Francis Talbot, full name Francis Story Talbot II, a.k.a. Manitonquat resp. Medicine Story (born July 17, 1929), has been operating as a plastic shaman since the 1970ies. Despite having a completely Euro-American ancestry, Talbot claims to be a member and even a medicine person, resp. "ceremonial medicine man" of the Wampanoag nation. His clientele are mainly affluent white middle-class Euro-Americans and Europeans with whom he previously also meant to initiate a new „tribe“ on his premises in New England.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Projects and Activities
- 3 Cooperation with other plastic shamans and vendors on the Newage Market
- 4 Versions of this article in other languages
- 5 References
Talbot was born into a family of entrepreneurs with him as well his ancestors all being listed as „white“ in past census records dating back into the 1840ies. He did a course of studies at Cornell University and became a playwright under the names of „Story Talbot“ and „F. Story Talbot“ and further claims to have been an actor and theatre director, too.  He is also apostrophied as a founder, co-founder, resp. early member of the Rainbow Gatherings.
Claims of being Indigenous
Most biographical information available online apparently copies Talbot's various claims of being a member of the Wampanoag of Massachusetts. Later on, affiliation claims changed to the Mashpee Wampanoag, then Gay Head Wampanoag, both federally recognised since the 1970ies and as of 1987 respectively. Finally, Talbot now claims to be an enrolled member of the Assonet Band of Wampanoag who received recognition by the state of Massachusetts as recent as 1990 and who are not federally recognised. Several websites and also books contend that Talbot was "the powwah, or spiritual leader, and the minatou, or keeper of the lore" of the Assonet Band, a claim which has particularly been brought forward in two books by Newage author Steve McFadden.
Facts notwithstanding, Talbot continues to claim an indigenous state and e.g. in his 2015 schedule announces his participation in an alleged "Annual Sequanakeeswash in Assonet MA" which gets described as the beginning of the new year in Wampanoag culture. It is therefore to be noticed that a Google search for this term yields a mere five results, all of whom are in connection to Talbot, with most of them on sites run by him.
Talbot also claims to have been „part of the North American Indian Spiritual Unity Movement“ and a co-founder of a Tribal-Healing Council. However, Google results for both organisations mainly yield websites copying Talbot's biographical information, so their existence in former years up until today cannot be verified independently.
Further claims include Talbot used to be the editor, resp. the editor responsible for poetry and politics, resp. the columnist, resp. a „writer and poet“ for the internationally well-known journal Akwesasne Notes. However, the information available on the journal does not verify such claims. The journal was founded by Kaientaronkwen Ernie Benedict in 1968, with its first editor a non-indigenous Canadian, Jerry Gambill, who received the Mohawk name of Rarihokwats. Akwesasne Notes covered many indigenous issues not restricted to the Americas, but also of Australia, Tibet, and China. The editors following Gambill were all from the Iroqois Nation: Professor John Mohawk, Peter Blue Cloud, Doug George-Kanentiio, and finally from 1992-1998 Darren Bonaparte and Salli Benedict. It seems highly probable that Talbot upholds this claim in order to exploit the reputation this publication built up particularly in Europe, while at the same time using its reputation to provide himself with an air of authenticity.
Public Receipt and Discussions of Talbot's Claims
Talbot's claims of an indigenous status have also been discussed publically on internet forums, as they e.g. were repeated in several articles in the English and German Wikipedias. The English Wikipedia still carries an article on "Manitonquat", despite publically accessible information about Talbot's true background. The German Wikipedia runs an article on the "Talking Stick" used by Talbot, with the article completely lacking quotations but recommending one of Talbot's books as information material. Quite in line with Talbot's presentation, the German language article apparently views Talking Sticks as generically indigenous, while the English Wikipedia correctly places them within the context of the North-West cultural region of North America.
Up until December 2006, German Wikipedia mentioned Talbot in their article on the Wampanoag Nation, characterising him as an outstanding member of the nation. Due to discussions in other internet forums that year, a Wikipedia user raised the issue in the article's talk section, providing a link to a post submitted by a member of the organisation team of the German summer camp. In this post, the team member stated that many persons coming to the camp in fact knew that Talbot was not indigenous but white, and that Talbot freely admitted this fact upon inquiry, which the team member apparently viewed positively. Due to this information, Talbot was deleted from the article, which in turn caused the team member to try and intervene with Wikipedia, contending that he should have phrased his post somewhat differently, had he known it was going to be used as a reference by Wikipedia.
