Native Americans push to clarify sweat lodge traditions
Aware that many Native Americans, individually and through organizations, were incensed over his transformation and commercial use of their traditions and practices, particularly the tradition of the sweat lodge, Ray approached Grass humbly during a break and offered his hand. Grass shook it, nodded and the two spoke quietly for a time.
“He told me he learned his lesson,” Grass said later. “I said ‘no, you have a lot more to learn.’”
Three people - Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman - died after Ray’s October 2009 version of a sweat lodge ceremony at the Angel Valley Spiritual Retreat Center near Sedona. Ray, found guilty of negligent homicide this past month, now awaits sentencing, which could range from probation to nine years in prison. Grass was present for the verdict and said he agreed that jurors had made the right decision.
He was less enamored with the way Ray had “customized” Native American traditions such as the sweat lodge and the vision quest, and turned them into profit centers.
“He took the spirituality right out the door and put in his own perspective,” said Grass, who as a medicine man has spent years learning how to properly conduct the ceremonies. “He wants to make a name for himself, that he has a better sweat lodge, that he is god.”