Steve Russell: Selling magic, delivering death in sweat lodge

"James Ray’s Arizona trial for manslaughter played like a bad movie; Harry Potter meets John Wayne. And now he’s been found guilty of negligent homicide.

For $9,695, Ray promised that Native American wisdom, imparted by him, would make you healthy, wealthy, and wise. People lined up to consume this swill in spite of the obvious fact that most real Indians are neither healthy nor wealthy.

Dennis Mehravar, one of the suckers, er, I mean participants, quoted Ray: “He asked, ‘Has anybody been in a sweat lodge before? Well, you’ve never been in my sweat lodge.’”

My Cherokee purification ceremonies involve water rather than heat. It’s also not for sale.

Having been in sweats conducted by Comanche, Cheyenne, and Lakota I’ve never seen plastic used in the construction of a sweat lodge, which was the case in Arizona.

In Ray’s plastic tent, three people died and 18 were hospitalized."

Get the Story:
Steve Russell: Selling Magic; Delivering Death (Indian Country Today 6/22)

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