Friday, November 11, 2011

The most racist thing I've seen today...

This video perfectly sums up what is wrong with the newagers and others who engage in cultural appropriation. James Ray admits he has no idea what a local, possibly indigenous, woman at this sacred site is saying. She appears to be explaining the site to visitors. Ray not only ignores her words (that he could have recorded and had translated later, if she gave him permission to do so) but instead he talks over her, giving his outsider interpretation of what the symbols at this site mean, and what religious significance he thinks the site has. Of course, he uses appropriated imagery and his fantasies of Indigenous people's traditions for this, though he admits that he "doesn't understand a word" of it.

Her voice is drowned out, and his replaces it. His voice is broadcast over the Internet, as hers is reduced to background noise, and then forgotten. Misinformation and fantasy replace traditional knowledge. The appropriator says some more racist crap, laughs about the Indigenous people, and laughs about how clever he is.

Next James Ray tells us that his pay-to-pray, "prosperity consciousness" group, World Wealth Society, are over in a nearby "vortex". Now he's making money off the sacred site. They have invaded this indigenous sacred site, and are performing their own idea of a death/rebirth ritual. Or something. If Ray's comments and attitude are any indicator, they have no idea what ceremonies have been traditionally held at this site, or which spirits live there, and which things please them... or anger them. Probably no one in his group had any idea how to call to the local spirits (since they don't understand the language) and probably they were so caught up in their pay-to-pray experience that they didn't think to call on some of their own ancestral spirits. By barging into this site and not knowing the people or spirits of the land, even calling ancestral spirits might have resulted in them stirring up things that would clash with the local spirits. Then again, maybe they did get noticed by someone... as death is following James Ray.

Watch it for yourself. Astonishing:

Thanks to Twinkie Wrangler for finding this.

If James Ray had listened to Indigenous people, the three people who died in his Sedona deathlodge would still be alive. Indigenous people said, "You don't know what you're doing. Don't pretend you are leading one of our ceremonies. Don't try to lead these fake ceremonies at all. No. Stop."

But like so many lower-profile appropriators of his ilk (who, like Ray, come from the dominant culture and never interact with traditional, non-colonized Indigenous people),  Ray decided he knew better than those dumb Indigenes. He knew better: how to better interpret their sacred stories, how to better lead rituals of his own devising on their sacred sites, how to talk to those spirits (despite not understanding a word of their language), how to fulfill the newagers' fantasies of mystical ceremonies they secretly knew no Indigenous person would ever teach them. If the newagers had simply listened to the people who said traditional ceremonies must be in the language of that culture, maybe they wouldn't have paid $10,000 to die.

Multiple witnesses in Ray's manslaughter trial said they trusted that Ray could lead a sweat lodge because he showed them pictures of himself with nameless Indigenous people. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated NDN activists in North America, he would have had a hard time passing off traditional people here as his teachers. (See, NDNs here have phones and email.) So he claimed people from the more rural regions of South America, who have less phone service (and usually no Internet), were his teachers. (This tactic has become very popular with the appropriators, by the way.) But if the consumers of his pay-to-pray pyramid schemes had understood that Indigenous people have names, opinions, and sovereignty over their own cultures, they wouldn't have fallen for this. As long as there is racism, there will be appropriation. And as long as there is appropriation, people will support dangerous frauds like Ray.

Friday, August 19, 2011

State of Emergency: Another Week of Action to Save the Peaks

Activists on-site have announced a state of emergency. Old growth forest is being clearcut and burnt, the land bulldozed. Many of the trees are not even being used for lumber, but piled into twenty foot high slash piles and burned. All of this so privileged tourists can go snow skiing, all of this to destroy a watershed, destroy a landbase, destroy a culture.

Another Week of Action is in progress, with street actions and direct action on the mountain continuing.

"If not now, when? If not you, who?"

"The pictures do not really explain the massive scale. The stump in the foreground is 5ft across and the log pile peeking over the top has a few hundred trees that were many hundreds of years old."

"20 foot tall slash pile being burned. Thanks Lorena Caballero for the photo. Be sure to check her photos for another full album of pictures."

From the album: Converge on the Peaks - by Nuvatuqui Ovi

Monday, August 15, 2011

Save the Peaks Action: August 23

Passing on the word from

Silent Vigil
Tues, August 23
City Hall
Flagstaff AZ

Water is Life, Don't sell ours to Snowbowl!

On Tuesday August 23 we will hold Silent Vigil in front of City Hall and subsequently in city council meeting. It is time to stop for a moment and pay our respects to the plants, trees, animals, and insects who died or lost their homes in the clear-cuts that are taking place up on the mountain at the hands of Arizona Snowbowl.

It would only take four city council members with courage and vision to end this entire treated sewage effluent fiasco forever. With their simple vote to end the contract it could put an end to anger and racism and outright desecration and begin the healing process. It would also keep 180,000,000 gallons of water a year filtering through 1200 feet of volcanic rock back into our own aquifer, instead of dumping it directly above a perched aquifer on the peaks and uphill from the Hart Prairie aquifer.

Flagstaff water for Flagstaff, don't sell it to Snowbowl.

Please join us in the City Council meeting and let them know what their silence feels like. The council chambers can likely hold about 200 people, so come on down and help us fill the room.

Let them know that water is life, don't sell ours to Snowbowl.

Spread the word, and follow the updates at

"What is at stake is our prayers, our ways of life, our cultural survival."

Updates, additional photos, and statements from activists arrested on the Holy San Francisco Peaks on Saturday, courtesy

"What is at stake is our prayers, our ways of life, our cultural survival."

