James Arthur Ray attends his bond hearing in Camp Verde, Arizona on February 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Jack Kurtz, Pool)

CNN Reports on Indian Country’s Reactions to James Arthur Ray Verdict


CNN reported on reactions throughout Indian Country to the verdict of self-help guru and author James Arthur Ray.

“He deserves to pay for the lives he took," Valerie Taliman, a Navajo who serves as the West Coast editor for Indian Country Today Media Network, told CNN. "Our prayers go out to the families who lost their loved ones because of his greed and wrongful exploitation. He had no right to create the false illusion that he had any connection to Native ceremonies,” she said in an e-mail to CNN. “He is a worst case example of charlatans selling spiritual snake oil.”

Taliman hopes that when jurors determine Ray's sentencing next week, they persecute him to the extent of the law. Convicted of negligent homicide on June 22, although prosecutors pursued manslaughter charges, Ray could face anywhere from probation to as long as 11.25 years in prison for the deaths of three of his followers at a sweat lodge ceremony outside Sedona, Arizona on October 8, 2009. Kirby Brown, 38; James Shore, 40; and Liz Neuman, 49, died after participating in Ray’s “Spiritual Warrior” retreat, in which another 18 people were hospitalized for burns, respiratory arrest, kidney failure, loss of consciousness and dehydration.

“He took something we hold sacred and broke every rule we go by, then sold his desecrated version of our ceremonies to people that he actually profited from, then killed," Taliman told CNN. "I hope they make an example of him and give him the maximum sentence."

American Indians throughout the country resent that "impersonators" are appropriating and exploiting their sacred ceremonial practices, reported CNN's Jessica Ravitz.

“It’s a fad to be Indian today,” Autumn Two Bulls, a writer and activist, told CNN earlier this year from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“In America, you are an individual. You can be whatever you want to be. When you’re Lakota, we belong to each other,” Two Bulls told CNN. “So when you take our way of life and put a price tag on it, you’re asking for death, you’re asking for something to happen to you.”

Ray, who wrote the best-selling book Harmonic Wealth that enabled him to invest in his popular seminars and buy a multimillion dollar home in Beverly Hills, has capitalized off an Indian tradition.

"For $9,695, Ray promised that Native American wisdom, imparted by him, would make you healthy, wealthy, and wise," wrote Steve Russell (Cherokee), a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University Bloomington, in the op-ed "Selling Magic; Delivering Death."

According to traditional American Indian teachings, Ray's actions will come back to bite him.

“Mr. Ray has faced the application of man made laws in respect to his charges in a court of law, but according to natural law he is still accountable to the karma he created for himself,” Alvin Manitopyes of the Plains Cree/Sautleaux First Nations told CNN after hearing of Ray's verdict.

"According to our teachings, what he’s done to these people will come back on him over a lifetime," Taliman told CNN. "Let’s see how spiritually grounded he is now.”

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naaniitus's picture
Submitted by naaniitus on
I knew this day would come. I have often frowned upon non-natives being a part of our traditions, ceremonies, and languages because because they are not us, they will never be us and therefore they exploit what we have to offer through their greedy hierarchy of the American Dream.

