I can certainly appreciate and always encourage Canadians (in fact, anyone) to learn more about First Nations culture. This is one major step forward in Indigenous – Settler relations.

The key here is approaching the topic in a good way. By this I mean avoiding the tragic and, if I may say capitalist, publication of books and pseudo-taro-medicine-cards by authors who have no business making money off other people’s life experiences or spiritual beliefs.

Here is a special warning about books written by authors who claim to be “shamans” — which, by the way, is not even an Amerindian word.

Stay away from any author:

“Claiming to be American Indian shamans, talking about tarot cards and Wiccan/pagan things, or talking about crystals and New Age things. I’ve got nothing against shamanism, paganism, or the New Age, but a cow is not a horse: none of these things are traditionally Native American. Shamanism is a Siberian mystic tradition, Wicca is a religion based in pre-Christian European traditions, Tarot readings are an Indo-European divination method, and the New Age is a syncretic belief system invented, as its name suggests, in the modern era. None of them have anything to do with authentic Indian traditions, and anyone who thinks they do is likely to be wrong about anything else he claims about Native American religions as well. Wiccans and New Agers don’t have any more knowledge about actual American Indian beliefs than you do.”

Before I go on, let me tell you a little story about a man named Carlos Castenada.

Castenada was once granted the title of “the Godfather of New Age” by Time Magazine. But please don’t consider this an endorsement because he was a complete fraud. Let me tell you why.

Carlos Castaneda was a Peruvian-American author who had a PhD in anthropology. He decided one day — don’t ask me what he was thinking at the time, but probably how to make himself famous and earn lots of money — to impersonate an Indigenous Yaqui “shaman” he named Don Juan Matus and write a series of books in a first-person narrative about the topic of shamanism. In total, his 12 books have sold over 28 million copies and have been translated into seventeen different languages.

The big problem is: there was no Yaqui “Shaman” or “Man of Knowledge” as Castaneda quoted and wrote about in this books. There was no “Don Juan Matus.” He didn’t exist. He never existed. All that first-person narration of “shamanistic” insights, teachings and spiritual guidance were works of fiction, not fact.

By 1973, because the rising controversy surrounding him and his doctoral education at UCLA, he went to ground, where according to his biography he lived in a big house with three women in a cult-like setting as he founded the organization Cleargreen (and yes, it’s made of people).

From Cleargreen’s statement of purpose: “The name of Cleargreen stems from an idea that sorcerers who lived in Mexico in ancient times had about the configuration of our human energy. They believed that different kinds of energy had different hues, and that human energy has now an off-white coloration, but that at one time it was clear green.”

Canstaneda died in 1998. He was cremated. There was no public service. In fact, the public did not even know of his death until two months later in an obituary titled, “A Hushed Death for Mystic Author Carlos Castaneda” by staff writer J. R. Moehringer for the Los Angeles Times.

Canstaneda’s fraudulent works, populated by fake shamans and lots of peyote, began to get challenged roughly five years after he published and things started to unravel. While Canstaneda’s books are still bought and sold — there was a copy in the Native Canadian Friendship Centre of Toronto the last time I checked — it’s pretty much understood that it was all an elaborate hoax from an attention-seeking, money-seeking, PhD student from UCLA.

In a 2007 article in Salon Magazine titled, “The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda,” author Robert Marshall writes, “The books’ status as serious anthropology went almost unchallenged for five years. Skepticism increased in 1972 after Joyce Carol Oates, in a letter to the New York Times, expressed bewilderment that a reviewer had accepted Castaneda’s books as nonfiction. The next year, Time published a cover story revealing that Castaneda had lied extensively about his past. Over the next decade, several researchers, most prominently Richard de Mille, son of the legendary director, worked tirelessly to demonstrate that Castaneda’s work was a hoax.”

There are many reasons why such acts of frauds are so tragic, as they not only displace books by authentic First Nations/Native American authors, but since they are sold as truth, the public will believe everything that they read.

So what did the world learn from the trickery of Castenada? Be wary of what you read and what you believe.

So if you’re curious about checking out some books on First Nations/American Indian spirituality, before you invest any time or money into any books or authors or courses or taro-medicine-cards, please cross-check the author of the book you’re interested in with this list below. I want to note that I did not compile this list myself.

