Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spiritua Category: Religion and Philosophy
Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality by Lisa Aldred The American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 3 (2000), pp. 329-352 University of Nebraska
Consuming Native American Spirituality
Commercial exploitation of Native American spiritual traditions has permeated the New Age movement since its emergence in the 1980s. Euro-Americans professing to be medicine people have profited from publications and workshops. Mass quantities of products promoted as "Native American sacred objects" have been successfully sold by white entrepreneurs to a largely non-Indian market. This essay begins with an overview of these acts of commercialization as well as Native Americans' objections to such practices. Its real focus, however, is the motivation behind the New Agers' obsession and consumption of Native American spirituality. Why do New Agers persist in consuming commercialized Native American spirituality? What kinds of self-articulated defenses do New Agers offer for these commercial practices? To answer these questions, analysis from a larger social and economic perspective is needed to further understand the motivations behind New Age consumption.
In the so-called postmodern culture of late consumer capitalism, a significant number of white affluent suburban and urban middle-aged baby-boomers complain of feeling uprooted from cultural traditions, community belonging, and spiritual meaning. The New Age movement is one such response to these feelings. New Agers romanticize an "authentic" and "traditional" Native American culture whose spirituality can save them from their own sense of malaise. However, as products of the very consumer culture they seek to escape, these New Agers pursue spiritual meaning and cultural identification through acts of purchase. Although New Agers identify as a countercultural group, their commercial actions mesh quite well with mainstream capitalism. Ultimately, their search for spiritual and cultural meaning through material acquisition leaves them feeling unsatisfied. The community they seek is only imagined, a world conjured up by the promises of advertised