October 18, 2010

Oneida sells Lakota sweat lodge?

Here's a short-lived controversy from a few weeks ago:

Oneida Indian Nation wrong to exploit sweat lodge

By Nick Swan (Hehaka Ite Wakan)To The Editor:

One of the many questionable activities by Turning Stone is their desecration of the Native American sweat lodge ceremony. They are selling it by misrepresenting the Oglala and Lakota Sioux tribes of South Dakota as partners. These tribes have NEVER joined with the Oneidas of Turning Stone to sell their (Lakota) ceremony. Yet they make this outright false claim on their Turning Stone/Skana Spa/Sweat Lodge page.

It is an insult to the Lakota people who endure third-world conditions, while the wealthy Oneidas exploit the culture of the Lakota. Why does Turning Stone need such a sweat lodge anyway? Why doesn’t Turning Stone market and sell one of their own sacred Iroquois ceremonies? It’s because the Iroquois would never tolerate such a transgression.

So Turning Stone uses the Lakota sweat lodge, which is equally an offensive transgression to those whom cherish that way of life. Thus, Ray Halbritter has ill-aligned his unscrupulous actions directly to James Arthur Ray, who notoriously oversaw a pay-to-pray sweat lodge in which three people died last year. Obviously this group of exploiters is really only interested in one tribe, the almighty tribe of Benjamins.

Actions speak for themselves, and for these characters to play dumb is their final act of contempt to us all. Lastly, the Oneida leadership insults the integrity of their own people, of whom the vast majority does not condone such exploitive behavior.
Comment:  Sounds like a straightforward offense, right? Well, maybe not.

No tribal ceremony at sweat lodge

By Chuck Fougnier, Wolf Clan RepresentativeTo The Editor:

Nick Swan’s Sept. 23 letter attacking the Oneida Nation and its sweat lodge at Turning Stone was the ravings of a disgruntled employee.

His concerns are not fact-based at all. As Indian guide for the sweat lodge, Mr. Swan directed the guest experience for the past 16 months. From when he was first hired he knew that our sweat lodge was not ceremonial like those he knew from home, but a resort experience that guests paid to take in.

For facilitating this guest experience, he received regular paychecks and benefits from the Oneida Nation, as well as accepting generous tips from guests pleased with their time in the sweat lodge.

I was one of the Oneida leaders who went to South Dakota to learn about sweat lodges and talk to the Oglala and Lakota people about building one at Turning Stone, not as an avenue to be part of a ceremony but as another high-end resort amenity.

We then employed Milo Yellow Hair, a Lakota Indian skilled in this ancient practice to construct an authentic sweat lodge at our resort. Knowing that tribal ceremonies conducted in sweat lodges are sacred and private, as are our Oneida ceremonies, we went to great lengths to give our guests the experience of being in a sweat lodge and nothing more.
Comment:  Hard to tell who's right in this case. It may depend on how Turning Stone markets its sweat lodge.

The answer--at least the present answer on the Turning Stone website:

Sweat LodgeSka:ná: is proud to be one of the few spas in the world to offer a sweat lodge experience. Inspired by American Indian cultural traditions, the Ska:ná: sweat lodge is constructed of red willows, draped with buffalo hides, and located in a secluded woodland setting.Sounds like Turning Stone isn't selling its sweat lodge as an authentic Lakota experience. Of course, it may have changed its website since the controversy began.

But the Lakota don't own the concept; other tribes have sweat lodges too. Therefore, I'd say Fougnier's argument seems to be ahead at the moment.

For more on Native spas, see Sweat Lodge at Oneida Spa and Native-Themed Spas. For more on sweat lodges in general, see The Myth of Detoxification and How Sedona's Sweat Lodges Operate.


Anonymous said...

Ah, detoxing. The first time I saw it was the cayenne pepper and lemon juice diet. Of course, lemon juice and cayenne pepper can have pesticides in them as well.

Your kidneys, spleen, and liver do all the detoxing you'll usually need.

What I don't get is why "detox diets", reflexology, homeopathy, and the rest don't just own up to their occidental origins. I mean, theoretically, the people who came up with the medicine shouldn't affect its worth. Unless you're a racist with Noble Savage fantasies, in which case it does.

Of course, New Age is all about getting more _qi, prana, mana, wakan, vril, the Force_ than anybody else: Capitalism with mystic energy. The only religion quite like it is the fictional Sith.

dmarks said...

Anon: Don't forget the enema idiots who are part of the detox craze. From "The Road to Wellville" to that nut on late night infomercials peddling some new colon-blow cure.