On the Gaelic front, so much of my work in recent years has been about preserving our prayers and songs for the coming generations. This is still culturally vital, but what good are these things if we no longer have the land on which to pray and sing? What use are our ceremonies if the land becomes too desecrated to sustain life? Without land we have no culture, no life, no future.

This is why my prayer is that our cultural preservation of language, songs, prayers and ceremonies, go hand in hand with our cultural preservation that prioritizes protection of the sacred land. The culture sustains us, the land sustains us, and neither can be separated from the other.

Update: Annie over at Tairis in Scotland has weighed in on the issue, as well. Good to see more international coverage, especially from a fellow Gaelic Polytheist who understands how vital this work is to our cultures, whether we are protecting sacred sites in Alba agus Éire or in the diaspora. Moran Taing!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What Part of "Sacred" Don't You Understand?

photo courtesy Outta Your Backpack Media / Censored News

View Video of Lockdown

Indigenous people and their allies were holding a prayer circle on the mountain Saturday morning. They had invited people of all faiths to the sacred site to pray with them in solidarity.

As they were praying in the cool, mountain air, sounds of heavy machinery drove away the sounds of nature. In rumbled the diggers... ready to desecrate and disrupt ceremony, ready to rip the mountain apart right in front of the people. Klee Benally jumped in front of a digger and chained himself to the heavy machinery to stop them, and activists moved to fill in the trenches, rock by rock, handful of earth by handful of earth.

Many of us involved in the struggle to protect sacred sites have stressed:

We protect the sacred sites
so we'll have a place to pray
We pray to have the strength
to protect the sacred land
United in our prayer
we protect the sacred land
Our action is our prayer
Our action is our prayer

How much clearer does the struggle get? How much more vividly can the need for resistance be shown, when clearcutters, diggers and bulldozers violate the sanctity of a prayer circle, and the people who were only there to pray are faced with the immediate decision whether to take it, to flee, or to put their bodies on the line to defend the land?

Full story and additional photos

Nineteen people have been arrested in the past ten days, as Navajo, Hualapai, Hopi, O'odham and other Indigenous people have been protesting the destruction of the sacred mountains.

"The Arizona Snowbowl plans to make snow for tourists on the sacred mountain using recycled waste water. Thirteen Native American Indian Nations hold the mountains sacred. Medicine men gather healing plants and conduct ceremonies on the mountains.
Already, there is clearcutting of the old growth forests for the pipeline and tourist developments."


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Klee Benally Locked Down on Holy Mountain

Two activists arrested, public protest at Coconino County Jail, bail support needed.

Via Brenda Norrell:
Navajo Klee Benally chained himself to an excavator on Snowbowl Road on Saturday, Aug. 14, after machinery disrupted a prayer gathering on San Francisco Peaks. Peaks police liaison Rudy Preston and author Mary Sojourner were arrested. Both have been bailed out of Coconino County Jail, according to a message at 1:30 am on Sunday.


The Week of Action to save the sacred San Francisco Peaks from clearcutting, bulldozing, devastation and desecration has drawn many new supporters to the public marches and rallies, as well as direct action by those risking arrest on the mountain herself. Guess what, the week is over but the actions are not. The fight continues in the courts and defenders are camped all over the mountain, ready to launch direct action from base camps. Actionists have vowed to continue until the site is protected.

At 2pm Mountain Time on Saturday, Klee Benally locked down to heavy machinery on the mountain, laying his body on the line to protect this sacred site. Our prayers and gratitude to Klee and all the brave actionists on the mountain. Follow Censored News and twitter for the most up to date coverage, and the rest of us will do our best to spread the word as well.

More photos from the week of Action and invitation to prayer circle in support of the actions.

Update 5:26pm et: Police vehicles on scene, police are with Klee and other protestors.

Update 5:56pm et: Two actionists arrested: Mary Sojourner and Rudy Preston. Klee Benally is still locked down.

Statement from Protect the Peaks, via Brenda Norrell:
Snowbowl's destruction and desecration is currently being stopped by another blockade involving Klee Benally. Updates and photos are available at Jail support is needed and there will be a gathering outside of the Coconino County Jail (starting now until everyone is released). At this point, it is expected that $900 may be needed to bail out those arrested. If you can contribute to legal funds, please drop off money at the jail. Please support in person or in some other way.

For those wishing to help with bail but unable to get there in person, you can donate via PayPal at or

Update 7:13pm et: Klee Benally cut out of chains, cited for disorderly conduct and released. Rally continues at jail.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Week of Action for the Holy Mountain: brave and beautiful actionists, violent police, attempts at censorship, and the necessity of security culture

The Week of Action is continuing full force in Arizona. Brenda Norrell and activists on Twitter are continuing to provide vital, up to the moment coverage of this breaking story. Indigenous Action Media and are continuing to publish detailed reports of the actions and marches.

Sunday’s march joins four decades of sustained resistance to desecration of the Holy Peaks. Over the past three weeks since Snowbowl began clear-cutting, dozens of protest camps have been established on the mountain.

“The Week of Action is a culmination of efforts to directly address the lack of political will of the Forest Service and City Council to safeguard the community, public health and cultural rights,” said Nadia Del Callejo who was arrested while simply video taping the incident.

“The same profit driven push that has desecrated the Peaks, is the same sickness that has lead to the militarization of the border and is now trying to desecrate South Mountain, which is sacred to all O’odham.” said Alex Soto (Tohono O‘odham ) who was also arrested, “Sacred sites are under attack, but today we said no. Our solidarity in these struggles is re-establishing our traditional networks of support.”

Demonstrators invite everyone to join them
- Monday, August 8, 12:30 pm at the United States Coconino National Forest Service Office at 1824 S. Thomson St
- Wednesday, 12:30pm at High Desert Investment at 504 E Butler Ave
- Wednesday, 4:00pm at Flagstaff City Hall.

