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Old 02-13-2014, 03:25 AM   #1
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Britons Living Native Life?

John Jerzyszek and wife Pauline live as native American INDIANS in Coventry | Mail Online

Meet Running Bear and Small Warrior (or John and Pauline) who live their lives in Coventry as native American INDIANS in the wild, wild west... Midlands

By DAVID WILKES

From the outside, John and Pauline Jerzyszek’s modern semi looks just like all the others in their suburban road.

But inside it’s pretty different. You could say it’s heap big different.
A bone-tipped spear decorated with feathers hangs on the living room wall. Beneath it are photos of Geronimo, Medicine Crow and Sitting Bull, names familiar to many of us only from cowboy and Indian films, but who hold rather more significance in this home. There are also framed flint arrow heads and even a lamp in the shape of a tepee.




Upstairs in their bedroom, they have a full bison skin to keep them warm on winter nights. And on special occasions, the couple wear traditional outfits and head-dresses with pride.
For here, in what you might call their own little corner of the wild West Midlands, the British couple from Coventry have been living their lives as native American Indians.

For the last seven years, they have immersed themselves in the culture, attended dozens of pow-wows with other like-minded people and followed the ancient teachings of the tribes.

Self-employed truck driver Mr Jerzyszek, 59, has even been given the name Running Bear after it came to a friend in a dream. His wife has worked out her Christian and middle names Pauline Louise mean she could be called Small Warrior. Out of respect for their beliefs, however, neither deems it appropriate to use these names.

How, you might well wonder, did this all happen?

The answer lies not on the high plains of North America, but a world away in a chance meeting at their local Morrisons with a fellow enthusiast who goes by the name Grizzly Walking Thunder.

Mrs Jerzyszek, 57, a former florist, said: ‘John happened to be wearing Navajo jewellery made of silver, turquoise and bear claws. Grizzly noticed it and we got chatting. We became friends and learned more.

Grizzly introduced us to our spiritual adviser Adrian Two Crows and it grew from there.

‘It’s a full on spiritual thing for us. When we put on traditional clothes for pow-wows, it’s not fancy dress. We surround ourselves with these things in our home as a reminder of how to honour the beauty we find in the native American way, in the way of the Old Ones.

It’s impossible to live as simply as they did, but we try to follow their beliefs of honouring the Earth, not using more than we need, not taking more than we can eat, and remembering to be thankful for what we have.’

Mr Jerzyszek added: ‘We were both Christians. It’s not like we’re pretending to be native Americans, we have just found our direction with this. The first time I heard their drums I was moved to tears.’

The couple say their family and neighbours are accepting of their lifestyle. ‘We still go to work, pay the bills and eat the same things,’ said Mrs Jerzyszek. ‘But we try to drink alcohol in moderation, as the old firewater has been at the root of many problems for native Americans.’

Traditional carvings further add to the authentic atmosphere in their home, alongside gems of native American wisdom such as ‘Enjoy life and leave no tracks’ incorporated into some of the artworks.

There are also pictures of animals which hold a special place in the belief system they follow: the wolf, for example is ‘the teacher’, the bear ‘the healer’.

The couple’s chosen path means they like to help those less fortunate than themselves. They have spent time living with Lakota Indians in America and travel to pow-wows (it means a gathering of like-minded people, they explain) all over Europe.

This weekend they are heading to one in Devon where they will sleep in their traditional 14-pole tepee and play drums.

