How to Avoid Cultural Appropriation in Shamanic Practice

As spiritual practices become more popularized and accessible, it’s important to examine how we approach them. One issue that has gained widespread attention in recent years is cultural appropriation, the adoption of elements from a culture without understanding or respecting their cultural significance. This issue is particularly relevant in shamanic practice, as many indigenous cultures have been historically oppressed and marginalized. In this article, we’ll explore the harmful effects of cultural appropriation, the concerns surrounding its presence in shamanic practice, and guidelines for avoiding it. By being mindful of our approach to shamanic practice and respecting the cultures from which it originates, we can create a more inclusive and respectful spiritual community.

What is Cultural Appropriation?

What Is Cultural Appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of cultural elements, practices, and artifacts by individuals or groups outside of their own cultural heritage. This practice often leads to the erasure of the cultural significance and context of these elements, as well as the marginalization of the culture from which they originated. It’s important to note that cultural exchange and appreciation are not inherently negative, but the line is often crossed when the adoption is done without proper respect, understanding, or permission. In the context of shamanic practice, cultural appropriation can have particularly harmful consequences, as it often involves the co-opting of indigenous and marginalized cultures by non-indigenous practitioners. This not only perpetuates colonialism but also erases the lived experiences and traditions of these cultures. It’s crucial for shamanic practitioners to be aware of the harm caused by cultural appropriation and to take active steps to avoid it.

The Harm It Causes

Cultural appropriation is a serious issue that can cause significant harm, particularly to Indigenous and marginalized communities. When non-Indigenous people adopt Indigenous spiritual practices without permission, they perpetuate harm by commodifying and appropriating traditions that don’t belong to them. This undermines the integrity and value of authentic Indigenous shamanic practices and contributes to cultural erasure.

Cultural appropriation reinforces colonialism and imperialism – the very things that Indigenous people have been fighting against since the arrival of colonizers. It’s important to recognize that Indigenous communities have been dispossessed and suffered from trauma, and this is reflected in their cultural practices. When non-Indigenous people take on these practices, they further perpetuate the ongoing trauma that these communities face.

Cultural appropriation in shamanic practice can also result in an inaccurate and insensitive portrayal of traditions that carries a high risk of misrepresentation and distortion of authentic Indigenous cultures. As a result, it’s important to recognize the potential harm caused by cultural appropriation and strive to act in a responsible and respectful way in your shamanic practice.

To avoid contributing to cultural appropriation, it’s important to follow guidelines that respect the origins of Indigenous shamanic practices. By gaining permission, building relationships, doing research, and creating your own personal practice that is respectful and inclusive, you can ensure that your shamanic practice is culturally appropriate and respectful. It’s also important to support Indigenous people and communities, seek opportunities to learn and serve, and raise awareness about the importance of preserving Indigenous cultures. By working towards cultural sensitivity and respect in your shamanic practice, you can help prevent cultural appropriation and contribute to the health and well-being of marginalized communities.

Why Cultural Appropriation is a Concern in Shamanic Practice

In shamanic practice, cultural appropriation is a serious concern because it disrespects and disregards authentic indigenous traditions. Cultural appropriation is defined as taking elements from a culture that is not your own, without permission, respect, or understanding of its significance. It can lead to the erasure and dilution of native cultures, a process that has been exacerbated by centuries of colonization and imperialism. As non-native individuals seek to incorporate elements of indigenous shamanic practices, it is important to recognize that this must be done with the utmost respect and responsibility, as misappropriation can harm native communities and perpetuate colonialism. In order to practice shamanism authentically and ethically, individuals must be mindful of their actions and seek to build respectful relationships with indigenous communities.

The Role of Respect and Responsibility

In shamanic practice, respect and responsibility play a crucial role in avoiding cultural appropriation. Respect means acknowledging the origins of the practices and traditions you incorporate into your practice. It is about understanding their cultural significance and honoring the people who originated them. Responsibility means being mindful of the power dynamics at play and how using practices from an oppressed culture can perpetuate further harm.