Protesters vowed to not stop until the desecration of the Peaks stops. “I am not afraid of what will happen to me if I protest, what I am more afraid of is what will happen if I do not stand up for what the Peaks are,” Stated Del Callejo.

Read the full story at Censored News

What is disturbing about the arrests at these actions is most of them are not your usual, orderly, Civil Disobedience arrests seen at many mass demonstrations or even lockdowns in the past. The police have dragged peaceful marchers out of the crowd for no apparent reason; the only reason seems to be they were recognized as some of the more central organizers, which in some cases would only be known via infiltration, informants, or lapses in security. In other cases, activists in roles that are usually respected as not violating any laws, and not risking arrest, such as police liasons and media personnel, are also being arrested.

It seems clear to me that the police are being ordered to stop these demonstrations - including the completely legal and peaceful marches - even at the risk of breaking the law themselves. Whether the harsh treatment of protestors is simply due to the patterns of racism we have seen in Arizona government, or due to the money thrown around by those who stand to profit from the desecration of the mountain, remains to be seen. I have my opinions in the matter, but will wait to hear more from the actionists on the front line.

Another pattern we're seeing is that Facebook, which is now thoroughly used by law enforcement for gathering intel, has been demanding unintelligible "captchas" of anyone posting links to certain blogs that are covering the actions. Sometimes four or more captchas in a row, and then the post will still not go through. Other activists have been mysteriously locked out of their accounts after posting links to the Save the Peaks coverage.

It is not the first time this has happened. A few months ago I was signing into my account, and for no apparent reason it asked me to identify pictures of people on my friends list. Every picture was of activists and spokespeople, and all of them were Indigenous. All of the pictures were of groups of people, and I was asked to identify the people pictured with my friends. I had never seen some of the pictures before. In one case I was asked to identify the elderly mother of an activist friend. I refused, and eventually Facebook stopped asking me.

If it was just a Facebook account security or social networking issue, Facebook could have asked me about any of the non-Native people on my friends list. There are plenty of them. But that's not what whoever was using FB for intel was interested in.

Learn about Security Culture and stay safe.

Direct Action Continues on Sacred San Francisco Peaks

The action continues on the peaks today. Jail support needed. Updates on this developing story at Censored News and Twitter at #NoPoopSnow.

Breaking News

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Eight Snowbowl Ski Resort protesters locked down to barrels at 5 am, protesting the destruction to sacred San Francisco Peaks.

Police are now cutting away the protesters. Peaks police liaison Rudy Preston arrested at the scene.

Native American are struggling to defend San Francisco Peaks, sacred to 13 area Native American Nations. The Snowbowl Ski Resort is already destroying the sacred mountain with the clearcutting of grandmother trees, as a pipeline is put in to bring sewage water to the ski resort for snowmaking.

Native American medicine men gather healing plants and conduct ceremonies on San Francisco Peaks. The healing herbs would be contaminated by sewage water snow.
Tourists are being asked to boycott Snowbowl Ski Resort. Many Flagstaff businesses use Native American images, jewelry and culture for profit. Flagstaff residents and businesses are asked to protect Native American sacred places and join the efforts to defend San Francisco Peaks.

Thanks to Alex Soto and Darrick Jay Hobbs for sending photos to Censored News, via cellphone.
Photo copyrights: Photo 1: Alex Soto Photo 2: Darrick Jay Hobbs.

And thanks to Brenda Norrell of Censored News for her excellent coverage.

Detailed coverage of the Week of Action and more photos from Indigenous Action Media.

zombie walk draws attention to the dangers of poopsnow

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Seven Arrested at Peaceful March for Sacred San Francisco Peaks

Requesting anyone who can to head over to the Coconino jail right now to join the solidarity and support rally. Reports are coming in that police attacked marchers today.

klee benally being arrested

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Seven of the fiercest warriors who have been protecting the peaks were targeted and arrested in front of Macy's Coffeehouse on Sunday afternoon.

Undercover police have infiltrated the hundred person march and are attempting to squash the growing anti-Snowbowl movement! If you're in Flagstaff, please go join the march downtown. They will soon be moving over to the jail to rally and organize legal/financial support.

This was a peaceful march that was surrounded by police from the minute it formed and they were just waiting to pounce. And they did!

Native Americans are struggling to defend sacred San Francisco Peaks from snow to be made from sewage water at the Snowbowl tourists resort on the Peaks. The mountains are sacred to 13 Native American Nations, medicine plants are gathered there, and ceremonies held there. The pipeline is already resulting in clearcutting of grandmother trees. is taking donations for bail. All bail will be refunded. It is $238 per person.

Check back for updates.

police arresting Klee Benally some more

Up to the moment discussion and immediate updates also happening on Facebook and Twitter.

protesting the desecration of the sacred san francisco peaks

peaceful solidarity march

I am pretty sure all these photos are courtesy of Youth of the Peaks, via Brenda Norrell. Will update later. Action still in progress. More photos at Censored News.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Operation Become The Media - Protect the Sacred San Francisco Peaks

Call to action and request for support: Base camps are forming at the Sacred Peaks. Grab your affinity group and head over, or support in whatever way you can. The landbase and watershed is threatened by developers clearcutting for ski resorts, and their plans to dump sewer water into the snow-making machines. Direct action is in motion, right now.

People are mobilizing, and those putting their bodies on the line are imploring us to spread the word and strengthen their impact in whatever ways we can. Strength and prayers to those holding the line today, for as long as it takes. Moran Taing agus Slàinte Mhath!

