal in Germany to ride a horse or go camping !!! it is quite easier to do than in California for example and a lot cheaper too, second ...you talking about hobby indians here ,but forgot to mention that Germany was founded only in 1871 and before that time existed as federation of kingdoms which established out of TRIBAL AREAS ,yes we were a federation of many many tribes ,we had no cities,no kings no written language 'till late into the middle age (sounds familiar ,doesn't it !!!) when Rome tried to conquer us to bring civilization many of our tribes like the cherusci,chatti and franken united and fought (sounds again very familiar,right ?!) ...the tribal background and our common lifestyle for such a long period is what makes the german so connected to the american natives and that should be respected and not made fun off !!!!! or has a false pride taken over ?!

dolores Laban's picture
dolores Laban
Submitted by dolores Laban on

I just finished reading your art. Couple yrs ago our N.Am elders from the SCIT tribe here in Mt.Pleasant, Mi got to go to Italy and another time to Spain.
While in Italy we were warmly welcomed, althou we were just tourist. We got a lot of looks, one of our elders had extremely long hair and always wore it in a long braid and wore lovely hair pc'c and ear rings.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Germans have always been an arrogant lot. It doesn't surprise me they want to tell you about your people.

Submitted by Align on

Perhaps the Germans would do best is to reflect on themselves, as a people. Some of these "tribal"attributes they are mimicking... are really talking about their early history. It seems like they cannot give themselves permission to be Germans. So it's easier to hijack another culture/regalia/traditions and morphed into "their interpretation." Maybe they know if they do anything celebrating their Germanness, they will be condemned by the world communities due to everything associated with WWII. It is offensive when the Germans "insist" on what being Indian is. These clubs, are they any better than what the Boys Scouts Association do in the United States? Naming their Indian "camps" with the word Reservation attached to it? It seems to me that non Natives are ashamed from where they come from (i.e. Europe).

J. Daniel's picture
J. Daniel
Submitted by J. Daniel on

This makes me wonder why these "hobbyists" don't have the same obsession with the Sami/ Saami, the indigenous people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. It seems odd to me that a group of people would make a hobby out of another peoples culture or history. I suppose it is none of my business, it just seems to me that they are making a game of it, trivializing and disrespecting someone's ancestry, "playing Indian" even though you have no connection to it what so ever! I can understand having an interest in others culture and heritage, studying and learning as much as you can seems normal but taking on their identity seems rather strange!

Brigitte's picture
Submitted by Brigitte on

Ok..Just a little some thing to this ver y interessting report..I am Swiss, and the storys of Winnetou and Old Schatterhand were a part of my childhood, and the basel foundation, that eventualy, got me into getting more informations and knowledge about how native people live now...I was member of Incomindions, wich is a organisation foundet by a Native , 30 years ago..Member of the Indian Treaty Council in Geneva in the UN...I have now, lets say, come full circel..I am married to a Native American, live in the USA and very greatful for all the input I had all my life besides having been in touch with native people for 30 years.....Europiens, are very eager, and sencere to learn, as for all long time all they had was....the Hollywood stuff that was far from real...so ....they have and had a very diffrent point of view then people have over her...take it, with a twinkel of your eye...lol....at least they have great respect for Native People...

Brigitte's picture
Submitted by Brigitte on

Just a additon to my last comment..I dont agree at all, with those extreme parts, that pretend to be native or copie sacred ceremonies or change them into some thing else...this is deffenetly disrespectfull and sick..I knew some guy, that his wife told me, oh hes been to a Sundance in Germany...and I was utterly shocked....I was not able to make her understand, that this was wrong...

Brandy D. Ramos's picture
Brandy D. Ramos
Submitted by Brandy D. Ramos on

This is embarrassing to me, because I'm German on my Mother's side and Cherokee on my Father's side. These people that do this as a hobby are only learning the Hollywood stereotypes. We are not a Hobby. We are many groups of people with different cultures. If you want a Hobby take up painting. You got plenty of scenery there to do so.

