We all know it is impossible for an athlete to play more than one sport. That is, if you are a football player, you could never be a baseball player. Or a basketball player. And certainly not professionally. The reason is obvious. If one were a football player, then tried to play second base on a baseball team, we all know that when that person would catch the ball to make a double play, he would instead start running down the field with it, searching for the goal line. And try though they will, those same rascally football players who tried to play basketball just could not help but tackle the guy on the other team who gets the ball. And we're talking no padding here.
Despite what you may have heard about athletes playing more than one sport, it's an obvious fiction, and I'd like to set the record straight, once and for all. The urban legends that have sprung up regarding the following professional athletes simply cannot be true, because we all know it is impossible for humans to walk and chew gum at the same time, much less keep the rules straight when engaged in complicated team sports. So I would like to lay to rest forever and declare the following careers scandalous lies, the purpose of which was only to serve some higher propaganda of their day:
Jim Thorpe: professional football, professional baseball, professional basketball,
The list goes on and on. And these are successful professional athletes. How many college athletes and high school athletes played more than one sport, both women and men? And did well?
Not long ago, I asked to join a mixed blood chat group. I've never belonged to any chat group (still don't), but when I stumbled across this one, I thought I might see what these things are all about. But it's a very official-looking site, and their rules of engagement are somewhat ambiguous, so I thought I'd introduce myself to Contact Us first, just in case I wasn't good enough for them. Well, sure enough, I'm not. Seems my offense here is that very serious charge of "mixing medicines."
"Mixing medicines" has to do with combining aspects of ceremony from different disciplines, into one hybrid* ceremony. It has nothing to do with doing a Cherokee ceremony one day in a totally Cherokee way, and then doing a Lakota ceremony the following week in a totally Lakota way. Unless aspects of one ceremony are introduced into the other, there is no mixing of medicines here. To think that doing unadulterated ceremonies from different nations is mixing medicines, exhibits a belief that each culture works with a different, autonomous, sovereign, and unrelated Creator: This whole idea that we are all related because of one, consistent Creator is out the window. Think about it.
In recent years, how many times have we been to large gatherings of indegenous (non-industrial) nations, convened for various reasons other than social (pow-wow), and witnessed the presentation of one nation's ceremony in which all there participated?
When we really get it, we come to understand that working in ceremony is working with principles and concepts. And while indigenous spiritual disciplines work within the same conventions with the same Creator, the reason we do not mix them with each other in a single ceremony, is because of the unique expression of them. But on a deeper level, people who do mix medicines as a matter of practice, are usually profoundly shallow in the understanding of any single teaching. In the words of a grandma friend of ours, "They want the magic, but don't want to do the hard work."
To test Contact Us' logic, that one person doing ceremonies correctly from different tribal traditions, no matter how perfectly, is mixing medicine, let's extend it to its furthest possible point, to wit: It is common that two, three, and even four distinct ethnicities, cultures, and/or nationalities reside in every one of us, rendering us "mixed medicine" from the start, according to the ancient wisdom of Contact Us. But how do people who are a mix of Choctaw, Catawba, and Cherokee function? How does a person whose mother was Abanakee, and father Nanticoke deal with this? Contact Us, who judged me deficient because I am Tsalagi and a sundancer, would force these people to choose one and deny the other.
I sundance with a number of "full bloods" who come from traditions that do not, nor ever have practiced the sundance. Yet they do it well, and I've never sensed so much as a hint that any of them have ever tried to project their well-studied cultures onto the sundance. According to Contact Us, there is apparently great danger that at some point in the sundance, I am destined to shift into a Green Corn Dance or Chicken Dance, or one of my sundance brothers will start building a Long House in the middle of the sundance arbor.
The sad truth is, Europeans, which is the part of themselves most mixed-bloods don't like talking about, were responsible for the destruction of far more culture than has survived, which has caused a good bit of inter-tribal ceremony swapping and practice among people who have that deep-seated, inner need to express who they are as "Indian" (much the same as those who are "Athlete"), but find that so much has been lost of their own traditions, they must look to others for help. I would love for mixed-blood Contact Us to come to our sundance and tell one of these full-blood people they are mixing medicines by sundancing.
Contact Us also made some incoherent remarks about how practicing ceremonies that are "not your own" only dilutes them. Now that's a real quantum leap, but to where I'll be polite and not say. This is precisely what Fools Crow, Nicholas Black Elk, and Vine Deloria, Jr. were talking about when they said these ways cannot be owned and they must be shared with others or they will be lost. (see Article One) First, not practicing ceremony only extincts them, playing directly into the federal agenda. But more to the point, I've never heard of any non-tribal member being denied who came to participate in a ceremony in a good way. This includes non-Indians.
If anyone doubts this, trot on out to the Dakotas this summer and see who is dancing. Seems if this whole idea that competently practicing ceremonies different than ones' own were mixing medicines, the tribes themselves would shut this practice down. They have not. They understand this is about the Spirit and they have been very generous in sharing what they carry, as well as participating in the ceremonies of other nations. As an aside, the remarks of Arvol Looking Horse are directed to the insincere, the casual, the willfully ignorant, and the untutored.
But perhaps the most telling is adoptions. Seems the ongoing practice of adopting people into a tribe from outside would be another violation of Contact Us' Law of Absolutes. I know several people who have been adopted into various tribes from other tribes, and I have yet to hear of any of them being told they could no longer practice their own ways because that would be "mixing medicines."
Years ago, I was advised by a Dineh elder to, "find that one path that you can learn about and follow and get good at. Then, after you have done so, if you want to explore other traditions, you can, because you will be grounded in the principles and you will then be able to handle it." This speaks directly to Contact Us' concerns, but much differently than he would have us understand.
When tribes truly accept mixed-bloods into the fold in a meaningful way, reversing the trend of crossing anyone off the rolls they can, and focus on openly teaching the Lifeways unique to their cultures to those mixed-bloods that are from those cultures, respectively, whether fully documented or not, and that come with respect, sincerity, and commitment, then maybe the argument against pan-Indianism will have merit. To argue for separationism at this time in history is totally unrealistic, ignoring the fact that there are few mixed-bloods that have ready access to their own cultural Lifeways in a substantive way. People who argue for cultural purity live in a vacuum and actually serve the federal government's agenda.