Fri 16 Oct, 2009
Stanford got out of the hospital two days ago, a little less than six
weeks after he went in. Hooray!
His sister Arilda drove down to Cheyenne to pick him up in her
Suburban (with a mattress laid down so he doesn’t have to sit up),
while his son Daniel ferried Stanford’s wheelchair home in the pickup.
When I spoke to him today, Stan was extremely excited to get out of
the hospital, and even more excited to have his first
He’ll be in bed for a week at least to heal from his bedsore surgery.
In other news, I’m sure you’ve read the sad news about the sweat lodge
in Sedona, Arizona, in which two people died a week ago. I’ve been
thinking about it a lot. It brings up a question about the place of
nonnative people in Native spiritual practice. It seems like anyone
of any ethnicity who charges dozens of people $10,000 apiece to do a
five day “Spiritual Warriors” retreat before putting them in a plastic-
lined sweat lodge is going to evoke the wrath of a spirit or two.
For Stanford’s part, he believes that white people (not to mention black and yellow people) came to America in order to learn about the Creator. Spiritual
renaissance, he says, is the main reason we’re all here
together. We live, he says, in the spirit land. His grandpa, a
medicine man, told him so. And when he got his own powers, his
spirits told him the same thing.
So, how should white folks handle themselves in Native American spiritual ceremonies?
Here are some opinions.
“Indian Spirituality is for Indians only. We had these beliefs and
ceremonies long before the white settlers brought their Bible across
the ocean and they withstood all the assaults by the Church to destroy
them. It is high time the Indian people took them back and closed
their ceremonies to outsiders.”
— unsigned editorial, Native Sun News, Aug.
“The absence of water during the heat is really disturbing and
potentially dangerous for a northerner with genes intended for fat and
cold and lots of water. Indians with their dark skin can do things
that we fair skinned people simply are not intended to expose
ourselves to. Witness Sven Hedin’s adventures when more or less all of
the expedition died somewhere in Asia after having resorted to
My mother knew Sven, who was a famous explorer.
Pay attention to your genetic make up and respect it. You are not an
Indian. Maybe you need to be respectful of that.”
— my Swedish mother, in a letter to me in
2005, in response to me wanting to intensify my involvement in
Northern Arapaho spiritual ceremonies.
“Wannabe!” snapped a young Lakota after ending a conversation with an
eager white man en route to a powwow.
“Wannabe?” replied his grandfather. “You mean, ‘wants to be
— from Dreamkeeper, a 2003 feature film about the Lakota,
past and present
(the quote may not be totally accurate, but it’s close. And
DREAMKEEPER is a
wonderful, lovely, deep, funny movie. Really worth seeing.)
Ciao for now,