Sloane Cornelius
Submitted by Sloane Cornelius on

I hate this. Man do I hate this. It takes a special kind of a$$hole to co-opt a culture as their own with an attitude of complete and pure entitlement. Not only is their co-opt of native people wrong it its own right, it's racist and dehumanizing. It is not touching in any way. They are effectively consolidating all natives into one mystical native stereotype and propagating a dangerous ignorance about the struggle and history of native people. These types of people relegate native people to the past - and I don't think it's endearing, or cute, or touching. I'm not willing to educate people like this because they see me as a storybook fairy tale, a commodity, a mythical creature, instead of the person that I am and the community that I belong to that is just as human as me. Native communities are better served by allies who understand the boundaries drawn by respect and humility than white people who want to play indian because they can't relate to their own culture or community. This is the sort of crap that makes natives have to fight against misrepresentation, appropriation, and a myriad of other issues that affect their communities. Touching? I think not. Not ever.

A random Navajo 's picture
A random Navajo
Submitted by A random Navajo on

Well to me it is the lack of knowledge and understanding that they suffer from. They have so much lost a culture they crave for. It is merely a poor coping mechanism.

Mark Lind-Hanson's picture
Mark Lind-Hanson
Submitted by Mark Lind-Hanson on

All the more fascinating since A. Hitler (a noted Karl May fan!) used America's treatment of Indians as his rationale for wiping out the Jews...

Mojo Hand's picture
Mojo Hand
Submitted by Mojo Hand on

There was an article in the New Yorker, 4/9/12 issue, that discussed Germany's fascination with Native Americans and the old west and Karl May.

It's quite odd that some folks are into the imagery and mythology and ignore the actual day to day life of Native Americans. But, as Michael Joyner posted, maybe the best way to deal with these folks is to try and educate those who are willing to listen and learn.

I am Asian American, and I am not responsible for other people's education, but in some ways I am. For some white and black folks in this country, I may be the only Asian person they've ever met in person. So there is sort of an obligation to kind of "represent" or be the face of my community. And there is a kind of obligation to educate someone if they're spewing ignorant, but perhaps well meaning non-sense, about your people.

Tibetan monks often run into this problem of having white westerners who are practicing Buddhists that so want to be Tibetan monks themselves. They're enthralled by the imagery, the mysticism, and idealizing them and not seeing the Tibetan people for being just that---people, with flaws like everyone else.

Irvin Morris's picture
Irvin Morris
Submitted by Irvin Morris on

This makes me wonder why on earth any real Indian would want to live in a place like that?

briangwinn's picture
Submitted by briangwinn on

The World has become a strange place indeed. The Germans do Wild West Shows, the USA has Rennaisance Faires, Japan has festivals where they "re-create" 1950's America. Each of these places has their own history to delve into, and they've chosen the histories of other peoples to concentrate on. Much of what drives the Germans is; to NOT re-live the Nazi Era and the Kaiser Willhelm Era. As others have pointed out, if Germans delve deeply enough into their own history, they reach their own tribal past. But they have chosen to latch onto Native American past. They're probably thinking they're honoring that past by re-creating it. But they will honor it, only when they re-create it accurately. But, this is not as easy as it sounds. In the American Southwest, Rennaisance Faires have had to include Mexicans and Aztec dancers, as well as taco stands---to avoid accusations of racism. It does not matter that Rennaisance Europe knew little of Mexicans and Aztecs, much less had them visiting their Faires. To be socio-politically correct, they MUST be historically wrong. Sadly, there is no easy solution. Germans will not stop playing Indian Games. Mexicans will not stop forcing their way into situations where they do not belong. And "correct" has become nothing more than a subjective concept. They call it Globalization, where we all put away our tribal differences and become the oxymoron "Tribe Earth". This Globalization is a destructive force. It does not care how proud we are of our pasts. Because it wants us to be proud of a future where we all lose our individual histories and become a huge homogenous villiage of automatons who no longer remember the past.

Johann's picture
Submitted by Johann on

Thanks for the nice article. Being German myself I can tell you that most Germans are brought up with stories of Indians (e.g. Karl May) and used to play "Cowboy and Indians" (now the kids just stay inside a play PS3). They depict a very simple form of "good and bad" role play and most grown ups know that this got nothing to do with native American culture at all.
I have to disagree with "von Pallutz" about the similarities between German and Indian culture. Every nation can be traced back to a tribal background (what else could there have been in ancient times?). My guess is, that the great loss of knowledge about this culture gives a fruitful soil for your own fantasies. It's just enough to give you a start, the rest is up to you.
Taking a foreign culture isn't limited to indian culture. Even more widely spread is the "far east culture" with elements of Hindu, the medival times or even "germanic tribe" rituals (which is even worse enacted, since almost everything cultural about this time is lost to pure speculation). They all share, that they are poorly passed down to modern times and are connected with pagan cults. The need for "spiritual power" is widely spread since the early 20th century. Many feel that there has to be "something more" than just earning money and buying things but there is no originated tradition of this in Germany except the church. I wouldn't worry about it too much. If people think that you can "take" a culture and "make" it their own shows how much we are limited to the western way of thinking we were brought up with. It's like "if got more deer trousers and feathers so I've got more culture than you have". Even the way of bashing down on others to feel more important or to amount your "indianism" in percent shows their western culture. Believe me, those people are mostly seen with bewilderment.

