Hyemeohsts Storm is among the most senior plastic shamans. His real name is Charles Storm, or Arthur C. Storm; he also goes by „Wolf Storm“ and „General Storm“, or „Chuck“ Storm.
Storm was born in 1931 or 1935, according to a text written by Storm, and is a US citizen of German ancestry. According to Storm, his father was a German imigrant who came to the US after World War I, while he claims his mother was Cheyenne. In lectures done in Europe, Storm also seems to have mentioned his father came from a place near the town of Danzig and was a WWI veteran who had suffered injuries from war gas. An unemployed joiner, Storm Sr migrated to the US due to the difficult economic situation in Europe and died when Storm was very young.
Storm is married to Swan Storm, real-life name Stephanie Leonard-Storm, born 1957, who is his business partner in selling indigenous spirituality and gets called Storm's „medicine twin“. Leonard-Storm claims to be Métis without naming any indigenous nation she may descend from.
Contradictions in biographical information
The biographical details given by Storm, his followers, or his publishers vary, and his early life has not been established sufficiently; the Encyclopedia of American Indian Literature describes it as „murky“ . Storm claims his mother's name was Pearl Eastman, a Cheyenne with family not only in the Cheyenne nation, but also among the Crow and „many other reservations“. In one article, Storm describes his mother as a „Cheyenne, Sioux, and Irish-American“ without mentioning any Crow relations.
He claims to have grown up on both the Cheyenne and Crow reservations in Montana. The vagueness of information provided is further added by claims of sympathizers who place Storm „on the Cheyenne-Crow reservation“ where he allegedly lived „as a reservation Indian for several decades“. A „Cheyenne-Crow reservation“, however, does not exist.
Not only such accounts, but also Storm's various biographical articles on websites are grave contradictions to the claim he put forward in his first book Seven Arrows, where he says that he received the information on Cheyenne religion from his father, and that this information was handed down through the generations from father to son. In a biographical article apparently written by Storm, he also claims his mother Pearl Eastman had „been born in a tipi, among the first generation of Native Americans to be born in captivity on the reservation“. Since indigenous resistance on the Plains was largely stifled during the 1870ies, this claim seems highly dubious and rather improbable.
Storm also differs regarding the number of his siblings, as he sometimes claims that his mother had six sons, two by a former marriage and four by his German father. In other biographical presentations written by Storm, the number of children is said to be five overall. In the same way, Storm represents himself either as the eldest of all or the eldest of the latter four.
In one biographical article, Storm also claims to have been adopted by the Crow family Yellowtail. While there is evidence pointing to such relations to the Crow nation, such an adoption is an honorary act and does not give the adoptee any rights to ceremonies or spiritual teachings; the adoptee is supposed to look after his adoptive parents and family in times of need and old age. Such an adoption by a family also does not create any rights to enrollment and does not bestow the adoptee with citizenship in an indigenous nation or rights to this.
A career as a Plastic Shaman
In 1972 already, Storm published the first of three books, titled „Seven Arrows“. The book, published by Harper & Row as non-fiction, was promoted as describing details of Cheyenne spirituality and ceremonies. However, it raised fierce protests and objections from the Cheyenne nation who regard the content as blasphemous and utterly wrong and also declared that Storm was not enrolled and not known in the nation. Harper & Row reacted to these objections by presenting a copy of an enrollment card of Charles Storm, issued by the Cheyenne nation, which was promptly exposed as forged.
Harper & Row's vice president Douglas Latimer, who was responsible for publishing the book, entered negotiations with the Cheyenne nation in an attempt of damage control and agreed to pay what the Cheyenne called „reparations“. The amount was paid to avoid a court judgement against Harper & Row. He refused, however, to withdraw the book completely, as the rights had already been sold to another publishing house. A later court verdict ordered the book to be published as „fiction“ material to indicate its contents were not based on facts.
