Gabe Galanda: Indian inmates get their day for religious freedom

"Despite the barbwire fenced entryway, security pat downs, and presence of several armed corrections officers, a sense of freedom filled one corner of the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla on Tuesday, May 22. At the pow wow I attended there that day, there were many Native men who will never again walk outside those prison walls, let alone enjoy a Fourth of July barbeque or fireworks show. But that day their freedom—freedom of Indian religious belief—reigned.

That was in no small part due to the fact that a handful of Native children were also present that day, thanks to policy reforms enacted earlier that month by the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC). For the prior two years, Washington tribal leaders and lawyers advocated for the restoration of religious rights that the state stripped from Native prisoners in the spring of 2010.

On May 22, the reform effort culminated, appropriately, in hopeful ceremony, song and dance, performed by Indian men who have little more than that ceremony to hope for year in and year out."

Get the Story:
Gabriel S. Galanda: Protecting Indian Prisoners’ Religious Freedom (Indian Country Today 7/4)

Related Stories:
Indian inmates welcome presence of children at their powwows (5/29)

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