Spiritual Theft

Myke Johnson

Non-Indigenous people who seek to reconnect with the earth must be wary of the dangerous problem of spiritual theft. On the one hand, we have much to learn from Native peoples about this land and about what it means to honor our relationship to the land. We must take our lead from those who have been living here for millennia, who have the knowledge that comes from belonging to a place. And they have shared much of their knowledge with all of us. But in our search for help, we can also do damage, because of the context of the broken bonds between us, because of ongoing societal oppression and colonization.

Native spiritual traditions are not for sale. They are inextricably woven into the network of relationships of Native communities and of the particular lands in which those communities live. Spirituality is a fundamental element of the Native struggle against the destruction of their cultures and homes, perhaps their most important resource to heal their own broken connections with the land and their ancestors. Their spiritual traditions are not meant to be exported piecemeal for some other purpose, however earnest it may be.

Please don’t spend your money on so-called “Native” spirituality workshops. Don’t try to steal someone else’s culture. Do your own spiritual work. Research the stories of your ancestors. Learn their names and their birthplaces. Trace the journeys that brought them to the land where you now reside. Learn the stories of their brokenness and their connections. Ask them to help you find your way.


from “In Search of Belonging” in Finding Our Way Home.