Fake “Powwow” At Burning Man Has Indian Country Raising It’s Eyebrows

Fake “Powwow” At Burning Man Has Indian Country Raising It’s Eyebrows

Posted By Jazmyn Espinoza-Church September 6th, 2017 Last Updated on: July 23rd, 2018

People across Indian country found themselves raising their eyebrows and scratching their heads as a viral Facebook video began making its way through pow wow circles everywhere.

Unless you live under a rock you’ve probably heard that there was a “powwow” held at the Burning Man festival hosted by none other than Standing Rock’s own attorney Chase Iron Eyes and his drum group.

In the video, Chase begins to explain his intentions with a comment that didn’t sit well with some Natives.

“We are all Indigenous, we need to transcend, and one way to do that is through the drum.”

The video later cuts to a frame showing a large group of people gathered around a drum, many taking it upon themselves to join in on banging the drum and swaying with the beat.

As a joke, a satire version of the viral video even goes as far as to remove the original (still very cringe-worthy audio) of the group signing and replace it with the audio from a fake powwow held by non-natives singing “We’re going to a powwow. Gonna’ have a good good time.”

People of the Indigenous community had a lot to say about it all. Many feeling that Chase was supporting the appropriation of our culture, which is already a huge issue.

Chase clapped back in a facebook post, debunking the myth that the satire video version was the original, and setting things straight about why he was there.

“Couple few things about Burning Man:

  1. I was not paid to go to Burning Man
  2. No one sold ceremony.
  3. I don't do drugs or alcohol.
  4. We didn't sing “going to a powwow.” That was a clever edit. Indigenous people came to share in good faith.
  5. I, along with others, went there to share the message of Water Protectors, to elevate this struggle, their current criminalization, into other platforms, and to share our truths.

Some facts and now some thoughts I hope you share with your network about my statements that “all are Indigenous.”

Everyone is Indigenous. All descend from the sacred waters, the land, the cosmos. Everyone has been subjected to the same forces of separation, abstraction, division. Spirit separated from mind, heart from intellect, being separated from relationships with food source, from relations with the waters, the star nations, from covenants with the sacred sites. All anyone has to do is go back far enough and there is a time when you were connected to the sacred.

Colonial forces asserted “dominion” over Mother Earth, over the older beings, the animals, the winged, and so forth. These forces declared themselves “superior”, instituted currency, the logic & institutions of capital, private property, the nation state, extraction. They are the purveyors of patriarchy, pop culture, of cool, of fashion, of beauty, of advertising and so forth. They are now the sources of this separation, fear, hate & division, from which we seek a liberation.

To liberate the spirit, to transcend the limits of body, language & perceived differences of race, religion is to take part in a great awakening, one which is evolving, which will compel us to civilize ourselves with divine order, to unite ourselves with the universe. Then our institutions of law, economy, energy, media, education and so for can reflect humanity's pursuit of liberation and that of Mother Earth's, more importantly because we will be morally and spiritually authorized to create that reality. We won't let vampires destroy our planet.

Cultural appropriation is wrong, yes. Original Nations have survived genocide, slavery, holocaust, and an ongoing genocide, an ongoing deliberate attempt to undermine our dignity, liberation & self determination. For foreigners to prance around in a headdress is wrong. I have lived my life confronting objectification when I first learned of it at 19 years old from the Association of American Indian Psychology. I will continue to confront it and I thank those who fight that fight. Natives confronted people at Burning Man in teachable moments.

Antonie Edwards Jr was also invited to be a part of Burning Man.  He expressed his feelings on Facebook also.


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About Jazmyn Espinoza-Church

Jazmyn Espinoza-Church is a bestselling Native American Author, advocate for Native youth, and freelance journalist. When she's not writing or mentoring she can be found in her Michigan home, hanging out with her fiance and two sons.

