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Plastic shaman


Plastic shaman, or plastic medicine people, is a pejorative colloquialism applied to individuals who are attempting to pass themselves off as shamans, holy people, or other traditional spiritual leaders, but who have no genuine connection to the traditions or cultures they claim to represent. In some cases, the "plastic shaman" may have some genuine cultural connection, but is seen to be exploiting that knowledge for ego, power, or money.

Plastic shamans are believed by their critics to use the mystique of these cultural traditions, and the legitimate curiosity of sincere seekers, for their personal gain. In some cases, exploitation of students and traditional culture may involve the selling of fake "traditional" spiritual ceremonies, fake artifacts, fictional accounts in books, illegitimate tours of sacred sites, and often the chance to buy spiritual titles. Often Native American symbols and terms are adopted by plastic shamans, and their adherents are insufficiently familiar with Native American religion to distinguish between imitations and actual Native religion.

The term "plastic shaman" originated among Native American and First Nations activists and is most often applied to people fraudulently posing as Native American traditional healers. People who have been referred to as "plastic shamans" include those believed to be fraudulent, self-proclaimed spiritual advisors, seers, psychics, self-identified New Age shamans, or other practitioners of non-traditional modalities of spirituality and healing who are operating on a fraudulent basis. "Plastic shaman" has also been used to refer to non-Natives who pose as Native American authors, especially if the writer is misrepresenting Indigenous spiritual ways (such as in the case of Ku Klux Klan member Asa Earl Carter and the scandal around his book The Education of Little Tree).



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  • Deloria, Philip J., Playing Indian. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. .
  • Deloria Jr., Vine, "The Pretend Indian: Images of Native Americans in the Movies."
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  • Jenkins, Philip. Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality. New York: Oxford University Press; 2004. .
  • Kehoe, Alice B. "Primal Gaia: Primitivists and Plastic Medicine Men." in: Clifton, J., ed. The Invented Indian: Cultural Fictions and Government Policies. New Brunswick: Transaction; 1990: 193-209.
  • Kehoe, Alice B. Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking. 2000. London: Waveland Press. .
  • de Mille, Richard, The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies. 1980, Santa Barbara, CA: Ross Erikson Publishers. .
  • Narby, Jeremy and Francis Huxley, eds. Shamans Through Time: 500 Years on the Path to Knowledge. 2001; reprint, New York: Tarcher, 2004. .
  • Noel, Daniel C. Soul Of Shamanism: Western Fantasies, Imaginal Realities, Continuum International Publishing Group. .
  • Rollins, Peter C. Hollywood's Indian : the portrayal of the Native American in film. Univ Pr of Kentucky, 1998.
  • Pinchbeck, Daniel. Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism. New York: Broadway Books, 2002. .
  • Rose, Wendy, "The Great Pretenders: Further Reflections on White Shamanism." in: Jaimes, M. A., ed. The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonisation and Resistance. Boston: South End; 1992: 403-421.
  • Smith, Andrea. "For All Those Who Were Indian in a Former life." in: Adams, C., ed. Ecofeminism and the Sacred. New York: Continuum; 1994: 168-171.
  • Wallis, Robert J., Shamans/neo-Shamans: Ecstasy, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans. London: Routledge, 2003.
  • Wernitznig, Dagmar, Going Native or Going Naive? White Shamanism and the Neo-Noble Savage. Lanham, Maryland, United States; University Press of America; 2003.
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