Open Letter Regarding Daniel Foor & Ancestral Medicine
As of the publication of this letter, 26* students from the Ancestral Medicine practitioner training program have formally discontinued involvement and association with Daniel Foor and his business over explicit issues of misuse of power, and his failure to authentically follow through in a restorative process and to take personal accountability for his harmful behaviors. We firmly claim that Daniel Foor is unfit to be in a leadership role at this time. This is a public record so that people can make informed decisions about their involvement with the business of Ancestral Medicine.
*26 students of 60 total, from cohorts 1–3.
Who We Are
This is an open letter, written collaboratively in an imperfect process of love and care. We are a group of former students and practitioners. Some of us were also teachers and staff. In the writing process, we worked with complicated dynamics, including ones very much related to the impacts from harm we experienced in our involvements with Ancestral Medicine. Some who are signing this have contributed to the writing of this letter, others are signing on in support. We do not have full agreement on all aspects of this letter, but we agree on the importance of sharing this and its core purposes.
Why We Are Sharing This
Daniel Foor of Ancestral Medicine (AM) has caused harm, and continues to cause harm, to many people on many levels. There have been many unresolved attempts, both public and private, to address these issues since early 2018. We are deeply grateful for the work of all the students/practitioners who spoke about these harms over the past 2.5 years, and faced various forms of harm as a result. It took tremendous courage and emotional labor to do this. We recognize that there is repair needed in various relational directions among those of us who have been involved with AM, and that most of that is beyond the scope of the process of this letter.
We are writing from a place of fierce compassion, and in the spirit of transformative justice — not to illicit punitive actions, but rather to provide information as a public record so that others can make informed decisions about their involvement with Daniel Foor and AM programs and trainings, and be forewarned about his harmful patterns and unwillingness to take accountability for his actions.
Core Harmful Themes and Patterns We Have Experienced From Daniel Foor
Overall, we have experienced Daniel to enact harmful patterns of misogyny, white supremacy, classism, ableism and more, and has been actively and continuously resistant and incapable of engaging in any form of accountability/shifting/healing, even when offered a tremendous amount of support. Amidst this, Daniel has proclaimed to be, and presented himself to be actively working to shift these systems/patterns of oppression. Here are some more specifics of our collective experience:
Tokenizing people of color and leveraging other marginalized folks to raise his optical profile or deflect feedback
- for example: offering opportunities and access specifically to people of color perceived as ‘loyal’ to him in order to boost his own status as ‘multicultural’; appointing BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ people to positions of advisory and conflict mediation regardless of their actual experiences or professional capacity in conflict-resolution; recognizing trans/non-binary folks during ritual selectively/when convenient or when perceived to be for his benefit but not at other times
Lacking willingness to do inner work with issues of power-over, privilege and racialized power dynamics
- for example: resisting relationships of accountability to oversee his leadership, and focusing only on organizational policy changes
Invalidating and ostracizing those who challenge him or raise concerns about him or AM
- for example: gaslighting others’ expressed experiences of harm; speaking openly about perceived character or personality flaws of those who speak up or leave to discredit them; creating secrecy so that folks feel insecure about how they are being discussed and judged by others; claiming that it is against organizational ethics/principles to have any questions or criticisms of leadership or to talk about these things at all
Harnessing a culture of “with me or against me” and loyalty/betrayal and cult-like dynamics, creating a culture of mistrust, cognitive dissonance and disorganization, and exhibiting DARVO behaviors (deny, attack, reverse victim and offender)
- for example: creating an inner circle of leadership who could not question his authority in a meaningful way; doling access to inner circle practitioners based upon perceived loyalty; drawing on advice from multiple practitioners and using triangulation to determine who is considered worthy, skilled or good enough to access opportunities such as teaching; publicly questioning/humiliating people who he perceives as a threat, creating an extensive application process for new prospective students framed to seek those most likely to not object to his leadership
Unethically taking ideas and practices from others without honoring their sources and positioning himself as an expert of areas that make him appear to be a master of culture
- for example: claiming others’ contributions to his method as his own; appropriating others’ ideas/teachings without attribution or citation, while simultaneously fixating that others “properly” give him credit for his work; unethically offering supervision in areas in which he is unqualified to do so; asking practitioners to lead teachings and then incorporating their experiences into his public teaching without acknowledgment or consent; doing surface-level research and then claiming expertise in a practice or topic
Misusing power through ritual and energetic interventions without consent, using spiritual threats as a method of control, and extensively lacking psychic and personal boundaries with students and practitioners
- for example: consulting a psychic to find out information on students without their consent, especially to gauge their “trustworthiness”; creating dual roles between AM and his spiritual Ifa community by gatekeeping access to opportunities in one through demands met in the other; involving students in troubles within his marriage, creating exclusionary dynamics around ritual based on “dangers” for people who are at the margins.
