Indigeneity, Language and Authenticity

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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Aajja tjäkta

Thinking back, I remember you best
resting on the pebbled beach of Luvlie Geavhta
with a net needle in your hand,
seine spilling over your knees,
back twisted and hands like butterflies
across the water.

You taught me once,
each movement of the arctic charr
as they tangled themselves in what you’d made
and thrown like clouds descending over the lake,
and I grew up and forgot it all.

Jåvva Johansson from Såahka


This is actually a detail from a much bigger painting by the Swedish painter Carl Larsson, called Breakfast in the Open, and the story behind it is worth telling as it shows how Saami men, women and children have been exploited by artists and writers throughout history, without getting paid for it.

The South Saami man in the painting was called Jåvva Johansson, or Jon Johansson, and he was born in Såahka (Undersåker) 1871, which is part of the land belonging to Jovnevaerie Saami Reindeer Herding Community. Due to years of bad weather and famine, however, he was brought up in a family without any reindeer and instead he had to become a beggar in order to survive.

Back in the early 19th century he used to be known as Sweden’s tallest Saami, as he was 185 centimetres tall, but few if any paid him the respect of using his actual name, and instead referred to him as Lapp-Jo.

Jåvva travelled all over Sweden, and over time he became known as a famous fiddler, oral story-teller and healer. He was seen as an exotic feature and people used to pay him in alcohol and scrap money in order to see him play the fiddle whilst wearing his gapta, i.e. traditional clothes. This in turn turned Jåvva into an alcoholic and soon after his relative fame had begun, Swedish members of the upper class who had used to employ him as a fiddler at concerts and parties for laughs and giggles started to turn him away.

Once again Jåvva was left to begging his way across the country, but seeing as he was a good oral storyteller, some people suggested that he should write his stories down in a book. After many ifs and buts he was convinced to write a book called “Exorcism and Spells – Dark Arts from Lapland”, published in 1917 and which contained what was supposedly a collection of traditional beliefs from the Saami, but which in reality was made up of Swedish superstitions from the area around modern-day Sjädtavaellie (Sundsvall). The book, though it was bought by famous Swedes, and the first of the copies was given to the king, almost ruined Jåvva, and what little money he had earnt from it soon went to the publisher who demanded payment for the book.

Anyway, back to the painting. Back in 1910, Carl Larsson was working on a massive painting measuring 4 times 2 metres, but he seemed to think that it lacked something extra. Luckily for him Jåvva was in the neighbourhood and consequently Carl Larsson invited him to his garden where he was included in the painting as an exotic feature.

It took Carl Larsson three years to finish his painting, which was then promptly sold for a whooping 210,000 SEK, which today would be the equivalent of £910, 595. Jåvva, however, received nothing of that money, despite being the main reason why Carl Larsson was paid so much for it.

Jåvva died in 1958, without so much as a single penny to his name, and few if any would remember him today if it wasn’t for this painting or his fiddle tunes.



Performing the Other

You ask me to dress traditionally,
silver wearing blue down,
just like the tourist brochures promised –
asking for the authentic me,
you find the time to lament
the lack of  spun pewter around my neck;
This raised fist is all you’ll ever get.

We are our languages

As Saami, our languages form an integral, central part of all discussions concerning our identities. Taking this into consideration, the act of speaking a Saami language becomes not only an important tool to facilitate one’s participation in what could be referred to as a Saami reality, it is also a natural vehicle for the transmission of cultural values within our own communities. We are our languages, they shape us, and connect us with our ancestors while simultaneously bringing us into the future.


New age frauds and Indigeneity


The text below, which I noticed on Tumblr a while ago, might be one of the worst examples of white New Agers infatuated with the trope of the magical, mystical Indigene that I have ever read in my entire life. I was going to leave this at first, but it just annoys me too much.


Thoughts of Indigenous tribes takes us back and connects us to another time, a time when we trusted our intuition and knew how to be stewards of the earth. It was a time when we felt a deeper connection to everything.

What Isabella Stoloff is doing here is, to put it bluntly, erasing contemporary Indigenous communities around the world, by placing them firmly in a distant past, safely away from the complex and intricate struggles we face today. In making the Indigene a long-gone, dead object, and instead focus on tropes forged by prejudices, misconceptions and lies about Indigenous communities around the world, it becomes easy to take even more from us, seeing as – to the writer and their kin – we are no longer here.

In today’s world we are losing our connection to not only each other but to our beautiful mother a well. With so much information coming at us all the time we are beginning to lose touch with what is really important. Ask yourself what is important to you. Are you more caught up in what other’s think of you, or whether you have the newest cool thing out on the market?

Here Isabella is talking about what Baudrillard would refer to as postmodernity’s ‘loss of self’. The Loss of Self is, as far as I am concerned, a concept which is only applicable to white people. What Isabella is failing to understand is that while many settler nations are struggling to come to terms with who they are, based on their history of land thefts, genocide and other atrocities, we as Indigenous peoples are firmly rooted in our own communities, and have thus not lost ourselves – but this does not mean that we have any obligations whatsoever to serve as living smorgasbords for culture vultures, only interested in taking that which seems cool, in and sufficiently mystical at the time.

