Acknowledging and Evolving Our Relationship with Indigenous Peoples and Practices

Cultural Appropriation and Misappropriation of Indigenous Language,
Symbols, and Traditions

Cultural Appropriation: At its most basic, “appropriation” means to “take something that belongs to someone else for one’s own use.”

Cultural Misappropriation: “Misappropriation” describes a one-sided process where one entity benefits from another group’s culture without permission and without giving something in return.

In the 1980’s, The ManKind Project culturally appropriated language, symbols, and traditions from Indigenous Peoples without creating a clear context for recognition, honoring, and acknowledgement of the sources of this language, symbols, and traditions. The intention of this appropriation came from a sincere desire to be of service and to appreciate beautiful and honoring traditions and symbols. However, as the ManKind Project USA becomes more aware of culturally appropriated languages, symbols and traditions, we recognize negative impacts of our action and inaction.

Our values as an organization compel us to look within and to improve our relations. 

  • MKP USA acknowledges that Indigenous Peoples have suffered and died protecting and preserving the Sacred in their cultures so that we may hear and understand their Wisdom.
  • MKP USA acknowledges the painful impact our actions have caused to Indigenous Peoples both within and outside of the organization.
  • For many years, men brought these issues forward, and were largely ignored. MKP USA acknowledges that men have left the organization due to our privilege, complacency, and lack of action.
  • In using these words, symbols, and traditions without appropriate acknowledgement, recognition, respect, and gratitude, MKP USA modeled disrespect towards Indigenous Peoples and cultures.

The ManKind Project USA intends to move forward by changing processes, incorporating acknowledgment, recognition, respect, and gratitude context, and building broader collaborative and respectful relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

In 1992, a New Warrior brother brought awareness of the need to establish relationships and create accountability with Indigenous People in order to be in integrity with our values given the ongoing appropriation and misappropriation of Indigenous words, symbols, and traditions.  Several New Warrior brothers, on behalf of the New Warrior Network (precursor to The ManKind Project), sought guidance about the Purification and Renewal Ceremony from a Traditional Ceremonial Leader among the Lakota People.  Deep, respectful, and ongoing relationships were established. Guidance was offered. The organization has continued to nurture these particular relationships, and has sought to honor and respect the agreements and understandings developed at that time.

At that time, and to this day, the use of Indigenous-inspired rituals like the Purification and Renewal Ceremony is controversial. We recognize that among Indigenous cultures, traditions and practices, there are many worldviews, lived experiences, and teachings. There are differing opinions regarding appropriation and use of culture and this issue is, at times, contentious. These inquiries are complex, and require ongoing authenticity, engagement, and learning.

In the context of the growing recognition of Indigenous rights around the globe, and in line with our values of generosity, compassion, respect, accountability, integrity, and intercultural competency, we must continue to evolve as an organization.

In 2007 the United Nations adopted The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Article 11 of The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) states, in part,

“…Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, protect and develop manifestations of their cultures, such as artefacts, designs, ceremonies, and technologies…  States shall provide redress with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs…”

The United Nations is made up of 193 countries.  189 have adopted UNDRIP and 4 countries have not yet done so, including the United States.

MKP USA elects to honor the intention of the UNDRIP and will develop a public facing position statement on its website in consultation with Indigenous Peoples.

We are grateful for those who have carried the message that more needs to be done within MKP USA to create a culture of acknowledgement and respect for Indigenous Peoples and their rights, and to alter our training processes to better respect and acknowledge the language, culture, and traditions of Indigenous Peoples.

Therefore MKP USA acknowledges the rights of Indigenous Peoples and commits to the following:

  1. MKP USA will demonstrate recognition, respect, and gratitude toward Indigenous Peoples.
  2. MKP USA will demonstrate recognition, respect, and gratitude for Indigenous customs, symbols, words, rituals, and traditions.
  3. MKP USA will include land recognition and verbal recognition prior to any activities inspired by any Indigenous culture.
  4. MKP USA will replace processes that inappropriately include Indigenous practices with new ones that accomplish the same goals.
  5. MKP USA will continue to build relationships with Indigenous Peoples.


  1. MKP USA will host events, trainings, and educational forums on the negative impact of systemic racism against Indigenous Peoples and the appropriation and misappropriation of Indigenous practices and rituals.
  2. MKP USA will ensure that individuals entrusted with leadership roles have appropriate training and education about cultural appropriation.
  3. MKP USA will make necessary changes in Processes, Policies, Procedures, Resources, and Marketing Materials to be in alignment with this statement.
  4. MKP USA will inform participants that some program content includes wisdom from Indigenous traditions.
  5. MKP USA will make available information about the origin and evolution of any processes or activities that are inspired by Indigenous cultures in alignment with this Statement.
  6. MKP USA will strengthen existing relationships and build new relationships with Indigenous Nations, Communities, and Peoples.
  7. MKP USA will offer appropriate recognition, respect and gratitude whenever engaging in activities inspired by Indigenous traditions.
  8. MKP USA will honor and acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples on whose ancestral land any activity occurs.
  9. MKP USA will designate a Role charged with the responsibility of advocating for the importance of this Statement and its contents throughout MKP USA.
  10. MKP USA will continue to offer, expand and increase awareness of financial scholarships and support for Indigenous People who want to participate in MKP USA programs.

See this statement as read by Chair Elect Darryl Hansome on the September 29, 2021 Town Hall Meeting below. 

VIDEO LINK: Statement read by Chair Elect Darryl Hansome