TAGGED:    Culture    Events    Indian Country    Indigenous    mostpopular    Native    Native American    powwow    South Dakota    standingrock  

20 thoughts on “Fake “Powwow” At Burning Man Has Indian Country Raising It’s Eyebrows

  1. How To Practice Spirituality Without Cultural Appropriation | STEP 1 | Arrete, Acknowledge, Apologise, Ally

    I didn’t understand at that point what I was doing was wrong, this was the early 90s, long before Indigenous arts had been deemed ‘cool’ by the likes of Free People, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Coachella, Burning Man, and so on. Appropriation had not yet become a widespread problem.

  2. http://demosjournal.com/religion-and-borrowing-in-the-new-age/


    It is in their perceived simplicity as lifeways that indigenous practises resonate (Dodson, 1994). But the interface between cultures of the West and those outside often involves a power dynamic that is not addressed in most cross cultural dialogues. The basic lesson to be learnt from this broad survey is that cross cultural interaction is not a problem in itself. It is a complex phenomenon that requires careful consideration, respect and interaction between indigenous and non-indigenous participants. It is important that exchanges are not a reflection of colonising, neo liberal projects. This paper has argued that the New Age phenomena is a response to modernity from within modernity; that its participants are able to pick and choose their engagement with a movement that has delimited borders and draws on a variety of indigenous influences. Consequently, participants expose themselves to instances of cultural appropriation and borrowing, which usually manifest as acts of purchase or romanticising the indigenous Other. In spaces where borrowing supposedly allows mostly Western, privileged, middle class participants to transcend the geo-political body, often the voices of indigenous owners are lost.
    There are three responses one could have to cultural borrowing: one that represents it as cultural genocide by transforming indigenous communities, one that suggests cultural borrowing is impossible because each iteration of ritual is inherently different and one that suggests it is central to global religious and cultural evolution. All have their merits and failings, but I am inclined to align most with the last. As long as there is an understanding that it is indeed borrowing and there is adequate engagement between participants and their indigenous counterparts not only in the spiritual space, but also with wider community life, I find such cultural exchanges important for knowledge generation and exchange.

  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248981960_New_Age_Commodification_and_Appropriation_of_Spirituality

    The New Age Movement can be seen as one response to the decline of traditional religion in the West. It conforms to the spiritual pluralism that Bryan Wilson understands as a consequence of secularization. From a New Age perspective, the world’s various spiritual traditions are now public property and no longer the private preserve of the parochial groups or religious élites that they once were. Since in this open availability process, the sacred becomes commodified, the general argument allows that it can be bought and sold and thus consumed according to basic free-market principles. The paper explores both the New Age rationale for spiritual commercialization and some of the clashes this engenders with the traditions from which it appropriates.

  4. In dozens of such meetings, in all parts of the world, when I ask about the biggest concerns that indigenous communities have in terms of threats to their sacred sites, “New Agers” are right up there at the top of the list next to mining, dams and land grabs.

    Certainly this is true with the Winnemem Wintu at Mt. Shasta, where the Harmonic Convergence of 1987 opened a floodgate that continues to generate a torrent of visitors. At first it was expensive sweat lodges and vision quests with crystals left all over the mountain and in an important sacred spring. Now it’s cremation remains. Responding to this very serious concern led to a memorable scene we filmed for In the Light of Reverence up in Panther Meadows as drum-beating, crystal-packing college students ‘loved’ the place to death.

    Beginning with the Harmonic Convergence, another sacred place—Chaco Canyon, home to ancient Puebloan villages and Great Kivas—has been overwhelmed with inappropriate offerings left by New Age practitioners. While filming In the Light of Reverence, we met archaeologist Wendy Bustard, the National Park Service curator at Chaco Canyon. Park Service staff have to clear away the offerings and catalog and store everything in the Chaco collection. Bustard spent a day with us, displaying an array of New Age offerings and reflecting on why they’re considered offensive by native people.

    Watch the scene we weren’t able to include in the film.


  5. DK: Last year the UN adopted a Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. What was the basis for the founding of that campaign?

    OL: The basis of it was the fact that at that time, we indigenous peoples didn’t seem to have a voice or human. We weren’t even called indigenous people, we were called other things like natives. In 1975, we met on Victoria Island off of B.C., and we decided at that time that we would call ourselves indigenous. We talked about aboriginal, we talked about native and we decided that when we were going to go public, we would call ourselves indigenous peoples. It became quite a problem later on internationally, let we were new to this whole idea and we were gathering to get ready to move into the international community.

