Phoenix, AZ – Sen. Albert Hale said he was alarmed last October when three
people died in Sedona after a commercial self-help guru conducted
what was billed as a Native American sweat lodge ceremony.
(That's not the way we practice that ceremony. As you know, the
ceremony was done with nearly 60 people in a large structure that
was covered with tarp and plastic.)
His legislation would have the Department of Health Services
regulate who can claim they are conducting traditional Native
practices. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley said it's more
than a question of safety for participants who, in the case of
the Sedona incident, paid up to $10,000 apiece for the
(For too long, I believe, our ways of life, our ceremonies, even
our sacred stories, our culture has been abused, misused,
Hale said his measure would not prohibit individuals from
conducting their version of native ceremonies as long as they did
not bill them as authentic.
(If you and your friend go out and say we're going to make money
and we're going to advertise that ceremony you're going to
conduct as a traditional Native American ceremony, that's what we
want to address. But if you go out there and say, we're going to
do a sweat, that's your problem. That's not our problem.)
For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.