When approaching shamanic practices from Indigenous cultures or other marginalized communities, it is important to understand the cultural history and context. The practice of taking spiritual practices out of their cultural context is rooted in colonialism and perpetuates harm and trauma. It is a form of cultural appropriation that has lasting consequences for Indigenous people and their communities. (source)

As a non-Indigenous practitioner, it is vital to approach these practices with humility and a desire to learn. This means asking permission and building relationships with Indigenous people and their communities. It means seeking out authorized sources and learning from Indigenous practitioners who have been given permission to share their knowledge. (source)

Respect and responsibility require active engagement in the fight against cultural appropriation. It is about taking the time to check your biases and educate yourself on the impact your actions can have. By embracing these principles, you can avoid perpetuating harm and contribute to the preservation and respect of Indigenous cultures. (source)

Guidelines for Avoiding Cultural Appropriation in Shamanic Practice

Guidelines For Avoiding Cultural Appropriation In Shamanic Practice
When practicing shamanism, it’s essential to be aware of cultural appropriation and take steps to avoid it. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Do your research: Learn from authorized sources, such as indigenous elders or respected practitioners, to gain a deeper understanding of indigenous cultures and traditions.
  • Gain permission and build relationships: Seek permission from indigenous communities before using any aspects of their culture in your practice. It’s also essential to build relationships with them and show respect for their traditions.
  • Avoid using sacred artifacts: Refrain from using Native American headdresses or other sacred artifacts in your practice; they hold profound spiritual significance for indigenous people and should be treated with the utmost respect.
  • Avoid using terminology: Don’t use terminology that doesn’t belong to you or that you don’t fully understand; doing so can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and cultural misappropriation.
  • Create a personal practice: Build a personal practice that is respectful and inclusive, free from cultural appropriation, and appreciative of indigenous cultures.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your shamanic practice is respectful and inclusive. It’s essential to be mindful of cultural appropriation and its harmful effects. If you want to learn more about it, you can check our article about cultural appropriation in shamanism.

Do Your Research and Learn from Authorized Sources

When it comes to shamanic practice and cultural appropriation, it is important to do your research and learn from authorized sources. This means seeking out information from respected and knowledgeable individuals within the specific culture or tradition you are interested in exploring.

Researching Authentic Information

Do not rely on mainstream media or popular culture to educate yourself on shamanic traditions. Instead, seek out books, articles, and other resources written by indigenous authors or experts in the field. Look for resources that provide accurate and respectful representations of the tradition you wish to learn about.

Building Your Knowledge Base

It is useful to read widely and educate yourself about all aspects of the culture you are learning from, not just the spiritual practices. This knowledge will help you better understand and appreciate the context in which the practices you are interested in are situated, thereby helping you avoid appropriating them or showing disrespect.

Respecting Confidential Knowledge

It’s essential to respect any confidential or secret knowledge that may not be available to outsiders. Avoid trying to access or ask about sacred or secret knowledge, especially if you don’t have a strong and trusting relationship with an authorized teacher or guide.

Learning from Authorized Sources

Collaborating with an authorized teacher or guide from the tradition you are interested in can be particularly beneficial. Seek a teacher that is willing to impart knowledge to genuine and respectful seekers. Be attentive and mindful of any feedback or guidance they provide.

Doing your research and learning from authorized sources is an important starting point in avoiding cultural appropriation in shamanic practice. This ensures that you’re on the right path to educating yourself and approaching these traditions with the appropriate respect and sensitivity they deserve.

Gain Permission and Build Relationships

One important aspect of avoiding cultural appropriation in shamanic practice is gaining permission and building relationships with indigenous communities. This means seeking out authorized sources and asking for permission before using any cultural practices or materials that are not your own.

Here are some ways to gain permission and build relationships:

Actions Explanation
Research and Learn Before seeking permission, do your own research and learn about the culture and its beliefs and practices. This shows respect and demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in understanding and honoring the culture.
Attend Events and Workshops Native American or indigenous cultural events and workshops provide an opportunity to learn and connect with members of the community. Attending these events in a respectful manner can lead to building relationships and gaining permission to incorporate aspects of the culture into your practice.
Connect with Elders and Leaders Connect with elders and leaders of the indigenous community to learn from and seek guidance. This shows respect and demonstrates a willingness to build relationships and follow proper protocols.
Collaborate with Indigenous Artists or Practitioners Collaborating with indigenous artists or practitioners can help bridge the gap between cultures and build relationships based on mutual respect. This can lead to permission to use cultural materials and artifacts in a respectful and appropriate manner.
Give Back to the Community Giving back to the indigenous community through charitable acts or volunteering can demonstrate a willingness to learn from and honor the cultural practices of the community. This can also lead to building relationships and gaining permission to use cultural materials and practices.