Mrs Jerzyszek said there may be up to 200 Britons who follow the same native spiritual path as them, but added: ‘The majority want to keep it private. It’s a touchy subject because of misrepresentation.’
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Old 02-13-2014, 04:08 AM   #2
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Old 02-13-2014, 12:38 PM   #3
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:34 PM   #4
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I have heard and seen these and many many others sadly too:(((....What they are "NOT" telling people is that "They make Loads Of Money"''Charging Gullable, Stupid British People for "The Native American Indian Real Experience" Off Course!! For a Fee/Money:(...I ended up having a Few Good Heated Words with these Greedy Wannabee's one day..And Considering I am Shy it was a big thing for me to do but I was soooo flipping angry....I told them all your doing is Playing Dress Up..How can you charge Loads of money for people who want to come to your Fake Tent Party offering Real Native American Meditation...Finding your Animal Spirit..Etc Etc Etc...Off course I was told "To Leave" which I gladly did after I finished Spitting My Venom and Distate at them as yes I can be a bit of a grizzly mama bear when I see things like this it makes my blood boil and my stomach turn trying to be and charge money for disrepecting any proud culture/traditions and its people and name:(..I heard they Never Came Back to that Particular Venue again near where I live lol...I only felt horrible for my friend as she dragged me to see them, and I only went along thinking it was Real Not..."Wanna Play Dress Up" after I calmed down.......Next week I am going to be the "The Queen Of England and Charge To See My Palace" hahahahaha

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Old 02-14-2014, 10:39 AM   #5
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.....Next week I am going to be the "The Queen Of England and Charge To See My Palace" hahahahaha
But she does. I believe that is currently L19 for Buckingham Palace and L11 for the Balmoral grounds. LOL.

The substantive difference between the Crown or the National Trust teaching English history and culture, or even me (as a "quarter-blood-quantum English") doing it, is power. Appropriation, distortion and disinformation do not pose an existential threat to English political identity and sovereignty.

The English do not live immersed in another culture which can decide their political fate. They are in charge of their economy, political and cultural institutions. (We'll just ignore the dubious flirtation with the EU.) When people like that appropriate and then claim to represent "our" culture, their distortions have real impact. They reinforce -- to quote the above article -- "heap-big" stereotypes. This would be irrelevant, if it didn't have political impact back here.

When the mainstream imagines Native peoples as living like they did in pre-contact or pre-reservation times, then modern Indian people are judged inauthentic. After all they don't live or look like "real Indians." Thus arrises a real questioning of the obligations imposed by the treaties. Particularly since the concept of "treaty rights" conflicts with a strong populist and egalitarian stream in American politics.

Last edited by OLChemist; 02-16-2014 at 03:27 AM..
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Old 02-14-2014, 04:10 PM   #6
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Unhappy

You are right @OLChemist she does charge a fee lol..Everything here in the UK from the Palace to even St Pauls Cathedral, which I think is a Disgrace as a House Of God is portrayed as Free to anyone who enters??. I really like the way you explained it in your post about how it is perceived by others as it is very true, it seems that peoples images and thoughts are stuck in the past and not modern day how they see Native American Indians.
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Last edited by Siobhanni; 02-14-2014 at 06:31 PM.. Reason: ranting and too long lol, so edited a lot off lol.
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Old 02-14-2014, 11:54 PM   #7
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If they really wanted to live like natives, they'd move into a mobile home with a broken down car in the front yard.
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Old 02-15-2014, 12:58 PM   #8
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We could probably put an end to it if we told them most NDNs like our tea cold.
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Old 02-15-2014, 01:00 PM   #9
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I think when I grow up, I'll play at being a Knight of the Roundtable-wear chain maille, joust and all that fun stuff. :)
You're joining the SCA?
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Old 02-15-2014, 07:55 PM   #10
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We could probably put an end to it if we told them most NDNs like our tea cold.
LOL. And with lemon.
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Old 02-15-2014, 10:11 PM   #11
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The English do not live immersed in another culture which can decide their political fate. They are in charge of their economy, political and cultural institutions. (We'll just ignore the dubious flirtation with the EU.) When people like that appropriate and then claim to represent "our" culture, their distortions have real impact. They reinforce -- to quote the above article -- "heap-big" stereotypes. This would be irrelevant, if it didn't have political impact back here.

When the mainstream imagines Native peoples as living like they did in pre-contact or pre-reservation times, then modern Indian people are judged inauthentic. After all they don't live or look like "real Indians." Thus arrises real questioning of the obligations imposed by treaties. Particularly since the concept of "treaty rights" conflict with a strong populist, egalitarian stream in American politics.

