CNN’s story about the “sweat lodge” trial of James Arthur Ray, under whose stewardship three people died in 2009 in a so-called vision quest, is drawing worldwide attention.
Beginning with a description of what a sweat lodge is supposed to be, CNN’s Jessica Ravitz aptly captures the concepts behind the idea as told by Alvin Manitopyes, a public health consultant in Calgary, Alberta, who is Plains Cree and Anishnawbe and has been conducting sweat lodge ceremonies for 20 years.
“He understands the spiritual mandate he was given as a healer to serve as an intermediary between people and the spirit world,” Ravitz writes. “He carries with him the ancient ceremonial songs, passed on through generations.”
Not so Ray, whose trial on manslaughter charges began on March 1. CNN quotes Indian Country Today Media Network contributor and columnist Valerie Taliman in the story, “Sweat Lodge Trial Fuels Native American Frustrations” and references her award-winning column on the faux sweat lodge.
Here’s an excerpt from CNN’s story:
“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 Tuesday.
“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.”