Sweat lodge trial fuels Native American frustrations
Passed on through tribe elders, the ancient sweat lodge ceremony is still sacred to Native Americans.
March 2nd, 2011
09:19 AM ET

Sweat lodge trial fuels Native American frustrations

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Growing up on a reservation in lower Saskatchewan, Alvin Manitopyes learned early to respect the sweat lodge. He was 10 when he attended his first sweat ceremony, and for more than 15 years tribe elders instructed him in his people's ways.

He understands the spiritual mandate he was given as a healer to serve as an intermediary between people and the spirit world. He carries with him the ancient ceremonial songs, passed on through generations.

He knows how the natural elements - earth, fire, water and air - work together to cleanse people, inside and out, and create balance. At 55, he has spent more than 20 years conducting ceremonies in sweat lodges, where water is poured over hot lava rocks as part of a purifying ritual.

"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."

No example of what worries him is clearer than the case of James Arthur Ray, a self-help guru who led a crowded sweat lodge ceremony that left three people dead. Ray faces manslaughter charges for the deaths allegedly tied to his October 2009 "Spiritual Warrior" retreat outside Sedona, Arizona. His trial began this month.

Ray pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been free on $525,000 bail. Prosecutors say the deaths resulted from Ray's recklessness, an overheated lodge and because he encouraged people to stay inside when they weren't feeling well. His defense team denies those allegations, and attorney Luis Li has called what transpired "a terrible accident, not a crime."

Accidents, in fact, have happened even in ceremonies overseen by tribes. The Seattle Times reported a year ago the death of a 29-year-old Puyallup tribe member in a Swinomish smokehouse ceremony on a reservation near La Conner, Washington. The cause of death, overheating, was ruled accidental by a county medical examiner, the paper reported. And no criminal charges were filed in that case because it was an accident, says Alix Foster, an attorney for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

The Ray case highlights an outrage that's long existed for many Native Americans. They are tired of their traditions being co-opted by others and exploited for capital gain. They resent that a ceremony they view as sacred is now being tied to terms like "death trap." They don't want their ancient ways to be deemed fashionable or inspire impersonators.

In Ray's Spiritual Warrior retreat, participants in a "vision quest" fasted for a few days before Ray reportedly led more than 50 of them – at least 30 more than the number many Native Americans recommend – in a sweat ceremony meant to purify. Each participant paid about $10,000 to take part in the retreat.

After the disaster and criminal charges, representatives of various tribal nations stepped into the legal fray, filing a federal lawsuit last March against Ray and those who run the Angel Valley Retreat Center, where he had leased land for his program.

The plaintiffs, on behalf of their tribes, sought to end the "abuse and misuse" of their ceremonies and hoped to convince the court that their rituals were their property and should be protected under the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act. Just as a merchant can't claim earrings were made by Native Americans if they weren't, their ceremonies shouldn't be falsely advertised either, they argued.

That suit was dismissed in October. The court held that "the operation of a sweat lodge is plainly not art, craftwork or a handcraft." Services can't be protected like goods, the court ruled.

Amayra Hamilton, along with her husband, Michael, owns the Angel Valley Retreat Center, where the lodge was located. Their business has suffered greatly since the sweat lodge incident. The couple, in fact, has filed a business claim tort suit against Ray for running his retreat, on their property, in what their attorney Kelley Ruda calls "a ridiculous manner."

But a December 2009 letter to prosecutors from defense attorney Li said, “Mr. Ray and his team relied on Angel Valley to provide a safe environment, warned people of the risks, did not force people to participate, did not prevent them from leaving, and did everything they could to prepare for any problems and to assist when problems arose.”

Several civil personal injury/wrongful death suits are pending against Angel Valley, Ruda says, but they are on the verge of out-of-court settlement.

As for how tribe members reacted after the incident, Hamilton of Angel Valley says, “I feel how hurt they are. And I have an understanding of it.”