Projects and Activities
Since Talbot has been active as a plastic shaman since the 1970ies, he has engaged in various activities both in the USA and in Europe, like working with prisoners and youths, alleged drug counseling, and of course selling seminars and workshops as well as doing so-called summer camps in various European countries.
Talbot also practices and teaches Co-Counseling, a dubious psychothereapeutic method which is not recognised academically. Co-Counselling is a stable part of all of Talbot's summer camps.
This method was founded by Harvey Jackins during the 1950ies and 1960ies who at that time was considerably influenced by L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics which he had joined as a member and auditor. RC resp. Co-Counseling is based on the application of the techniques of Dianetics and Scientology to a Marxist and identity politics-based analysis of societal oppression, racism, and sexism. Its target audience is a broad political left, particularly anti-racist, feminist, or environmentally minded movements. RC generally presents itself to its target audience as a method of using emotional release techniques (derived from Scientology) to free persons from patterns of behavior imposed on them by systemic racism, sexism, and classism in society, but did not openly disclose the origin of its techniques in Dianetics. The claim of RC is that this emotional release can free people of the effects of societal oppression leaving them re-empowered to change the world.
Prison Work and Counseling
Talbot has been active as an alleged medicine person providing spiritual aid to Native prison inmates in several jails in the New England area via „Mettanokit Outreach“, an organisation founded by himself. Talbot himself mentions prisons in two federal states, Massachussetts and Connecticut, while another website claims "[o]ffering Native American circles in 7 New England prisons for 25 years, with sweat lodge, circles, and counseling", but providing no information regarding the prisons served or the number of prisoners served presently.
There are reports of Talbot actively discouraging enrolled indigenous persons from participating in the meetings and ceremonies organised by him while instead encouraging so-called „Pretendians“ and other non-indigenous persons.  There are also accounts of Talbot showing nude photos of his wife to the inmates he was supposed to give spiritual care to, to a group of prisoners his wife was also working with.
As of 2015, the organisation "Mettanokit Outreach" is still listed on various sites as an association working with prisoners, but links provided do no longer work. It is therefore not quite clear whether the organisation still exists or may have been dissolved, with Talbot continuing to offer services as an alleged medicine person to the Bureau of Prisons.
Although some publications and biographical notes mention Talbot offering counseling work „for native families, alcohol & drug abuse counseling“, this cannot be verified from neutral sources but is mentioned on his own resp. sites and publications repeating his claims. Having studied theatre and been a playwright and actor previously, Talbot does not qualify for such counseling work, and his claim of being a Re-evalutation Counseller also will not qualify him for such services. The aforementioned text, an advertising piece published in the usenet group „alt.gathering.rainbow“ in 1993, also seeks to attract funding for the alleged counseling programmes, as well as for an „Indian Spiritual and Cultural Training Council", or the "Wampanoag Reservation Improvement Fund“. The same text, with just a few adjustments, is also published on German Amazon in the way of „product information“ for a 2009 publication by Talbot. It is perhaps noteworthy that one of the two previously mentioned indigenous non-profit organisations for whom donations were also asked in the 1993 text had meanwhile been omitted, although still existing, and replaced by another Talbot project, „The Nature School Foundation“.
Mettanokit compound and The Nature School Foundation
Originally, the name Mettanokit was applied to the premises in Greenville, New Hampshire owned by Talbot, which was described as „a non-profit learning center and service organization working for a more human society based on the old values of cooperation and equality and the closeness and caring found in our elder tribal societies“. In earlier publications, the community also got described as an „intentional community of people learning to retribalize“, thus indicating its participants as non-indigenous, even if the text ambiguously continues that Mettanokit „serves as a model for self-sufficient living, and is also a learning experience for people removed from their tribal roots“.
