Comfort Kills

by Asherah Allen

After hearing Andras Corban-Arthen recount a story during a workshop he led at Rites of Spring 2009, about having attended a New Age conference where he witnessed the white participants engage in what they called a “Native American Sun Dance,” I was inspired to write this piece in response. Growing up in Colorado I experienced a potent presence of Native Americans in the culture, the land, and as friends. This poem is a response to the co-opting of traditions that altogether happens too often with little regard for the wishes of the indigenous people from whom the ceremonies are stolen. It is my prayer that all people may find a way back to their own spiritual heritage, however mixed, while respecting the wishes and traditions of the native people whose land they currently reside on. When traditions are chosen to be shared outside cultural boundaries, I pray they will be honored, held in their integrity, and not profited from.

Comfort Kills

This madness cannot be named
I just heard of a “Sun Dance”
performed in a hotel lobby
a chandelier for a pole
with ribbons and safety pins
not to be punctured into flesh
but to be safely pinned into expensive clothes
I remember my friend Eric
Injun Eric as we liked to call him
as close to a full blood Arapaho as a modern Indian could be
I remember him lying
on the couch in the warehouse
that lay smack in between the
East Side and West Side
Inca gang boys
While they were busy
shooting coward bullets into flesh,
pretending to be warriors,
Injun Eric lay there
limp and humble
as we applied the juice of tenderly chewed tobacco
into his Sun Dance wounds
Holding moist towels to his forehead as
he went in and out of fevered consciousness
though the ceremony had ended a week ago.
His wounds were not infected
his soul was another matter
Half of his soul lingered in the sacrifice of flesh
he offered to Spirit, his family, and community upon the Earth
while the other half lay rotting in a modern world
with no appreciation of what he had undergone
Painless sacrifice
is not sacrifice
it is the pure hubris
of ill begotten attempts at
touching the sacred
succeeding only at drowning
in the stench of comfort.

4 thoughts on “Comfort Kills

  1. Thank you for a vivid yet succinct image that conveys what has long made me uneasy about some of the practices and co-opting I have heard of. Sue Arthen

  2. A good freind once saw a very well off family come to a Pow-Wow and came up to the Medicine man with a question. They said “we really like your spirituality how much would it cost us to join your Tribe?”

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