Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Will Exploitive Pay-to-Pay Ceremonies Finally Be Regulated?

Breaking News: Navajo Senator Seeks to Ban Pay-to-Pray Sweats

Senator Albert Hale, a Democrat from Window Rock, AZ and the former president of the Navajo Nation, has proposed SB 1164 to regulating all pay-to-pray practices that are claimed to be “Native American” and conducted by non-Natives off tribal land. This would include the use of all sweat lodges by non-Natives. The measure requires the Arizona Department of Health Service regulate individuals or businesses that charge people to participate in what are claimed to be "traditional and authentic Native American practices." Violators would be subject to yet-to-be-determined civil penalties. SB 1164 would not restrict what Native Americans can do on reservation lands or off them and would uphold the Native American Religious Freedom Act.

Senator Hale was quoted as saying "Native American rituals are sacred and can be dangerous without training." He went on the further claim, "People should be protected from paying for inauthentic Native American ceremonies."

KPHO News Phoenix quoted Hale today saying, "This process has been a perversion of our traditional ways. The dominant society has taken all that we have: Our land, our water, our language, and now they're trying to take our way of life." Current Navajo Nation president, Joe Shirley added, "We need to be respected. Our ways cannot be abused."

To Contact Senator Albert Hale to voice your opinion on this matter:

Go to this page:



Senator Albert Hale
1700 W. Washington
Room 313
Phoenix, AZ 85007

(602) 926-4323

Or Fax:
(602) 417-3160

Handwritten, signed letters carry the most weight.

Email: ahale@azleg.gov

Also, Arizonans can also contact Representative Raul Grijalva, who has been very supportive of indigenous issues in the past:

James Arthur Ray's name has been in the media a lot lately, but let's not forget the names of the twelve human beings who lost their lives to greed, ignorance and ambition. They were all loved by other human beings. They all had hopes and dreams of becoming better people and those desired were used against them in a most despicable ways. Let's all do what we can to see that no one should ever have to die in a pay-to-pray ceremony ever again.

In Memoriam

Liz Neuman, 49, from Prio Lake, MN died from James Arthur Ray's sweat lodge on October 18, 2009

Kirby Brown, 38, from Westtown, N.Y died in James Arthur Ray’s sweat lodge on October 9, 2009

James Shore, 40, from Milwaukee, WI died in James Arthur Ray’s sweat lodge on October 9, 2009

Lawrence Catholique, 52, from a Chipewyan First Nation's community near Yellowknife died February 9, 2009 alone in a sweat lodge in which he used wood embers - a non-traditional method suggested to him by a New Age non-Native.

Reverend Karen Blomberg, 54, died July 21, 2008 in a Vision Quest conducted by Wilderness Rites of Ashland, Oregon. Non-Native Anne Stine of was responsible for the group that was selling "elder" certificates - something no legitimate Native medicine person would ever do.

Rowen Cooke, 37, Melbourne Australia died in a sweat lodge 2004 conducted by David Jarvis who was associated with Spirit of the Earth Medicine Society.

Kylie Watts, 30, Byron Bay in New South Wales died in a sweat lodge in 2003

Kirsten "Kris" Babcock, 34, Redding, California died in a sweat lodge in 2002 conducted by members of the Sun Bear tribe.

David Thomas Hawker
, 36, of Union City, California died in a sweat lodge in 2002 conducted by members of the Sun Bear tribe.

Gordon Reynolds, 43, of Twickenham, West London died in a sweat lodge on November 21, 1996

Kelly Rice
, 35, of Austin, Texas, housekeeper and masseuse, died of accidental heatstroke inside a sweat lodge 1993

Ronald Delgado
of Santa Barbara California was killed in Archie Fire Lame Deer's 'Vision Quest' on July 12, 1980.

I have always been taught, that when we do nothing in the face of such an injustice, we create a moral imbalance. I want to urge all NDN-born-NDNS to start posting comments, joining online communities and speaking out, write your local officials and create your own blogs. Non-Native people need to hear the true feelings that we have about cultural misappropriation and exploitation of our sacred ways. It's more important than ever that minority NDN-born-NDN voices, that have historically been silenced, be heard now. The internet is a powerful medium. Let's find a way to use it in a good way.

Twelve precious human beings have lost their lives in pay-to-pray sweat lodges conducted by or influenced by ambitions non-Natives who were all later shown to have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of indigenous spiritual protocol and philosophies. There have been many other close calls that were not reported in the manin stream media. In my opinion this legislation is overdue. It's telling to me that it took a Native American member of the legislature to come up with a bill that penalizes non-Natives from profiting from the exploitation of indigenous spiritual beliefs and practices, while taking steps to ensure that indigenous people are still allowed their rights to freedom of religion. I have always been an advocate of culture-jamming and taking the "cool" out of the exploitation of our spiritual ways, but perhaps the solution really lies in taking the profit motive out of this exploitation as well.

Here are several links to the story:
Sen. Hale seeks to Sanction Use of Native American Ceremonies off Tribal Land For- Profit without Permission

Former President of the Navajo Nation, Senator Hale seeks to regulate ceremonies off tribal land for profit

Regulations sought in wake of sweat-lodge deaths

AZ Capital Times
Hale files to bill to regulate Native American rituals

FOX 10 NEWS: Lawmaker Wants to Ban Sweat Lodge Use


Arizona lawmaker seeks to regulate use of traditional ceremonial practices after “sweat lodge” tragedy

Camp Verde Bugle
Lawmaker: Restrict profit from Native American practices

Lawmaker: Restrict profit from Native ceremonies

Lawmaker Seeks New Rules After Lodge Deaths

Verde News Sedona Sweat Lodge deaths prompt legislation to restrict Native American practices off reservation

Native American TimesLawmaker: Restrict profit from tribal ceremonies

To remain silent in the face of injustice, is to create a moral imbalance.

Special thanks to Laura from Maria from DDR and RRC for helping me sort out the moral and ethical issues here. Chii Miigwech!