You pretty much nailed it! By the way, this topic has come up on another discussion board which I frequent, Do you mind if I quote this post?
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Old 02-16-2014, 03:25 AM   #12
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Feel free, just fix my grammar boo boo, LOL.
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Old 02-18-2014, 01:44 AM   #13
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Maybe----------------not. LOL!
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Old 02-20-2014, 05:53 PM   #14
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This couple watched Dances With Wolves one too many times.

The Plains NDN culture must be the only culture whites like. Those other pesky tribes are not cool enough to rip off.

Look at those Navajo mocs the guy is wearing with his plains outfit.
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Old 03-03-2014, 01:41 PM   #15
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Hello,

I've been lurking a bit on these forums for the past couple of years, but haven't dared to post yet. I guess mostly it is because I've been afraid of any backlash to anything I'd say. This thread however did spur me on to comment since it is, shall we say, a bit close to home for me?

Now, to explain a bit. I'm an American living in Europe.

(And here is where the can o'worms is opened...)

A bit of background first:
Yes, like many others, I am of the dubious 1/64 native heritage, although, theoretically it might be a little more if "the family stories" are true. Yes, we can trace and do have records. On one side, yup, you guessed it, the infamous 'unknown full blood' Cherokee claim. Everything after him is traceable. And he definitely was no 'princess'. The other story with old Bible records says Blackfoot (or Sihisaspa Lakota, wasn't clear, and I know I'm not spelling it right), and the name of White Cloud. My mother is an avid genealogist, so she is the one with all the info. And my uncle was even worse with that as a hobby, we're talking thousands of documents...

On the other side of the family, there were items that have been passed down in the family since ~1850's which were definitely cherished as 'the story' says that some were gifts for service to the community, and others were trade goods. The truth? Who knows how they first came to the family. I can say that we were heartbroken when they were stolen about a few years ago. I would have been the 4th generation to receive them (pipe, necklaces, knives, belts,etc). I can only hope that they went to someone who holds them in the same regard our family did. All that's left are photographs of the more significant items and a couple of arrowheads.

Reading many of the threads, before anyone gets onto BQ, I do realize that this in no way makes me Native American, NDN, First Nations, whichever you prefer to call it. I can only say that I've gone to some pow-wows from childhood on, learned a few things, bit of brain tanning, beadwork, couple songs, couple dances etc some things from one Oglala who called himself a 'crazy half breed'. Mind you, these were never things that I set out to intentionally learn by the way. It just kinda happened somehow along the way. Also got involved with volunteer work tutoring native kids in math, science, etc. (program was otherwise completely native run) Did lots of other kinds of volunteer work that wasn't native oriented as well. Various family members(side with the stolen heirlooms) also did volunteer work with various native communities. And since I grew up in the WI/IL area, I had more contact with other tribes than what my (extremely limited native) ancestry is.

The issue:
Now what's all this got to do with anything? Well, I also used to do some reenacting. Always medieval European or colonial America, and so on. Never Native. I was always taught 'you don't touch that with a 10 ft pole' due to the sensitivities of the subject. I can say I'm also living and experiencing the culture(s) of my white ancestry. Heck, I've been over here long enough I could ask for another passport if I wanted (no way am I giving up my American one though!)

Lately however, some people I know over here in Europe asked me to portray a Native American at an event they'll be having. Cuz, gee, I'm American, I have long dark brown/black hair, obviously I must be... (ok, y'all know ~that~ story goes...) This gives me extraordinarily mixed feelings.

On the one hand, to be frank, I miss the pow-wows and more to the point, anything remotely American, oh heck, even anything in English for that matter. And since my husband is European and doesn't want to move to the US... well, I guess I get homesick sometimes. (yes, I make it back maybe 1x/year)

On the other hand, omg, the stereotypes (yes of course, they want Lakota, heaven forbid they look at other tribes, wait, the Germans actually do look at other tribes for inspiration), etc etc. I went to a couple Western trade shows in the last couple months, more out of curiosity and to see a bit what they were like over here. I was quite frankly shocked when I saw some of the things being traded. Things I'd been taught that shouldn't be out there like that.

