It's probably the nature of Peter Pan to be an asshole who thinks he's a hero — the excuse being that he's so thoroughly adorable, how could anyone fail to appreciate his preciousness, or not fall for the twinkle in his eye? It is (unfortunately) undeniable that he is also pretty good at what he does.
I happen to know Peter...
At the time, Peter was playing shaman. As you know, he flies around a lot, and so he had taken bits and pieces of the rituals, practices, music and songs of indigenous folk around the world, and put them all together into a powerful experience he could give others. He lit his feathered pipe. He warbled. He drummed. He was a digiridude, and a good one too. In the dark, and with your eyes closed, he could make you feel the forest. The dangerous four-leggeds brushed past you. The birds whisked past your head. you could smell the humidity, feel the leaves and feathers close in on you. Pretty neat, huh? He could turn a classroom into a full-blown vision quest in very little time. Sprinkle a little fairy dust and fly the whole lot of you off to Never-Never Land. Very effective. What matter that Peter was not a real Indian?
Until one night there was an Indian in the circle. He stood up tall, shaking with rage and said only, "I can't be here!" as he stormed out.
And Peter stopped. The spell was broken. Peter then gave a lecture on how he was given the pipe, given the digiridu, given the songs, the drums. That he was a Sun-Dancer. That he was allowed to do all this. He had permission. But the spell was broken. And everyone went home more than a bit down from the experience. All I could think of, was I wanted the Indian to come back again so we could talk it out.
And the next week he returned. And I turned to him, and this is what he said:
"That boy was singing my song."
And he told the story of the song, and how it is used in the Sun-Dance, and what a Sun-Dance really is, and what the song was for. For three hours. And as he spoke, he poured out the lore and practice of his people, and it became clear that singing that song in a university classroom was wrong, as was the display of his pipe.
And then he turned to me and said, "You wanted that to happen, didn't you?"
"Yes," I whispered. "If it was there, I wanted it to happen." And this revelation took me by surprise. Somehow, I knew exactly what he meant. And he understood me as well.
He had taken off the previous week and headed up to his People, up to his Land and his own Shaman (who, he explained, stayed on the Land, and didn't run off to play pretend in university classrooms. This was serious business.
Peter Pan flew off to Europe to play digiridude-shaman over there, build sweat lodges, give workshops, make some bucks, see the sights.
When he got back I got a call. He had been evicted. Lost his job. Car was wrecked.
"Did he do that?" he wanted to know.
So I emailed the Indian and asked. And this is what he wrote:
"I believe in IT. If you do wrong, IT'll get you." I gave Peter the message. He didn't like it.
I mean, in shamanism shouldn't you take these things as a sign? Cease and desist? But no, this was Peter. And Peter never takes no for an answer.
Maybe a year later, emails from the Indian. A picnic? A waterfall? We started hiking together. He poured out his lore at me.
"I'm the enemy, aren't I? Evil anthropologist! Stop telling me your tales! Watch me," I protested, "I'm not gonna write any of this down!"
"That's why I can tell you," he said. "Because you know who you are. Because you have your own People, Land, Identity — and you won't go out trying to steal mine."
His shaman had told him that the Peter Incident meant that he was supposed to give the talks. That he was gonna have to learn how to tell the tale himself. Properly. He wasn't thrilled. He became a spokesman. An advocate. An Elder.
Another call from Peter. This time his wife had been killed in an accident. (Yes, Peter had had a wife!)
I never saw Peter again. He's still out there doing what he did. Maybe he saw the suffering as what he has to endure to achieve authenticity, I don't know. Maybe he still blames the Indian for his terrible misfortune. But he still flies, he still crows... Nothing stops him. And I keep thinking, how strange that just maybe Peter changed the Indian. Peter. The hero? I asked my friend, the Voudou Priestess. She said, "Hell no!" He's just a fraud.
The Indian began to speak. Publicly. He's still pissed about it, to tell the truth.
And I still keep my silence about Indians. Their tales are just not my tales to tell. But I do like the waterfalls.