Now there dis nothing wrong with wanting material things, but if you can find balance so you can grow spiritually then take a look into Indigenous cultures and see what they have to offer. There is a certain vibe when we hear the word Indigenous. It conjures up images of a time long ago, ancient civilizations, and ways of connecting to nature that we have long. It also makes us think of jungles and plant medicine, unfamiliar territory to most. But this territory is where people are finding their way back to themselves.

Indigenous peoples live, breathe, walk this planet, co-habit it with you on a daily basis, and to repeatedly paint us as relics of a sorely missed Eden of human innocence is both factually wrong, and offensive to those of us who identify as members of actual, vibrant indigenous communities today,

Those who are noticing something is missing from their lives are seeking ways to get in touch with their soul’s purpose. The people who want to connect and come back to the Mother are what I call “New Indigenous Tribes.”

The term Indigenous cannot and should not ever be used to refer to New Age settlers. It’s so intrinsically wrong, the mere act of writing it down on paper should tell you how bad it is.

These tribes are yearning for something more. We see them popping up everywhere. All religions, all walks of life, are joining together to make a difference in the world. Permaculture, sustainable living, communes and more are sprouting up all over the country. Occupy “whatever” is the fad of the day and people are joining in force saying enough is enough. Because of this, things are changing for the better. I believe this is the time to take control of your destiny. If things are not working, fix them. We can no longer stand by and allow society to dictate what works. Clear your life of what no longer serves you and clear the clutter of your mind. I say; “If it makes you feel bad or is negative, it is a lie. If it makes you feel good and is positive, it is the truth”. As the old saying goes, “The truth will set you free” and freedom is what we are all seeking. 

The section above is essentially waffle without any actual substance. To confuse the Occupy movement with an actual, current Indigenous decolonial surge sweeping the planet shows an immense level of simply not being in touch with reality.

In 1991 when I began my path of spiritual growth I remember making the decision to be honest in all my affairs. That meant absolutely no lying. It was not easy at first, and even harder for those around me. But I told my truth and to this day I do not lie. I feel this is one way for others to dial in to their intuitive nature. Speak your truth no matter what. 
Remember you are connected to every living thing. Breathe in the truth of this statement. Once we tune into the planet and listen, all our questions will be answered. It is a waste of time to sit around and beat yourself up over things. To tell yourself you are fat, or not good enough, or stupid. Allow these thoughts to melt away and fill your mind with forgiveness and love. Love is the answer, especially at this time.

Telling the truth at all times is a noble goal, but seeing as you’re so caught up in your own delusion of being a new Indigenous person, you’re essentially lying to yourself on a daily basis.

You cannot choose to be Indigenous.

There are far too many people around the world who are disconnected from their communities who never come home because of people like you, who make a mockery of our real-life struggles, in order to present us as people who are dead anyway, but somehow still pure and noble and thus perfect as human goody bags whose cultural traditions are exotic enough to the Othering eye of the West to justify appropriating them.

We are in the middle of a great change and I feel this change can bring us back to our Indigenous state of being. 
So, what if we took the word Indigenous and created our own culture, our own tribe, our own world? What if the word Indigenous described us as, the people of the new world, the world we have all been talking about, one filled with trust, peace, love and light, compassion and solidarity. How would that make you feel? Imagine it now. Let that image spread all over your being.


Don’t do it. It’s offensive and actually harmful to real Indigenous communities.

We are all feeler healers and once you clear your mind, learn how to tell the truth and trust, you will have the tools needed to create beautiful lives. The more dialed in you are the better your life will be.  When you are open to the divine and fully in touch with your heart magical things can, and do happen~ 

Shaman Isabella Stoloff founded the Orange County Healing Center in 2009, speaks all over the world and is a visionary. Sessions with Isabella leave you feeling lighter, connected and more in tune with your soul. Shaman Isabella provides one-on-one sessions, teaches private Shaman classes and guides sacred retreats.  “Transforming my life has ben a passion of mine for over 20 years. I look forward to assist you connect with your soul at the deepest level” 

Created for OM Magazine

I had a look at your homepage, and I am not surprised to see that you charge $10,000 to teach people how to become shamans.

I have absolutely nothing against people who find peace, strength and confidence in New Age ideas, but I do oppose people who make it their job to speak over actual Indigenous peoples and act as shamans to the public.

You claim to be an expert on shaman practices from the Andes, and yet you’ve only been there six times according to your homepage; to me, that does not add up.

Furthermore, you only list one teacher on your homepage, a certain Dr. Alberto Villoldo, who is a known New Age fraud amongst actual Indigenous peoples around the world, and the actual shamans you’ve “learnt” from are only referred to as that – they’re faceless, nameless props in your business plan.

The sad truth is that your business and life-style is harming actual, real Indigenous peoples, by strip-mining their religious practices and selling them for a profit, and yet you have the audacity to suggest that people who are vulnerable to frauds like you should start referring to themselves as “new indigenous peoples”.

Don’t you actually hear how bad that sounds?