Misuse of sexualized energy
- for example: grooming women by confiding intimate details of his personal and professional relationships; sharing about troubles in his marriage and making people feel like they were “special” because they were his ‘confidantes’; demanding constant validation, praise, guidance and emotional labor from femmes; non-consensually disclosing the details of someone’s sexual assault on a practitioner network-wide call while they were absent.
Enacting misogyny, ageism, transphobia and silencing of other voices not congruent with his decisions
- for example: obvious disdain, invalidation, and dishonoring of older women, femmes, and trans folks when they give him criticism or feedback; favoring younger and/or less experienced people as ideal candidates for his trainings
Relying heavily upon others’ (mostly unpaid) emotional and volunteer labor
- for example: asking others, especially those with marginalized identities, to defend or cover for him; soliciting students to create trainings to quell group challenge to his behavior; relying on his staff to write his responses to accountability requests
Enacting white body supremacy and white fragility through personal and organizational ways of doing
- for example: regularly shifting into a narrative of victimhood as a power move; continually centering himself and his intentions above the expressed experiences of others; lack of humility and total defensiveness; overtly treating internal work around race and oppression as a waste of his time that he was not willing to engage with (outside of a particular format, and after a specific date); placing BIPOC and trans folks in leadership positions in order to deflect feedback about lack of diversity; erasing records of the failing accountability process; creating urgency, instability and lack of transparency in who gets to teach intensives; economic extraction by paying minimal wages to online course supporters and selecting people for roles and work based upon their status of owing money for trainings
Enacting ableism both in the framework and articulation of his approach and in his practices
- for example: using “wellness” as a standard for engagement with ancestors and desired outcome; attempting to exclude people who are “lit up” (meaning emotional or with any intensity of feeling) from rituals, and group and organizational process; creating abstract and ungrounded requirements for people’s mental health to engage in trainings.
Actively resisting accountability processes, even with extensive support
- please see below for more details
More About the Context of This Letter
Although this letter outlines specific ways that Daniel Foor and AM organizational dynamics have been at the epicenter of causing harm, we recognize that it is also not useful nor transformative to center only him. AM as a for-profit business providing ‘spiritual’ trainings has grown exponentially onto a global stage within a very short time. We see how the combination of deep wounds of white supremacy and colonization and thus the deep need for ancestral connection, along with Daniel’s access to resources in order to put this work out into the public sphere, has caused his work to spread quickly. We want to support those reading this letter who may be seeking support with ancestral connection in their search to for this connection, and dispel any ideas that Daniel Foor holds any key elements to this connection. We are in our own continued reflection as to what elements of Daniel’s model are helpful, what is unhelpful, and what might be actively harmful. There are many who hold wisdom in the arena of ancestral connection.
We recognize that the dynamics and leadership behaviors of Daniel and AM have required a community of people to uphold. Many of us writing and signing this letter enabled and upheld unhealthy dynamics by giving Daniel Foor and AM our advice, support, and other forms of complicity in many big and small ways. We understand these dynamics to be rooted in systems of oppression including white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism and class dynamics, ableism and more. We recognize our complicity and aim to actively and vocally end any part of that with this letter, as well as understanding the ongoing commitment needed by all of us to continue to shift these dynamics within and among us.
We also acknowledge the impact this letter, and our previous support of Daniel Foor/AM, may have/have had on our clients and communities we work with. We are writing this statement as part of our collective process of accountability, transparency, and integrity, with love and our devotion to collective liberation.
We hold with compassion the broader context of living in a time when intergenerational trauma has created cultures of harm and has elicited a profound need and hunger for ancestral healing and reconciling. We understand that the lineage-based healing approach to ancestral reconnection taught through AM has had significant healing impact for many, including us. We acknowledge how the significance of this work also can make us (and did) susceptible to overlooking problematic dynamics in the ‘name of the good work’ and its healing benefits. We also understand that this confluence of deep collective need and longing amidst the intergenerational realities of trauma-culture is ripe for power misuse and complicity. We recognize that these patterns are deeply rooted in white supremacy and colonialism and that we hold collective responsibility to continue to work to shift these patterns.
