This article is reprinted by kind permission of Emily Henry, from her post in the Facebook Page 'Balanced Lifestyles, Teachings for Knowledge Seekers', which posts her cultural tradition stories.

Emily, whose 'real' ancestral name is Kihci Tępakohp Iskotęw Iskwęw, is from the Cree Nation, from Ochapowace First Nation Band and is a traditionalist. She works with Elders across Canada.

All content on this page © Emily Henry

Cultural Police

Spirituality is a way of life. A person's spiritual journey is unique and the foundation is in accordance to their ancestral traditional teachings or Elder's teaching. Participation in ceremonies includes a pure intention to celebrate a unique relationship with Creator. Spirituality is about the commitment to a way of life that includes living a life guided by traditional values. While Elder's guidance is important, a spiritual walk is in the truest essence, a personal journey and not meant to be measured by others.

‘Cultural police’ are those people who take upon themselves to tell others what they think is the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to practice spirituality and culture. ‘Cultural police’ dole out fines with their tongues; saying things like this is how certain things are done, that only certain people who should be allowed in ceremony, and only a certain race of people should do this or that, and so on.

Sadly, some ‘cultural police’ even measure their own personal spiritual walk against others. For example, they might say, ‘I have been on the Red Road for a great number of years; I knew so and so when they just started; who are they to lead a ceremony?’ They talk about their perceived entitlement to anyone within earshot; saying things like, ‘I should be given the rites to run sweat-lodge, I should have a pipe, I should be given more pipes, I have a spirit name from a 'real' Elder; etc., etc., etc.’ They may even brag about their 'spiritual accomplishments'.

In reality, ‘cultural police’ are the latest voices of lateral violence; they continue the harmful cycles of intergenerational impacts. If you closely examine the words of 'cultural police' you may find that under the surface they are echoing the voices found in residential school or harmful foster care placements. A time when measurement of how 'holy' or 'righteous' a person is becomes factored into acceptance or avoidance of punishment.

Today send ‘Cultural police’ love and light so that their walk becomes so enhanced that they no longer feel they need to use judgment or shame to control the environment around them. Send positive thoughts their way so they might begin to feel good about themselves. Pray that they begin to view others’ spiritual journey through the lens of compassion and respect so that become led by love and not ego.

Kākithaw niwākomākanak (All my Relations),
Kihci Tępakohp Iskotęw Iskwęw (Emily Jane Henry)
Home Territory: Ochapowace Cree First Nation

Updated: 27 Mar 2016 Print Page