Just as many Native Americans feel stung by what Ray allegedly did, Hamilton says so does she.

"Our focus here is on transformation, growth, sensitivity and creating a safe space," she says. "When something like this happens, is it a violation? Yes, it is."

The takeaway lesson for the couple, Hamilton says, is to make sure programs on their property are aligned with their intentions.

"We were removed" from Ray's program, she says. "We are more critical of who we allow here to do their work."

James Arthur Ray’s sweat lodge ceremony in this structure left three dead and became a crime scene.

But even if she gets why Native Americans might be offended, Hamilton believes sweat lodges have a place and purpose beyond sanctioned tribal ceremonies. She says she and her husband suggested Ray split his retreat into two smaller groups and that the lodge had been used before Ray arrived, effectively and safely. Plus, the practice of doing sweats does not belong exclusively to anyone, she says; similar ceremonies happen worldwide.

That's a point echoed by Ruda, the attorney for the Hamiltons. She points to sweat structures and traditions dotting the globe: the Russian banya, the Finnish sauna, the Hindu fire lodge.

But 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.

This disbelief and frustration spans generations.

Autumn Two Bulls, 29, also lives on Pine Ridge, and just thinking about the dream catchers that hang in trendy gift shops, the non-Native Americans who make money off her people's artifacts, makes her cry "rape."

"Haven't native people been through enough?" says Two Bulls, a writer who created Reservation H.E.L.P. (Helping Every Lakota Person), an organization to help impoverished families.

"It's a fad to be Indian today. … They envision us like a fantasy culture," but the harsh reality is one they helped create and won't face, she suggests.

She says this from her reservation, where there's 80 percent unemployment, suicide rates are reportedly 300 percent higher than the national average and alcoholism ravages her community. Two Bulls says she was 18 when her mother died in her arms from cirrhosis.

"In America, you are an individual. You can be whatever you want to be. When you're Lakota, we belong to each other. So when you take our way of life and put a price tag on it, you're asking for death, you're asking for something to happen to you."

It's not that she believes anyone deserved to die in Ray's sweat lodge; they were victims of his "wannabe" ways, of his playing with a tradition that wasn't his to claim, she says.

"But honestly, I think the spirits went and did something there," Two Bulls says. "He has taken the deaths of our ancestors, the slaughtering of our babies, and he sold it. And it came back on him and killed those people."

Less than a week after the Ray ceremony turned deadly, Valerie Taliman, a Navajo journalist and columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network, penned a scathing column with the title "Selling the Sacred."

She called out Ray for his actions, including that he fled Arizona after the ceremony.

"Who does that? Only a huckster posing as the real thing," she wrote.

Taliman, 53, also wrote about long-standing efforts by Native Americans to stop the "appropriation and exploitation of sacred ceremonies," pointing to a 1993 international gathering in South Dakota of 500 Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nation representatives. Together they "passed the 'Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality,' denouncing individuals involved in the New Age movement, shamanism, cultists, and neo-paganists and others who promote 'intolerable and obscene imitations of sacred Lakota rites,' " Taliman wrote.

Ray is a symbol, the latest and most horrifying example of what this trend purports, she says by phone. And the double standard in how he's been treated is glaring, she says.

"If an Indian man, a traditional person, killed people in a sweat lodge, he'd be in jail," she says, not free on bond. "And if I went out, and I impersonated a Catholic priest, and charged people to attend ceremonies, they'd arrest me."

Perhaps no one feels more troubled by what happened during Ray's retreat than David Singing Bear.

He was enlisted by the Angel Valley Retreat Center to advise on the construction of the sweat lodge Ray would use, a point the Hamiltons' attorney, Ruda, also highlights.

"To the extent that they (Native Americans) think it was a bunch of white people tying sticks together, that's not the case," Ruda says.

Singing Bear is a 60-year-old Eastern Band Cherokee who calls himself a wisdom keeper, ceremonial leader and healer. He says he spent 20 years learning from tribal elders on reservations across North America.

