“October 8th, Tragedy in Sweat lodge Ceremony”
Most of us are aware by now about the devastating tragedy that occurred on October 8, 2009 at Angel Valley Retreat Center, when motivational speaker James Arthur Ray held a so called “spiritual warrior” event that has so far cost the lives of three people and will forever change the lives of sixty-four more. The facts are slowly coming out in the investigation in regards to what actually happened that day. Investigators found that the lodge used in the sweat lodge ceremony that claimed these lives, was made of plastic tarps, which is dangerous and can be fatal. Still the investigation continues to determine the actual cause of death. What people don’t seem to understand is the real problems lie where forensic teams refuse to look or examine. This tragedy is far deeper than some mishap accident and not only will affect the sixty-seven people involved but now this has the potential to effect many others, both directly and indirectly.
I ask all Mother Earth’s children, spiritual people, indigenous peoples, traditionalist and people seeking a spiritual foundation to read this and think for a while as I share some truth forensics will never find. I personally write this as a traditionalist, and as a prisoner within the federal system who has been doing sweat lodge ceremonies for many years.
As we are coming into the Aquarian age, a time of healing, many people are starting to wake up, remove the binders and realize the need for striving for higher consciousness. Much of the time people are turning to spiritual advisors and people of indigenous cultures with hope for guidance. They come with open minds, open hearts and trust for the spiritual advisor. Some people seek out wisdom in motivational speakers to help them in areas of their lives such as financially, intellectually, spiritually, etc…
In the self-help book titled “The Secret” by author Rhonda Byrne, on page 195, James Ray claims to be all of the above. He also claims to be an expert on many eastern, indigenous and mystical traditions. At this point I have to disagree for many reasons. The first reason being that there is no one human who is an expert in indigenous traditions. Only Creator is the expert. Second, as spiritual people or advisors or medicine men etc., it is far from proper to charge people for your services. It is okay to accept donations, due to the cost of living, but to try to get rich off of spiritual advice is bad medicine in itself. James Ray was charging approximately ten thousand dollars per person. That’s roughly six hundred and seventy thousand dollars for his services. Third, I will say Ray has some positive things to say in the book “The Secret”, but they’re just words. It’s a whole different setting when you start tampering with sacred ways. To walk the Red Road is a very precious and sacred path and there is much healing power in the ceremonies if you utilize them in a humble way. However, if you abuse these ways, you will suffer and so will those around you.
On October 8th Ray abused the sacred ways and the results of his actions are shattering. This guy, who claims to be such an “expert”, would have known that lodge was not properly built and plastic or metal are forbidden in a sweat lodge if he had any amount of time around the ceremonies. Also, Ray had the participants in the event endure a thirty-six hour fast then fed them a breakfast buffet before the lodge ceremony. This whole procedure was done completely backwards. Once inside the lodge, as the guide or sweat lodge leader, it is his job and responsibility to take care of every other person within that ceremony. Reports say many people were crying and screaming to get out, yet he made them suffer beyond the limits of even the hottest lodges. It has also been stated that other participants who attended prior lodges run by Ray, have been sickened as well. This guy is not some spiritual guru. He is a fake and now he has sold his soul along with others for six hundred and seventy thousand dollars. He took the little bit of knowledge he had been blessed with for granted and abused it and now it is affecting more than just him and the sixty seven people involved in this ceremony. This guy should never be allowed near another sweat lodge or any sacred item again.
If one knows their history even a little, they will see that Native Americans as well as all other indigenous people have been in a constant struggle for their rights to keep their religious beliefs and practices (a.k.a. spiritual ways). For hundreds of years Native Americans have fought just to survive as a whole. The government looked for any reason to justify genocide of indigenous peoples. Because of the power of our spirituality, sacred ways and the sacrifices and lives of our ancestors and elders, our ways still exist.