According to information provided by Talbot, the community was founded in 1978, when some 50 persons gathered in response to rallying posters reading „Have you lost your tribe“ in the New England area. Talbot claims to have founded the „small tribe“ according to a dream he had in the night of this first gathering, with its name Mettanokit allegedly meaning „Our Mother Earth“. The group establishing their residence at the premises apparently also joined structures like the „Federation of Egalitarian Communities“ and the annual „Northeastern Communities Conference“. Although Talbot does not provide any exact dates or years, he seems to have sought access to organisations representing so-called intentional communities and ecovillages fairly early, and it also seems he likewise established access to Newage events like the „New England Healing Arts Fair“.
Talbot's account of the place's history reports a subsequent further land purchase of an allegedly highly indebted neighbouring compound and that the community managed to pay off mortgage plus debts within ten years. The premises then seem to have suffered badly in a fire during the 1990ies which destroyed the main building, and the community was not able to rebuild the house since their fire insurance showed deficient coverage. The community therefore disbanded, with only Talbot and wife remaining on the compound. He claims the premises were later on sold to „The Nature School of Massachusetts“, agreeing to grant Talbot continuing use of the house he inhabited. Later on, another adjacent property seems to have been bought and according to Talbot's account, they immediately began operating as „an educational-healing retreat center“.
Talbot's account of the earlier history of his premises and the newly founded tribe furthermore is somewhat countered by an article published by the Boston Globe in 1992 mentioning rather modest numbers of participants:
- "F. Story Talbot, Cornell '54, lived in New York City, writing and producing plays off-off Broadway for 12 years until he looked about him and saw the city as it was, crime and fear of crime, dirt and death, and decided he was not prepared to stay in that place. [...] He lives in a house trailer in the woods of this town, on 15 acres of what had been a community of 15 like souls now reduced to four people, including himself and his Swedish wife, Ellika."
When the Nature School project allegedly ran into financial problems, Talbot – still living on the premises – is said to have taken over the land onto his name, which suggests another purchase having taken place. Although various advertisements for a „Nature School Foundation“ based in Greenville, New Hampshire are still to be found online, the foundation's website is no longer existent and on an official website, the foundation is characterised as „not in good standing“, presumably for failing to hand in necessary documentation.
Additionally, a person by the name of Donna Dills continues a LinkedIn profile announcing her as the „owner“ of „The Nature School Foundation, Inc.“ since 2002, while in another LinkedIn profile, Dills claims to be the foundation's CEO. In a document found online, Talbot mentions his "daughter Donna", although it does not get specified whether Ms Dills is in fact a biological daughter or whether this was an honorary form of addressing her.
The project apparently suffered some financial problems in 2006, when Talbot appealed to European supporters for donations to be able to meet mortgage instalments, as he claimed to have run up arrears amounting to $ 6,400. A few years later in 2012, the project once again faced dire straits and donations for an overall amount of $ 75,000 were asked this time, allegedly to be able to make a final payment for the premises, raising pressure on potential donours employing the claim the amount had to be raised within less than two weeks. Talbot contended the mortgage had been bought by a locust bank who nevertheless had agreed to settle the matter at a payment of $ 75,000, although the compound had been estimated at some $ 250,000. The appeal, however, does not quite specify the original amount of the mortgage nor the amount still outstanding at that particular point in time, and there is no update regarding whether Talbot had been able to raise a sufficient amount.
The premise's finances still seemed in danger two years later though, as there were follow-up appeals asking for donations with deadlines being extended several times still in April 2014 published on Talbot's blog,  and e.g. on mailing lists organising so-called eco-villages, with again no further information provided whether deadlines were met successfully or not. The compound probably remains a potential fundraising object.
Annual summer camps with Talbot offering so-called teachings, complemented by co-counseling, have been established in several European countries. Although places may vary from year to year, camps as well as other events are more or less organised regularly in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Ireland, and Denmark, with the most stable ones in Germany and Austria. In 2015, there is also one camp advertised in Alfriston, GB. Additionally, Talbot also regularly takes part in camps organised by other vendors, like ZEGG resp. GEN-Europe in 2014 or in the camp organised by German Bear Tribe in 2015. Another camp Talbot participated in during the 2015 season was the Austrian Roots Camp whose organisers are apparently recognised as a non-profit association and do not only sell seminars, camps etc. on the Newage market, but also for Austrian youths and for adolescent refugees, with camps for the latter group most probably financed with public monies. Roots Camp seems to be working according to Talbot's so-called teachings and also publishes donation requests on behalf of Talbot.