JP Nightrain's picture
JP Nightrain
Submitted by JP Nightrain on

“No people should be allowed to keep their culture just for themselves.”

I think we all, native or otherwise, should do well to heed this. We all borrow from culture or another.

Dakyisana 's picture
Submitted by Dakyisana on

Its very interesting how Germans have this love of American Indian people, I think they have good intentions to learn and need to find that spiritual tie about American Indian people. Although they have good intentions there is still a lack of understanding of being an American Indian whether in cultural or religious activities. I feel you cant just "dress up" or go for a weekend trip into the woods to become in-tune with nature or whatever your search for. I feel thoughs non-natives searching for that connection have to find it themselves rather than looking to us. An example of this is the Smoki People of Prescott, AZ This group of non-native people dressed up like Hopi people, preformed ceremonial dances and everything - feeling they where honoring my people by dressing up at them. They probably had great intentions but just didn't understand the rooted cultural and religious values of my people and was very insulting.

MariaBonitaDE's picture
Submitted by MariaBonitaDE on

To JP Nighttrain: the statement the person made, "not to keep a culture to themselves" might seem innocuous. Yes, we do all borrow from one another in some way, although when you have indigenous peoples they may have borrowed from within their ethnic groups or local environment, such as Native Americans, but not beyond that until they were overall or forced to, i.e. the British, French, Spanish devastating the Americas. Historical context.

But the person quoted, a person who is actively teaching many people that they are the reincarnated spirits of ancient Native Americans therefore they should automatically be accepted by modern natives? That is not borrowing. That's appropriating, stealing and disrespectfully taking from them to serve one's own purpose, in a way that goes beyond physical even to your spiritual beliefs, plus they demand you accept them or if you don't you are not a real Indian because they have the spiritual connection to "real Indians." This person was using that broad ideal as an excuse/reason and rationalization to justify their newage teachings.

For Briangwinn, USA people having Renaissance fairs isn't strange or remarkable in a certain way if you think about it. Many new Americans are descended of British, Italian, German, etc. ancestry and therefore their ancestors were a part of the Renaissance that took place in Europe. Renaissance festivals can encompass a variety of styles and country's histories. I've been to quite a few such festivals in Europe as well as in the US, just out of curiosity but also I have studied European history, anciety and more modern and find it of interest also. Having Europeans with absolutely no connection, blood or otherwise deciding to then pretend to be another culture or enacting those cultures, is rather different. Most don't even have any blood relation in any way.

Mark Lind-Hanson, yes Adolf Hitler was a Karl May fan but so was Albert Einstein a reader of that author's books, as well as a range of other noted people who were not Nazis nor sympathized with them. As a WW2 and Holocaust researcher and student, as well as an psychological observer of Germany, I certainly and absolutely do not categorize all Germans the same...as my article clearly stated.

Align made a very good point, which again, was one of my mine edited out of the original article I wrote: some Germans do not feel comfortable with acknowledging their history, for understandable reasons in some aspects, yet feel to immerse themselves in other cultures is a means of relief, redirection and some kind of satisfaction. That is a general statement from my observation, experience and direct interviews both private and professional.

As others have expressed and I live with it almost every day, besides the Native American Association of Germany here, which info was edited out of my original article: it is sometimes absolutely impossible to make some of these people understand that what they do is disrespectful. They are completely insistent on what they do is right, and that you should be flattered by what they do or that your questions and/or objections are irrelevant because they are adamant to do what they do.

I can completely understand interest in other cultures. I also live that having studied Russian in depth, travelled there, respects some aspects and periods. I've done the same with Welsh, and several other cultures, though I've focused on a couple for a more detailed study. But maybe its because I feel such an affinity to and haven't lost my own culture, that I don't need to pretend to be anything else. I think that's one of the key elements in some hobbyists and practictioners of Indianism and "shamanism" here.