Saturday, November 14, 2009

Indian Tribe Sues Under Treaty To Get Prosecution of Self-Help Author

Last month, three people died after spending time in a sweat lodge as part of a "Spiritual Warrior" retreat conducted by self-help author and speaker James Arthur Ray. Each participant paid over $9600 to attend the retreat at the Angel Valley Retreat Center in Sedona, Arizona. (CNN). Now, according to a report this week from, members of the Lakota Sioux Tribe, upset over non-Indians appropriating Native American ceremonies, has filed a federal lawsuit demanding prosecution of James Arthur Ray. The complaint (full text) in Oglala Lakota Delegation of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council v. United States, (D AZ, filed 11/2/2009), cites to provisions in the 1869 Treaty of Ft. Laramie that provides:
If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent, and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington city, proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained.
The complaint explains that a wrong was committed on the Lakota's property because the Oinikaga sweat lodge ceremony is part of the Lakota's oral tradition which, according to the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Art. 31, the Lakotas have a right to maintain, control and protect.