pow wow

Spiritual Tourism Has Invaded the Pow Wow

I should have known it was just a matter of time. It’s here. Spiritual tourism has invaded the pow wow. There appears to be nowhere to hide from the spiritual hunger of the mainstream world. No one is immune to the almighty dollar.

I went to a pow wow this weekend. It’s one I haven’t been to in a while so I wasn’t prepared for the radical shift in energy and focus. Pow wows are a modern invention that have only been around for about a hundred years. They started as cultural gatherings for the tribe to meet, dance, sing, celebrate, and share stories. As time went on, tribes blended their celebrations with other tribes, opened them up to the public as fundraising events, sponsored contests that offered prizes, and functioned to preserve history and culture. And now, for the first time that I’ve witnessed, they also seem to be about catering to tourist dollars.

It used to be that the vendors would have materials for handcrafting textiles, weapons, and art. There were some clothing vendors, books, herbs, jewelry, and toys too. Most items were handmade. This weekend I saw a lot of cheap plastic things that are machine made in China.

The dancers were mainly Natives who put time and effort into their regalia. They learned the songs and dances to represent their tribes in a loving, respectful way that blends tradition and evolution. I am not sure what I was looking at this pow wow.

I thought my heart would break. The pow wow grounds are supposed to be sacred. Is nothing sacred anymore?

The divinity that we search for in places like this is rapidly declining. The desire for meaning and connection is eroding it faster than anything. But the thing is, you can’t find it “out there.” If it’s not inside, you won’t find it anywhere. You can glimpse it. But you can’t buy it in a trinket, heirloom, ritual, or experience.

You can’t bottle it and carry it with you. We manufacture it every day of our lives through our thoughts and our lifestyles. It comes from within.

We all play a role in what is sacred. Each one of us decides whether to protect something or profane it. It’s up to us to preserve things or destroy them. Do you share or withhold? Are you adding or subtracting from life’s beauty? Are you consuming or producing?

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