In 1992 i was given a scrimshaw piece from an Anishanaabe Elder. It was a beautiful piece depicting a serpent swallowing what looked like an egg. I had never seen this design before and he told me of a place called Serpent Mound, a significant place to the Eastern Woodland Tribes of this region, the place of The Ancient Ones. Years later I would travel to Fort Ancient and Serpent Mound to see these sacred spaces for the first time, where I found non-native reenactors entertaining tourists with a “Pow Wow” and performing rituals of questionable european origin on top of the serpent mound itself.
How did it come to this? How is it possible, and why? It would seem it is easier to believe that the mounds were built by aliens or Vikings than an advanced Indigenous culture of mound builders which stretched as far as Cahokia, a thriving metropolis of 10,000 outside of what is now St. Louis. The theory that Native Peoples in the Ohio Valley area during and after contact were negligent in the care of these sites ignores their forced removal from these lands and the violence of westward expansion. By perpetuating false claims, the legitimacy of those descendants is called into question.
Once the cultural identity of those ancestors is removed, the foundation is laid to coop the sites for pseudo religious rituals and masturbatory spiritual practices. This disconnect reduces these ancestors to mythology, dehumanizes indigenous culture, and perpetuates the assimilation narrative. This is the same narrative which emboldens non natives to use the first amendment as the edict which gives them the right to our religion, a right we didn't even possess as natives until 1978.
As indigenous people it is our responsibility to protect these sacred sites wherever they may be, even if it is from our own.
To those reading this who would be allies, I would challenge you, to call out those who choose to distort indigenous history to push their own agenda. Do not be afraid to speak up when you see those appropriating cultures that don't belong to them. Currency isn't always money, and social currency sometimes can be even more harmful.
TL;DR Don’t trust the pilgrims