In the aftermath of the tragedy at Angel Valley Retreat Center, where an incompetently conducted “sweat lodge” held by Californian self-help guru James Arthur Ray killed three participants, ... the Lakota tribe of North and South Dakota has filed a lawsuit against the United States, the state of Arizona, James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center.
The lawsuit refers to the Treaty of Fort Laramie between the United States and the Lakota Nation from 1868, which states that “if bad men among the whites or other people subject to the authority of the United States shall commit any wrong upon the person or the property of the Indians, the United States will (...) proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained.” The plaintiffs hold that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center have “violated the peace between the United States and the Lakota Nation” and have caused the “desecration of our Sacred Oinikiga by causing the death of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore”. The lawsuit further holds that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center have committed fraud by impersonating Indians and must be held responsible for causing the deaths of the victims and injuries of the survivors, and for the destruction of evidence through the dismantling of the sweat lodge.
Read the full article here: Lakota Nation files lawsuit against parties in sweat lodge incident. Apologies for the crassly commercial ads on the newspaper's website.
The Fort Laramie Treaty was also instrumental in setting a precedent for justice in a rape case this summer: Justice and Honors for Lakota Women.
Update, Sat. Nov. 14, 2009: More details from Don't Pay to Pray, here: Lakota Nation Calls James Arthur Ray on his Disrespect, calling all supporters of cultural preservation to stand up for the voices of the Indigenous peoples harmed by these appropriations and desecrations.
Thanks to Heather from Don't Pay to Pray for passing this along. Follow her updates on Twitter.