    After looking at the human rights declaration of the United Nations that was established in 1945 and ratified in 1948, we said well, it says there all peoples, and it wasn’t us, we couldn’t understand why and how could you exclude us?

    Because there wasn’t any law, you couldn’t see any rule, so we said well this is an issue and we need to go and address it, we’re going to go to Geneva. In 1971, there was a Guatemalan Indian leader and he had a vision that by the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America, indigenous people would have a voice at the UN. And he began meeting with them, we met in 1972, ‘73, and ‘75, and in 1977 we went to Geneva. When we started out, we had no standing whatsoever, we presented ourselves indigenous people, we were invited by the NGO’s, non governmental organizations international and that was a momentous occasion its historic now, there were 146 delegates and each one had a story, the varieties of where we came from, North, Central, South America, the difficulties we had getting the funds to get there, we had a heck of lot of support, vital crucial support.

    And when we got there, the six nations we were in these meetings all this time and just prior to spring of 1977 when plans were being made, we were going to go out to South Dakota to meet with our Lakota allies when one of our chiefs died, our titleholder. We had to turn around and go home. We were on our way, all the way to Wisconsin when we got the news that he had died. And we didn’t go back.

    We were engrossed with what was going on in our country, which was a lot in 1975. Russell Means came to one of our six nation meetings in July 1977, he asked to speak. I said okay. He said if the six nation doesn’t go with this initial event, there’s no use of any of us going. So when he put it in those terms, we decided well let’s get back to business on this. We said okay we had to get a passport without where we going to get a passport now we decided or not getting get a US passport but we needed some passport so we made one we made our own passports and way issued them to the travelers, 28 of us and we said it was going to be a test to see how they would accept us, because if they were going to accept our passports, they would accept us being there.

    Back in ‘75 you could do that, travel was like that. We were prepared for a fight, we thought, whoever wants to take us on, we are here. We spent four hours at the border.

    And we had only one day to prepare to make our statement we came from North Central and South America never saw each other before we had to come up with our message we had to this across languages and we had to do this in one afternoon.


  6. https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/rock-stars-who-ve-worn-native-headdresses-and-probably-shouldn-t-have-nvvktz2msUK_NFoQA9Ro0g

    In 2010, Adrienne K of Native Appropriations wrote that a non-Indian casually wearing an Indian headdress “furthers the stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures. It also places Native people in the historic past, as something that cannot exist in modern society. We don’t walk around in ceremonial attire everyday, but we still exist and are still Native.” She also draws attention to the deep spiritual significance of a headdress and maintains that when a non-Indian wears one “it’s just like wearing blackface.” In a post at mycultureisnotatrend.tumblr.com the author writes of wearing the headdress: “Unfortunately if you’re a woman, you’re thumbing your nose at our culture which explicitly disallows you to wear the headdress. … If you’re a man, it’s still not appropriate to wear one, unless you’ve actually earned it, according to your tribe (no, you cannot pretend you’ve made a new tribe, etc.)”

    We won’t pretend that every single Native would agree with these statements—Indians are not a monolithic culture—but certainly many, perhaps even most, would say they dislike the headdress’s status as a gimmicky costume or hipster fashion accessory. But non-Native musicians seem particularly enamored of it.

    But I consider it honoring to Native Americans!

    I think that this cartoon is a proper answer, but I’ll add that having a drunken girl wearing a headdress and a bikini dancing at an outdoor concert does not honor me. I remember reading somewhere that it was also “honoring the fine craftsmanship of Native Americans”. Those costume shop chicken feather headdresses aren’t honoring Native craftsmanship. And you will be very hard pressed to find a Native artist who is closely tied to their community making headdresses for sale. See the point about their sacredness and significance.


  7. Standing Rock’s own attorney Chase Iron Eyes and his drum group.

    In the video, Chase begins to explain his intentions with a comment that didn’t sit well with some Natives.