I explained to the organizers who asked me to do the portrayal that it wasn't exactly considered respectful etc. Now, this event is still going to happen whether or not I attend, and no matter what I say. They'll probably even try to make up rituals and whatnot. And with people I've known for a few years now.

The question then becomes, do I stand back and watch them put on the carnival costumes & wigs, or do I go ahead and try to teach them a little differently? Do I take out that 10 ft pole? Or do I turn a blind eye? If going the teaching route, what/how is considered to be the best way to do that? I know that I don't have exactly the best of qualifications to say diddly squat. I can only say what few things I've picked up over the years (which has also been explained to them) They did at least express an interest in learning. And they definitely wouldn't have the money to bring anyone over. So, in a certain sense, I'm one of the few options they have. (Awkward to say the least!)

So, I guess, long story short, what I'm asking is a little advice/help with what would be the appropriate action? If it were allowed to ship, I'd send over a big ol package of tobacco on this one. I certainly do not want to come across like how folks here are viewing the Britons in the OP. I don't want to be the 'Cherokee Princess of Tribe Wannabee'. I know that the family stories are just that, stories. But I also dislike watching people I know and care about fumbling along a path which is considered disrespectful. What to do?


~Lost1

*getting ready to duck the flames after opening a big ol can o worms*


(PS On another note, since the family was so heartbroken about the loss of the heirlooms, how appropriate is it to try to make reproductions from the photos? Including beadwork patterns and so on? And knowing it'll never be the same...)
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Old 03-03-2014, 03:16 PM   #16
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Perhaps rather than try to instruct about that which you have not lived, you could try for a teachable moment about cultural appropriation. While I understand a bit about the pedagogical theory behind living history reenactments, sometimes their use makes me a bit queasy.

First, there needs to be a line drawn between educational/recreational vs purely recreational reenactment. There is often a huge difference between level accuracy and cultural sensitivity shown between Renfairs full of turkey legs and "wenches" and Colonial Williamsburg. And, yes, I know this is not always the case. Heavens knows I've meet enough hobs who've told me as a modern Native I am totally ignorant of my culture, and without them it would all be lost and corrupted.

Second, I think there is a distinct difference when a group is "recreating" a tableau from their own culture vs another culture. Here is the delicate boundary, where education rapidly slides into appropriation. There needs to be a serious and honest examination of intention on the part of the sponsors and participants. If education is only a veneer over a wish-fulfillment, ethnic drag act, then the event is cultural appropriation pure and simple. But should education be the sincere intent, then the methodology needs to be examined. There are lessons learned beyond just those which are taught. When Native people are presented as a historical costume or an artifact, people learn to judge living modern Native people as somehow less than their museum counterpart. (And when the observer is a Native child, they are subtly dispossessed of their own past.)


But, setting aside the abstract issues. It sounds like you have a decent relationship with these people. Working from this you should be able to speak of your concerns and explain the issues. I can tell you from experience, you will need to address very fundamental differences in worldview. Starting with understandings of the sacred and intellectual property.
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Old 03-03-2014, 05:57 PM   #17
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WTF...? That is so offensive. So... they hunt, right? They make all their regalia themselves? He skinned that Bison with a knife he made with his own hands...? No. How do they claim they're not "playing indian" when that's exactly what they're doing... I don't get why this behavior is not understood as violent. That's what it is. Cultural violence.
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Old 03-04-2014, 07:30 AM   #18
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Thank you for your words OlChemist. It has been a very awkward subject for me to address. Unfortunately, I believe I may be fighting a losing battle in this regard.

