February 24, 2009

Hopi lessons in the legal teepee

This writer has visited the Hopi reservation and bought kachinas before. Yet his point about what he's learned from the Hopi is marred by a stream of stereotypes.

What Do Native Americans and Rainmaking Have to Do With the Law?

When you drag new clients into the teepee, be prepared to be scrutinized for who you are, not for your glitzy brochure

By Mark Johnson
I was in northern Arizona recently doing a video about 18-wheelers with triple trailers (it’s a living) and had a chance to go to a Hopi reservation and meet a medicine man. He was a fascinating character. I had expected a lot of feathers and war paint—like the Frederick Remington paintings—but instead, he was a gracious elderly gentleman in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki slacks.

He could see that I was taken aback and said, “You were expecting maybe Crazy Horse?” I was humbled.
"Teepees"? Kind of an odd reference to make in an article about Hopi lessons.

The funniest and stupidest thing in this article is Johnson's alleged belief that the Hopi "medicine man" would be wearing feathers and war paint.

First, I don't think the Hopi have "medicine men." Not ones who go by that title, anyway.

Second, most medicine men didn't wear warpaint, since they were healers, not warriors. Some might've worn feathers, but I wouldn't have bet on it.

Third, this is 2009 and Johnson said he had visited the Hopi before. Was he totally oblivious to everything he saw? Does he seriously think today's Indians routinely wear feathers and warpaint? This sounds like something a kindergartner would say, not a presumably educated adult.The need for rainmakers, Native American or not, hasn’t slacked off. Most Native American cultures have some sort of rainmaking tradition, and we’ve all heard about barnstorming pilots dumping dry ice into clouds hoping to stir up a thunderstorm.Actually, I think many tribes, perhaps most, didn't have a rainmaking tradition. Rainmaking traditions were necessary only in places where it didn't rain much. That would exclude much of the country.Those of you who are charged with dragging new clients into the teepee might keep in mind that new clients are looking beyond the networking, sales pitches and snazzy brochures. They want to see who you really are, to see if you can keep a promise, and if they can trust you. They want to know about your traditions and hear your stories. While building a campfire and passing a peace pipe may be going over the edge, being at peace with yourself and transferring that to a new client isn’t.Teepee, campfire, peace pipe...another series of clichés.

I suppose when Johnson visited the Seminoles, he learned how to hunt buffalo? When he visited the Iroquois, he learned how to dance in a kiva? When he visited the Cheyenne, he learned how to grow tobacco? When he visited the Yurok, he learned how to play lacrosse?

Uh-huh, sure he did.

The only good thing about this article is that Johnson has more or less accurately characterized the Indian way of doing business.

For more on the subject, see The Basic Indian Stereotypes.

Below:  The picture chosen to illustrate this Hopi-oriented article. Sigh.


dmarks said...

"First, I don't think the Hopi have "medicine men." Not ones who go by that title, anyway."

I googled:

hopi medicine man

and the good results were numerous enough that I think that the term and concept seems sound.

I didn't even bother trying to look up pink Hopi tipi's.

Rob said...

You should Google "hopi medicine man" with quotes around the entire phrase. Otherwise you'll get mostly false hits--general discussions of Indian lore that happen to mention "Hopi" and "medicine man."

When you do it this way, you get exactly 669 hits, a minuscule number for a Google search. Some appear to be white people with no credibility talking about Hopi medicine men. Others are for "Hopi medicine man" toys or statues.

dmarks said...

You are right... too many New Age references.

Did you see the plastic Hopi Medicine Man?

Rob said...

Here's a Google guide to the prevalence of "medicine man" terms:

"Lakota medicine man": 11,000 hits.

"Navajo medicine man": 10,100 hits.

"Cherokee medicine man": 4,180 hits.

"Hopi medicine man": 668 hits (down one from yesterday).

I suspect these numbers are roughly proportional to the number of actual medicine men in these cultures. The Hopi may have a few men who use the term, but it isn't a standard part of their culture.

Rob said...

P.S. No, I didn't try the link to the Hopi toy. For my thoughts about it, see Hopi Medicine Man Toy.