    “We are all Indigenous, we need to transcend, and one way to do that is through the drum.”


    Describing Pan-Indian identity as a personal spiritual ethic and taking on Lakota ceremonies as the marker of a spiritual way of existence seems troublesome, however. First of all, how do such actions differ from Indian wannabes or New Agers? New Agers believe they can shop around for any variety of the world’s religious elements or belief systems. Their point of view is often described as a super marker pattern, they find whatever they want or need from the religions of the world, and craft them into a personal spiritual belief system and way of life.

    I am not against individuals finding multiple paths to the sacred, many Indian nations allow such beliefs and accompanying form of ceremonial participation. The mixing of beliefs is a pattern that is less allowed. In many Indian nations, one can practice a ceremony within the context of the tradition of a specific tribal community, but one must have an invitation and must keep the integrity of the ceremony.


  8. https://reviewcanada.ca/magazine/2020/01/claim-game/

    Claim Game

    The high stakes of fraudulent identity
    Sasha Chabot-Gaspé ( daughter to Anne Chabot & Danny Gaspe)

    A s a kid, growing up in Odawa and Tkaronto, on lands stewarded for millennia by the Anishinabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Huron-Wendat, I went to a lot of powwows.

    For a more detailed analysis, I urge you to read Kim Tallbear’s Twitter thread on why genetic ancestry does not prove Indigenous affiliation;


    or Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs’s statement on what it means to be Indigenous;


  9. https://www.facebook.com/OccupiedAustralia/photos/eight-stages-of-white-settler-colonial-denial1-terra-nulliusthey-didnt-existcomp/2789546444470852/

    Eight Stages of White Settler-Colonial Denial

    “They didn’t exist” (terra nullius)
    Complete denial of Indigenous presence in a given area (country, province, etc). Includes denial of Indigeneity, e.g. “Indigenous Peoples are Settlers too”.

    “If they did, they weren’t here” (terra nullius)
    Denial that Indigenous People inhabit/travel/harvest/exist in a specific area. Often based on euro-centric definitions of evidence of occupation.

    “If they were, they didn’t use the land” (doctrine of discovery)
    Denial that Indigenous People have a connection to the Land. Often based on euro-centric worldviews of the land as something to be owned and extracted.

    “If they did, they didn’t deserve it (great chain of being)
    Denial that Indigenous People have rights to their Lands. Often based on euro-centric value judgments of “primitive vs. civilized”, “nomadic vs. sedentary”.

    “If they did, they lost it” (right of conquest)
    Denial that Indigenous People retain the rights to their Lands. Often based on false claims of supremacy of colonial legal institutions and systems

    “If they didn’t it doesn’t matter any more” (Westphalian sovereignty)
    Denial that Indigenous Rights are still binding and take precedence. Often based one false claims of supremacy of colonial legal institutions and systems.

    “If it does, we need to move on” (liberalism)
    Denial that violations of Indigenous Rights requires redress. Often based on claims redress is “disruptive/unfair/reverse racism” & false calls for equality”.

    “If we can’t, we are you” (self-indigenization)
    Denial of separateness of Indigenous Peoples and Rights. Often bases on attempts to reduce Indigenous Rights to Human Rights, claim Indigeneity, etc

  10. Ebeneezer Forrest says:

    I am totally with some of these comments I am not of indigenous people my people are from Scotland but I am daily studying history, the native indigenous people have been taken advantage of since their creation from the yankee government right down the line to todays standards ,they have been beaten, killed and treated worse than the African indentured servants who complain to have been treated the worst which is totally incorrect they were treated just as they protruded themselves even today of robbing , killing and causing every kind of illegal act. I am 100% behind the plight of all indigenous people they are the salt of the mother earth Thanks

  11. I talk about this often how these kind of people dishonor Native Americans with their New Age Native American flavored fare. I hate when people use the term ‘Native American religion’ as if all nations within North America all had different ways of honoring God the Creator as diversified as the christians and their hundreds of denominations. I hate how these type of people capitalize on and rip off people taking advantage of it being a trend of ‘being Native American is cool’. Everyone has some ancient roots somewhere you don’t have to claim to be a Native American just because it is cool.