Storm cooperated with other plastic shamans and is e.g. considered one of the teachers of Harley Reagan; he still gets mentioned by Deer Tribe members, some of whom claim him as a teacher, too. Storm and Reagan seem to have cooperated for several years, e.g. alternately doing series of lectures and seminars in Europe. Other publications mention further well-known plastic shamans who allegedly were taught by Storm, like Lynn Andrews.
Storm has written three books, the aforementioned Seven Arrows in 1972, Song of Heyoehkah in 1981, and Lightningbolt in 1994. All books have seen German translations and are still in print in both English and German.
Claims of Enrollment
As mentioned above, the first attempt at presenting a card of tribal enrollment was exposed as fraudulent. Storm continued to claim Cheyenne ancestry, though, and tribal enrollment: In a letter published in a mailing list on November 1, 1998, a poster claimed to copy a letter sent by Storm which read: „Sure I can fly my enrollment flag-A.C. Storm I. D. number 207U002973, Bureau of Indian Affairs-- Billings Area Office, Billings, Montana“.
Storm still maintains to be indigenous, resp. Métis. While there is a recognized ethnic entity by the name of Métis in Canada, which refers to descendants of French/English settlers and Ojibway and Cree who have their own distinct culture and language called Michif, the term is not in use in the United States. There is no federally recognized Métis entity in the USA, and the term there has been taken up by persons with distant and mostly unverifiable indigenous ancestry, thus not lending more credibility to Storm's claims.
Reception and Criticism
Storm's books saw a completely different reception in the dominant society and among indigenous Americans. They were for a long time – and sometimes still are – being taken for non-fiction books presenting the readers with insights into and genuine information on Cheyenne spirituality, or even on a non-existing generic indigenous spirituality. The German translation of Storm's first book, Seven Arrows, was done by an academic who still lists his work on this book in CVs available online. Storm's claims to be Cheyenne (Storm himself uses the terms „Breed“ and „Métis“) were taken at face value more often than not, and Storm was even assigned a role as a „spokesperson of indigenous America“.
This did not change after Storm's books had to be sold in the fiction category, as he still maintained he was enrolled Cheyenne and his books contained literal truth. Therefore, Storm continued to be taken for an indigenous author and was read and recommended as such even in university seminars and lectures. In some cases, even academic authors distorted information available, deploring the Cheyenne nation's view of the book as blasphemous, claiming it was not meant as a monography on Cheyenne religion and „Seven Arrows was not, however, written for the own nation“. In fact this author attempts to trivialise the reaction of the Cheyenne nation and other indigenous nations and individuals by euphemistically describing „representatives of the publishing house were compelled to go to the reservations to settle the misunderstanding the book was a monography of Cheyenne religion“. The words chosen imply that indigenous views of the book were caused by mere misunderstanding, i.e. per definition a shortcoming on the part of the Natives instead of dominant white society, and include the notion that expecting the representatives to travel to the reservation was an undue impertinence again on the part of the Cheyenne. Thus, the sentence employs two racist stereotypes on indigenous persons: the stupid Indian, and the defiant and renegade one not knowing their place and overstepping boundaries by making undue demands.
Such views thus firmly rely on concepts of white privilege and white interpretative dominance. Propagating fantasized descriptions and distorted views does not become appropriate if and as long as they are not addressed at the ethnic group they allege to be written on, but of course von Stuckradt does not mean to imply it is acceptable to cheat whites – white dominant society in its interpretative dominance over non-white ethnic entities includes the power to decide what to accept as that group's religion and culture. Additionally, von Stuckradt's stand is also nurtured by the concept that the dominant society of course has the right to chose whom to promote to spokespersons for non-white groups, instead of having the respective groups decide who speaks for them and who does not. The white dominant society thus enjoys vast freedoms of defining and redefining according to its own needs and at its whim, and also claims the power to decide who, to them, is a 'real Indian' and who is not.