Follow the actions live on Twitter at the #nopoopsnow hashtag.

Photo of sacred peaks courtesy Nuvatukya Ovi

Press release via and Censored News:
Operation: Become the Media

Hello all you hard working supporters of sacred sites. We are quickly moving towards the critical mass of people prepared to move this to a full fledged sit-in. Eleven basecamps set and at least 15 more who have announced they have started travel, and growing. The CookShack affinity group has made a public call for joiners, and will be taking a public role. Here are the problems we are running into, especially here in Flagstaff. [To those not on-site] The destruction is not real or everyone is in some stage of denial. Petitions will not save us. The superhuman lawyer Howard Shanker has been neutralized. The coalition court case is now the perfect smokescreen for the Destruction. People sit thinking that a legal decision some time in September will stop destruction that is ALREADY HAPPENING. So join Operation: Become the Media today:

1. Go to the peaks immediately and start filming the destruction. Post it on YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook.

2. Everyone post the links for other to spread the word. Tweet them with #nopoopsnow on #sacredsites.

3. Spread the word on Facebook by tagging your friends. This link will take you to Facebook Event with a note to help you get started tagging right away: Join the Peaks Tagging Crew.

4. Become the media. Don't wait for Randy Wilson to mangle the story. Write the story. Give it to your friends. Who are they going to believe? You and your eyewitness reports or a half-spun version in a newspaper funded partly with Snowbowl money?

5. Help people snap out of it. I know, Tsunamis, Earthquakes, 20% house foreclosure rate, nearly 25% of the country out of work, massive fires from a century of forest abuse, war in the east, war in the west, etc. Yep It's all connected. But it feels really good right now to know that there is one place we can take a stand. We can make a difference. And it is right here, It's the Peaks. It's a start!

6. Spread the word! Petitions were used as toilet paper. Letters were thrown away. The lawsuits have become a smokescreen for the greedy to do their destruction. The destruction is real and it is time to interrupt our normally scheduled lives and converge on the peaks!

Grab your camera, grab a friend, go right up on your public lands and film it and let the world know! It's up to you now. Do not go alone, and if Arizona Snowbowl harasses you, call the police on them. You have the right to be there, it is your land! And film that too :)

photo courtesy brenda norrell

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Racism and Invisible Indians in the James Ray Trial

James Arthur Ray has been found guilty of three counts of Negligent Homicide

I join with the many activists who have followed this trial in being relieved we have a verdict of guilty. Like my colleagues, I would have preferred the manslaughter conviction, which carries a longer sentence. But at least Ray has been found guilty of causing the deaths of three human beings through his negligence. He will do time. May this serve as a deterrent to the other frauds and exploiters out there.

James Arthur Ray exploited Native people by mimicking their ceremonies and selling them for obscene amounts of money. He exploited lost souls looking for a spiritual leader. He killed three people in his sham plastic tent and sent many more to the hospital. I only wish the penalty was more severe for the damage he has done.

I pray that all those who have been exploited and harmed by this arrogant fraud, and by exploiters like him, find justice, completion, peace and healing.

James Arthur Ray, manifesting his future

Racism and Invisible Indians in the James Ray Trial

One of the most horrifying things about the James Ray trial, and the coverage by the mainstream media, is that Native people were rendered largely invisible. Of the many witnesses who testified, only Fawn Foster, a groundskeeper at the Angel Valley
retreat center, claimed to have any Native heritage (I don't know if she does, but this is what she stated on the stand). The defense tried to use her stated ethnicity, and her disapproval of pay-to-pray, as a reason to doubt her testimony. It was ugly and racist.

Even worse was the news coverage on In Session and Headline News. They found a pretendian fraud to lead a badly-done and dangerous fake sweat for their cameras. Then they had the fraud on the air repeatedly to talk as an "expert" on Native ceremonies. The fraud violated so many ceremonial protocols in the footage, it was appalling. Native people from the family he claimed had adopted him went online to speak out and say he is not a member of their family and has no rights to ceremonies. He caused much distress to Native people, but even over objections In Session kept having him back.

A few days after that, In Session had a panel of six people discussing their experiences with "sweat lodges". Not a single one of the people interviewed was Native. They were all non-Natives who dabble in what they think are Native ceremonies. As I wrote to In Session at the time: "Non-Natives chanting vocables in a plastic tent is not a 'Native ceremony.'"

Native people and their supporters wrote and called In Session and Headline News to protest. We blogged and tweeted about it; one group started a petition. The only response was that eventually In Session stopped their coverage of the James Ray trial completely. They never issued a clarification or retraction. They never apologized. Perhaps they were embarrassed they had been tricked by the fraud, and wanted to pretend it never happened.

Though In Session gave the non-Native people multiple days of coverage to opine on Native ceremonies, and to spread more ignorance, the only time I saw any Native person given a chance to speak was a brief phone call with Floyd Hand (Lakota). His brief spot was not promoted the way the non-Natives were; he was given very little time to talk, and the vapid on-air personality interrupted him and ended the call when he didn't give her the sort of sound bites she was looking for.

It was very offensive.

The James Ray trial has provided a few small openings to educate about cultural appropriation and the cultural genocide perpetuated by frauds like James Arthur Ray. But mostly it has been horrible and disappointing: Newagers on parade, racism, and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes. Three people are dead and up until today nothing had really changed, except that a lot of ignorant non-Natives now think anyone can attend a sweat lodge and it's only inappropriate if you make it too hot and too long. Or they don't understand that what James Ray led was not a Native ceremony, and now they mistakenly believe that Native people have scary and deadly practices. Some Pagans who have commented seem to think it's only a matter of a few mistakes in construction and timing, "Oh, he used plastic tarps and overdid it." In terms of non-Native perceptions of Native people and Native lifeways, I'd say the net result has been more of the same ignorance about Native traditions, just on a bigger scale.