Some of these people normally do medieval recreation and 'just want to do something different' for a change. From what I can tell, this event seems to be for the most part the 'ethnic drag act' unfortunately. It sounds more the Ren Faire, as opposed to the Colonial Williamsburg. I suppose that the wish to educate is perhaps coming solely from my own self, because when I hear some of the things planned for this event... I'm at a loss (I'd prefer the living history museum reenacting/interpretation over Ren Faire if you know what I mean). If I told you the reactions to when I told my concerns about the event, well, all I can say is that I had to do several face-palms. However, judging by what I know of them, I could pretty much guarantee that if I were to put on a trade wool dress, with my hair in braids and speak to them about modern issues, cultural appropriation (using my dress as an example), they'd listen politely, yet continue to do what they're going to do. "Because we're just doing it for fun, it's not meant with any bad intent, lighten up " etc etc. And it's just me, versus the whole lot of them. They want to learn, but it seems they want historical stereotypes, or language (Lakota) lessons. And so on. Well, at least they'd listen a bit.

You're absolutely right about dealing with a completely different fundamental worldview.

I can take for example the Dutch with Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas Day). You'll see thousands of people putting on Ren Faire type costumes and then putting on blackface (Zwart Piet). Every year someone points out that it's racist, and every year, the Dutch smile and nod and say 'but this is something cultural for us, so we're just going to do it anyways' They don't see it as racist. Then comes Carnival. Everything is considered fair game to be used as a costume. You'll see the Germans wearing their lederhosen & dirndls for Oktoberfest. However, for all of these events, you'll see many other people from other nationalities & cultures also wearing lederhosen & dirndls. You'll see Frenchmen or even Chinese men wearing Scottish kilts, etc. Goodness knows, but the Scots do take their regional attire seriously, as do the Germans.

However, in general, people seem to think nothing of it over here (I could be wrong about the kilts for example). If I were to participate in any of these, I'd just get a smile & nod and a comment that they're happy I'm 'integrating' and participating even though it's not necessarily 'my culture' (even if it may be part of my ancestry) And yes, there are integration classes I was required to take, so in that sense, I can indeed understand certain issues (not all) with assimilation into another culture, and loss of one's own. It's definitely not easy even if on the surface the cultures may appear similar.

Explaining what a person goes through is most often lost on those of the 'host culture' (trying to think of a better term for it) as they just do not have the same reference, nor know what it is to experience that loss of their own past, the disassociation as you call it. Anyone who goes through culture shock in any country experiences it to some degree or another. I've experienced it to a degree myself. I'm not American enough for the Americans anymore, yet not European enough for the Europeans. I can go to the town I grew up in, and folks will ask me "You're not from around here are you?" If I try to eat or drink something typically American (go to McDonald's for example), wear something that is distinctly American while over here in Europe? Oh, I'm just falling into a stereotype. And believe it or not, I've gotten harassed about it over here. Ouch. Passing along these kinds of lessons? Again, not easy, and not exactly a desirable lesson so to speak. However, I know it's not on the same level as an entire society going through it.

So, even with starting with sacred & intellectual property (definitely an idea worth exploring), how to explain to someone that it is considered disrespectful to wear another person's cultural attire when it just isn't viewed that way over here? I'd probably be pointed at the carnival goers wearing priest & nun's robes and asked about that. Anyways, trying to cross these fundamentally different worldviews is definitely a challenge to say the least. Wish me luck?



(lol, I guess once I opened my mouth, a lot came out, and certainly not in any structured sense. My apologies if I've offended anyone with these posts. And my thanks again for letting me sound off a bit, it's handy to have another viewpoint on these things to help give perspective)
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Old 03-04-2014, 08:26 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lost1 View Post
So, even with starting with sacred & intellectual property (definitely an idea worth exploring), how to explain to someone that it is considered disrespectful to wear another person's cultural attire when it just isn't viewed that way over here?
At the risk of tooting my own horn here, I thought I had a good point or two in this thread:

Scouts dancing

This article, while specific to genomics, describes dominant culture attitudes that I see as having bearing on the "we are doing this respectfully, so no harm no foul" syndrome:

“Your DNA Is Our History”, by Kim TallBear et al
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Old 03-04-2014, 09:40 AM   #20
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Whew, a lot of good reading. Thank you. I think I'm going to have to sit back and digest things a bit more.
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