September 8, 2018

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

23 responses to “”

  1. Excellent post.

    I have wondered as one who has no Native American ties, but who lives in a location of PA that has have had heavy Native American influence (down to towns and rivers for example being named after them), how I would be perceived for using herbs and oils that were often used by the Natives, for clearing, because that is what seems to work best for this area.

    I happened to find out about this through much trial and error.

    I am not about to stop using something that works, just because some folks are going to scream “cultural appropriation” at me.

    For all I know, using what I use, seems to be compatible (for obvious reasons) to the energies of the Natives here in the Susquehanna region.

  2. Thank you for opening up this conversation, and I hope my input, though dissenting, is received as conversation and not an attack!

    To start, I am not Native. I am an occupier on O’otham territory. But, unlike you, I know many Natives who passionately and frequently object to the commodification of white sage.

    You mention in the article that you’ve been aware of the argument over white sage for a long time- that recently, it’s been non-Natives you’ve heard the conversation from- but for some amount of time before that, it seems, you were at least aware of Natives who dissented on the use of white sage by colonizers. Yet, you mention that you don’t personally know any Natives who dissent, and seem to shift the tone at that point towards it being an acceptable practice.

    Tucked away in all of this is the acknowledgement that many Natives, themselves, do object to the practice. As somebody who’s 30 and practices with a lot of radicals, activists, and energized persons, people in my life and also on #NativeTwitter (I do love Twitter) inform my practices. And if someone says “ouch,” I say “oops.” Try it- jump on Twitter and write “Hey #NativeTwitter, is it OK for me to use white sage as a Non-Native?” See what you hear direct from prominent Native voices.

    It’s just easy for me to NOT use white sage. To, instead, use other sage, mugwort, rosemary- any of that stuff. I’m not comfortable knowing that, while I could justify using it to myself, while Patheos can justify it, when HoodWitch can justify it…many Natives don’t want me to. Using white sage doesn’t “harm none.” It harms some. So I don’t. And, in my practice, I am not comfortable spiritually with those who find that too much to ask.

    Because let’s face it, Natives were genocided by our ancestors. Their sacred environment is being destroyed. Our government is attacking them with firehoses, dogs, pepper spray when they try to defend it, right up to this day. Natives deserve better than this. It costs nothing to respectfully leave white sage alone. It’s, extremely literally, the very least we can do.

  3. I’m thinking this may be a regional attitude(?).
    When I lived in Virginia, and attended Pow Wows, natives there sold different types of sage…white being one of them.
    Obviously they weren’t concerned with white folks buying and burning it.
    So, this may not be true amongst all tribes.

  4. Absolutely true- but many indigenous people do not like it, so what’s the harm in saying “oops, sorry” and burning instead, say, pineapple sage? It smells delicious on your fingers and you’ll go to sleep knowing that nobody’s upset over it.

    It’s just easier to Not than to try to whip out the microscope and find a justification for it, somewhere.

  5. I was wondering about the claims that white sage is endangered. Simply walking through the streets of Portland and peeping the abundant herb boxes throughout, I have seen lots of white sage growing quite well. I could probably grow it myself. It’s not like the white oak, for instance, which are on the brink of extinction. So I am glad you cleared that up for me!

  6. I understand what you’re saying.
    I was commenting on it probably being a regional, or tribal thing.

    Personally, I feel we all share the tribe of humanity. Earth gives us all these herbs for our use.
    No one owns them.
    They’re a gift to us from her.
    I believe many natives have this teaching, that we’re all one family…different colors…one family.

  7. We actually share the same opinion. If you read the entire article, you’ll discover that I advocate for the responsible use of sage and suggest that there are many other botanicals to use.

    I am, of course, talking about my experience. Just like you wrote about yours.

    There is no denying the genocide of our First Nations. I also reference exploitation in my article.

  8. Thanks. If it did not work or caused issues, I would certainly find something that would be more “appropriate” in all ways. It just seems that with the “heavy Native American influence” here (the energies being pretty strong) that the method I use seems to be the most appropriate.

    Perhaps this is a bit off topic, but earlier in the year there was a Native American pow-wow just outside of this town (in town, but right outside in a park area). This was apparently the first time it was held there which kind of surprised me, so if what I do helps all around, then good.

