ABSTRACT: This paper is an overview of the movement among Native American prisoners to have access to native religious practices, specifically pipe ceremonies, sweats, and prayer and drum sessions in prison. These practices form the basis of a new movement that supports a wide range of native spiritual traditions, organized around a few basic ceremonies now recognized as primary expressions of native religious identity. Since the early 1970s, this movement has fought for recognition in the prisons, in the courts, and in the popular press. I first review the history of the pipe movement through a survey of important legal cases. The second half of the paper covers the symbolic aspects of the pipe and sweat as they contribute to prisoner rehabilitation through the cultivation of a nativeformulated religious worldview. Also covered are the formation of various native societies for the purpose of providing spiritual advisers to prisons and the impact of this movement on the reservations.
Rather than going to church, I attend a sweat lodge; rather than accepting bread and toast from the Holy Priest, I smoke a ceremonial pipe to come into Communion with the Great Spirit; and rather than kneeling with my hands placed together in prayer, I let sweetgrass be feathered over my entire being for spiritual cleansing and allow the smoke to carry my prayers into the heavens. I am a Mi'kmaq, and this is how we pray. (Noah Augustine)
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