So when he was asked to offer advice in creating a sweat lodge outside Sedona, where he lives, it mattered to him that it was done right. He says he selected the blankets and canvas covering that would breathe and offered the space traditional blessings and prayers, at no charge. And he says he worried when he heard how large they said Ray wanted it to be.

He says he told higher-ups at Angel Valley that what Ray wanted was too big and that only trained facilitators should lead ceremonies. Hamilton says, "I do not know what he said at the time."

Singing Bear, who’s been named a witness in Ray’s criminal trial, says he doesn’t allow more than 20 people in a sweat because each person needs to be looked out for and protected. Others add that Native Americans would never pressure anyone to stay. The allegation that Ray did this, again, is one the defense team denies.

With or without him, Singing Bear says, that lodge was going to be built because it was what Ray wanted. And he says he had no reason to believe the structure he was consulted on and his nephew built, one meant to represent the nurturing "womb of Mother Earth," would go on to become a crime scene. Now, though, he'll stay away from these kinds of requests.

"They don't care about our ways. It's a dollar sign to them," he says. "I'll never mess with colonialists again."

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Courts • Culture wars • Interfaith issues • Sacred Spaces • Traditions

soundoff (616 Responses)
  1. MSC CPT Wayne

    Humid air is less dense than cooler dry air. So the availability of oxygen in the air is decreased. Putting 60 people in a single sweat lodge is not a healthy idea. If the CO2 level reaches 10%, or maybe even less under these conditions, then a lethal environment may be present. Time is important too, loss of 10% of body weight, which is hard to do, can also be lethal. Any dehydration prior to entering the lodge would, of course, exacerbate the situation. If rainwater was used to splash on the hot rocks, then the extra dissolved CO2 would be released also, as it may contain a lot of dissolved CO2. This is why rainwater is usually acidic. Previous exercise and the use of anticholinergic medications are implicated in the development of heat stroke.

    March 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  2. MEME

    Gimme a break. Sweat lodges are just saunas with a halucinagen (peyote)! Its funny that because american indians can call something religious (getting high) but the rest of us know its just that, getting high. Does anyone recognize the fact that there is a reason that there is a warning sign posted on the outside of every sauna?

    March 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • burns

      It's different if it's sacred. The spirits protect you.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • gede

      Peyote has nothing to do with sweat lodges at all. Most tribes who used sweat lodges have never used peyote as well. You should at least know something about it before you make ignorant posts like that.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  3. JB

    Wow buddy wrong blog but since you brought it up the first illegal immigrants were the Europeans so we should all send ourselves back to our respective countries of origin. Oh by the way if you think the economy is bad now let's remove all these consumers and see what happens. Last time I checked it was a bit of a challenge to find a legal gardner and I can assure you that any business owner would prefer to hire a legal resident but since none are applying who is going to make your next hamburger???

    March 2, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • World Citizen

      Completely agree. Ignorance and stupidity. The only original Americans are the Native Americans...

      March 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Earnán

      Sorry, I was born here. My ancestors kicked the crap out of your ancestors and TOOK this land. It's OURS now.

      Wanna try to take it back? We'll stomp you into a strawberry jam spot again.