  9. I’ve always been hesitant of using white sage as smudge, but for other reasons. It sets off asthma attacks in some, including me. And the first time witnessed a burning sage bundle dropped into an abalone shell, my gut reaction told me this was wrong on an elemental level, dropping Fire into Water. I won’t tell anyone else not to do it, but I won’t do it.

    I prefer to grow my own magical and culinary herbs, and if smudge seems appropriate (rarely), I bundle and dry my own stems and leaves, choosing the appropriate herb for the work to be done.

  10. The only time I used white sage was because it was sold to me by an indigenous person. It didn’t work with me. It felt off. I tend to stick to blue sage.

    But, although I am basically Northern European, my first ancestor came here on the Mayflower, and all but two of them came over during the 17th century. I have to think that, though I’m not indigenous, my ancestors blood has been here for centuries, nearly four, and that some of this earth has worked its way into us.

  11. I was just going to recommend this article to you, Eric, but you’re already here. I think you’re right that if it hurts even a few and it’s perfectly easy to switch to another herb then that’s what we should do.

  12. “Sage is part of Hekate’s Ancient Garden”

    Do you have a list of plants and herbs that would be found or used from Hekate’s Ancient Garden?

  13. Yes!! I 100% agree with this post. I am not Native myself, but I live in Utah where there is a very large Native population and I have many friends from several different tribes. I have been gifted both white sage and cedar bundles from multiple of my Native friends and in each case, the gifter was happy and excited to share part of their culture with me. I sometimes buy it at the Native American Trading Post (and yes, that is the actual name of the establishment) which is owned and operated by a local tribe. The first few times I went in to buy sage, they even offered a demonstration and instructions on how to use it properly. White sage and several other varieties also grow wild here – in abundance. On some stretches of highway, you could just pull over onto the side of road and harvest as much as you can carry – sage fields for days!! I personally don’t find it inappropriate to use something that grows almost literally in my backyard. This land may not always have been mine, but it is now and will be for the foreseeable future and I strive to work in harmony with all the plant and animal life around me, as well as with the other people I share corner of the globe with (even the Mormons, haha). While I absolutely do not condone exploitation, I do believe there is a case to be made for the ethical use of these plants. I think the appropriation argument is bit of a slippery slope. As a white girl, most people would think it perfectly acceptable for me work with runes and to call on Odin or Freya, for example, despite the fact that I have absolutely no Scandinavian blood in my ancestry. Yet, it is frowned upon for me to use a plant that I live alongside and by now have cultivated a deep relationship with. To me, that just doesn’t make any sense. There are always going to be people who protest growth and change – always, and no matter what. But society cannot remain static. Part of the issue with the US is that it is such a new country (relatively speaking) that that horrors and atrocities that we have committed still weigh heavy in collective memory (and please don’t take this to mean that I think this makes anything acceptable or okay – I don’t). But we must remember that similar horrors and atrocities were committed by damn near every country that currently exists (and many that no longer exist too). Genocide and slavery are (unfortunately) not unique to the United States but in many countries those things occurred so far back in their history that many have had the benefit of time to help heal those wounds and move on to form their current societies. As Americans, we are still undergoing this painful process and looks as though we will be well into the future. It might sound hokey or “fluffy” but I do believe that these arguments often serve to reinforce an “us vs. them” mentality which divide us even further.

  14. Absolutely! We have arrived to the sad place where one is afraid to utter a word or do a thing in fear of offending or “triggering” someone. It’s gotten to a crazy point, and we need to check our oh-so-fragile selves.

    The author is completely right and accurate on this subject.

  15. Uh… “Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality”, by
    Lisa Aldred, from the _The American Indian Quarterly_, Volume 24, Number 3, Summer 2000, pp. 329-352

  16. Since many abalones are threatened or endangered, I would never use that during suffumigation (the generic name for “smudging,” if anyone feels the need to use it). I’ve never understood the inclusion of an abalone shell anyway… I can’t imagine the southwestern tribes had a lot of abalone lying around.

    Excellent article, Cyndi. I second (third?) what you and other commenters have said.