[saymaListserv] Re: From Lynne Phillips RE: Quaker Sweat Lodge

Lynne Phillips lphillip at netidea.com
Wed Apr 20 15:38:18 JEST 2005

Dear all,
I appreciate George's message in correcting my remarks made at a meeting 
for worship for business for Long Range Conference Planning committee, 
March 2005.

I have purchased and read the books by Bucko and Bruchac.  I am aware that 
there are aboriginal/First Nations/Native Americans who see the sweat lodge 
as a spiritual gift that can be shared.

However, there are many who disagree.  I am quoting with permission an 
email from Sarah Chandler who is currently clerk of Canadian Friends 
Service Committee's subcommittee Quaker Aboriginal Affairs 
Committee.  Jennifer Preston Howe is the CFSC staff person for the QAAC 
committee.  I have included Bill's email (hoping that it's OK to forward 
his words as he reflects some of the Canadian YM experience in this 
area).  Bill Curry lives in Saskatchewan.  He and his wife have been 
involved with First Nations peoples in many ways.

Seeking the Light,

>From: "Sarah Chandler" <schan at uniserve.com>
>To: "Bill Curry" <mailliw at sasktel.net>
>Cc: "Lynne Phillips" <lphillip at netidea.com>
>Subject: RE: RE: fgc re sweatlodges
>Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2005 08:51:37 -0700
>Hi Bill,
>Maybe we can set aside some time to talk about this at WHYM, if you like.
>I had an experience at the Friends and Native Americans Gathering in
>Boulder last April that has left me pondering deeply. The discussion came
>up as to when it was appropriate for "outsiders" to participate in sacred
>ceremonies. It was strongly argued that "never" was the appropriate answer.
>Inez Talamantez, professor of Indigenous Spirituality at the University of
>California, made the point strongly that not only are we not grounded in
>what we are doing, but we can actually do harm. She cited specific examples
>where ceremonies are only performed by people specially trained to perform
>them, and even then, they are performed in secret....to keep the world in
>balance. Others echoed her sentiments - even those who said they had
>allowed outsiders to participate in the past, but had decided not to do so
>any more.
>Gerald One Feather of the Lakota Sioux nation said that there had been a
>broad policy for awhile among the nations to allow outsiders in to
>experience certain ceremonies. That policy has been reversed because of
>abuses, and concerns that people were participating in ways that could cause
>For myself,I have mixed emotions. My sweat lodge experiences have been
>life-changing. The first experience, a private one, was organized by
>Quakers for Quakers but led by an "accredited" Secwepemc sweat leader and
>her assistant. Another was a womens' sweat at a womens' gathering at
>Lil'Wat (Mt Currie). Others have been by invitation to (indigenous) family
>sweat ceremonies, where we are considered to be part of the extended family.
>I have always avoided sweats where the leader is unknown to me or I feel
>uneasy about qualifications or purpose. I expressed my thoughts that this
>might be OK, but there were several there who expressed concern that even
>this was not OK.
>I would hope that it will continue to be acceptable for sensitive
>individuals to be invited to participate in ceremonies, as observers, as
>inter-spiritual experiences....much as one can be invited to attend Hindu,
>Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Quaker worship. I think it is profoundly
>important to peoples' understandings of one another.
>However, I absolutely feel that it is inappropriate for one of us to take on
>the facilitation of such ceremonies, or even to participate in them if there
>is not general consensus that we should do so.. And, I expect, if we can
>dig underneath the oppression of traditional ceremonies by the churches, we
>can find similar ceremonies that we could engage in, within our own European
>cultural backgrounds, if we feel the need to do this.
>Thanks for raising the topic. Let me know if you feel a discussion would be
>of interest.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: mailliw at sasktel.net [mailto:mailliw at sasktel.net]
>Sent: 18 April 2005 12:23
>To: Sarah Chandler
>Cc: Jennifer Preston Howe; Tuulia Law; Lynne Phillips
>Subject: Re: RE: fgc re sweatlodges
>Hello Sarah,
>Thanks for writing.
>The FGC issue sounds more difficult than I realized.
>I have been wondering if in Canada - at WHYM, CYM, where/whenever truly
>appropriate - we might be able to model how to approach offering such
>experience for Friends, especially youth.
>This thought of a truly respectful sweatlodge at one of our gatherings soon
>shifts to going to a host community (ie rather than bringing a 'program' to
>a gathering). [I recall a few cases - eg Neekaunis? - of Aboriginal/Friends
>youth getting together; with mutual respect, such cultural etc activity has
>sufficient value in itself.]
>In any case, we need to remain aware of sharing in something sacred. As way
>opens, particulars can come clear - with all the steps it takes, including
>participating in the physical and other preparational work.
>In meantime, it is interesting to learn more of these challenges in FGC.
>With Good Spring Wishes,

>Forwarded by request
>----- Original Message -----
>From: George Price
>To: AFM Friends ; sayma at kitenet.net ; free polazzo
>Cc: Bruce Birchard ; Liz Perch
>Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 12:10 PM
>Subject: Re: [afmdiscussion] 2005 FGC Gathering
>I want to make a correction in what you quoted of what I said. Lynn 
>Phillps corrected me when I said she wanted to see the QSL at the 2006 
>Gathering. She said that she would like to see a workshop about the sweat 
>but says that she doesn't think that we should do a sweat without the 
>permission and collaboration of local Indians. In recalling her experience 
>with the Native American teacher to whom I referred she said " the 
>Anishinabe healer said he would not forbid any one to do a sweat lodge if 
>that was their spiritual journey." I think this is an important point that 
>may help us to resolve this issue. The QSL is not a Native American 
>ceremony. I have made that abundantly clear since its inception. The 
>reason it is not is because of my sensitivity toward Native American 
>concerns that others not appropriate their ceremonies. My sensitivity on 
>this issue has grown from my extensive education from academic and 
>traditional Native American teachers. We have NOT appropriated a ceremony 
>- we have developed a new ceremony which is based in part on the Native 
>American tradition of the sweat. It is very different and has elements of 
>several traditions incorporated. It is an example of syncretism - the 
>melding of different spiritual ideas in to a new one. All spiritual 
>traditions are examples of syncretism. Native Americans that have taken 
>the time to understand what we are doing understand that this is a Quaker 
>ceremony and have approved of our doing it.
>What we have before is a decision to either follow and empower a long term 
>tested spiritual leading or to bow to a nebulous political complaint. 
>Spirit is not owned by anyone and for anyone to attempt to enforce their 
>spiritual or political will on others is tyrannical. I have been accused 
>of being culturally ignorant and insensitive on this issue and that is 
>simply not true. I have spent most of my life reseaching and educating 
>myself on Native American concerns. If those who oppose our use of the 
>sweat would take the time to educate themselves more deeply on this issue 
>they will find a more enlightened point of view. I recomend Raymond 
>Bucko's book, The Lakota Ritual of the Sweat Lodge and Joseph Bruchac's 
>book, The Native American Sweat Lodge. Also Mikkel Aaland's book Sweat can 
>give readers a view of the universal nature of sweat lodges as practiced 
>by people all over the world.
>George Price 4-20-2005
>Liz, I would like you to forward the above to LRCP members along with 
>Free's writings - Thanks George

Lynne Phillips
Rossland, BC

"Spiritual life is like living water
that springs up from the very depths
of our own spiritual experience.
In spiritual life everyone has to drink
from his or her own well."
St. Bernard of Clairvaux

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