      March 2, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Ignorant people

      @ Earnon ..i know I didn't spell it right...Karmas a bi**h!! If you want to say that about Native American's..I can say stuff about you to. But I won't. I'm not ignorant and dumb like you. It's 2011 and you're living like it's 1960. How old are you by the way? I am 18 and I don't judge anyone in regards to their race even with the stereotypes that go along with them. One day you're grandchildren or great great grandchildren will be the minority and you are going to be crying around and you will know what it's like. You can have the US it's a pile of shi* anyways filled with corrupted old white men in all the top positions in the government & corporate companies. I don't get free educated, I pay taxes and that's true. Look it up in books they refer them as "old white men" so don't call me racist, I read that in a few of my college books. You can hate on Native American's all you want "they're all drunks" "it must be nice to get things handed to you" "you're rich of casinos" blahblahblahblahhhhhhhh. Grow up. We got our own problems to deal with on reservations and being stereotyped by people like you. At least we aren't greedy and charge people to do sweat lodges. & for those who don't know how they go, rocks are heated outside of the lodge, the lodge is only about 6 feet tall, only natural items are used to build it, not tarps, they open the door 4 times throughout the whole session so people can breathe (it's different for some tribes they may open it more or less), before the ceremony starts they say, "If anyone is starting to feel sick or not so good than lay down (because it's cool by the ground), or you can call for the door". They say to do that if you absolutely have to but if anyone asked them to open the door they would be more than happy to. I'm not gonna make judgments about other cultures simply because I don't know about them. I do know about my Native American culture though and if you are saying something rude and disrespectful I'm not just going to stand there and take it. I'm also not gonna start calling you names because I was taught better than that.

      March 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  4. Nina

    It's "trendy" to co-opt other people's belief systems and distort them for whatever purpose but that doesn't make it right. Madonna should not have painted herself in henna, people should not tattoo themselves with other peoples sacred symbols and Mr. James Ray should not be running a sweat lodge. I sincerely hope he is punished for his criminal negligence but I also hope that the "seekers" who paid to be there wake up to the fact that a $10,000 price tag has NOTHING to do with spirituality or personal growth.

    March 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • burns

      Henna does not belong to the Jews, it predates their culture. If someone's belief system has soemthing interesting or useful in it, I'll make use of that knowledge, part of why europeans took over so much of the world. The chinese were the ones who invented gun powder. As long as they're going to use other peoples' technology, I feel fully welcome to theirs. Ray should go to jail because he put people into a dangerous situation and got them killed, I couldn't care less which ethnic his stupid idea came from.

      By the way, what about cooking, should chinese/mexican restaurants in America be shut down if the owner doesn't have a parent from either country? NO, because knowledge has no relation to genetics.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • burns

      I agree it was stupid for these people to pay 10 grand, I would say mayb ea hundred bucks would be reasonable if there was some sort of package.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Nina

      I'm merely pointing out my opinion and I feel strongly that co-opting other people's seriously held beliefs is inappropriate. Chinese gun powder has nothing to do with disrespecting another person's spiritual beliefs but building a sweat lodge to perform some sort of quasi-native American event definitely does.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • World Citizen

      Just so you know, there are other seminars out there, that cost a lot more than 10 grands! And if people have that kind of money to spend on themselves, then good for them. Who are we to judge? What I have a problem with, is when people don't have the money and borrow against their mortgage or credit cards, then lose everything. That my friends is very sad...

      March 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  5. Help Stop The Shenanigans Our Government & The Rich Oppress On Us & Demand The Natural Resources God Has Put On Earth For Man To Survive

    Illegal immigrants are desperate and use less as good neighbors in the U.S. They break laws entering our country then are to scared to report criminal activity of which is a deep concern to U.S communities and citizens. Most illegal immigrants are lazy drunks, illegal drug users, not smart and business owners are to blame too for hiring / harboring them which makes them worse than the illegal immigrant. Also we should push congress to have all business owners / hiring managers in the U.S jailed & fined if they knowingly hire an illegal alien. Our U.S government corporations and business owners have figured out how to enslave, rob us, and kill us without even using a gun. These Guys R Evil Geniuses! Watch Out U.S Citizens & The International Poor! Every time a U.S business hires and illegal alien before a legal citizen is an assault or act of indirect violence to cause death to legal U.S citizens by financial impairing us. Please help us stop this pelage that is destroying our young growing nation and support the American Dream at http://usmoa.org/

    March 2, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  6. JB

    That type of ignorance is what Hitler thrived on as well as those who slaughtered the native americans. May God bless you and allow you see past your pastors twisted translation of the Bible.

