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sadly in need of etiquette help

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  • sadly in need of etiquette help

    Can anyone tell me if "to cross someone's path" meaning to meet/encounter someone has some sort of offensive cultural connotation in the Native American community?
    I am not Native American but was told emphatically that "you do not ever 'cross the path' of a Native American, you do not 'cross paths'!"
    I apologized because the term "to cross paths" was apparently taken as some manner of great offense, but I don't know what I said (other than to meet/encounter someone)
    I did not mean any offense. Can anyone help me understand?

    thanks very much for any help you might be able to provide
    Aura Waters

  • #2
    huh?
    sigpicDisclaimer: Storyteller and I are friends no matter what our evil twins say on the rhyme thread


    Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, laying in hospitals, dying of nothing....

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    The occasion...........after it's missed. The time.........after it's gone.

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    • #3


      Just try to think how illogical that sounds for practical everyday living.....

      Maybe if there is a specific instance if there was a ceremony or some event happening.....

      Or maybe you're a coyote.....
      (that's a navajo joke)

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      • #4
        sweeet freakin' pete!!!

        Man, people get offended over the most idiotic things these days.

        I've never heard of that being offensive and can't, for the life of me, see why that's offensive...wow...
        I think everyone on this rez is addicted to Harry Potter...lol...

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        • #5
          Thanks so much for your replies! I can't figure it out either, but please do not think ill of him as he doesn't deserve to be thought ill of and is an elder. All I could think of is that perhaps "to cross paths" may have had some sort of really bad connotation back in the old days. Did people back in the old days once perhaps seek "to cross paths" with someone because they planned to harm them or kill them or something?
          I don't know. I don't even know anyone who would know.
          But if I ever "cross paths" with him again, I'm definitely not going to ask, and I'll make every effort to remember to say that it was nice meeting him (not crossing his path!)

          Thanks again!
          Aura

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          • #6
            LOL... ok well... I am not positive but maybe someone was warning you.

            I don't know what you look like or tribal affiliation but I can only think of one instance where someone would emphatically warn you not to cross paths with a native american and that's if you are some white wannabe type who runs around dressed in that particular way that many of us laugh about.
            Unless.............. they meant that as an insult to native americans and not you in particular.

            But generally, to "cross paths" with someone means meeting or "running into" someone. Like, you would'nt want to cross paths with the devil ... it has a negative meaning to it.
            Last edited by Blackbear; 10-25-2008, 05:33 AM.
            Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

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            • #7
              Thank you. Awww.... such a darling baby!
              I look like a 54 year old white ItalianAmerican grandmother in tennis shoes, jeans, and fleece jacket who has raised 5 children and bakes her own bread and keeps a soup pot on the stove. But I know that you are absolutely right that he was trying to warn me. He was.
              At the risk of possibly offending you too (I honestly don't mean to offend anybody) could you possibly help me sort through this?

              He was just a stranger who offered me the seat next to him on the bus. I thanked him and happily remarked that it was such a glorious autumn day. The bus took a turn through the trees by the river. The leaves were absolutely breathtaking.
              He too was visibly affected by the trees and the river and sighed contentedly with deep appreciation of the scenery:
              "Oh yes. I'm an Indian. We Native people truly appreciate the fall of the year. It is the time of gathering, of the harvest...."
              "Oh yes" I sighed, "I.... remember."
              The bus swayed around a corner. I had my hands on my knee. Was I staring out into space with some sort of thousand mile stare? Maybe, I don't know. But he put his hand on top of my hands and asked me "are you ok?"
              "Yes, thanks,... I'm ok."

              A woman asked me that at the powwow last year. She stared at me and she asked me what I was seeing and if I'd talk on camera. When I got home they told me I had been on the 5 o'clock news. I had to think fast and make something up with the camera on me. I could not tell anybody what I was seeing.

              But when the Native American man on the bus put his hand on top of my hands and asked me "are you ok?" I was seeing it all over again in my head and it all just sort of... fell out of my mouth... and I could not shut up and I could not help it.
              And so I talked about it.

              I would say that they are like videorecordings that are written on the land. That you stand on the land and you see a scene from the past that was written on the land. There are images of dead warriors on the far side of town...their wives...their children... it is written on the land. It is enough to rip my heart out. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. They rip my heart out. How can people build businesses there, houses there? That piece of land is sacred and those people once died there.
              People in the present day do not know...

              How can people turn their backs on the grounds at the powwow when there is no break in the service, and they laugh and joke and eat and fool around... and these are Native people... don't they know they are in church before God and this is a sacred thing that the elder is speaking?
              It was a church...
              it was more than a church! It was once the center of the entire world! I saw it. Between Devil's Tower Wyoming and some town called Sundance I saw it written on the land. The powwow beyond all powwows. It was a huge long teepee beyond all others. It was a church beyond all churches and sacred beyond sacred. It was a great celebration at the center of the entire world and everyone was there from everywhere. They are still written there on the land like a videorecording, like a ghost of an image. It is a little valley at a bend in the road where there is someone's farm there in the present day. It was once the center of the entire world. In the modern day it is a silent little farm valley in the middle of nowhere.

