August 22, 2010

Prison seeks generic medicine man

Someone sent me this advertisement for a job:

Native American Medicine ManSynopsis:

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, FPC Duluth, Duluth, MN, intends to make a single award to a responsible entity for providing the services of Native American Medicine man to the inmate population as outlined in the statement of work.

The contractor will conduct Native American ceremonies and provide instruction to inmates in the Native American Faith.

General Topics for Contractors--Native American

1. Red Road
2. All My Relation
3. Medicine Wheel
4. The Sacred Pipe
5. Sweat Lodge
6. Elders
7. Circle of Life
8. Traditions/Rituals
9. Prayers
10. Ceremonies
Comment:  The full list of "general topics" has 38 items.

The problem here should be obvious to Newspaper Rock readers. Everything is generic. Native American medicine man...Native American ceremonies...the Native American Faith. Basically, none of these things exist. There's no such thing as a medicine man, ceremony, or "faith" that belongs to all Native cultures. That isn't specific to one of the thousands of Native cultures in North and South America.

But perhaps the prison population in Duluth consists entirely of Minnesota Indians. Even so, Minnesota has "seven Anishinaabe (Chippewa, Ojibwe) reservations and four Dakota (Sioux) communities." So which culture or faith is this medicine man supposed to represent?

And the ad didn't specify an Anishinaabe or Dakota medicine man. What if a Navajo, Haida, Penobscot, or Miccosukee medicine man applies? (Assuming all these tribes have medicine men.) What will the prison say? "Yes, you'll do, because all Native religions are the same"? Or "No, sorry, our ad was misleading and we'll understand if you sue us"?

The ad's requirements seem to be geared toward Plains cultures. Once again, we see that Plain Indians = all Indians. Even without displaying a chief or a tipi, it's clear the prison people are thinking stereotypically.

For similar problems, see "3 Horses Sly Fox" Teaches Stereotypes and Detroit's Stereotypical Penobscot Building.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see Prison "Medicine Man" Ad Canceled.