The ManKind Project has been engaged in conversations around the use of symbols and language derived from or resembling Native American culture for a number of years. It is our intention as an organization to honor Indigenous culture, to act with integrity, and to continue our work in supporting men’s healing and growth. To this end, we have made changes to processes on our flagship training and in our communities.
The ManKind Project USA has also been in discussions with the Center for Support and Protection of Indian Religion and Indigenous Traditions, “S.P.I.R.I.T.” for several months about our efforts around cultural appropriation.
Our organization has employed processes and practices influenced by Native American culture and traditions on the New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA). The S.P.I.R.I.T. organization has entreated us to stop.
Cultural Appropriation / Cultural Appreciation
Cultural appropriation was not a common topic in the 1980s and 1990s when the NWTA was created. The men who initially created the processes influenced by experiences of Native practices did not fully understand the cultures from which these practices emerged. We failed to see how what we were doing could be offensive and hurtful to Indigenous people.
In the 1990s, the project made significant improvements to our practices through relationships with Native people, especially with a traditional Lakota Chief and related family on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Indigenous men have participated in our work and continue to support it. The men who have served to maintain these relationships, and to perform a non-traditional process created specifically for the ManKind Project as a result of these relationships, have honorably and respectfully served.
We now have it in our awareness that however well-intentioned our past actions have been, they have had negative impacts on other Native people.
We will continue to create awareness in our organization and with our members and rectify any uses or possible use of rituals, ceremonies, or language that could be offensive to our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
We intend to expand our right relationships with the Native American community. (Please see “Evolving Our Relationship to Indigenous Peoples and Practices” published in May 2022.)
We have made changes to the New Warrior Training Adventure on processes which have roots in, or that might resemble, Native American practices. Overall, these changes impact seven out of over 60 processes.
What we have changed
Before the S.P.I.R.I.T. interactions, the ManKind Project USA had already begun a significant set of revisions to processes and practices on the NWTA weekend. Since October 2022, we have continued these changes.
Some processes have been modified, and others replaced. Much thought and effort has been put into their development, to keep the original intention and purpose while removing specific Indigenous language and practices. Indigenous men have been involved in every iteration of this development.
- Smudging will be used in a limited way, after appropriate training and explanation, and using only responsibly sourced materials.
- Use of ‘Aho’ has been discontinued and replaced with ‘Thank You’ or an equivalent.
- The process called the Axis Mundi Ceremony has been changed to remove the use of red cloth and tobacco.
- The formerly titled “Animal Names” visualization has been changed to more appropriately reflect its intention, helping a man connect with an ‘inner essence’ as an energetic ally, moving away from the interpretation as a Native naming equivalent.
- Talisman creation and associated ceremony have been changed, replacing the talisman symbol with another appropriate physical ‘anchor’ for men’s work.
- Sunday morning circle process has been changed to remove any reference to ‘Medicine Wheel’ teachings.
- The process called the “Purification and Renewal Ceremony” has been replaced. There will no longer be a structure, heated rocks, or steam, and all use of language and symbols resembling Native American ceremony have been removed.
It’s our belief that the essence of the NWTA is the initiatory process; including a separation, a descent, an ordeal, and a return. This hero’s journey can include references to many cultures, with recognition, respect, and appreciation, without using specific cultural or spiritual practices derived from a Native tradition. We are creating new traditions that honor our unique process, mission, and intentions of the NWTA.
Ongoing Respect for and Relationship with the Indigenous Community
We honor, respect, and give thanks for the help we have received to change practices that have created a negative impact. The ManKind Project USA is grateful for our continued learning, and for the influence of Indigenous ways of thinking and relating that enrich the world.
We will continue dialogs to ensure that MKP is acting with sensitivity and awareness.
We are grateful for the Indigenous men who are part of MKP USA, including those who serve on the Board of Directors, who have provided guidance and worked to support these changes.
We will reach out to build more connections with Indigenous communities. We have created a specific role in the primary organizational management structure called “Indigenous Relations Lead” to continue supporting our evolution and growth.
We have already begun to form an All-Nations constituency circle. We are canvassing our membership to include more Indigenous men from within our brotherhood to assist with ongoing education and expand the ways in which we honor wisdom from other cultures.
We are proud of the significant direct support, service, contributions, and connections that many men over the last three decades have given to Indigenous causes and communities.
The ManKind Project USA has also directly supported Native communities through donations to established Native support organizations, scholarships for programs, and through the donation of our intellectual property (the New Warrior Training Adventure) to the All Nations Gathering Center in Kyle, South Dakota for use in its healing programing for Native people.
As a nonprofit organization, the ManKind Project does not profit from our programs. Incoming revenue from training has never fully supported the organization, and MKP USA relies on the generosity of volunteers and donors to continue our mission.
Action & Integrity
We as a Board acknowledge the ways in which the ManKind Project has been out of account. We own the unintended impacts of our choices as an organization. We accept responsibility for negative impacts to Native American communities and to our own community.
The actions we are taking now are integral to our values as an organization – in accountability, authenticity, compassion, generosity, integrity, intercultural competency, leadership, and respect. We’ll strive to model acknowledging impact over intent, and we will continue to make changes to our programs and organization to mitigate possible impacts.
We are evolving as an organization.
Continuing the Mission
What the Mankind Project does is more important today than it has ever been.
The Mission of MKP USA is to create a world where men act on their individual and collective responsibility for the future of humanity by initiating and supporting men on a path of emotional maturity, spiritual awareness, and deepening community.
We are committed to offering men a life-changing transformative experience in a supportive and inclusive brotherhood. We will continue to focus on supporting men in their emotional development – challenging and inviting men to wake up, grow up, and show up.
We will continue to offer a new way of being for men.
the ManKind Project USA Board
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