Today's verdict is not ideal. Manslaughter convictions would have locked him up for longer. But at least there is a guilty verdict, and some consequences. Maybe some of the exploiters will think a bit longer before they do one of their macho, sham ceremonies, where they (consciously or unconsciously) act out the racist fantasy that they can be "the better Indians" - that they can make their imitation ceremonies longer and hotter, and in airtight deathlodges, because they must know better than those traditionals who've only been doing this for many, many generations. And they must also be the better Indians since apparently they can just attend a few rituals by another fraud and then hang out a shingle as a sweat leader, when those silly Indians have to grow up in the traditions, be trained for decades by people who were raised in these ways, go through ceremonies cultural outsiders don't even know exist in order to be trusted with the right to have a lodge, and then be acknowledged before the whole community as someone who has earned this right. (As the Lakota ways are the ones most-mimicked by the exploiters, including James Ray, I think Chief Arvol Looking Horse's comments on the issue are especially relevant.)

I keep hoping we can use this case as an opportunity for education, and maybe in a small way we have done that. But aside from those who injure and kill ritual participants now knowing there is a precedent for them to face criminal charges, I'm not sure much has changed. I hope there will be more questioning of cult leaders like Ray. But with our increasingly desperate society, with the environmental and economic disasters we're facing, many people seem all too willing to turn off their brains and follow anyone who claims to have easy answers, or easy solutions. My prediction is that more people are going to die. Newagers and NeoPagans are still leading plastic sweats. Back when I was attending Neopagan gatherings in the 1980's, I saw Neopagans make every single one of the mistakes Ray made - the dangerous changes to lodge construction, the macho changes in tradition, the ignorant mixing of fragments of ceremonies, the ignorance of proper spiritual and physical safety protocols, all of it. The only difference, really, is that Ray charged thousands of dollars whereas Neopagans, if they charge money, usually charge hundreds.* Unless something changes in people's attitudes about cultural integrity and cultural misappropriation, the next deaths may be at a Neopagan gathering.

For those who've never researched Gaelic (Irish and Scottish) Sweat House traditions, if someone brings that up you may be interested in this earlier post: New Age Death Sweats IV: Jackboots at the Seder Table. The section specifically about comparative Sweat-related traditions, "But Sweatlodge is Universal", starts about 1/3 of the way through.

*Yes, the old joke does still seem true for much of the Neopagan community:
Q: What's the difference between a Newage gathering and a Neopagan gathering?
A: A decimal point.

For those of you who may not know, the main reason I have very little to do with the mainstream of the Neopagan community these days is the cultural appropriation and usually unintentional, but still very real and unacceptable, racism that is so prevalent there. I just couldn't take it anymore. By the technical definition I'm still a type of modern Pagan, in that I'm a polytheist and practice an earth-based tradition that is both pre-Christian and other-than-Christian. But our Gaelic Polytheist (GP) community has largely different values than the eclectic Neopagan community. We don't have a lot of overlap. As participants in a traditional lifeway, my GP friends, family and I have more in common with our Indigenous friends. These days when I participate in large-scale gatherings it's usually at Gaelic cultural events that are generally secular in nature, or Interfaith gatherings with Indigenous friends and colleagues.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Áine's Day / Grianstad an tSamhraidh

Thugamar féin an samhradh linn

Bábóg na Bealtaine, maighdean an tSamhraidh,
Suas gach cnoc is síos gach gleann,
Cailíní maiseacha bán-gheala gléasta,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

Samhradh, samhradh, bainne na ngamhna,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
Samhradh buí na nóinín glégeal,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.

Thugamar linn é ón gcoill chraobhaigh,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
Samhradh buí ó luí na gréine,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.


Tá an fhuiseog ag seinm ‘sag luascadh sna spéartha,
Áthas do lá is bláth ar chrann.
Tá an chuach is an fhuiseog ag seinm le pléisiúr,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.



Mayday doll, maiden of Summer
Up every hill and down every glen,
Beautiful girls, radiant and shining,
We have brought the Summer in.

Summer, Summer, milk of the calves,
We have brought the Summer in.
Yellow summer of clear bright daisies,
We have brought the Summer in.

We brought it in from the leafy woods,
We have brought the Summer in.
Yellow Summer from the time of the sunset,
We have brought the Summer in.


The lark is singing and swinging around in the skies,
Joy for the day and the flower on the trees.
The cuckoo and the lark are singing with pleasure,
We have brought the Summer in.


Traditional Gaeilge. Translation from Singing in Irish Gaelic by Mary McLaughlin. Thanks to Treasa for various essentials. Some background on the song, which is usually sung at Bealtaine, but seemed apt around the fire today.

Press Release from Six Protesters arrested at San Francisco Peaks

Native women locked down in the trench,
blockading placement of the pipeline
Photo courtesy of Kyle Boggs

This post is a followup to my Thursday, June 16, 2011 post about the direct action taking place at the sacred San Francisco Peaks in Arizona. Dine' and other Indigenous people and supporters are taking direct action to stop a proposed pipeline that would douse the mountain with sewer water, polluting a sacred ceremonial site and harming the medicinal herbs grown there. See that post for the initial press release from the day of the action.


Sunday June 19, 2011

Contact: Beth Lavely
Tel: 928.254.1064

Protest Halts Snowbowl Wastewater Pipeline Construction

End Destruction and Desecration of Holy San Francisco Peaks

Flagstaff, AZ – At sunrise on Thursday, June 16, 2011, more than a dozen people stopped ski area construction on the Holy San Francisco Peaks. Six individuals used various devices to lock themselves to heavy machinery and to each other inside the waste water pipeline trench.

