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Email from an Indigenous MKP leader about cultural appropriation

A letter from an Indigenous man who is a "Full Leader" in MKP's rank system, and an MKP International Board member, about cultural appropriation:


To my allies, potential allies, and anyone else curious about how an indigenous full leader in the mankind project feels about the cultural appropriation that’s currently happening in the mankind project,


Background-


I am Chance Taureau, a certified full leader and leader trainer in the mankind project. I’ve been on the leader team of about fifty or sixty weekends all over the world over that last eleven or so years. I am proud to be standing up and declaring a clear statement that what is happening with the indigenous practices in the mankind project are wrong, ill informed, and harmful. So much work has been done to try to bring light to this situation with peace, patience, and humility but it’s not being acknowledged or brought to a healthy completion. I’m confident that the peace and patience will end at some point.


I know the nuances of the weekend. And I also know the nuances of culture, race, power, privilege, and oppression. I grew up on a reservation in Oregon. I am indigenous. I am a registered member of a tribe. At this time, I am either incongruent with myself or I am incongruent with the organization. I am unable to find harmony and participate with the mankind project authentically. What is happening is not right. I’ve signed a covenant that has me agree to betray myself. What kind of agreement is that?


The problem as I see it-


The mankind project has known for decades that the use of certain indigenous practices on the new warrior training adventure has been harmful, insulting, and inappropriate to indigenous people and their allies. This is stated on the mankind project website. Throughout all this time there have been less modifications and more repackaging the same things being called something else. For years, the purification and renewal ceremony was called a sweat lodge and the purification and renewal ceremony leaders were called waterpourers. That ceremony still functions the same way and those men still do the same thing but now have a different name. Hmm…


We’re dealing with a case of the emperors new clothes.


Recently, a small group of men (most indigenous) were requested by what is now called the United States Leaderbody to present some “perspective” about certain indigenous-attributed processes and experiences that are performed on the weekend.


That presentation has been a topic of contention since it was presented, recorded, and then specifically not distributed by being pulled off of the different mankind project list serves and the reasons why have been unclear ever since.


Another group of men have worked tirelessly, for countless hours to seek resolution to define what appropriation is, how to determine if that is, in fact, what has happened with multiple processes and experiences on the weekend and to recommend a path forward in good relationship with the larger “Indian country” about what is right and what is inappropriate. This is being presented as what is happening but it is not actually happening. I am absolutely boggled that what seems clear before everyone’s eye will not be acknowledged. This it totally unacceptable.


What has been happening, and for far too long, is that native people as individuals are being pitted against each other, on one side and the other, of this topic and then institutional leaders have simply chosen what aligns with what they want and what allows the institution to stay in shadow around appropriation. This is the same colonizing behavior that causes indigenous people to despise those who make every excuse they can find to support a position defending why they are justified to take what isn’t theirs. And to keep doing what they want rather than listen to the pain that they cause, or regardless of the pain that they cause.


Thoughts on a possible way forward-


I’m of mixed mind here. The part speaking as an indigenous man says this isn’t my problem. Get right by facing the discomfort of this and figure it out. The certified man speaking knows that I’m needed to speak up and offer ideas about how to move forward.


Properly addressing this will involve outside perspectives from organizations, groups, and bodies that do that type of consulting. Until this is done, the new warrior training adventure is not psychically safe for some men, both indigenous and non indigenous.


There are many types of leaders in the mankind project-three that I want to bring your attention to are institutional leaders, the lodge keepers society, and new warrior training adventure leaders. These groups of leaders are very different.


The rigors required for certification of NWTA leaders in the mankind project are some of the most challenging series of obstacles to pass. This tempers men and raises their consciousness to some of the highest levels. This is how it should be. This is what helps to create the containers that are needed to induce transformation for ourselves and the men coming to the new warrior training adventures that we lead.


The institutional leadership and lodge keepers leadership in the mankind project have enough critical mass of men to stay in the echo chamber of “rightness” while continuing to not have the eyes to see or ears to hear what is wrong. I see an opportunity to offer the same rigors of leadership development to our institutional leadership as well as the path to be recognized as a waterpourer in the mankind project in an effort for our organization to grow, evolve, and move past where we’re stuck.


The conflict between these three groups is part of why we aren’t seeing the changes needed. Men in institutional leadership and the lodge keeper society have typically not done “the work” to have the consciousness that would have them recognize the depth of the problems that need to shift or to see beyond their own need for significance and consistency. It seems that MKPUSA is allowing itself to be no different than so many other governing bodies that has preceded it in the United States.


Once when I spoke up about the wrong that I see happening, Bryan Harold, a man of institutional leadership and status, said that I’m trying to destroy the mankind project. If appropriation is the only way that the mankind project can survive we have bigger problems than we all can imagine.


I believe that the mankind project is stronger than that. I have faith that we have such an enormous body of the most talented facilitators in the world that we can create anything we want when actually tasked to do so. We’ve not been allowed to wake that talent and use it to give birth to the next version of evolving men.


My call to action is to stand with me and immediately stop leading, staffing, or being on any new warrior training adventures (or other named hero’s journey weekends) where a sweat lodge/purification and renewal ceremony is conducted until the mankind project properly addresses the use of the lodge also known as the purification and renewal ceremony on the new warrior training adventure. What’s happening with covid around the shift in protocols with the lodge is not addressing the problem.


Properly addressing this issue means engaging outside perspective, not the continued “in-house” echo chamber style that has the organization paralyzed. And then choosing to take action led by the certified leaders of this organization to do better. It should certainly start with living members, in positions of leadership in the Lakota tribe. As well as submission to the desire of greater Indian Country which would require transparency. Transparency is not currently happening in the mankind project but it will come.


Chance Taureau


(The full header information for this email is in the attached PDF.)

Email from Chance Taureau to MKP leaders about cultural appropriation
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