The Plastic Medicine People Circle

by Helene E. Hagan


Helene E. Hagan is a psychological anthropologist who has worked with Native American issues for over a decade. She lived for four years on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota while working on an elder oral history project. This article is reprinted with permission from the INSTITUTE OF ARCHETYPAL ETHNOLOGY newsletter September l992.

Several individuals have recently brought to my attention that the phenomenon of new-shamanism, also styling itself as "core shamanism" is taking ample proportions in N. California. I have researched the particular group led by Sedonia Cahill and Bird Brother, known as THE GREAT ROUND organization. This group was targeted as it is typical of this New Age phenomenon, both in its practices and its public assertions as innovator and creator of ritual while proffering a public denial of its Native American character.

There are other groups advertising seminars, sweatlodges and vision quests as if they were indeed purveying true Indian teachings. All such groups follow the patterns followed by The Great Round in as much as they are imitators of Indian ways and are led by individuals who do not have any inside knowledge of American Indian spirituality.

The Great Round teachings


These teachings are put forth in advertisement, brochures, flyers and newsletters in Native American terminology and symbols, as an invitation to a meaningful journey, Indian style. What indeed attracts followers is the opportunity to practice Indian ways, and the people who respond to this promotional material are not versed enough in Native American traditions to be able to tell the difference between the imitation and the real thing.

This phenomenon is prevalent in many parts of the nation, and is not restricted to the practices of Sedonia Cahill, Bird Brother and the Great Round. Indeed these two individuals and their group are just another group in a phenomenon which began with Sun Bear. Sun Bear isolated himself from his own community by "selling out" bits and pieces of Indian spiritual knowledge. He established the "Bear Tribe", composed of non - Indian followers.

Another individual who continues to hold influence in these circles is Hyemeyohsts Storm. This man stands in the background of the Deer Tribe, publicly headed by Harley Swift Deer Reagan. He carries the title of "General Storm." The Deer Tribe is composed of women's earth lodges and men's Metis Brotherhood lodges. For many years a number of Native American leaders have stated that Mr. Reagan is a Caucasian man who has adopted a false Indian identity, as have many of the people listed as venerable teachers by Sedonia Cahill, Bird Brother and The Great Round in their publications.

What makes these groups appear to be Native American, without being Indian or having proper Native Ame-



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