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.


- CNN Writer/Producer

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

December 3rd, 2010
02:59 PM ET

Jay Leno spoofs the Belief Blog

"The Tonight Show" spoofed CNN Belief Blog's Sacred Spaces series on Thursday. Check it out.

You can see the original piece we did on the stone mason at the Washington National Cathedral here.

Sacred Spaces is an occasional series on the Belief Blog taking an inside look at worship spaces from unique perspectives.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Sacred Spaces • TV

November 25th, 2010
07:08 AM ET

Sacred Spaces: Meet the mason at the Washington National Cathedral

Editor's Note: CNN's Kim Uhl and Chris Ford filed this report from Washington. Sacred Spaces is an occasional series on the Belief Blog taking an inside look at worship spaces from unique perspectives.

For Joe Alonso, the National Cathedral in Washington is a work of art.

In part, his own art.

Alonso has been working as a stone mason at the cathedral since 1985. He was part of the team that finished the construction on one of the most recognizable buildings in an already iconic skyline.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • DC • Sacred Spaces • United States

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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.