In Germany, three camps with Talbot are being organised on a regular basis. One summer camp in Bavaria, another one in Oelde, and a "Circle Way Leadership Camp" which also takes place in Bavaria. Additionally, workshops and seminars are being offered by varying organisers. In 2015, a particular effort apparently took place in Italy, with one camp, one seminar, one workshop being organised, plus an event for solstice and one at an Elfin community, although the latter event only gets mentioned at Talbot's own website.
The camps taking place in Bavaria since several years are organised by a "Light on Earth Institute" run by Stefan and Julia Mandel. Stefan Mandel is an alternative practitioner, but also sells various indigenous ceremonies. Besides Talbot, he also cooperates with the so-called council of "13 grandmothers", with Jens Lyberth aka Angaangaq, and organises travels to Joao de Deus. Furthermore he claims to be a "pipe carrier". Apart from the camps with Talbot, the Mandels also organise an annual "Pacha Mama Camp" promoting varying plastic shamans active on a national level as well as internationally. The camp in Oelde also has been organised since years, although the organising committee seems to have replaced.
Prices asked for participation in a camp may vary somewhat, also in accordance with the length of the respective camp. It has to be noted that the amounts asked in the way of camp fees will mainly cover "teachings" provided by Talbot, and at least used to cover costs occuring to the organising team in the way of preparatory meetings and other expenses.
The Austrian Circle Way Camp lasts for five days. Early bookers will receive a substantial rebate with the price of €270, while regular prices are €310 (low income), €350 (normal income), and €390 (including a solidarity amount to make up for losses on low income participants' rebates). Children between the ages of 6 to 18 will pay €77, while persons brought along by participants to facilitate childcare during the "teachings" will pay €140. Accomodation in participants' own tent or camper is included, as is accomodation in a communal dormitory.
The Bavarian camp, lasting nine days, differentiates prices for early bookers (€330, €410, €499 for low, normal, and high income tariffs) with prices later on rising to €390, €499, and €590 respectively. Children between 5 and 8 will be charged €90. Accomodation in participants' own tent will be charged with €6 per night, a double room amounts to €50, a single room to €35 which will have to be paid additionally to the aforementioned amount. Meals are charged at €77 for eleven lunches, while all other meals will have to be provided and paid for by participants themselves. A price of €7 per vegetarian or vegan lunch suggests that this amount is above cost price.
For the 2014 five-day camp in Sweden, fees asked of adult participants were SEK 3,750 (€397) and SEK 3,200 (€339), with age groups 15-25 paying SEK 2,050 resp. SEK 1,300 (€ 219 and € 139 ) and 4-14 paying SEK 1,000 resp. SEK 900 (€ 107 and € 96). Accomodation on a mattress in a dormitory was charged with SEK 100 (€10) per night resp. SEK 200 (€ 21) per person and night in a double room resp. SEK350 (€37) for a double room with own bath, and SEK500 (€53) in a single room.
Sales of Indigenous Ceremonies
At least in Germany, Talbot also seems to have sold indigenous ceremonies resp. to have "initiated" students and "authorised" them to offer respective services. One student of Talbot's mentions: "With Manitonquat (Medicine Story), an Elder of the Wampanoag Indians, I have participated in a workshop to become a sweatlodge leader in 1998." Another client from Austria claims to have received an "initiation into Northern Indian [sic] way of life and to "Life in a Circle" by Manitonquat-Medicine Story".
The aforementioned 1992 article in the Boston Globe confirms Talbot exploiting indigenous spirituality:
- "He ... does a one-man show based on the life of Black Elk, a Sioux holy man. [...]
- He conducts spiritual circles in Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Helsinki and returns to those cities "over and over." Where there is a suitable place, he constructs a sweat lodge."
Although the scarcity of Google results in this respect suggests Talbot meanwhile may have stopped these alleged initiations, there still are persons claiming him as their teacher in this field and there was online evidence of his still selling sweatlodges in 2006.