[Also note that I will be tackling the issue of information on the Internet in another post since there is lots to talk about. But essentially, the best method would be to personally approach ths subject, not simply read about it.]

So here is the list that I am asking you to cross-reference to before you pick up or pay.

~ Wolf Moondance
~ Morgan Eaglebear , or Morgan Eaglebear Maez
(There is a letter written by the APACHE NATION which definitely REFUTES Morgan’s claim to be related to Geronimo, OR to being a member of that NATION! Look for it on American Indian Movement websites, especially the Virginia chapter!)
~ Brooke Medicine Eagle
~ Hyemeyohsts Storm, Wolf Storm
~ Swan Storm
~ Mary Summer Rain
~ White Crystal Feather
~ Ghostwolf, aka Robert Ghostwolf Franzone
~ Lynn V. Andrews
~ Manny Two Feathers
~ Michael Harner
~ David Carson
~ Randy Tate, aka Randy Two Bears Standing Tate, aka Chief Two Bears Standing Tate,
ShaunaSay Tate, aka ShaunaSay Whitefeather Tate, aka leader of Red Nation of the Cherokee.
~ Neeshanha, aka Kat Lonergan
~ Dhyani Ywahoo, born Diane Fisher
~ Rainbow Eagle, real name Roland Willston
~ Roy Steevensz, aka Roy Little Sun
~ Mary Elizabeth Thunder, aka Mary Thunder, real name Mary Grimes
~ Standing Bear , Aka Standing Bear Moore, aka Manataka, real name Randy Lee Moore
~ Don Miguel, aka Don Miguel Ruiz, aka Sixth Sun
~ Carlos Castenada
~ Marlo Morgan
~ Christine Olinger, aka White Raven
~ Soaring Paw N Hooves Cawley, aka Selma Palmer
~ Dreamwalker, aka Thunderwarriors, aka Tony Dreamwalker, aka Tony Press
~ Bernyce Barlow
~ Don Two Eagles Waterhawk, aka Don Waterhawk, real name Donald R. Cakerice
~ Tom Netz, aka Chief Soft Shell Turtle, aka Ahkootya
~ Carmen Sunrising Pope
~ Katherine Cheshire, aka Dep See Mana
~ Buck Ghost Horse
~ Vicki Ghost Horse
~ Paul Ghost Horse
~ Carole Eagleheart
~ Roy Wilson, Medicine Wheel Tribe
~ Wind Wolf Woman, aka Sunbeam, aka Mahinto
~ Lynda Yraceburu
~ Maria Yraceburu, aka Naylin
~ Dorothy Deagle, aka Dorothy Daigle, aka Red Hat
~ Red Elk, real name Gerald Osbourne
~ Londuv, aka Melanie Hofsteters, aka Melanie Kennedy
~ Many Knives, Bo or Boe Glasschild
~ Duncan Sings Alone, aka C W Duncan
~ Ed McGaa, aka Eagle Man
*Lakota Oyate, NOT US, has him on their not recommended list. Contact the NATION! WE DID!*
~ Jeanne Marie Troge

And not to leave you hanging, here is a website that lists some books by authors who are authentic and whom you should check out.

God is Red: A Native View of Religion: Book by respected Lakota author Vine Deloria, Jr. comparing Christianity and native religions. It’s a controversial book, requires critical thinking skills. I recommend it for adult readers.
Encyclopedia of Native American Religions: This is really the book you want if you’re trying to write an essay about Native American beliefs, or just curious about world religions. Lots of accurate information here.
Native Religions and Cultures of North America: Collection of in-depth anthropological essays on a dozen different Native American religions.
The Sacred: Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life: An interesting book on Native American spirituality by three Indian women from different tribal traditions.
South and Meso-American Native Spirituality: An overview of Indian religions in countries other than the US and Canada.
Native and Christian: A series of essays by Native American authors on their experiences blending Christianity and Indian spirituality.
American Indian Myths and Legends: Well-attributed collection of many diverse traditional stories of Native America. 

-Happy Reading 

Krystalline Kraus

krystalline kraus is an intrepid explorer and reporter from Toronto, Canada. A veteran activist and journalist for rabble.ca, she needs no aviator goggles, gas mask or red cape but proceeds fearlessly...