18 January 2011

Kiesha Crowther - The Once and Future Fraud

One of the reasons Kiesha Crowther's myth appeals to many Europeans is that her story is not original. She has not only appropriated Native American imagery for her false persona. Crowther is also utilizing a prime European myth: that of the oppressed, lonely, unparented outsider child who realizes they are actually the long-foretold leader of myth and prophecy.

Europeans and Euro-Americans know this myth: it's King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, it's Harry Potter receiving the letter borne by an owl, it's the ancient European stories, once told around the fire before they had a system of writing, the names of whose heroes most would not recognize but that fantasy authors from Mallory to Rowling have drawn on for their books.

To everyone who was ever a lonely outcast child, outside in the woods with their dog, maybe playing "cowboys and Indians"... but with no friends to play with; to every child who felt different from their parents and imagined they were adopted; to every delicate child who felt more at home with animals than hard-edged humans; to every mentally unstable and lonely, sensitive soul who sits behind their computer and dreams of a more meaningful existence and membership in a mystical, magical tribe; to everyone who has ever dreamed a phone call out of the blue (or a sword from a stone) would change their life into something spiritual and exotic... indeed, that they would be called on to help save the world... Kiesha's myth taps right into their hearts, their dreams, their souls.

The thing is, "myth" has multiple meanings. The stories of King Arthur and the Welsh gods who preceded him are myths with meaning to many English and European people. There is depth and power there, based in real spiritual forces from the land of many "white" people's ancestors. So how sad, how spiritually abusive, that Kiesha has created a myth of the other sort: myth as falsehood. Myth as lie. By falsely claiming to have lived this sacred story, by mixing it with her outsider fantasies of ceremonies, and fabricated tales of what Native cultures are like, she has preyed on Europeans' deepest spiritual yearnings. And she has done it at the expense of the truth, and at the expense of Indigenous people. She has also done it at the expense of spirits who, with her English ancestry, may have helped her had she not violated all of the above cultures' spiritualities with her lies.

Ms. Crowther has tried to make her own myth and her own "tribe" but it is all a lie. Proclaiming herself an Elder and giving herself the ridiculous title "Little Grandmother" was already appalling enough. To do so when she was only thirty years old, arrogantly thinking no one would notice this absurdity, shows how completely ignorant she is of Indigenous communities, and how arrogant she is that she thought no one would push back on her for these trespasses. Crowther has exploited the seekers looking for a real Elder to advise them, and fed them illusions, not wisdom. By inventing a "tribe" she has exploited the lonely people who are looking for community, as well as the dedicated members of real tribes. A tribe is not something you create from a bunch of strangers, or a small group of friends. A real tribe is a land-based political, cultural and social entity with a sovereign government and a history that stretches back to pre-history. In all of this, Crowther has acted out the only real mythology she can now claim: the stereotypical colonist, conqueror, and enactor of attempted cultural genocide. She has attempted to replace the voices of real Indigenous people with her own. And then she had the nerve to be surprised and play the victim when Natives refused to look the other way.

Ms. Crowther has done great spiritual harm to the vulnerable people who opened themselves up to her. With all the refugees washing up on our shores, this aspect of her harm is becoming more and more apparent every day. She burned her bridges in the US, and is now focusing her exploitative efforts on the ignorant, or just plain racist, European newagers who either don't know or simply don't care that all her claims are lies.

Is redemption possible?

In the discussions, protests and videos, many Native people, as well as non-Natives whose money she took, have made suggestions for how she could redeem herself. Many feel redemption is not possible. Others have suggested that as start she could:

1. Tell the truth for once. - Admit she fabricated the entire, ever-changing story about being Native, or about being taught by non-existent Natives, or endorsed by people who've never met her.

2. Apologize already. - She owes a lot of apologies to a lot of Nations and individuals for her outrageous, false claims.

3. Pay back all the money. - This would include paying restitution to the tribes she exploited, as well as the thousands upon thousands she took from people to hear her ramble out lies about Native cultures and ceremonies.

4. And perhaps most of all, Start listening, and keep listening, to the Natives who have confronted her about her exploitative and abusive behaviour, and be open to doing what THEY say she needs to do to make amends.

Despite sharing a deficiency in melanin, Kiesha is not of my culture. I don't know anyone who claims her so, aside from summarizing above some of the things that have been said (including points from Native-made videos that are no longer online) it's not my place to say what she has to do to make this right besides the obvious: Kiesha, listen to the words and hearts of the people you have wronged. Listen to what they say needs to be done to make it right. Tell the truth and put the people first. That is the way to come from a place of love.

The main video that discussed the issue of amends is no longer online, but here are a few others that summarize the situation, address some of the concerns and make some suggestions.

*** Note: Contains images of the dead from the Wounded Knee Massacre ***

*** Note: Contains images of the dead from the Wounded Knee Massacre ***

Also archiving here a screencap of an early variation on Crowther's claims. By the time she issued this attempt at damage control, she had started backpedaling from her claim of being "The" "Shaman" of "The Sioux-Salish Tribe"[sic]. But it's still full of outrageous lies, all of which have now been shown to be pure fabrications on her part:

Click for full image:

~ Kathryn NicDhana, 18 January 2011