Talking Sticks and Clans
Talbot however still uses components of indigenous cultures and social organisation in his teachings and during his summer camps. One of these is the promotion of using Talking Sticks which he apparently introduces as more or less generically indigenous. Talking Sticks were e.g. used throughout the cultural region of the North-West, but not in the North-Eastern Woodland cultural region, to which the Wampanoag will belong, therefore it seems that Talbot is mixing traditions. His making use of Talking Sticks and clan organisation patterns also suggest that he views these aspects as a sales pitch granting him more authenticity.
Another aspect is his practice of arranging participants of his summer camps in so-called "clans" of some six to eight persons. Although some indigenous nations were organised in clans, this is not true for all of them. Generally speaking a clan is a sub-unit of an ethnic entity whose members share an actual or perceived kinship and descent, which is certainly not the case with camp participants. The rather limited number of clan members in these camps is likewise ridiculous and does in no way reflect indigenous customs.
However, as of 2015, more organisations in contact with Talbot seem inclined to take up this practice, as meanwhile German Calumed e.V. introduces a "Medicine Clan" on their website which apparenly also employs Talking Sticks as well as pipe ceremonies, medicine wheel ceremonies, full moon ceremonies, and sweatlodges.
Cooperation with other plastic shamans and vendors on the Newage Market
Due to his being active since the 1970ies, Talbot has associated with various Newage projects and groups over the years.
Apparently, Talbot participated in the Rainbow Gatherings already fairly early, according to an account rendered in a publication from the first gathering in 1972. The Rainbow Gatherings, however, are no indigenous meetings but attract a largely white clientele from the hippie subculture and from counterculture environments. They organise annual meetings at differing locations in the USA, usually on land in federal ownership and very often at or close to sites sacred to one or more indigenous nations.   As of late, Talbot seems no longer actively participating in these events, presumably since they are scheduled at the beginning of July annually, at which time Talbot will usually stay in Europe for seminars and camps.
This organisation was founded by Vincent LaDuke a.k.a. "Sun Bear", who was enrolled Ojibway. However, LaDuke was no medicine person and had no respective training but sold a spirituality and ceremonies tailored to attract an affluent white clientele. The range of commerce e.g. included an alleged traditional "Indian astrology" which based on the usual system, simply replacing the terms used for the signs of the zodiac with alleged indigenous terms (so e.g. "Aquarius" becomes "Otter").
Cooperation between Talbot and LaDuke resp. the Bear Tribe already began in the 1970ies. Talbot's earlier books were published by the Bear Tribe. Presumably, both Talbot and LaDuke sought to further promote themselves by cooperating with another plastic shaman well established with their white clientele.
In 2015, Talbot participated as a lecturer in the annual "Medicine Wheel" camp organised by the German Bear Tribe and made an appearance alongside persons from the US Bear Tribe as well as Brooke "Medicine Eagle" Edwards, another plastic shaman active since the 1970ies who has also cooperated with Bear Tribe for several decades.
Calumed e.V. is a German non-profit association active on the Newage market since the 1980ies in various ways. One part of their activities is selling a course in self-management, while another main pillar has been engaging in and selling indigenous spirituality. Their name indicates both fields by employing a pun including both the term "calumet" for a pipe, adding "med" for alternative medicine. However, Calumed e.V. also includes sexuality into the spiritual mix they teach, which is not in accordance with indigenous practice.
The association has been working with Larson Medicinehorse since at least the end of the 1980ies. Medicinehorse was a regular lecturer at Calumed summer camps, while Calumed members were resp. still are participating in the Sun Dances organised by Medicinehorse. They, too, organise an annual summer camp, for which Talbot at least made an appearance as a lecturer in one year, and one of the German camps of Talbot saw visitors from Calumed e.V., e.g. their founder and president at that point in time, Dieter Jarzombek.