As a Native American/Breed prisoner in the federal system who walks the Red Road to the best of my ability, I take my spirituality very seriously and I am truly grateful for these ways and the people who fought for them. It wasn’t until the late 70’s early 80’s that the sweat lodge ceremonies were allowed inside the penitentiary walls. Thankfully, with the help of the AIM and NARF and through the grace of the Great Spirit, we now sweat every week. Pray hard and suffer in a good way.
When people abuse these ways it gives reason for the government to once again question our ways and start harassing us and our spiritual beliefs. They start conjuring up rhetorical questions in regards to the liability issues they would face if someone were to get hurt or if a fatality were to happen in a lodge behind the walls.
James Arthur Ray has not only broken the hearts and trust of many people, but he has jeopardized all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears and sacrifice that Native American people have gone through to get us what we have.
Also, as an “expert” of these ways, Ray would have known that traditionally you do not mix men and women in a lodge together. If women sweat, they have their own lodge. Even if women do sweat with men it is forbidden for women to enter a lodge or even be around sacred items while on their moon. For someone to be charging approximate ten grand a head, I feel Ray would not have told women this because potentially it could have cost him ten thousand, possibly more.
My reasoning for writing this is not solely to chastise James Arthur Ray or Paul Michael Hamilton, owner of Angel Valley Retreat Center. Indeed, I do write out of anger and hurt, for it breaks my heart when I see people abuse these ways, but I also write for the sake of others who may be seeking a spiritual path and I want people to know this tragedy is spiritual. It wasn’t because anyone was unhealthy, etc. Another reason I’m writing this is because no one besides the media seems to be talking about this and it needs to be addressed.
My Message in All of This:
For “motivational speaker” James Arthur Ray, you have upset the Creator and in time Creator will deal with you accordingly, that’s for sure. You cannot frivolously play with sacred ways. Now you along with many others will reap the consequences for your actions. You should have stuck with being a motivational speaker. I pray Creator will humble you.
Paul Mitchell Hamilton, you are as guilty of playing with sacred ceremonies and ceremonial structures. You are living on sacred land and you’re making a mockery of these indigenous ways. If you don’t know what you are doing, you should not be assisting in, sponsoring of, or constructing of a sweat lodge. You should have stuck with your oriental symbols on your replicated tepee. At least now you know to never use plastic. If you’re not a firm believer in karma now, you will be, in this life or next. I pray Creator humbles you as well.
To all the people seeking a higher consciousness or a spiritual path, please do not let this incident scare you away from what you are searching for. The sweat lodge may very well be what your spirit needs. I only ask that before you jump out there and trust someone to be your spiritual advisor, take the time to check their authenticity. Take great caution of those who claim to be an expert or professional in the realm of spirituality. Always remember, just because someone has some fancy sounding Native American name such as “Two Bulls” or “Four Fathers”, it doesn’t mean that they are legit. Be very sceptical of those charging standard rates to get closer to God. Creator doesn’t charge rates for his love. Respect our sacred ways. This is our way of life and anyone with a good heart of love and compassion is welcome to walk down this path.
Now, I ask anyone who reads this to take a few moments to acknowledge and pray for these people who lost their lives, for the ones who were traumatized in all this. Pray for their loved ones, their children, for them to understand that this was more than just an accident, it’s spiritual. Pray for our spiritual people, our Elders, our youth, our sick, our women and our warriors. Pray for Mother Earth and pray to Creator for forgiveness and guidance. Last, please pray for the prisoners who sweat and suffer in the sweat lodge ceremonies behind the walls. We may have made some mistakes in our lives, no one is perfect. We’re all in here for a reason but we’re not all bad people. The brothers in the Native American circles sweat and suffer for the people, for the earth, for all relations and to help better themselves. We pray for those involved in the October 8th tragedy. Our hearts and prayers go out to you and your families. I personally have shed many tears over this and it will forever leave scars on my heart.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully for your prayers. In my opinion, there are many lessons to be learned from all of this. I only hope people will take the time to listen and see the message behind this tragedy.
Much Love and Respect,
James “Coyote” Anderson
Cherokee Nation/ Wolf Clan