Kristopher Barney, Dine’ (Navajo) & one of the six who locked himself to an excavator stated, “This is a continuation of years of prayers and resistance. It is our hope that all Indigenous Peoples, and all others, throughout the North, East, South and West come together to offer support to the San Francisco Peaks and help put a stop to Snowbowl’s plan to further destroy and desecrate such a sacred, beautiful and pristine mountain!”

Photo courtesy of Kyle Boggs

“What part of sacred don’t they understand? Through our actions today, we say enough! The destruction and desecration has to end!” said Marlena Teresa Garcia, 16, a young Diné woman and one of the six who chose to lock down. “The Holy San Francisco Peaks is home, tradition, culture, and a sanctuary to me, and all this is being desecrated by the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort. So now I, as a young Diné woman, stand by Dook’o’osliid’s side taking action to stop cultural genocide. I encourage all indigenous youth to stand against the desecration that is happening on the Holy San Francisco Peaks and all other sacred sites”, said Garcia after being arrested and released.

Warrior women arrested at action
Photo courtesy of Out Of Your Backpack Media / Beth Lavely

A banner was hung on the side of the trench that read “Defend the Sacred!” where two protesters were locked together. Over the half mile of open construction, the group chanted, “Protect Sacred Sites, Defend Human Rights!”, “No desecration for recreation!” “Stop the cultural genocide! Protect the Peaks!”, and “Human health over corporate wealth”.

“This waste water pipeline will poison the environment and to children who may eat snow made from it. Snowbowl plans to spray millions of gallons of waste water snow, which is filled with cancer causing and other harmful contaminants, as well as clear-cut over 30,000 trees. The Peaks are a pristine and beautiful place, a fragile ecosystem, and home to rare and endangered species of plants and animals,” said Evan Hawbaker, one of the protesters who locked themselves to the excavator.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service, the City of Flagstaff Mayor and Council, and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality are all responsible for permitting Snowbowl to endanger public health, destroy the environment, and desecrate the Holy Peaks,” said Nadia del Callejo, one of the protesters who locked themselves in the trench.

“Throughout history, acts of resistance and civil disobedience have been taken by young and old against injustices such as this. This action is not isolated but part of a continued resistance to human rights violations, to colonialism, to corporate greed, and destruction of Mother Earth,” added Del Callejo.

A separate group of supporters, some wearing hazmat suits, “quarantined” the entrance to Snowbowl Road. Banners were stretched across the road that read “Protect Sacred Sites” and “Danger! Health Hazard – Snowbowl”.

Photo courtesy of Protect the Peaks

Shortly after initiating the action, a Snowbowl security guard spotted two people locked to an excavator. By 6:00 a.m. more than 15 armed agents, including the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department, City of Flagstaff Police, & the FBI stormed the mountain.

At approximately 7:30 a.m., the Flagstaff Fire Department, assisted by County Sheriffs, started aggressively cutting two people from the excavator.

“We took every possible measure to ensure our safety. Our actions were taken to safeguard Indigenous Peoples’ cultural survival, our community’s health and this sensitive mountain ecosystem. Those who cut us out endangered our well being ignoring the screams to stop. They treated our bodies the way they’re treating this holy mountain. If they had their way, we wouldn’t even exist. There is more danger in doing nothing. To idly stand by and allow this destruction and desecration is to allow cultural genocide”, said the other young Dine’ woman who chose to lock down.

Photo courtesy of Protect the Peaks

“The police’s use of excessive force was in complete disregard for my safety. They pulled at my arms and forced my body and head further into the machine, all the while using heavy duty power saws within inches of my hand,” said Evan Hawbaker.
After being cut out, the two were treated by paramedics and arrested for trespassing. The police, firefighters, and paramedics then proceeded to cut two people locked in a nearby trench.

Extraction took about forty minutes and the two were immediately seen by paramedics after being unlocked. One of the individuals sustained injuries to their arm from abusive force. Both were charged with trespassing, with an added charge of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”, for one of the individuals. Police proceeded to unlock the last group who was also inside the trench nearby.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Boggs

“Our only offense was resistance; resistance of the implications that’s Snowbowl’s development exudes. The police’s defense was to implement tactics of fear to reach a goal, essentially to continue construction as soon as possible. Our safety was prioritized second to Snowbowl’s demands. I was one of the demonstrators in the trench, locked at the neck with a partner. I was not aggressive. My lock was sawed through, inches away from both of our heads, secured solely and recklessly by the hands of a deputy. During the process, we were repeatedly asked to chant to reaffirm our consciousness. The police’s response was hasty, taking about ten minutes in total–it was dehumanizing,” said Hailey Sherwood, one of the last protester to be cut out.

Both women were also seen by paramedics. One was sent to the hospital for heat exhaustion although she denied feeling dehydrated. She started to faint during the extraction when police, EMTs, and firefighters attempted to force the pair to stand and move them from their location. Both women repeatedly expressed that they were being hurt and choked by law enforcement officers and firefighters. Both of the protesters were arrested for trespassing, with additional charges to one of them for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” and “endangerment”.

Photo courtesy of Out Of Your Backpack Media

Four of the protesters were taken to County Jail. The two young people were taken to Coconino County Juvenile Detention Center. FBI agents attempted to question four of those arrested.

As word spread about the demonstration to protect the Peaks, overwhelming support and solidarity poured in from throughout the community and internationally.
Bail was raised shortly after the arrests. All demonstrators were released by 3:30 p.m. Three of the protesters, including Marlena Teresa Garcia, immediately filed a report for excessive use of force after being released.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Boggs

“How can we be trespassers on our Holy Site?” questioned Barney. “I do not agree with these and the other charges, we will continue our resistance.”