mattcollins's picture
Submitted by mattcollins on
Greetings to the Lakota People. My dear friend James Shore... my brother in spirit... died in Sedona at the hands of James A Ray. James Shore was part Native American and had a deep abiding respect for the Native Peoples. In fact, James Shore had participated in sweat ceremonies several times presided over by actual Medicine Men. In the wake of James's death, the Lakota sent an emissary to the gathering of his friends and family in remembrance and celebration of James and his earthly life - despite the fact that James was not a standing member of any tribe. The woman was an outstanding singer/floutist of Native Prayer songs (I think). In any event, it was a beautiful and memorable tribute. One has to imagine the vast variety of folks from all walks of life at the ceremony: some very traditionally European, some more "alternative" in spiritual beliefs (these mostly of the Eastern Asian sprituality), and many of no particular spiritual bent. In any event, to a man and woman each was moved by these prayer songs that were so very "foreign" to their ears... but which spoke directly to their souls. It was an awesome gift of which we (his friends and family) are very, very grateful for. So for that we thank the Lakota People. Further I was invited to participate in a sweat ceremony by one of your Medicine Men (I won't add his name here) and his wife (also will leave her nameless) - via another friend's mother (who practices Lakota Spiritualuality). I was honored to participate. It was an amazing experience on many levels. But at the time I was moved to communicate the following to this man on behalf of the entire Shore Family. It is worth repeating here: James Shore loved Native Spirituality and felt a deep affinity for the Native People. He would have been absolutely heartbroken to have participated in anything that would bring any unwanted attention and desparaging opinions or misgivings upon Native People's spirituality / rituals. It is important to say this, because James was NOT a lemming or easily swayed. Trust me. So, please Lakota People, accept our thanks for your loving response to James's death. And know that among us you have earned our deepest gratitude... and that type of gratitude cannot be forgotten or repaid. Love to you all.

redtail1's picture
Submitted by redtail1 on
I think for taking the life of 3 people that he should spend many years in prison.But he has two things going for him that will probably keep him out of prison.1.He is a white guy.2.He has money.If an Indian had done this he or she would spend the rest of their life in prison.There is such a double standard in this country when it comes to Indians,and I do not think that will ever stop.So,I think he will either get probation or some time in a resort in Sedona.So,What's new.

charlotte34's picture
Submitted by charlotte34 on
Why didn't they just slap his little hands and send him home to his mommy? That sentence is a mockery. He should have gotten MUCH more. Causing the death of other human beings, by getting them to believe something will make them well,that you know can possibly do a lot of harm, even kill them by what you give them, or just causing them to not seek proper medical help, should carry a charge of no less than second degree murder. When it was planned ahead, by convincing them to participate, with disregard to their safety, seems to me should be called premeditated.

badger's picture
Submitted by badger on
American Indian ceremonies are sacred, not to be exploited and is not a commodity for sale. James voilated these and took the lives of other individuals in the name of greed and prosperity. To conduct the ceremonies, one must know the process of the ceremony (fire, stones, and songs). He has committed a felony and he will live with his decision and actions for the rest of his life. Lets hope justice will prevail and impose applicable sentences.

crazyh's picture
Submitted by crazyh on
I believe it was a touchy thing with Ted Mercer. After-all HE, above all others, would know whether or not it was too hot in the sweat lodge. If he knew it was too hot in the sweat lodge and did nothing about it chances are he would be looking at jail time. So, he decided to say that it was the wood because he knew he had nothing to do with what wood was used for the sweat lodge ceremony. The choice basically was either incriminate himself or Angel Valley owner Mr Hamilton. Ted chose to save himself. I don't know about James Shore, but there is no excuse whatsoever for liz Neuman staying in that sweat lodge until she died. Liz had done this a number of times before. There had to be some sort of toxic poisoning clouding her judgment because Liz Neuman was just not that dumb. As for Kirby Brown, it has been made know to the world that she was an experienced adventurer. I don't believe she should be excused because she had no clue whatsoever that she was dying. Something more was at work here! I believe we are looking at a tangled web of bribery and corruption in which the investigators, the prosecuting attorneys and judge Darrow are all involved! So, a new trial with judge Darrow presiding is pointless. If there is to be a new trial you have to get as far away from the corruption as you can if it is to be a truly fair trial. They got legal immunity for Mark Rock, right? Get legal immunity for Ted and Debbie Mercer and you may finally get at the truth of the matter, unless they are afraid for their lives if they tell the truth.

leemajorbig's picture
Submitted by leemajorbig on
True SPIRITUAL WARRIORS are honorable. If they say they take full responsibility for their actions at ANY EVENT that is what they do, period; and they don't have to sign any agreement to keep their promises! For the white man to break the promises of TRUE SPIRITUAL WARRIORS in order to make money IS BLASPHEMY!! They shall indeed pay dearly for what they have stolen. All true Native American warriors should agree with me since you have suffered much because of broken agreements from the white man!