Rocky Mountain News
Sweat lodge incident heats up

By Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News
January 21, 2004

The American Indian Movement is investigating the New Year's Eve shutdown of an Indian sweat lodge in Boulder.

"We were dismayed by the lack of respect shown Native Americans engaged in a ceremony that's been held on the same site for years," said Glenn Morris, a Colorado AIM leader.

Robert Cross, a Lakota spiritual leader, has led the ceremonies on Valmont Butte about once a week for years, with city and county permission.

A sheriff's patrol, part of a stepped-up effort to prevent vandalism in the area, spotted the sweat lodge fire New Year's Eve, questioned the Indian participants and asked them to leave because Cross wasn't carrying the written permit.

"They've been holding sweat lodge ceremonies up there for years," Morris said. "If you disrespect Indian culture, there will be repercussions."

Morris and other AIM leaders will meet with Boulder city and county officials Friday.

"We want to get to the bottom of the injuries these people suffered," said Don Ragona, also of AIM. Both Ragona and Morris are attorneys.

Ragona said that multiple patrol cars and at least two canine units were summoned to the healing ceremony, attended by about 25 people including children.

"I've never heard of anything like this happening in Colorado," he said.

Frank Bruno, Boulder's city manager, said he didn't know why so many sheriff's officers and dogs were involved. "We apologize for our part in any miscommunication," he said.

Lt. Phil West of the sheriff's office said that the canine units were standard procedure in open fields.

He said neighbors in the area had complained about people partying in the area and building huge bonfires.

"We didn't know about the ceremonies," he said. "We didn't know they had a permit. I don't think the officers responded outrageously."

West said the city told the sheriff's office about the sweat lodge permit several days after the New Year's Eve incident.

"When we know a ceremony is going on somewhere, we accommodate their right to practice their religion," he said. "It wasn't the deputies' plan to circumvent the practice of their religion."

Copyright 2004, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. The American Indian Movement of Colorado has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is American Indian Movement of Colorado endorsed or sponsored by the originator.