All photos courtesy KUYI Hopi Public Radio, reprinted with permission. All copyrights revert to the original photographers.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Closing Arguments in James Ray Deathlodge Manslaughter Trial

Prosecutor Sheila Polk delivers closing arguments in James Ray manslaughter trial

Thank you, Twinkie Wrangler for transcribing highlights from the closing arguments in the James Arthur Ray, newage shameon deathlodge trial: Closing Arguments in Arizona v. James Arthur Ray

The defense is delivering their closing as I type this. For the play-by-play, live coverage follow the James Ray Daily and the #JamesRay hashtag on Twitter.

For those wondering how to lead an eclectic, newage ritual that kills people, this is also a good intro. < / sarcasm >

Some quotes from the transcript:

Laurie Gennari ... heard a voice call out, “She’s not responding”.

And at another time, she heard someone call out, “She’s not breathing.” She heard Mr. Ray respond, “leave her there we’ll deal with it at the end of the round.”


In his pre-event briefing, Mr. Ray described all the signs and symptoms of heat related illness, but then told them to ignore them and that it was safe to do so.

Mr. Ray encouraged them to let others have their own experience and not to interfere.

Rather than teaching participants that altered mental status is hallmark of heat exhaustion, Mr. Ray encouraged them to push through and endure and that they would have a breakthrough.


You’ve heard the defendant’s own words describing how he was intentionally taking the lodge to extreme heat to achieve an altered mental state, telling and them to ignore signs of their bodies.

Sweat lodge ceremonies are not inherently dangerous events.

Endurance challenges where participants are told to ignore signs of heat illness are incredibly dangerous.

No one could imagine that James Ray would ignore calls for help and allow participants to pass out in that tent and just leave them there.

He knew.

He intended to introduce hellaciously hot heat and steam.

He told participants to ignore their body’s warning signs of distress and pushing through pain and suffering was a good thing.

He told them they were not supposed to speak during sweat lodge ceremony unless asked by him.

James Ray audio clip: “…By the time we get to the 27th round – just kidding I will promise you we’ll have at least 7 rounds it just depends on how I get inspired. You’ve got to surrender to it. We’ll be doing some prayers and chants and I may go into an altered state. …

"I’m the master of the lodge and when I tell you to do something that’s when you do it."

He told [participants] they could not leave the tent during a round. ... he said, “I am the grand master in this temple and I need you to think of it in this way. The person running the lodge is like a priest.”


What you must consider is did the defendant’s conduct pose a substantial and unjust risk of death and was the defendant aware of the risk. Did he substantially disregard the substantial risk of death?

To prove crime of manslaughter you would have to prove Mr. Ray was aware of the risk of death and ignored it.

I submit to you that Mr. Ray was aware of that risk.

His words before and during the heat challenge itself is proof to you that he was aware.

His conduct inside the sweat lodge as round after round after round more people got sick and his conduct about what he did and what he did not do shows you that what was happening is what he intended to happen. You’ve heard his intent was to create this extreme mental state.

But he intended to use that heat to take them up to that brink of death and think they were getting something for their $10,000.

That’s why he doesn’t stop as people are being dragged out. This is what he intended.


Witness after witness has testified about the growing chaos in this tent starting really about the end of round four.

Amy Grimes passed out on Kim Brinkley. She testified she yelled out for help and that Amy was dragged out.

Somebody drags out Amy right past the defendant.

Lou Caci ... delirious and unconscious, falling into that pit of heated rocks.

You have heard so much testimony about the growing chaos, moans, requests for help, dragged out limp and lifeless in front of the defendant.

All the information that he had about people being in distress as early as the fourth round and all the opportunity he had to stop this challenge. He didn’t.

Mr. Ray’s desire to make people think they were experiencing something unique took precedence over their safety.

Debbie Mercer testified that she assisted about 25 people.

Beverly Bunn testified that everything was chaos after the 4th round. Sydney Spenser was dragged out completely lifeless right past the defendant. The defendant shouted, “Everybody quiet down! I am in charge!”

When Scott Barratt tried to move Linda Andresano, the defendant yelled at him to stop. Scott Barratt testified that he stopped because he was afraid that the defendant would yell at him again.

Mr. Ray said, “Just leave her. We need to keep going.”

All these opportunities to stop that event.

These deaths were not inevitable.

Ask yourself , if the defendant had stopped the ceremony when he had these warnings would Kirby, James and Liz still be alive?

There's more. Much more...

It is abundantly clear that by the fourth round, Ray knew people were in medical distress, and needing medical attention. He ignored their distress, told others to ignore their distress, and kept calling for more rocks, more buckets of water to create more heat and steam. He continued this hell-lodge for four more rounds as people lost consciousness and three died. He watched them vomit and lose control of their bodily functions. He watched them unconscious and not breathing, and still he went on. He could have stopped it and he did not. Let's hope the jury gets it and locks this guy up.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Activists locked down on San Francisco Peaks


Two activists have been arrested, one Dineh, one non-Native. Six to eight others remain locked down and are negotiating with the police.

UPDATED Thursday Night:
Six activists were eventually arrested. See updates on Censored News and at end of this post.
Activists locked down on destruction equipment

Updates are coming fastest via Brenda Norrell at Censored News, Twitter, and contacts on-site. Facebook is censoring Brenda Norrell's updates again.