  12. Gilles Bear Heart says:

    You sound like a babbling fool , I couldn’t stand to listen to you dry snitching on the other brothas. You’re nothing but a weak ass sell out with no heart and no courage. Everybody can tell that you’re trying to weasel your way out of the situation.

  13. Wonder how much money they made from these “transcend” pow wows.. Don’t say it’s not about money when your doing a ceremony around one of the biggest drug filled events and trying to justify doing so. Greed is written all over this. Native Americans don’t need leaders like that. If you wanted to further the ceremonial values of natives, maybe just invite people to a real pow wow. Don’t think yourself as untitled to being able to run a pow wow in the first place. But then again your names all over social media, people probably will continue to come. You name is known and how you falsely call yourself a medicine men while your at it.

  14. Shut The F Up.!!! You Are Not Even Making Sense..You Know You Did Wrong Of Even Going There In The First Place!!! You Shame The Natives With Letting Them Even Make Fun Of The Sacred Drums And Sacred Songs..You Have Lost Your Way.!!!! You Joined The Circus.!!! We,,Natives Are The True Indeginous People And For You To Go Out There And Tell Them The Same Thing.!!Your Are A Disgrace.!!! Keep Trying To Explain Your Self..True Natives Do Not Act Like That.!!! You Lost An Dignity You Ever Had.!!

    • Bigmeet Climbing Bear says:

      First, I must respectfully beg your forgiveness for my name and email, which are pseudonyms taken from elders who were there to encourage my uncle. As a student he was incessantly mocked for his braids and much more. I am also a proud United States citizen. One of the greatest accomplishments of the two Nations that exist in my self and my people has been to not allow forced amnesia of our cultures. Tolerance shown to be veiled hatred is intent on destruction of all the cultures by speaking for the people who built the culture and are built by the culture entrusted to us. I love a pow wow when cultures meet to learn of and to respect each other. Enemies can respect one another and demonstrate that by letting each other know where we stand. We were always taught these are solemn occasions to keep us rooted in what communities we have left. The people who teach tolerance as a virtue instead of understanding and respect, refer to all by their own created politically correct terms. Native American or indigenous or First Nations. My people up home always said We’re Native and Native American. Tribes were natives before there was an America, but they recognize that many generations have been born from this land that are Native American. I mean no disrespect to any Natives that use Native American exclusively for Natives. It seems rare. I’ve never heard anyone in my family do anything but laugh at the term First Nations and you remind me of them because of the way you use the word, “indigenous” properly. It seems like that may be a trend, whereas virtue signals use the term indigenous or First Nations simply because they want the status as one who is respectful and has no interest in the cultures that one pretends to respect. I can hear my uncle now telling this young man That are people cover every inch of the ground we walk on. A place where culture is broken down into near Anarchy is not a pow wow nor should it be the context four sacred things. Secret things in this context are made profane. That’s why I apologize for what I do in this pseudonym is calling myself the chief. My Tribe however in this false world is inspired by the ridiculous Hekawi Tribe from F Troop. Really I wanted to thank you for loving this young man enough to tell him truth. What he needs to hear, and not what he wants to hear. My uncle and really my whole family taught us that our treasure could be found in the value of experience that’s its in the hearts and mines and traditions of the elders. As modernity continues to devalue Elders oh, I believe they are simply highlighting how badly we need people who care about our culture and our people both native and Native American to stop tolerating one another and start respecting one another seeking to understand one another. Even if we feeling me attempts there is much honor in that. I wish I had words as concise and Powerful as your message. I hope this is an encouragement to you. If I have been in some way disrespectful please know it was due to ignorance and not intent. We were also taught to respect others because that’s who we are not because of who they are, what they are or how they act. We are each responsible and it comes along with covering every inch of the ground we walk on.

  15. Alejandro says:

    I grew up on a Chiricahua Apaches reservation you shame the Historic Values of Our Pow Wows are you a red apple? It sure seems as such you need to get back on your painted pony to become Native again.

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