              I stand in the corner at the powwow and the tears run down my face like a statue in the rain and I cannot help it. I suppose one would say that I have seen ghosts(?) They are not ghosts. They are like videorecordings written on the land.

              I know that I am white. I do not have the right to see the ghosts of times long past and long gone. I do not have the right to speak of such things, let alone to a total stranger on a bus.

              The man on the bus said such things should not be spoken of.
              I knew he was right. Such things were sacred. Such things are still sacred. I do not know why when he put his hand on my hands it all just fell out of my mouth...
              "Oh yes.... I remember" I'm an idiot.
              I have no right to remember and I have no right to speak and I am white. I asked him if the concept of reincarnation was acceptable under his belief system. Are they memories? Is it possible to have once been... Native American?
              He said no, that was not possible under his belief system.
              Is it part of anybody's belief system? Is there anyone who would understand? Is there anyone who can tell me if these things are ghosts written on the land, or visions.... or some sort of distant memories of a lifetime long past? He said there might be.
              I sighed and said that perhaps someday I will cross paths with someone who could tell me, I hoped to.
              It was the concept of "crossing paths" with someone that offended him. No. I must not speak of "cross paths."

              I apologized profusely and I did not understand how I had offended him, but I feel horrible because I know that I could have offended him in probably a thousand ways.
              He was a man of power and an elder and I recognize that and I honor and respect that, and I'm a housewife who doesn't even understand what the heck she is talking about other than I recognize things that I shouldn't and have seen things that are not there and haven't been there for a couple hundred years and they make me cry like a statue in the rain and people sometimes come out of nowhere and stare at me and ask if I'm ok.

              I don't know if he accepted my apology. He was silent. I was silent. The bus pulled to a stop and I stood up to leave.
              He looked in my eyes and said:
              "You are not there. You are NOT there. When you get there, if you get there,.... someone will speak to you."
              I thanked him. I said it was wonderful meeting him, and thanked him again and got off the bus.

              I know he was speaking from spirit. I recognize that much.
              I know that if I do ever get to wherever it is that I am going and someone does speak to me, that I'll probably offend them too just like I offended him... so I need to figure out what truly offended him, so I know not ever to do it again.

              I sincerely hope that I have not offended you too just by talking about it. I prayed and meditated about it all night and all I have managed to come up with so far is that maybe if you meet someone and you understand each other, maybe that means that you share a path for a moment with somebody...
              and so maybe to cross one's path would mean to derail or disrupt or damage in some way somebody or somebody's path in life(?). That would make sense.

              I know that you are absolutely right that he was trying to warn me, but of what?

              thank you for your help
              Sincerely,
              Aura

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              • #8
                The MovieWavs Page - Rush_Hour_2: thewords.wav
                So I put my hands up, they're playin' my song
                The butterflies fly away
                I'm noddin' my head like "Yeah!"
                Movin' my hips like "Yeah!"
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                • #9
                  Thank you for your reply. I am glad that you do not understand. For you to understand, you would have to have seen the ghosts of those long dead people yourself. It is not something that I would ever wish on anyone.

                  Aura

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                  • #10
                    I didnt see that coming!



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                    • #11
                      I have one question? Along with Blackbear's question; did this man look "indian" to you?

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                      • #12
                        Don't worry about it, because if you were meant to understand he would have explained it to you there when it happened.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by WocusWoman View Post
                          I have one question? Along with Blackbear's question; did this man look "indian" to you?
                          Thank you very much for your replies.

                          When he said he was an "Indian" and I looked at the side of his face: "Indian?" He didn't look to be from India at all...oh... he had meant Native American. Yes, he absolutely looked full blooded Native American. Except for the modern jeans, jacket and baseball cap, he could have walked out of one of Catlin's paintings or the old photos in the museum.

                          I was standing with my back to him when he put his hand on my shoulder to get my attention and offer me the seat on the bus next to him, by the window. I grew up riding busses on the hard side of the city. For me to be touched by a stranger's heavy male hand from behind... my husband used to call me "the cat in the cartoons that jumps all the way to the ceiling and shakes hanging by its claws whenever anybody comes up behind it!" But I didn't startle at all. It was very strange. He was a powerful presence but not a threatening one.

                          I'm sure you must be right...
                          that if I was meant to understand, I would have understood, or he would have explained more.
                          Or maybe, like he said, I'm just not there yet.

                          Thanks again!
                          Aura

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                          • #14
                            Powwows are not churches...
                            Cariblanguage.org

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                            • #15

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