Press release via LOCKED DOWN: Protest halts Snowbowl destruction on San Francisco Peaks

Thursday morning, June 16, 2011
Contact: Beth Lavely
Tel: 928.254.1064


Today we take direct action to stop further desecration and destruction of the Holy San Francisco Peaks. We stand with our ancestors, with allies and with those who also choose to embrace diverse tactics to safeguard Indigenous People’s cultural survival, our community’s health, and this sensitive mountain ecosystem.

On May 25th 2011, sanctioned by the US Forest Service, owners of Arizona Snowbowl began further destruction and desecration of the Holy San Francisco Peaks. Snowbowl’s hired work crews have laid over a mile and a half of the planned 14.8 mile wastewater pipeline. They have cut a six foot wide and six foot deep gash into the Holy Mountain. Although a current legal battle is under appeal, Snowbowl owners have chosen to undermine judicial process by rushing to construct the pipeline. Not only do they disregard culture, environment, and our children’s health, they have proven that they are criminals beyond reproach.

Four weeks of desecration has already occurred. Too much has already been taken. Today, tomorrow and for a healthy future, we say “enough!” As we take action, we look to the East and see Bear Butte facing desecration, Mt. Taylor facing further uranium mining; to the South, Mt. Graham desecrated, South Mountain threatened, the US/Mexico border severing Indigenous communities from sacred places; to the West, inspiring resistance at Sogorea Te, Moana Keya facing desecration; to the North, Mt. Tenabo, Grand Canyon, Black Mesa, and so many more… our homelands and our culture under assault.

We thought that the USDA, heads of the Forest Service, had meant it when they initiated nationwide listening sessions to protect sacred places. If the process was meaningful, we would not have to take action today.

More than 13 Indigenous Nations hold the Peaks Holy. The question has been asked yet we hear no response, “what part of sacred don’t you understand?”

For hundreds of years resistance to colonialism, slavery, & destruction of Mother Earth has existed and continues here in what we now call Arizona.

The United States recently moved to join the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, evidently the US has not currently observed and acted upon this declaration, otherwise we would not be taking action today. This document informs our action, we also assert that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples supports the basis for our action:
“Article 11, 1: Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artifacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.

“Article 11, 2: States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.

“Article 12, 1: Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.

“Article 25: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard."

For nearly 4 decades, resistance to desecration and destruction of the Peaks has been sustained. Prayer vigils, petitions, lobbying, protests, and many diverse tactics have been embraced. Historic court battles have been fought.

We continue today resisting Snowbowl’s plan to spray millions of gallons of wastewater snow, which is filled with cancer causing and other harmful contaminants, as well as clear-cut over 30,000 trees. The Peaks are a pristine and beautiful place, a fragile ecosystem, and home to rare and endangered species of plants and animals.

Our action is a prayer.

We invite those of you who could not join us today and who believe in the protection of culture, the environment and community health to resist destruction and desecration of the Peaks:

- Join us and others in physically stopping all Snowbowl development!
- Honor and defend Indigenous Peoples’ inherent right to protect Sacred Places.
- Resist colonialism and capitalism! Embrace diverse tactics to end Snowbowl’s and all corporate greed.
- Demand USDA end Snowbowl’s Special Use Permit.
- Demand that the City of Flagstaff Mayor and Council find a way out of their contract to sell wastewater to Snowbowl.
- Demand that Arizona Department of Environmental Quality change its permission allowing wastewater to be used for snowmaking.

KUYI Hopi Radio is covering the protests live.
Streaming radio:
KUYI updates on twitter:!/KUYI

From their website:
Snowbowl Pipeline Protest

Developing Story: 9am PT

At sunrise Thursday June 16 2011 six protestors chained themselves together at the trench site off U.S. Highway 180 and Snowbowl Road. Four chained themselves together in trencher & tree removal machinery and two to each other in the pipeline trench itself. Approximately one hour ago two protestors attached to the axle of a bulldozer were removed and taken into custody. As of one half hour ago the two protestors in the trench were in the process of being removed. Snowbowl Road was closed off by protest supporters and remains closed & a work stoppage remains in effect.

Flagstaff Police Department, Coconino County Sheriff Officers, Flagstaff Fire Department and Paramedics are on site.

"Protect The Peaks" contact and self proclaimed "police liaison" Beth Lavely states shortly after the action began Snowbowl-contracted security arrived at approximately 5:30am and that the first FPD officer arrived on scene approximately 15 minutes later. Ms. Lavely estimates approximately 20 law enforcement personnel remain and that this protest puts into action the "Human right of all indigenous people to protect their sacred sites". Lavely mentioned that "the majority of officers have been respectful of the protestors. I might even call a few sympathetic."


Initial early morning phone calls and email to the offices of AZ Snowbowl have not yet been returned.

Stay tuned to KUYI for updates as we confirm them.

Update 1:05pm, EDT: Six people have now been cut away from the equipment and arrested. First two arrested are on way to County jail.

Update 3:06pm, EDT: Received word about an hour ago that six people have been arrested, including four Native Americans. They should be at the county jail by now. They need help with bail money. Will update again when I have a contact for bail fund.

Update 9:45pm, EDT: Brenda Norrell reports that everyone's bail is covered but to keep the donations coming at Indigenous Action to cover the legal expenses.

Last I heard, two activists were out on bail, with four still in jail and a rally going on outside.

So far, mainstream media coverage of the action has been biased and culturally clueless, with most stories simply picking up the AP line, and not even mentioning why the activists were there - to defend a sacred site from desecration and devastation. Most coverage has omitted the fact that this is holy ground for thirteen tribes, that Indigenous people hold ceremonies there, and that the proposed development would douse herbal medicines, utilized by traditional healers, with sewage water.

More details: Media Watch: Snowbowl and racism in the media

Photos from protest.

All photos courtesy Censored News