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  Sweat lodge/police controversy in three seperate places
"The officers probably thought it was a drunken party."

TULSA OK
Sam Lewin 1/21/2004


Law enforcement and Native Americans seeking to use sweat lodges and other cultural staples are butting heads in three recent, unrelated cases.

In the first, the Boulder chapter of the American Indian Movement is blasting a decision to close down a sweat lodge ceremony on New Year’s eve. Boulder police and sheriff's officers say they stopped the ceremony because the man conducting the event, Lakota spiritual leader Robert Cross, did not have a permit to use Boulder Open Space land on Valmont Butte. Cross and Boulder officials later confirmed that he did in fact have the right to use the land. A sheriff’s department spokesman said they were not aware at the time that Cross, who had performed similar ceremonies at the same location, had permission.

"He may have permission, but he needs to get clarification,” Sheriff’s Sgt. George Dunphy told the Rocky Mountain News. "The officers probably thought it was a drunken party."

In Minnesota, a Native American prison inmate has enlisted the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union to press for his right to perform a religious ceremony that included smoking a ceremonial pipe and smudging sage and sweet grass. The man is incarcerated at the Kandiyohi County Jail. MCLU officials say they are looking into legal options after attempts to conduct a dialogue with jail officials were rebuffed. Sheriff Dan Hartog says a ban on tobacco is the reason for the problem.

North of the border, Elaine North, a member of the Winnipeg-based Ebb and Flow First Nation, is demanding an apology from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. North said an RCMP officer interrupted a sweat lodge ceremony in December to serve her legal papers. RCMP officials say they have reviewed an audiotape of the incident and have decided there is no reason for the officer to apologize. North said she is frustrated that the RCMP does not realize how offensive their actions were.

According to the Native American Sweat Lodge History, three basic forms of the sweat bath are indigenous to North America: the hot rock method, used by the Navajos and Sioux; the direct fire chamber, heated by blazing logs; and a more sophisticated type relying on a heating duct system believed to be of Mayan origin.

NTN Article#: 3588

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