ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
following the Civil War.
Cleveland’s policy, and those of his successors in the White House, was to hasten the integration of native peoples into the general American culture by obliging them to abandon their traditional ways. In theory, the native American was to be granted equality of rights as an individual, but not as a tribe. The policy proved to be disastrous.
In Canada, although there were few Indian Wars, native peoples suffered the same fate as in the United States because of similar assimilationist policies in which residential schools played a crucial role. The effects of this policy are still being worked out today, and have resulted in native lawsuits which threaten the very survival of the denominations which ran the residential schools.
During the late 1970s, there was a native American renaissance, still in progress today, that resulted, among other developments, in the revival of native religions. In a few cases, such as the Mohawks of Ontario, Quebec, and New York, and, above all, the Navahos and Hopis of the Southwest, the native cultures had survived more or less intact and the religions enjoyed continuity. In other cases, however, elders such as Arthur Amiotte, who taught at Brandon University for several years during the early 1980s, led a return to native traditions. The revival was effected in part by drawing on the oral traditions of elders who had preserved some of the old ways, and in part by studying the publications of whites who had recorded native cultural practices during the late nineteenth century when cultures were still relatively intact. Similar movements occurred among native peoples elsewhere in the world.
A further stage occurred during the 1980s and 1990s when whites who were strongly sympathetic to native cultures attempted to participate in them as believers. New Agers, mainly with a very superficial understanding of native cultures, founded cults of their own based on what they perceived to be native values and religious beliefs and practices.
The revival of native cultures in various parts of the world has also led to a growth of pre-Christian paganism in both Europe and the United States. The founding of Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, and Slavic neo-pagan societies with rites based on what little is known of these religions plus a great deal of inventiveness is an example. Many of these cults have a shamanic character.
Some First Nation Americans and Canadians object to the term “shaman” applied to those persons among them who have visions and communicate with spirits. They also object to terms such as “medicine man” or “witch-doctor.” Most prefer the term elder and sometimes holy man or holy woman. Whatever the label, however, the phenomena involved are very much like those of the Altaic and Siberian shamans, even though in certain specific ways there are differences. There are differences among North Asian shamans, as well. For this reason, I share the general usage of the term “shaman.”
While there is today considerable hostility to the dominant “white culture” among North American aboriginals, much of what is known by natives about