By gaining permission and building relationships with indigenous communities, shamanic practitioners can ensure that they are honoring and respecting the cultures they are drawing from. This can lead to a more authentic and meaningful practice, as well as contributing to the preservation of these cultures for future generations.

Avoid Using Native American Spiritual Headdresses and Other Sacred Artifacts

When it comes to avoiding cultural appropriation in your shamanic practice, one crucial guideline is to avoid using Native American spiritual headdresses and other sacred artifacts. These items hold significant meaning and are considered sacred by Indigenous cultures. Using them without permission or proper understanding is disrespectful and can contribute to the erasure of their cultural heritage.

The use of Native American headdresses and regalia has been a particularly sensitive topic. Headdresses, for instance, are not costumes or fashion accessories and should not be treated as such. They are earned and worn with the utmost respect and honor in Indigenous cultures. By wearing them without permission, non-Indigenous individuals are taking on roles that are not theirs to take, perpetuating misconceptions and stereotypes about Indigenous people.

In addition to headdresses, there are other sacred artifacts that should also be avoided unless one has explicit permission and proper training. These include smudging materials, drums, and other ceremonial items. It is important to note that these items are not simply decorations to be used for aesthetic purposes, but they hold spiritual significance and should be treated with respect and care.

Instead of using these sacred artifacts, one way to honor Indigenous cultures is by creating your own sacred objects and practices. This way, you can develop a personal practice that is respectful and inclusive of different cultures without appropriating their sacred traditions.

It is important to remember that avoiding the use of Native American spiritual headdresses and other sacred artifacts is not just about avoiding cultural appropriation but also about respecting the cultures and traditions of Indigenous people. By taking the time to learn and understand their ways of life, you can foster a deeper appreciation and respect for their unique histories and cultures.

Avoid Using Terminology That Doesn’t Belong to You

One of the most important steps in avoiding cultural appropriation in shamanic practice is to avoid using terminology that doesn’t belong to you. This means refraining from adopting words, phrases, or concepts from indigenous cultures without proper understanding, respect, and permission.

To help you better understand this issue, we’ve put together some useful guidelines on what not to do in your shamanic practice. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Don’t claim to be an indigenous shaman. Unless you are a member of an indigenous community and have been trained by an authorized shaman, you have no right to call yourself an indigenous shaman. This is a sacred title that belongs exclusively to those who have earned it through their cultural heritage, spiritual training, and service to their community.
  • Avoid using words or expressions that may be offensive or inaccurate. Many spiritual terms used in indigenous cultures have deep meanings and contexts that cannot be fully understood by outsiders. It’s important to avoid using words or phrases that may be disrespectful, trivializing, or misleading. For example, using the word “totem” to refer to animal guides in shamanic practice can be offensive to indigenous people who see totems as sacred symbols of their clans and ancestors.
  • Don’t appropriate spiritual practices that are not part of your cultural heritage. Shamanic practice is a diverse and complex field that encompasses many different traditions and beliefs. While it’s okay to study and learn from other cultures, it’s not okay to adopt spiritual practices that are not part of your cultural heritage without proper understanding and permission. For example, smudging is a sacred ritual used by many indigenous cultures to purify and cleanse the environment. However, it’s not appropriate for non-indigenous people to use smudging without permission or guidance from an authorized shaman or elder.

By respecting the origins and meanings of spiritual terminology and practices, you can avoid cultural appropriation and build a more inclusive and respectful shamanic practice. Remember, cultural appropriation isn’t just about using things that aren’t yours – it’s also about perpetuating systemic power imbalances and erasing cultural identities. Let’s do our part to respect, honor, and learn from indigenous cultures.

Create a Personal Practice that is Respectful and Inclusive

Making your personal practice respectful and inclusive is a vital part of avoiding cultural appropriation in Shamanic practice. Start by reflecting on your values and beliefs. Consider how they align with indigenous cultures and how you can practice Shamanism in a way that respects and honors them. Here are a few recommendations to develop a personal practice that is respectful and inclusive:

1. Be Open and Curious: Keep an open mind and approach to learning about indigenous cultures and their spiritual practices. Be curious, ask questions, and listen intently to gain a deeper understanding of their sacred practices.

2. Incorporate Elements that Resonate with You: Use practices from indigenous traditions that align with your values, beliefs, and spiritual needs. For instance, if you are drawn to herbalism, learn from indigenous healers about their herbal medicine practices.