We feel it is important to note that Daniel Foor has the gift of eloquence, and can speak articulately about power, culture, relationships, and even harm when they are conceptual or relate to contexts other than his own. He continues to teach, speak on podcasts, and post on social media posturing as a leader in the study and practice of these practices. Yet, outside of his public voice and image, he has repeatedly engaged in ways that reveal troubling and harmful dynamics. Daniel also continues to express an ‘open door’ invitation to work things out individually, however there has proven to be no emotional and psychological safety to do so. When attempting individual repair processes, even within a mediated context, we have been met with defensiveness, gaslighting, and a feeling of trying to be controlled and quieted. We have watched our emotional labor and critical feedback being used to better his public image, instead of truly taking things to heart towards relational repair.
Details About Attempted Accountability Process
In the summer of 2019, in response to Dare Sohei, a former AM student/practitioner, speaking publicly about their experiences of being harmed by Daniel/AM, followed by a handful of practitioners within AM — including Kai Wu, Christiane Pelmas, Lenore Norrgard, rain crowe, and Griffen Jeffries — writing letters outlining their experiences of harm, Daniel began to engage in a process within the organization. Daniel initially resisted outside support, claiming that true communities are able to handle problems within the community (such as “Indigenous communities” do), and therefore wanted to wholly deal with critical feedback through his inner circle and through singling out internal support in problematic ways in terms of power relationships. After extensive ongoing pressure and multiple internal call-outs, he eventually hired a Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) auditing team, part of which included engaging practitioners in a laborious feedback survey process.
Rather than taking accountability and following the recommendations of the audit, which highlighted his abuse of power and required personal work, Daniel Foor:
- Dissolved all internal networks of practitioner communication, working teams and capacity to engage directly and transparently as a group.
- Suppressed the DEI research and audit findings, failing to share the results with the practitioner network as had been promised.
- Disregarded the recommendations that centered issues of power abuse.
- Only gave credit, responded to, and made available to the practitioner network the recommendations based in policy change and organizational structure.
- Claimed the DEI team were unprofessional and disappointing, thereby placing blame on them and discrediting what they surfaced.
- Deleted recordings of community meetings held throughout 2019, which were kept on a shared resources google drive folder for all practitioners to access, in which this process and various harms were discussed.
- Held a single 2 hour student network meeting to “apologize” and relay the accountability process results, in which all participants were muted, the chat function was disabled, and staff were communicating with him privately to help him navigate and be “less defensive”. He proceeded to respond to each claim brought to him (reading from a document primarily written by a staff member) with defensiveness and dismissal, lacking expression of an understanding of the harm caused, or a plan for how he would do better. He closed the call by claiming he was “done” working with these issues and would offer a final circle in which each person would get two minutes to air any final concerns.
- Used these collective expressions of harms and the laborious survey feedback to re-write and create new policies and organizational structures which effectively enable his behavior while simultaneously protecting him from further call-outs/scrutiny. Ultimately, he used the opportunity to update his website language to reflect inclusive words, and changed the structure of the organization.
- Began to kick out of the organization anyone who did not follow a stringent and controlling set of rules around communication, particularly around any asks for accountability.
In conclusion, we again firmly claim that Daniel Foor is unfit to be in a mentoring and public leadership role at this time.
For those who are considering studying with Daniel or AM, we hope this provides a more complete picture so folks can make an informed decision. For those who are opting in, we want folks to know the existing landscape so they can take care of themselves as needed.
If you have questions related to this letter, please approach any of us with care and a focus on checking in with us first about consent as to our availability to respond. Please hold with care the understanding that this is a situation in which we have all experienced harm and have already done a significant amount of emotional and psychological labor around.
There are many teachers and many ways of engaging with ancestral healing. It might take some exploration to find them since many teachers and ways are not as visible and they do not have the same access or desire to spread their work far and wide. We affirm and celebrate everyone’s inherent access to their own people and their ways of connecting with and honoring their ancestors!
Irene Ammar, 1st cohort
Elsa Asher Khalfin, 2nd cohort
Shauna Janz, 2nd cohort
Saskia Ison, 2nd cohort
Dare Sohei, 2nd cohort
Christiane Pelmas, 2nd cohort
Carole Lucie Marie Trepanier, 2nd cohort
rain crowe, 2nd cohort
Griffen Jeffries, 3rd cohort
Adrienne Sloan, 3rd cohort
Anonymous, 2nd cohort
Anonymous, 2nd cohort
Anonymous, 2nd cohort
Anonymous, 2nd cohort
Anonymous, 2nd cohort
Anonymous, 2nd cohort
Anonymous, 3rd cohort
Anonymous, 3rd cohort
Anonymous, 3rd cohort
Anonymous, 3rd cohort