Hummux Anax is pretty sure he got burned because the sweat lodge ceremony started in the north.

“A lot of people think that’s not right – the sun rises in the east,” he says. “We sang a song that should have invoked the water spirits, but it invoked the fire spirits.”

He stepped out of the dark, steaming sweat lodge and tripped over the altar, a mound of earth arranged with feathers, jewelry and a forked stick representing male and female.

Someone had placed the altar too close to the lodge door, Hummux says. He fell in the ceremonial campfire and “turtled out” on its concrete base, flames licking his pale skin.

It was bad. He slathered on some aloe and left the Esalen Institute, heading up Highway 1 to the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula. The burns crossed his back and both wrists in a dragging pattern. The healing involved months of excruciating debridements, as medics stripped off the dead skin.

Hummux Anax means "fire wolf." It is his Esselen Indian name. He says it’s his legal name, too: just “hummux,” on his Social Security card and everything. His birth name is very Anglo, as boring as Bill Perkins, and he asks me not to use it.

Hummux got his Esselen name from Tommy Little Bear Nason, an Esselen descendant whose family has lived for generations in the Carmel Valley foothills his ancestors called Xasáuan. Nason has also been a spiritual adviser to Esalen Institute for more than 30 years.

According to Hummux, Nason gave Esselen names to him and about 90 other non-Indians after leading them on vision quests in the wilderness. Nason “adopted” 14, the most committed, into the Esselen Tribe he created in the early 1990s. He calls himself the tribe’s spiritual leader.

Hummux is one of those adoptees. Three more are Mac Murphy, son of Esalen Institute co-founder Michael Murphy, who became Shekes Anax; Rudy Proctor, a retired credit union manager, who’s called Wingte Tihikpas; and actor Woody Harrelson. Proctor says singer Joan Baez, who’s been part of Esalen’s inner circle since the ’60s, is in the tribe, too, but the musician’s publicist won’t confirm it.

Nason authorized Hummux, Proctor and a couple others to lead sweat lodge ceremonies at Esalen, the New Age retreat center jutting over the Pacific Ocean in south Big Sur. The ritual is heavily based in Native American traditions, including what Murphy describes as “inter-tribal” songs and prayers – including Esselen, Lakota and Cherokee.

Participants heat stones in a campfire, then move them inside the lodge, drop them into a central hole and pour water on top, creating hot steam in which they bake, drip, sing and pray before re-emerging into the outer world. Some of the lodge leaders have described the ceremony as sacred and secret, but it follows a general formula that comes up in a Google search of “sweat lodge.”

The Esalen ceremonies got especially popular after the lodge was moved to its current location above Hot Springs Creek in 2003. One organizer estimated 2,000 people took part between 2007-2011.

“Then we got tired of it,” Hummux says, “and it went to hell.”

No doubt countless people felt cleansed, even transformed, in the Esalen sweat lodge. Participants have described how the ceremony connects them with Mother Earth and with all of humanity in a profound experience of oneness.

But it was as if some destructive force was activated around the time Hummux got burned. It radiated out to divide the larger Esalen community. It infuriated the chair of the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation, destroying the tenuous peace between her tribal group and the retreat center. It drove a wedge deeper between the nearly 700-member Esselen Nation and Nason’s Esselen Tribe, which he says includes 68 members of his extended family.

The tension drills down to the question of cultural appropriation, when appreciation for traditions that aren’t one’s own becomes something more offensive. People have different interpretations of where exactly that line lies, and when the Esalen sweat lodge crossed it – if it ever did.

+1 
Spiritual Sweat

L > The Esalen Institute sweat lodge has become legendary, both for its power to inspire participants and for its placement atop Esselen Indian artifacts. R > Esalen Institute sweat lodge leader Rudy “Tihikpas” Proctor describes his use of meditation to communicate telepathically, and even to affect politics.

This isn’t just an issue between Esalen Institute’s mostly white, well-off clientele and the Esselen Indian descendants. Legally, the question of who can claim Esselen heritage affects construction projects across Monterey County. From a larger social perspective, it’s a portrait in contrasts. As Native American communities across the American West struggle with issues like radiation poisoning, widespread poverty and high suicide rates, a New Age utopia in Big Sur markets itself under an American Indian name.

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The June 2014 workshop “Summer Solstice Tribal Journey and SpiritDance Retreat” invited prospective students – in Esalen parlance, seminarians – to “dance, sweat, sing, pray, meditate, and relax together as one global tribe.”

It cost $405-$1,750 for the weekend, depending on whether participants slept on the floor of common spaces or opted for plusher accommodations.

Proctor, one of the workshop leaders, is described as a “tribal elder” with a theological background in “Native American, Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Buddhism and mystic traditions.”

Proctor isn’t claiming to be Esselen. He’s not promising an authentic Native American experience. But some critics within the Esalen community still accuse him of being a “plastic shaman” or engaging in “spiritual colonialism.”