    March 2, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  7. Reality

    Simply another pagan ritual/item analogous to curses, spells, voodoo dolls, maypoles, black magic, covens, witches, the Triple Goddess and the Horned God.--–/////

    March 2, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  8. John W

    Ignorance, plain and simple. Non-native people talking sh** about Native Americans and making jokes like "go cry over some garbage" or "casino" jokes. Your pathetic lifes are their own reward. Those who make these comments are no doubt schooled in the toolshed about "love" by Uncle Bo – and pass the tradition down to their kids. You sick fu*** are the lowest form of human ilk that crawls on the planet. I'll pray for you, and even forgive you -but you have to live in that ill fitting flesh suit breating my air and spoiling my scenery... gross.

    March 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  9. thequeenbee

    Kevin: trust us, it is NOT the same dance–it is tailored for tourist and the Spirit which must imbue the dance when it is for real and for the people is not the dance you can see or would see–you get a version–never think when you go to one of these, you have experienced the real thing–anymore than when you see a play, you imagine you just saw the aspects of real life. It has been reformatted to share with you....whoever YOU are.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  10. JB

    I am glad that Native Americans are capitalizing on peoples hope to hit that jackpot. Here in California all certified members of the Chumash tribe receive an equal monthly check and also receive medical and fully funded college tuitions from the proceeds. Also just because they have adapted and joined in on some of our ways of life it does not give us the right to disrespect their religion or culture. Oh by the way my white uncle killed himself by drinking to much of the fire water as well guess it is not just a native american issue.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • JakeF

      Yup. Those greedy native Americans. What's next? They going to try and steal *your* country?

      March 2, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Mark

      Must be nice to get these handouts, unlike the rest of us. I think it's about time it stopped. Didn't we conquer them?

      March 2, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • ha.

      Conquer? Is that what you call it? Not all Native Americans live the way the California tribes do.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • NativeWarrior

      hey mark, bring it on boy toy. You're a mighty tough talker behind a computer. why don't you goto a pow-wow and talk that trash, watch what happens.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Earnán

      @native warrior: "Bring it on"? No need. We already ran your asses off OUR land. If I were to "bring it on" to the pow-wow I;d be more likely to get hit-and-run by a drunk native in a truck he can't afford the payments on, than whupped by any "warrior"...

      March 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  11. nancy

    To Bill Mosby @ 3:42 pm thanks for the info on the russian nesting dolls.........................

    March 2, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  12. Richard C

    When I have done sweat lodge my guide, the medicine man instructed me to hydrate for twenty four hours before. He is known for running some of the hottest lodges in the country. He blessed each of us involved with corn pollen and an eagle feather before going in. When the water hits the stones it explodes into super heated steam. Only the protection of the Spirits kept me from being burned. The visions I had were like watching movie on the wall of the lodge. He talked about the visions as I was having them due to their nature. Ray had these people in the desert with no food or water for 24 hours before, then crammed 60 + into the lodge. Just the carbon monoxide from all the people would have caused some to pass out, add the heat and lack of fluids to sweat and keep the body temp down......... At the best he is a fool. At worst it is as I stated before

    March 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • burns

      Human exhale carbon DIOXIDE, NOT carbon MONOXIDE, there is no combustion in the lodge so there should be no carbon monoxide. The spirits protected you? Whew, thank god... err the spirits he used an eagle feather and not hawk. You were on drugs, were/are delusional, or your making a stupid straw man argument to make me look good. At the best you are a fool. At worst it is as I stated before.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • iveeno

      Burns – something has to keep the rocks hot. Probably something burning, hence carbon monoxide.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • burns

      Wait, you seriosuly have a fire going in these things? You don't heat up the rocks and move them inside with sticks BEFORE going in? That's almost guaranteeing to suffocate people. You're supposed to have a fire goign outside and bring in fresh molten rocks. You understand combustion right? Carbon burns, combines with oxygen, vast majority turns into CO2 with a little bit of CO when incomplete combustion happens.

