Passed on through tribe elders, the ancient sweat lodge ceremony is still sacred to Native Americans. (Courtesy of CNN Belief Blog)
The case of James Arthur Ray (his trial began on Tuesday Self-help author stands trial in sweat lodge deaths) has shoved the concerns over the safety of sweat lodges into national attention. The furor over the case has in turn distorted information about the Native version of the sacred tradition and has raised frustrations within Native groups across the country, the CNN Belief Blog reports.
Although a lawsuit brought against Ray by several tribal nations (to end the “abuse and misuse” of their ceremonies) was dismissed, the threat of continued distortion of the ceremony is dangerous and all too real, many say.
Alvin Manitopyes (Plains Cree and Anishnawbe) has spend more than 20 years conducting sweat lodge ceremonies.
“If you have the right to do it, then the environment you’re creating is a safe place,” says Manitopyes, a public health consultant in Calgary, Alberta, who is Plains Cree and Anishnawbe. “But today we have all kinds of people who observe what’s going on and think they can do it themselves. … And that’s not a safe place to be.”
. . .
Floyd “Looks for Buffalo” Hand, 71, doesn’t care about the traditions of others. He’s worried about the sweats that seem blatantly modeled after his people’s practices.
A member of the Oglala Lakota Delegation of the Black Hills Sioux Nation, he was among the plaintiffs listed in the now-dismissed complaint against Ray. A grandson of Chief Red Cloud and a descendant of the Crazy Horse Band, he was reached at his home on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where he has lived his whole life.
“I sat back two weeks watching the news (about Ray’s sweat lodge incident), waiting for another tribe or individual to say something because they violated the way of life of the Lakota people,” he says. “It is a way of life, our language, our custom, our culture. It’s the way we live.”
Adding insult, he says, was how Ray benefited, “making over $500,000 off of our way of life,” charging for what is sacred.
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News managing editor
RAPID CITY — Tim Giago, Editor/Publisher of Native Sun News will put down his pen and retire from the newsroom April 1, three years to the day after he launched this “last and final newspaper.” He will remain on the newspapers masthead as Editor Emeritus, as he moves on to, “finish the book I have been writing all my life.”
“I always knew this day would come, but I never really prepared for it. I was always too busy making deadlines and anticipating the next breaking news story. I was that kind of editor who always tried to squeeze one last story into the paper before putting it to bed. I always jumped with joy whenever I beat my competitors with a great, breaking story and wrung my hands in anguish when they did the same to me,” Giago said in his weekly editorial.
The 76 year old Oglala Lakota’s career in journalism, which he once referred to as the “life of Kings” began as a result of an order when he was serving in the U.S. Navy.
“It happened by accident in the beginning. One day I was at my desk at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard typing a report when the commanding officer happened by. He watched me for a minute and then came up to me and said, ‘You type really well. You are now the editor of the base newspaper, the PacHunter,’” he said. “After I was given that order I had to learn to put out a monthly newsletter by the seat of my pants.”
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Tags: ernestine chasing hawk, Native Sun News, Oglala Lakota, pachunter, Tim Giago