[Marxism] More tragedy and trouble in the Oak Creek country [Sedona, Arizona]

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at hunterbear.org
Sat Oct 10 11:14:29 MDT 2009


When I was a kid, Sedona, Arizona, about 40 minutes south of Flagstaff but at a much lower altitude and considerably warmer, was an attractive little wintering-place, mostly for a few ranchers and cowpunchers and local retired folks -- and occasionally, because of the close-by and very impressive red rocks, many working Hollywood film people. It's at the lower opening-out of genuinely beautiful, deep and rugged Oak Creek Canyon -- through which flows Oak Creek, a significant waterway. School kids in Sedona and environs were bussed up to Flag. The father of a friend of mine ran the local saloon, known unofficially as "Dr Bird's Hospital" and the setting had a roller skate rink to which Flagstaff kids often went. In time, the setting became a tourist attraction of note. Before long, it was discovered by genuinely first rate artists [e.g. the surrealist Max Ernst; Cecil Murdock-- a splendid Kickapoo painter] and a number of fine writers [e.g., Bob Kittredge.] No problems yet at all -- but then many Phoenix people came up for summer homes seeking [compared to Phoenix] the much cooler weather. That began to pose problems -- among them rapidly mounting real estate prices and often fire carelessness in the woods.

By this time, most genuine artists and writers, and the ranchers and cowpunchers and locals, were departing.

Challenges increased substantially when Sedona was discovered by far right outfits, including paramilitaries -- who began to set up shop on the edges. Birchy bookstores and marching gunmen.

The next afflicting "situation" -- which still prevails -- arrived with the outer-edge of the New Age phenomenon and its garish hustlers and groupies. Quick spiritual "salvation", easy redemption for anything, and dubious "medicines." [On the latter, don't get me wrong. I support the thoughtful use of bona fide natural medicine.]

In the summer of 2006, a significant forest fire threatened Sedona itself and destroyed many nearby homes along Oak Creek. See this of mine: http://www.hunterbear.org/SEDONA,%20FOREST%20FIRES,%20AND%20RABBIT%20EARS.htm 

Now, there's this -- an Anglo sweat lodge enterprise, sans any Natives, and erroneously professing to follow Native ways -- and the inevitably consequent tragedy. I agree totally with the critical comments -- in the following article -- from the excellent Abenaki writer, Joe Bruchac [himself a resident of upstate New York], who feels non-Indians have no business at all imitating the sacrosanct practices of Native people. [Hunter Bear]


2 die, 19 sickened at Sedona sweat lodge 
Investigators looking to find cause behind outbreak at Angel Valley resort 
The Associated Press
updated 11:38 a.m. MT, Fri., Oct . 9, 2009
SEDONA, Ariz. - A sauna-like sweat lodge at an Arizona resort meant to provide spiritual cleansing became the scene of a police investigation Friday when more than 20 people became ill during a two-hour session and two later died. 

In all, 21 of the 64 people crowded inside the sweat lodge Thursday evening received medical care at hospitals and a fire station. Four remained hospitalized Friday evening - one in critical condition and the others in fair condition. 

Authorities haven't determined the cause of the deaths and illnesses; tests for carbon monoxide and other contaminants were negative. Yavapai County sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said authorities were checking into whether any of the attendees had medical conditions or were fasting. 

Among those sickened were a middle-aged man and a woman who were unconscious, according to a 911 call, and a third person who was found not breathing. 

"It's not something you'd normally see at one of the resorts there, and it's unfortunate regardless of the cause," D'Evelyn said. 

Investigators were working to determine whether criminal actions might have been a factor in the incident, D'Evelyn said. 

'Spiritual Warrior' retreat
The Angel Valley Retreat Center sits on 70 acres nestled in a scrub forest just outside Sedona, a resort town 115 miles north of Phoenix that draws many in the New Age spiritual movement. 

Self-help expert and author James Arthur Ray rented the facility as part of his "Spiritual Warrior" retreat that began Oct. 3 and that promised to "absolutely change your life." 

"We express our deepest condolences to those who lost friends and family, but we pray for a speedy recovery for those who took ill," Ray spokesman Howard Bragman said. "At this point there are more questions than answers, so it would not be appropriate to comment further." 

Sweat lodges, like that held on the final day of the Angel Valley retreat, are commonly used by American Indian tribes to cleanse the body and prepare for hunts, ceremonies and other events. The structure used Thursday was crudely built and covered with tarps and blankets. 

Stones are heated up outside a lodge, brought inside and placed in a pail-sized hole. The door is closed, and water is poured on the stones, producing heat aimed at releasing toxins in the body. 

The retreat schedule had few details about what participants could expect, other than thrice-daily meals and group gatherings that started at 7 a.m. and ended 16 hours later. 

The details came in a lengthy release of liability that acknowledges participants may suffer "physical, emotional, financial or other injuries" while hiking or swimming, or during a multi-day personal and spiritual quest in the wilderness without food or water or the sweat lodge. 

'Ideal environment'
No one was required to participate in the activities. 

Some participants told detectives they paid up to $9,000 for the event. In a testimonial on the Angel Valley retreat's Web site, Ray said it "offers an ideal environment for my teachings." 

Bragman confirmed that his client was holding an event at the retreat, as he has done in the past. Authorities said Ray was inside the sweat lodge Thursday evening and was interviewed. 

Ray's company, James Ray International, is based in Carlsbad, Calif. 

Ray's posting on his Twitter account hours before the deaths said: "Still in Spiritual Warrior ... for anything new to live something first must die. What needs to die in you so that new life can emerge?" 

The posting and two others were deleted Friday afternoon. 

A woman who answered the phone at the Angel Valley resort Friday said its founders, Michael and Amayra Hamilton, would have no comment. A call to the Hamiltons' home went unanswered. 

Holistic healing
The Angel Valley Spiritual Retreat Center, built on former ranch property in the high-desert and red-rock country of northern Arizona, bills itself as a natural environment for self-discovery and healing through a holistic approach aimed at balancing the mind, emotions, body and spirit. 

The property includes American Indian structures such as teepees, guest houses and outdoor labyrinths made of stones. 

The American Indian ritual in sweat lodges is helpful in restoring balance and changing people's attitudes and self-image, said Joseph Bruchac, author of "The Native American Sweat Lodge: History and Legends." 

American Indian sweat lodges typically hold a maximum of 12 people. 

People have died in sweat lodges in the past. They were either sick tribal elders who voluntarily stayed until they died or people who had heart conditions and were in poor health. 

"The sweat lodge needs to be respected," Bruchac said. "When you imitate someone's tradition and you don't know what you are doing, there's a danger of doing something very wrong." 

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33243288

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