Spiritual Misappropriation

February 15th, 2019

Please Note: This Presentation Replaces Previously Scheduled Programs. 

Recently Interface entertained hosting a presentation that may have been seen as promulgating cultural misappropriation. To answer concerns raised, we have instead invited a panel to focus on the issue of cultural misappropriation and to consider how we might avoid this as therapists and spiritual leaders. In a town like Boulder, where many cultural traditions are mined for their spiritual riches, it is hard to know where to draw the line between the dissemination of valuable teachings and cultural misappropriation.

11:30am – 1:30pm

Location: The Boulder Jewish Community Center
CLICK for Directions


Donna ChrisjohnElicia GoodsoldierPhillip GoverMichael JohnsonModeratorHost: Michael Johnson and an Interface board member

About The Presentation

There was a time when Euro-Americans held American Indian cultural and spiritual practice in low regard, condemning it as evil and archaic; however, in present day we see a very different sentiment as many Americans of the dominant, mainstream society admire and emulate Native religious traditions. This co-option phenomenon is controversial because the non-Native practice and commercial consumption of Native American traditions is essentially an act of colonization. Many Natives feel that the commercial appropriation of their traditions, customs, philosophies and worldviews is exploitative and a setback to the Native American identity struggle. While partaking in this co-option many non-Natives are not aware of or interested in this issue because there are often Natives or “self-identified” Natives legitimizing this trend.

This panel seeks to educate the Interface community on cultural co-option, also known as plastic shamanism. The increasing commercialization of Native American religion in the new age market “displaces, distorts, marginalizes and belittles” American Indian histories and contemporary American Indian identities.

About the Presenters

Donna Chrisjohn is Sicangu Lakota and Dine.  She is a native of Denver, Colorado and has recently returned to Colorado with her family. Donna stays active in the Native community by volunteering and participating in several community organizations.  She is a public speaker and has been presenting historical information about Lakota people to schools and organizations for over 40 years. Donna is a legal professional for a prestigious law firm in Downtown Denver.  More times than not, she is found participating with her children in sports and youth activities in the Denver Metro area.
– Denver American Indian Commission
– Founding Board Member for the American Indian Academy of Denver
– Steering Committee for PASS with Cherry Creek School District
– Teaches Indigenous Voices, a cultural immersion course for CCSD

Elicia Goodsoldier is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and also belongs to the Spirit Lake Dakota tribe. She Co-Chairs the Denver American Indian Commission and recently completed an appointment to the Governor’s Commission to Study American Indian Representations in Public Schools. She is a board member of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and sits on the Cultural Competency Advisory Council for the Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health. She is the program coordinator for PERL (People Engaged in Raising Leaders), a program under the Community Action Programs, Boulder County.

Phillip Gover is Pawnee and an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Phil currently lives in Broomfield.  He has a B.A. in American Studies with a focus on Race and Ethnicity from Stanford University and a J.D. from Arizona State University. He has worked for the Ft. McDowell Indian Community, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation. He currently works as a Native American Student Youth Advocate for the Adams 12 Five Star Schools.

Michael Johnson, Assistant Director of Development at the Native American Rights Fund, is a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota and a relative of the White Earth Nation where his grandfather is a citizen. Michael graduated with distinction from The School of Liberal Arts at The University of Colorado Denver. Michael majored in Political Science earning magna cum laude honors.  Michael’s work over the last decade has engaged key stakeholders in Indian Country and beyond to create lasting relationships built on impact, success, respect, and reciprocity. Born and raised in Colorado, Michael currently resides in Littleton with his wife and two children.
Vice chair of the board for the Denver Indian Family Resource Center (2016-2018)
Board Member Veteran’s Green Jobs (2011)
Advisory Board Member for the Natural History Museum (2017-Present)
Reader for the Unfunded List (Present)

Local Orgs, but National in scope:
Higher Education – American Indian College Fund, www.collegefund.org
Economic and Cultural development – First Nations Development Institute, www.firstnations.org
Law and Rights – Native American Rights Fund, www.narf.org
Science and Engineering (College) – American Indian Science and Engineering Society, www.aises.orgLocal Orgs, Local in scope:
Denver Indian Family Resource Center – www.difrc.org
Denver Indian Center, Inc. – www.denverindiancenter.orgColorado Commission on Indian Affairs has a resource page too..
https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/ccia/resources-13National Orgs not based in Colorado
Americans for Indian Opportunity – www.aio.org
Association on American Indian Affairs – www.indian-affairs.org
National Congress of American Indians – www.ncai.org
Churchill, W. Wielding Words Like Weapons: Selected Essays in Indigenism, 1995–
        2005, PM Press, Denver, CO, 2017
Churchill, W. Fantasies of the Master Race: Literature, Cinema, and the Colonization of American
        Indians, City Lights Publishers, 2001
Elk, W. B. and Lyon, W.S. Black Elk: The Sacred Ways of a Lakota, Harper One, NY, 1991
Silko, L.M. Ceremony, Penguin Classics, NY and London, 1976
Tinker, G. E. Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Cultural Genocide, Fortress Press,
        Minneapolis, MN, 1993.

5 thoughts on “Spiritual Misappropriation

  1. We would like to purchase the audio of this talk but cannot select it from the audio options. Please advise if this will be recorded and where to purchase

  2. I wish I could attend and show my support of this conversation but I have to work that day. Thank you for having the respect to listen to concerns and hold this event in place of the other one.

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