      Richard C. It must have been the spirits who kept you safe, who also taught iveeno chemistry.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • paleo

      Burns is right. They heat the stones outside, then bring them in and sprinkle water on them to create the steam.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • ha.

      FYI not all Native American tribes are rich like that. I'm Native and I don't get free college tuition and monthly checks. Someone of us stick it out just like you and pay our damn taxes. I don't know why your all complaining, it's not like everything is handed to us. Sure some tribes take advantage of their profit and buy alcohol or whatever but not all Native Americans are like that. There are some of us who are trying to make a living the same way you do with probably worse conditions. You have no idea what it's like to be Native American so don't make judgemental comments. And copying traditions isn't a big deal. If people want to copy some of our pratices go right ahead. Just do it right so no one gets hurt!

      March 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • NativeWarrior

      Being native, being a fire keeper, learning these ways since I was a child, I would bet I have more experience and understanding that burn, iveeno, or paleo. Yes, the stones are heated for several hours OUTSIDE the lodge in a very large firepit. The stones are lava rock. Once inside the lodge, herbs as well as water are put onto red hot rocks. Which causes combustion. If you are in a traditional lodge, there are NO, psychedelic drugs what so ever. and you are warned to avoid drugs and alchohol for at least a week prior. As for the Lakota attempting to stop non natives from running lodges, its a futile attempt. I for one could care less, just like I could care less about the evangilists making tv watchers send in money for prayers and miracles. If people are really that dumb to believe they can buy spiritual blessings or enlightenment. if you really want to learn of my peoples ways you will find a way to get in contact with legitimate healers and teachers and when you do, you will be welcomed. Until then...have fun with the self help gurus.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • paleo

      NativeWarrior, please don't assume you know more than everyone else. I agree with everything you said and I am not trying to start an arguement. I just would like you to not assume that you know who I am and what I know. Thanks!

      March 3, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  13. Enoch

    Why do I get the impression that he won't even get the chance to "mess with colonialists"?

    Let it go, man. Go cry about some litter.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  14. Enoch

    Boy, these Indians sure are in a sad state. You don't see all of Western Europe complaining about the Indians taking over alcoholism.

    Tribal custom – bs. The tribal custom has become stacking ships and splitting the profits.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Earnán

      They complain about smallpox and alcoholism. Never a word of apology for syphilis and lung cancer.

      March 2, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  15. crash

    thats not fair at all when everryone else has to open everything up to everyone yet they can discriminate

    March 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • ArmyVet

      Of course they should be allowed to discriminate. almost everything else belonging to the native american has been plundered, stolen and deceptively taken away.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  16. wah!!

    Who cares? They're dead, go to your local casino and play $5 on a penny machine in their memory.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • burns

      You just made me spit gingerale through my nose.

      March 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • burns

      it really stings

      March 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  17. Ray

    Anything for a buck these days. As Joni Mitchell sang, "They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot." And charged money to park in it too.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • ArmyVet

      I agree Ray. Well said.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  18. JB

    I am not blaming anyone alive today for the slaughtering of the Native Americans. I am simply asking us all to show respect and understanding for all cultures and religions. So we can grow move forward and not make the mistakes our ancestors have in the past.

    March 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  19. Jaer

    I was in a sweat lodge once and it was an amazingly spiritual experience. I even saw a flying spaghetti monster...

    March 2, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • nj

      You people are idiots and do not know anything about ceremonies.

      March 3, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  20. martin2176

    if Native americans claim sweat lodge, shouldnt East Indians claim Yoga

    March 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • IntegralReality


      March 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • ArmyVet

      I normally stray away from name calling, but in this case martin2176, you are an insensitive idiot.

      March 2, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Earnán

      There's nothing sacred about "sweat lodges."

      Europe, Russia and northern Asia are full of 'em. We call them "saunas."

      March 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.