October 31, 2009

Meyer violated Quileute etiquette

Educator Debbie Reese noted this page on the Quileute Nation website. It seems to be a response to the Twilight hoopla.

Indian Country EtiquetteTraditionally, our people are hospitable and generous in nature. However, spiritual teachings, sacred ceremonies and burial grounds, are not openly shared with the public.

We are proud of our teachings, and our heritage. They have been passed to us by our ancestors, and represent thousands of years of our individual histories. Your patience and understanding of our traditions and cultures is appreciated.
Comment:  In Reese's blog entry, someone posted a defense of Stephenie Meyer's methodology:Shayana said...

With regards to, "However, spiritual teachings, sacred ceremonies and burial grounds, are not openly shared with the public." This may be a response to the crowds, but Stephenie never has a sacred ceremony or burial ground scene in her books. The one episode of "teachings" has to do with the wolf pack and those who know of it, exclusively. Even other members of the tribe who aren't aware of the wolf history aren't there. Only those who know about the boys and their transformations are allowed. Stephenie never published a scene where Bella was watching a tribal ceremony. They were sacred, and she did not go there.
Meyer presented a long passage of spiritual "teachings"--i.e., her phony version of the Quileute Nation's cultural history and beliefs. Her characters may not have shared these teachings with anyone outside the tribe, but she shared them with tens of millions of outsiders.

Sounds to me like the tribe is gently chastising Meyer (and her followers). Meyer did what Reese has warned us against many times: (mis)appropriating Native legends.

For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.

Below:  "I'm proud of my Indian heritage too! Awooooo!"

4 comments:

dmarks said...

"Sounds to me like the tribe is gently chastising Meyer (and her followers). Meyer did what Reese has warned us against many times: (mis)appropriating Native legends."

Or perhaps some giggling Twihards have been tramping around the cemetaries around La Push.

Sharyn said...

Wow, I am really interested in reading this stuff as I have an interest and a stake in Indigenous Australian issues. As a fan of the books I am also interested in reading stories like the ones where young girls go up to Rob Pattinson and scratch their necks inviting him to have a bit of nibble. This is of course ridiculous because TWILIGHT IS A WORK OF FICTION. Yes, it revolves some real places and real communities, like most films, but surely everyone can accept that it is not factually based in it's tale. If that line is blurred for you in the context of the Indigenous content it is your issue, not Stephenie Meyer's. This is hollywood, not the UN.
I am also interested in the concept "where native america meets pop culture" does that mean that native america is not an element of pop culture? Just a different perspective to add to the very valuable discussion that the films generate (thanks for the opportunity Stephenie).

Sean George said...

Sharyn, true, "this is Hollyowwd, not the UN," but Meyer is the one blurring that line when she uses Quileute cultural elements as fodder in her stories. Yes, the books are fiction but many of the folks who read the books don't seem to keep that in mind, and then the Quileute people end up dealing with the aftermath. Good for you if you are one of the sensible folks who keep the line between fantasy and reality clear in your mind, but surely you know that many of your fellow fans do not. How easy it would have been for Meyer to avoid this issue by not appropriating Quileute cultural heritage, or at least creating a fictional tribal nation to be the source for those cultural elements she found appealing, so that the Quileute people could avoid being a sideshow. And by the way, no, Native America is not an element of pop culture. It predates "pop culture," as does Indigenous Australian culture.

Sharyn said...

Sean, yes you are correct, people do blur the line so I suppose it is in that way the responsibility of authors and film makers to consider the impact of their art from the perspective of the mentally challenged. (Although where does that end??) What does that mean for all of the people and places that are written about and filmed??? Or is it only specific communities that are so off limits? Surely there is a way to embrace the attention - I read on the internet that the town of Forks is harnessing the tourist dollar with great success, are there not opportunites here? Why does this have to be seen as negative exploitation when it could just as easily be percieved as an opportunity to teach the wider community and create economic opportunities for an entire community - employment, education, housing, health.... Quileute people have the worlds attention and with another 2 huge movies still to come over the next year or more - what an advantage! There are people connected with the franchise who I have no doubt would love to coordinate with the local community. Jacob Black is the 2009 version of Superman! The Quileutes are being portayed as the heroes and the saviours, with greater morality and integrity than anyone else in the story (and all too cool and beautiful). The world is at anyone's feet who wants to use that in a useful way. If you don't want that exploited by a group that is not authentic then step up quickly! With regards to culture - yes both country's Indigenous culture is old, but age has nothing to do with whether or not it is a part of pop culture. Pop just means popular and is a reference to the culture of the day. My point is that both traditional and contemporary Indigenous culture is a part of that pop culture. Culture evolves and spreads and swallows the practices of all peoples, no exceptions. I just don't think it is accurate or healthy to say that any group of people are not represented or don't belong in "pop" culture. Everyone is and it is an ongoing responsiblity for everyone to shape that cultural evolution in a way that reflects the integrity and the history of their own people. That was my point, I was not making a value judgement of culture, just an observation of self imposed exclusion.
It's all about perception.