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Old 01-02-2005, 03:37 PM
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Default Article: Federal prisons increase restrictions for Native Ceremonies

For full article, please visit link!

http://www.indiancountry.com/content...TOKEN=72970967


Federal prisons increase restrictions

Posted: December 31, 2004
by: Brenda Norrell / Indian Country Today


Brenda Norrell Indian Country -- Larry Foster and brother Lenny Foster, Navajos from Fort Defiance, Ariz., spoke at the University of New Mexico. Lenny Foster is program supervisor and spiritual advisor with the Corrections Project of the Navajo Nation Department of Behavioral Health Services.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Ceremonies for incarcerated American Indian inmates are facing new restrictions in state and federal prisons, where most inmates are already forced to hold sweats in dilapidated lodges, build fires of scrap lumber and burn commercially-processed sage.

''The indifference towards our Native men, women and juveniles who are incarcerated must stop and an effort must be made to provide outreach support because they are coming home someday. Our people are not expendable,'' said Lenny Foster, Navajo spiritual advisor to Indian inmates for 24 years.

''The trend within the past several years throughout the United States prison system has been to restrict the traditional spiritual practices of the Native prisoners.''

Foster, program supervisor and spiritual advisor with the Corrections Project of the Navajo Nation Department of Behavioral Health Services, provides spiritual counseling and advocacy for 2,000 Navajo and other American Indian inmates in 96 state and federal penitentiaries.

Nationwide, the current trend of prison officials is to limit the amount of time Indian prisoners can participate in sweat lodge ceremonies, pipe ceremonies, talking circles, spiritual gatherings and drum practice. By reducing the time for ceremonies, prison officials are limiting the rehabilitative effects for inmates.

''At one time these practices were allowed six to eight hours on a given day, usually a weekend, where the Native population could fully participate without any interference, harassment or indifference,'' Foster said.

''To rush through a ceremony does not allow full expression or participation because these ceremonies are very sacred.''

The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee said the warden at Leavenworth Penitentiary, where Peltier is incarcerated, imposed new restrictions on the religious ceremonies of American Indian prisoners.

Until recently, Peltier and other prisoners were permitted eight hours per week for the Inipi (sweat ceremony). The warden has now reduced the time to four hours per week.

''This infringement is both illegal and unconstitutional,'' said the Defense Committee. Although the prison claims the wood supply for ceremonies is depleted and needs to be rationed, supporters said the wood provided is scrap wood, regardless of supply.

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Old 01-02-2005, 08:42 PM
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