The information I share with you is with the intention to share lessons, mistakes, and truths learned from my own experience on my path of Indigenous self-rediscovery. This piece is written in hopes that it can guide in protecting yourself against, spiritual/cultural manipulators & predators, whether they be organization leaders or “spiritual leaders/elders.“
I have had profound experiences with spiritually skilled Indigenous leaders and elders. The experiences have been mostly positive but some were also very negative. It is important that you stay on point so that you are not abused, hurt, or become entangled in anyone’s web of manipulation. I made serious mistakes in my ignorance and vulnerability that I am still trying to amend and heal from to this day. It is my sincere desire for you to avoid being taken advantage of like I was, and in turn also being discouraged from participating in positive healing Indigenous activities.
As much as we all would like to think that manipulation and abuse does not take place in Native spiritual settings, it very much does. While maybe not always malicious or intense, the “predator and prey” power dynamic will always be present in any social situation. Inexperienced and eager learners in the Indigenous community make for the best prey by these spiritual predators. You need to protect your first circle. Period.
While the guidelines in this piece would be helpful to anyone, they are aimed toward Chicanos or others in the midst of reclaiming their Indigenous identity. These protective guidelines will focus on spiritual predators in the native community but can also be used to protect against manipulators in general.
The scenario is generally this: experienced or popular organizers who have gained some type of notoriety, usually by way of rank or status in a popular organization, spiritual circle, medicine person, or social media platform, will use their inferred superiority or exclusive access to knowledge (even tho they will disguise it in “humble” indigenous wisdom buzzwords), as a platform to manipulate sincere and spiritually hungry people.
As much as one would like to hold legendary Native organizations or institutions in the highest of regard, the fact is they are human just like the rest of us. We all have different emotional wounds, shortcomings, and coping mechanisms. It is rare that anyone you come across, no matter how spiritually gifted they might appear, that doesnt need to balance out their shadow work. Just because one has a lot of knowledge, experience, or some spiritual skill does not mean they are perfect. As a rule you should not put them or anyone on a pedestal.
For Mexican/Mesox Natives, much of our enlightenment and strides in reclaiming our Indigenous ways has come via the generosity and guidance of “Northern” or U.S. area Indigenous nations. In this process we often start to emulate our Northern relatives’ cultural and social mannerisms and implement new protocols or ways of addressing people.
There is nothing wrong with this if we are aligning ourselves with good Indigenous ways and habits. The problem comes when we start to sacrifice our own uniqueness and personal freedoms in order to fit in . Humans are social creatures. Our need for social validation is a basic human need. So lack of acceptance by any of our social environments, can put our self-worth in precarious positions if we don’t exercise discernment.
No one likes to come off as unknowledgeable or not “in the know”. Especially when your heart and mind is enthusiastic and inspired with reconnecting with your traditional ways. People don’t want to offend the “elder”, or they may want to impress a popular person in the Native social circle to gain acceptance. Never be ashamed to be who you are or come from the social trajectory or experience that you do. Spiritual predators prey on a person’s fear of social exclusion or need for validation. By positioning themselves as gatekeepers of knowledge or acceptance, they can exert influence over those who fear being left out.
Remember, genuine spiritual leaders or community elders should empower individuals, celebrating their unique journeys and encouraging individual growth, rather than exploiting insecurities or fears of social exclusion.
Some spiritual predators are excellent at cloaking their true motives and true direction. They do this by using soft or flowery words and never really acknowledging exactly what it is that they want, or where it is that they are going, until they have achieved their objectives or until it is too late to reverse their encroachment or predatory intentions. The most dangerous ones come off very impressive and cloak themselves in the most convincing righteous talk, regalia, and calculated “good” deeds.
While each point on its own doesn’t necessarily indicate someone as a spiritual predator, collectively, they can help you understand the tactics often employed by such individuals. Remember, genuine spiritual leadership should be empowering and nurturing, not controlling or manipulative. Trust your intuition and always prioritize your well-being.
After identifying potential red flags, trust your gut feelings, seek advice from trusted sources, and remember that genuine spiritual mentors will uplift and guide without seeking to control or exploit. Consider doing more research or seeking resources to understand these tactics better and to ensure your spiritual journey remains enriching and safe. If you’re consumed by doubt or lingering questions, that’s usually a good sign for you to step back and remove yourself from that situation. This at least gives some distance to reflect from “outside.”
I hope my advice serves you well. There is good chance that this page will be updated in time. But for now I really hope you consider the points and perspective I bring forth.