3. Develop Your Own Rituals: Instead of using exact rituals from indigenous practices, create your own rituals that are inspired by indigenous traditions. Ensure that they are not disrespectful or appropriative. Do not use sacred cultural items like headdresses or drums without proper permission and knowledge.

4. Connect with Your Ancestral Lineages: Make a connection with your ancestral lineage and incorporate their spiritual practices and beliefs into your Shamanic practice. Ensure that you do not appropriate or disrespect their cultural practices.

5. Respect Boundaries: Be aware of boundaries and limitations. Do not force your beliefs or practices on anyone, and always seek permission before using any indigenous spiritual practice or artifacts.

Creating a personal Shamanic practice that is respectful and inclusive requires intention and attention. It is essential to continuously educate yourself and be mindful of indigenous cultures’ significance and their traditions. By respecting and honoring their traditions, you elevate the spirituality to a higher level and build a better relationship with the people and cultures.

How to Respect and Honor Authentic Indigenous Shamanic Traditions

Respecting and honoring authentic indigenous shamanic traditions requires a combination of education, awareness, and action. One way to show respect is by supporting indigenous individuals and communities through donations, volunteering, or attending cultural events. Additionally, seeking opportunities to learn and serve can deepen understanding and appreciation for indigenous cultures. It’s important to spread awareness about the significance of these traditions and advocate for their preservation and protection. When working with shamanic practices, it’s important to approach it with reverence and responsibility, and recognize the importance of obtaining permission from authorized sources. Lastly, creating a personal practice that is respectful and inclusive can help show honor and reverence for authentic indigenous shamanic traditions.

Support Indigenous People and Communities

One of the best ways to respect and honor Indigenous cultures and traditions is by supporting Indigenous people and communities. You can do this in a variety of ways. One way is to buy from Indigenous-owned businesses and artists. Many Indigenous people rely on their art and craftsmanship to make a living, so purchasing their products is a direct way to support their communities. Additionally, you can participate in and attend events that are hosted by Indigenous people, such as powwows or cultural festivals. By doing so, you not only learn more about their culture, but you also support their communities by contributing to their economy.

Another way to support Indigenous people and communities is by volunteering with organizations that serve Indigenous communities. This could include charities that focus on providing clean water, food, or healthcare to Indigenous people. By volunteering your time and resources, you can help address some of the systemic issues that many Indigenous communities face.

Finally, you can advocate for Indigenous rights and sovereignty. This could include writing letters to your elected officials, supporting Indigenous-led movements such as #LandBack, or donating to organizations that work to preserve Indigenous cultures and traditions. By advocating for Indigenous people and communities, you can help raise awareness about the injustices they face and work towards a more equitable future.

Remember, supporting Indigenous people and communities is about more than just one-time actions or gestures. It’s about building relationships and making a long-term, sustained effort to learn about and support the unique cultures and traditions of Indigenous people.

Seek Opportunities to Learn and Serve

One way to respect and honor authentic indigenous shamanic traditions is to seek opportunities to learn and serve. There are a variety of avenues you can explore to gain a deeper understanding of these traditions and offer your assistance.

Attend Workshops and Retreats
Look for workshops and retreats led by authorized indigenous leaders and teachers. These events can provide a wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience that can deepen your understanding of shamanic practices. However, it’s important to make sure the event is being led by an authorized individual and that proper compensation is given.

Volunteer with Indigenous Communities
Many indigenous communities have programs that welcome volunteers to help with various projects such as food drives, cultural events, or language preservation programs. This can not only offer you an opportunity to learn from and serve the community, but also build relationships and gain a deeper appreciation for their culture.

Connect with Indigenous Leaders and Elders
Connecting with respected indigenous leaders and elders can provide you with personalized guidance and mentorship. Seek out individuals who are willing to share their knowledge and can help you establish a deeper connection to shamanic practices.

Support Indigenous Causes and Organizations
Identify organizations that support and advocate for indigenous causes. Consider donating money, time, or resources to support their efforts.

As you seek out opportunities to learn and serve, it’s important to approach with a mindset of respect and openness. Remember to honor the traditions, respect the boundaries and guidelines set forth by indigenous communities, and offer your assistance in a humble and supportive manner.

Spread Awareness and Advocate for Preservation of Indigenous Cultures

One of the most effective ways to show your respect and support for Indigenous cultures is to spread awareness about the importance of cultural preservation. By sharing information and resources with your community, you can help others gain a deeper understanding of the unique traditions and spiritual practices of Indigenous peoples.

