Motivational Speaker charged in Sweat Lodge Deaths
The story of the sweat lodge deaths at the sweat lodge run by James Arthur Ray appeared in Yahooo, but was then lost. Here is the story again for those wanting to follow the wiki links. Below the story I express my own appreciation for the native sweats that I have taken part in for many years.
Motivational speaker charged in sweat lodge death sBy FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press Writer FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray was arrested
Wednesday afternoon on three counts of manslaughter for deaths that happened
after a sweat lodge ceremony he led in northern Arizona last year. Ray was
taken into custody on an indictment at his attorney’s office in Prescott,
and was to be booked into the Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde, sheriff’s
officials said. His bond was set at $5 million.Ray’s attorneys said Wednesday he surrendered to authorities but that the
charges were unjust and they were confident he would be exonerated in court.”This was a terrible accident, but it was an accident, not a criminal act,”
Ray attorney Luis Li said. “James Ray cooperated at every step of the way,
providing information and witnesses to the authorities showing that no one
could have foreseen this accident.”
The Oct. 8 sweat lodge ceremony was intended to be the highlight of Ray’s
five-day “Spiritual Warrior” event at a retreat he rented just outside
Sedona. He told participants, who paid more than $9,000 each to attend, that
it would be one of the most intense experiences of their lives.
About halfway through the two-hour ceremony, some began feeling ill,
vomiting and collapsing inside the 415-square-foot structure. Despite that,
Ray urged participants to push past their physical weaknesses and chided
those who wanted to leave, authorities and participants have said.
Two people – Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of
Milwaukee – passed out inside the sweat lodge and died that night at a
hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., slipped into a coma and died
a week later. Eighteen others were hospitalized.
Neuman’s daughter, Andrea Puckett, said Wednesday she was pleased with Ray’s
arrest and the effort authorities put into the investigation.
“It helps that he is, for now, being stopped from doing what he’s doing,
from harming anyone else, and that’s the biggest relief for me and my family
right now,” said Puckett, of Bloomington, Minn.
Participant Beverley Bunn previously told The Associated Press that Ray did
nothing to help the sick during the October sweat lodge ceremony. Following
Ray’s arrest Wednesday, she said she had “many tears of joy.”
“It’s kind of a strange feeling,” said Bunn, who was not among the
hospitalized. “We’ve been waiting a long time.”
Ray’s attorneys have said he took all necessary safety precautions and
wasn’t aware of any medical problems until the ceremony was over. Ray
declined to speak with authorities that night, on the advice of his
attorneys, public records have shown.
Authorities said they quickly determined the deaths were not accidental and
focused their investigation on Ray. They conducted hundreds of interviews
that reached into Ray’s past ceremonies and events, including one in which a
man fell unconscious during a 2005 sweat lodge ceremony at the same retreat
The self-help superstar who teaches people about financial and spiritual
wealth uses free seminars to recruit followers to more expensive events. His
company, James Ray International, is based in Carlsbad, Ca.
Ray’s representatives have said there was no way Ray could have predicted
the night’s tragic events. Had he heard any pleas for help inside the
pitch-black sweat lodge, he would have stopped the ceremony immediately,
Ray’s attorneys said.
Documents released in the investigation showed that some people lost
consciousness and others suffered broken bones at past Ray-led events and
that Ray largely ignored medical problems that arose.
In the weeks after the deaths, lawsuits accused Ray and the owners of the
Angel Valley Retreat Center where the sweat lodge was held of negligence and
fraud. Ray’s publisher postponed two book releases, and Ray canceled his
appearances amid heavy criticism from survivors.
Amayra Hamilton, one of the Angel Valley owners, has said the staff had
minimal contact with Ray over the seven years he held sweat lodges there,
and that other groups had used the same lodge for ceremonies without any
Bunn said she believes the “Spiritual Warrior” events should be called off
“It frightens me that I didn’t stand back a little more,” she said.
- Dougherty, John (11 October 2009). “Deaths at Sweat Lodge Bring Soul-Searching”. The New York Times.
- Fonseca, Felicia. “Motivational speaker charged in sweat lodge deaths”. Yahoo! News.[dead link]
- Associated Press (3 February 2010). “Motivational speaker charged in sweat lodge deaths”. ABC30, KFSN Fresno.
- Rehfeld, Nina.“Lakota Nation files lawsuit against parties in sweat lodge incident”,
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The sweat lodge (also called purification ceremony or simply sweat) is a hut, typically dome-shaped and made with natural materials, used by Indigenous peoples of the Americas for ceremonial steam baths and prayer.
There are several styles of structures used in different cultures; these include a domed or oblong hut similar to a wickiup, a permanent structure made of wood and earth, or even a simple hole dug into the ground and covered with planks or tree trunks. Stones are typically heated and then water poured over them to create steam. In ceremonial usage, these ritual actions are accompanied by traditional prayers and songs.
I have been participating in many sweat lodges for many of years, from 1990 to today, from Colorado to the Yukon. My most intense time of sweating was when I was in 100 Mile House, a town in Northern British Columbia. There sweats were held almost every weekend, and I participated many times over the 5 years that I lived there. The local First Nation people were often present, and ran the sweat, or the sweat was run by a few while people who had been initiated into running the sweats and learnt from native people.
The sweats usually consisted of 4 rounds and took 2-4 hours to complete. As the sweat lodge was right by a small creek we would take dips in the creek in between sweats. In winter, the creek would be frozen for several months, and we would chop holes in the ice for us to climb into the water. So many times the beauty of not only being in the sweat, but the beauty of being outside the sweat and drumming for those inside was immensely spiritual, gratifying, glorious and blissful.
One of my most beautiful experiences in sweat lodge was after the death of my father. In the sweat the leader asked us to call on the spirit of those past, and my dad made his presence known in the most blissful feeling. I knew that he was not just ok, but beyond ok and in total bliss.
He was radiating such love and appreciation for me and for all that is.
This experience gave me new insights into the life after death, the meaning of life, and how to live even more joyfully and blissfully.
My big take away from that experience is to live fully. NOW.
My big take away and RECOMMENDATION from the experience of Sweating is for everyone to please consider taking regular sweats, ideally with native people or people trained by native people, so that the true spiritual significance can be experienced, enjoyed and imbibed.