Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Appropriation Related Death

My facebook home page has been chock full of articles about the recent sweatlodge deaths in Sedona Arizona. And so I feel I have to say something about it, because it is such an example of how deadly appropriation of culture can be. Especially when Capitalism is thrown into the mix.
To start with, it was a weekend retreat that cost $9000 a head. Sixty plus people were all in one lodge. It used PLASTIC as part of the covering. And instead of doing four rounds they stayed in there for TWO hours. And let's not forget the name, "Spiritual Warriors."
My Uncle John has been running a sweatlodge since I was a little girl. I have really good memories of going to his sweats, I haven't been in a couple years, but I will go again I'm sure. I was little when I first went to a sweat. I remember my cousin Luke and I were walking on a mound of old sweat rocks and a man told us to get off of there. They were all jagged. And they made this funny sound, like styrofoam almost, because a rock changes after it's been in the sweat. Inside was an intensely spiritual and personal experience, and I loved the Cree songs and the praying and the lights and the rattle. And at the end, they would open up a can of berries and we would eat them. Oh yeah, and one other crucial thing about his sweats, and all sweats I've been to, is that we would drink lots of water between every round. Rounds didn't last that long, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes. And he would know when it was too difficult for someone or too hot and usually the only really physically intense moment was just before the door was opened.
Even if no one had died or gotten ill at Spiritual Warrior, the fact that my culture is being exploited for profit by a white man oozing privilege makes my blood boil. An experience with the spiritual is not something that can be bought. It shouldn't come with a $9000 price tag, or even a $250 price tag, like some unlucky local white person paid. Sweats are free, you just need to bring tobacco and/or cloth (at least around this here neck of the plains) if you need them to pray for some specific healing.
My Uncle John likes to google "Sweat Lodge Deaths" and tell us different ones he reads about. Usually it's the same kind of thing, used plastic instead of canvas for the covering or staying in for a really long time. Really DUMB mistakes like forgetting people need oxygen to breathe and that heat can KILL YOU!
James Arthur Ray is the self help author of this terrible tragedy. He has appeared on Larry King, Oprah, and The Secret, according to his website. He is the President/CEO of "James Ray, Inc." I think he is a great example of a shining turd. What do YOU think?

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