Attend Indigenous Cultural Events: One great way to spread awareness is to attend cultural events hosted by Indigenous communities in your area. This is not only a way to learn about the culture but also a way to show support and solidarity to the Indigenous peoples.

Share Resources and Information: Share information and educational resources on social media and with your friends and family. You can use resources such as books, films, and documentaries to help educate others about Indigenous cultures and the importance of cultural preservation.

Advocate for Indigenous Rights: Advocacy is crucial to supporting Indigenous cultures. Contact your local government representative or take part in an advocacy campaign that supports Indigenous rights. Consider joining a group or organization that advocates for Indigenous peoples.

Support Indigenous Artists and Businesses: Supporting Indigenous artists and businesses helps to preserve their cultural heritage and traditions. Look for Indigenous-owned businesses or artists who use traditional materials and techniques in their work.

Respect the Culture: Lastly, it is essential to show respect to the Indigenous cultures. It is important to ask for permission before sharing or using traditional knowledge, practices, or sacred objects, and to acknowledge the source if you do use such information.

By spreading awareness and advocating for the preservation of Indigenous cultures, you can help support their continued well-being and growth as these rich cultures are essential for understanding human history and respecting global diversity.


In conclusion, cultural appropriation in shamanic practice is a serious concern that cannot be overlooked. It is crucial to understand and respect the origins and practices of indigenous cultures, and to approach them with sensitivity, respect, and responsibility.

We hope that this article has provided you with valuable information about how to avoid cultural appropriation in your shamanic practice, and how to respectfully honor and support authentic indigenous shamanic traditions.

Remember, cultural appropriation is harmful and disrespectful to indigenous communities, and can lead to the erasure and commodification of their cultures. It is important to approach shamanic practice with humility and willingness to learn, and to always prioritize the voices and experiences of indigenous communities.

As you continue on your shamanic journey, we encourage you to incorporate these guidelines into your practice and to continuously educate yourself about cultural appropriation and indigenous cultures.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and we wish you a respectful and transformative shamanic practice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What constitutes cultural appropriation in shamanic practice?

Cultural appropriation refers to the adoption of cultural elements or symbols from another culture without proper understanding or respect for their significance and without permission from the originating culture. In shamanic practice, this can include using rituals, artifacts, or terminology from indigenous cultures without proper authorization or understanding.

Why is cultural appropriation harmful?

Cultural appropriation can cause harm to the originating culture by perpetuating stereotypes, erasing cultural significance, and taking ownership of someone else’s intellectual property without their permission. It can also be disrespectful and offensive to members of the originating culture.

How can I practice shamanism respectfully?

By doing your research, seeking guidance and permission from authorized sources, avoiding the use of sacred artifacts or terminology without proper authorization, and creating a personal practice that is inclusive and respectful of all cultures.

Is it appropriate to use Native American headdresses in shamanic practice?

No, it is not appropriate to use Native American headdresses or any other sacred artifacts in shamanic practice without proper authorization and understanding of their cultural significance.

What terminology should I avoid using in my shamanic practice?

Avoid using terminology that does not belong to you or that is specific to another culture without proper authorization or understanding of its significance. This can include using terms like “medicine man” or “spirit animal” without proper knowledge of their origins.

How can I learn about indigenous cultures?

You can learn about indigenous cultures by seeking guidance from authorized sources, reading books and articles written by indigenous authors, attending cultural events and ceremonies, and supporting indigenous-run businesses and organizations.

What can I do to honor and respect authentic indigenous shamanic traditions?

You can show respect and honor to authentic indigenous shamanic traditions by supporting indigenous people and communities, seeking opportunities to learn and serve, and spreading awareness and advocating for the preservation of indigenous cultures.

What is the role of respect and responsibility in shamanic practice?

Respect and responsibility are important in shamanic practice because they show respect for the cultures and people you are working with and help to prevent the harm caused by cultural appropriation.

Is it possible to practice shamanism without appropriating other cultures?

Yes, it is possible to practice shamanism without appropriating other cultures by doing your research, seeking guidance from authorized sources, and creating a personal practice that is respectful and inclusive of all cultures.

What can I do to spread awareness about cultural appropriation in shamanic practice?

You can spread awareness about cultural appropriation in shamanic practice by sharing information with your community, supporting indigenous-run businesses and organizations, and advocating for the preservation of indigenous cultures.


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