Intentional Communities and Ecovillages
These umbrella organisations do not only include projects exploiting and/or selling indigenous spirituality and do not seem to pay much attention to indications that a particular member community may be influenced or even dominated by a cult or cult-like organisation, so that GEN-Europe, as one example, also accept as members eco-villages like "Krishna Valley" from Hungary who are also organised in ISKCON which is viewed as a cult, or Italian Damanhur, Tamera from Portugal, and ZEGG from Germany. Another dubious member is "Stamm der Likatier" [Tribe of Licatians, formerly "Stamm Füssen, i.e. "Füssen Tribe"] in Germany which gained some notoriety for having given reason for investigations due to sexual abuse of children, but also managed to raise enough money from their membership to have secretly bought much of the real estate in their home town. The „tribe“ also owns and runs two shops selling Newage gadgets, a publishing house, a real estate company, a health food shop, and its vice president owns a company organising Newage fairs.
In the case of GEN-Europe, it is perhaps not very likely they may detect such influences or view them as problematic, since their council consists of a member of Damanhur (council president), as well as one member each of ZEGG, Tamera, Krishna Valley, and LaBase/Spain (they sell e.g. sweat lodges).
The entry on Talbot published by the Wiki of Intentional Communities again repeats Talbot's claim of being the "ceremonial medicine man of the Assonet Band" as well as other aforementioned claims, although they do include two sources critical of Talbot. Over all, the ICWiki views Talbot positively and indicates a far more intense commitment in this environment:
- "Manitonquat has also spent over forty years with various intentional communities around the world — as founder, participant, and observer — and so has gathered a wealth of intimate knowledge about their various strengths and weaknesses, as well as effective techniques in communal living."
According to the ICWiki, Talbot allegedly claims "mixed heritage" with his father having been Wampanoag. They also reconfirm his alleged right to teach indigenous, or indigenous-inspired content, comparing Talbot's efforts to that of the Grimm brothers collecting fairy tales. At the same time, they aim at minimising criticism raised due to Talbot's cooperation with projects like ZEGG and Tamera. The reliablity of such tactics is somewhat hampered by the fact that the aforementioned projects are also members of the Intentional Community movement, as becomes apparent from a look at their directory: ZEGG, as one example, has been a member since 1999, "Stamm der Likatier" since March 2005. Another dubious member is a project "12 Tribes Klosterzimmern"  which gained notoriety recently for denying their children access to medical care and for practicing continued severe corporal punishment on children of all age groups. This project joined in May 2005.
Talbot has made regular appearances as a lecturer at ZEGG summer camps and at the so-called "Summer University" organised by Tamera. He furthermore seems to have been granted the honour of being "the only honorary citizen of ZEGG", as is announced on their Facebook site.
Versions of this article in other languages
- Deutsch: Francis Talbot
- Profiles in Wisdom: Steve McFadden: Native Elders Speak About the Earth, 1991, 2001 Lincoln NE (originally published by Bear and Co.) and Legend of the Rainbow Warriors, 1989, 2001, 2005 Lincoln NE (portions originally published in 1992 by Bear & Co. Of Santa Fe NM under the title „Ancient Voices, Current Affairs: The Legend of the Rainbow Warriors“)
- see e.g. http://webspacero.bplaced.net/Thema/spiritual/Manitonquat%20%96%20What%20is%20a%20tribe_3.pdf
- Bruce Elliott Johansen: Encyclopedia of the American Indian Movement, Santa Barbara 2013, p. 9ff
- Bruce Elliott Johansen: Encyclopedia of the American Indian Movement, Santa Barbara 2013, p. 11
- This term characterises ethnically white persons falsely claiming indigenous descent and aculturation.
- see e.g. http://www.idealist.org/view/org/XmzDTFx6mDbD/?orgs_view=funders&orgs_page=1
- Steve McFadden: Profiles in Wisdom: Native Elders Speak About the Earth, 1991, 2001 Lincoln NE (originally published by Bear and Co.)
- The main 2015 US meeting was scheduled to take place in the Black Hills which are held sacred by several indigenous nations who strongly objected the meeting and particularly opposed drug abuse there as well as free sexuality taking place in areas sacred to them. Part of the Rainbow Gathering clientele then withdrew from the plan to gather in the Black Hills, while another part, not bothered by facts, insisted they were welcomed by the indigenous nations and had their permission. Another smaller meeting organised at Mount Shasta, California in July 2015 was closed down by a cease and desist order effected by the Winnemem Wintu Nation.