However, there were also other voices in academia who criticized Seven Arrows for its inaccuracies as well as its definite ambition to portray authentic Cheyenne religion to its audience and for Storm's ambition to appoint himself as an authority and spokesperson. Other critical evaluations established Storm relying on Jungian concepts of „unconditional respect for another person's perceiving way; while it is, to an extent, an authentic Native American trait, it is also a valid expression of the new-age hipster's belief in the concept of „live and let live“, and in a new, more open-minded morality to replace puritanical values of old. An over-reliance on Seven Arrows may lead to the mistaken belief that anything, anything at all, is morally acceptable to these wandering philosophers of the plains just as long as someone among them thinks it might be alright and can justify it with an argument. This is truly the modern American way, and that is why modern urban hippies like it, since it is, as noted earlier, the polar opposite of Christian Fundamentalism“ . Hart thus concludes that the book „...is Heyemeyohsts Storm's own synthetic, new-age religion; […] but that is not the same thing as the ancient Cheyenne tradition, even where they superficially resemble each other“.
As early as 1972, historian Rupert Costo criticized Seven Arrows, stating that Storm showed little or no understanding of the Cheyenne Way, and that the book falsified and desecrated the traditions of the Northern Cheyenne. Costo, the President of the American Indian Historical Society (and from the Cahuilla nation) and publisher of The Indian Historian, further pointed out that the book contained „many irreligious and irreverent inaccuracies“. Storm's description of the Sun Dance was wrong, and his drawing of the Sun Dance Lodge was not Cheyenne, the four sacred directions were described inaccurately, Costo added, and Storm had „no religious or secular status in the tribe“..
Despite the criticism brought forward since long by indigenous nations as well as academic reviewers, Storm's books are still taken for Native American novels and are included in reputable publications and lectures. In June 2006, the IAA Institute of Rostock University organized a Fulbright Lecture Series American Culture, Past and Present. In the series' fifth lecture, Double Crossing the Western Frontier in Native American Literature, speaker Cheli Reutter attributed Storm as the „...world's foremost speaker for the Mixed Blood People and a famous writer...“; the report on the lecture even provides a link to Storm's website.
Storm has founded several organisations during his career. One is the Cirle of the Earth Temple of which Storm claims to be founder and director. The COTET has been defunct for a long time or has been dissolved; there is only scarce information to be found on this organisation. The same is true for the „International School of Metis Art“ of which Storm was founder and director, too. There are, however, still individuals who continue to mention this institute in biographical information or interviews, and it is to be noted that one of them can hardly claim Métis descent, as the person happens to be German. Evidence available suggests that it was active until at least 1999.
The third organisation is the National American Metis Association which seems defunct, but which still is mentioned online, so e.g. even by one university who lists it as a genuine indigenous organisation and even recommends it as a „good source for teachers“. The association seems to have been founded in 1978. The organisation then disbanded, either in 1985 or in 1981, and reconstituted in 1998. It has to be noted that all three mails quoted happen to have been written by the same person, Mary Harper-Bellis, who also held a position as a „second president“ within the organisation. Harper-Bellis mentioned as her „partners in this venture, the other members of the Board of Directors are Billy Brady, Chet Alexander, Erena Lall-Brady, Rainbow LaLand, and Forest Helstrum“. In a post to a mailing-list written in January 2001, Harper-Bellis speaks of „The org that I am the president of ...“, so she may have held different positions in the association.
In another post to METISGEN in January 2001, Harper-Bellis states that the associated had „200 members from about 20 states“. It is also rather noteworthy that Harper-Bellis claims they were „in communication with the Metis group in Scandinavia“, although she does not elaborate any further about the membership or character of that group.
William „Billy“ Brady maintains a commercial website selling sage on which he still propagates the National American Metis Association of which he announces to be the „Executive Director“, so recruiting for this organisation is still possible and might still continue.
Seven Arrows The Song of Heyoekah Lightningbolt
Versions of this article in other languages
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- „...Hyemeyohsts Storm, the Cheyenne shaman, who not only taught Harley Swift Deer, but also sent Lynn Andrews on her way to Agnes Whistling Elk“. von Stuckrad, Kocku: Schamanismus und Esoterik. Kultur- und wissenschaftsgeschichtliche Betrachtungen. Leuven 2003, p. 151
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