These phrases come from discourses bigger than Big Sur. They come from Native American groups actively fighting the New Age romanticization of their culture; and from scholars like San Jose State ethno-historian Alan Leventhal, who shoots a quick opinion by email:

“Tribal knowledge and participation has to be earned by both tribal members and outsiders; otherwise it constitutes colonial theft of tribal traditions.”

Critics pressured Proctor and his adopted siblings to stop calling themselves part of the Esselen Tribe. He re-branded their identity as a less formal offshoot: the Ekae Tribe, inspired by the Esselen word ike, which he says roughly translates to, “It’s all good.”

Except it wasn’t.

Instead of quelling the criticism, Proctor’s launch of a website – http://ekaetribe.org – inflamed some Esalen folks, who felt there was egregious cultural appropriation going on. Around 2012, Proctor took it down.

“It was so misunderstood,” he says. “We had people writing to us, saying, ‘How dare you call it a tribe?’ I said, ‘Wait a minute, do you know what the definition of a tribe is? People who do things together.’”

When the Esselen Nation confronted him, he stopped even calling it a tribe. “It’s a fraternity,” he says. “We’re just brothers and sisters who say ike to each other.”

On May 11, 2012, Proctor wrote a long email to Esselen Nation Chairwoman Louise Ramirez. “I am called Wingte Tighaaro Tihikpas by many. The name given to me by my parents is Rudolphe Keith Proctor Jr., the name given to me by my ancestors is Yonagooska Aniwahi Clark Keith. I am three bloods – Tslagi-yi, African and Anglo,” Proctor’s email began. “I am not a medicine man or a shaman. I am an elder.”

Some excerpts from what follows: “When we go to this site we ask permission of your ancestors to sing the songs,” he writes. “We introduce our ancestors to your ancestors for healing. The site by itself is where your ancestors put their garbage and it could be called holy and sacred by some and I respect that opinion. To me it is a 6,000-year-old Esselen ancestor site where human beings come today to pray and sing and talk to God, Great Spirit. Yes it is truly sacred… We are not playing Indian and such a thought should bring shame to the bearer…

“Yes we pray on your ancestral land, yes we are learning your language. I failed to ask you (Esselen Nation) permission to do so, please forgive me I meant no disrespect. Permission was granted to me by your relative, Little Bear. Was he out of line?”

Four days later, Ramirez shot back, pointedly addressing her response to Rudolphe K. Proctor Jr.

“Colonialism is the process whereby the dominant society unilaterally takes what it wants from conquered indigenous peoples,” she begins. “Such is the case of your request and justification for taking our traditions and claiming to embrace them and teach them.”

The letter goes on to berate Proctor, dismiss Little Bear’s authority and staunchly oppose the ceremonies. Ramirez concludes:

“No doubt you will justify in your mind that what you do is enlightened and therefore beneficial to all, and you will proceed as a member of the dominant colonial society to not respect our position, but instead just take what does not belong to you and your group and claim it as your own. If you continue to do this and think this way, then you are truly blind, and spiritually dirty and bankrupted. Aho!”

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Further complicating the issue: There might be bones.

The Esselen Indians lived in southern Monterey County, including Big Sur, for thousands of years, numbering about 1,200 at the time of first European contact in the 1600s, according to Gary Breschini of Salinas firm Archaeological Consulting. Radiocarbon dating puts Esselen people on the Esalen Institute property up to 5,500 years ago.

“Esalen is so sacred,” Nason says. “It’s at the very Western edge of the universe.”

The Esalen sweat lodge perches above the bank of Hot Springs Creek. Esalen staff moved it there from another location in 2003. It doesn’t look like much – just a humble stick frame next to a concrete fire pit. (Participants cover the frame with thick fabric or skins for the ceremony.)

What’s in the soil beneath the lodge is a matter of speculation. Esalen crews didn’t do any digging to build it. But most agree the lodge is on top of, or close to, a midden deposit: a place where Indians discarded their empty abalone, mussel and limpet shells. It’s also fairly close to a known Esselen burial ground, which Ramirez prefers we don’t identify precisely, as the sites can attract vandalism.

According to Breschini, the two midden deposits at Esalen cover up to 10 percent of the property. Whenever Esalen Institute undertakes construction on or near a cultural site, he says, an onsite archaeologist monitors the digging. For the past 20 years, that’s been Breschini.

Before that, in the absence of strict regulations, Esalen workers likely dug up any number of prehistoric bones and artifacts. (Folks active in Esalen’s online community share rumors of human bones found in several spots throughout the property.) “They were probably just reburied somewhere else,” Breschini says.

Under today’s state laws, if human remains are discovered on a construction site, the property owner must stop work and notify the county coroner. If the remains are determined to be likely Native American, the coroner notifies the Native American Heritage Commission, the state agency entrusted with protecting Indian cultural sites. The commission then appoints the “most likely descendant” to recommend how to handle the remains.

Breschini says no bones have been uncovered at Esalen in his time there. “We’re trying to limit the amount of digging they do anywhere near the two known [cultural] sites,” he says.

+1 
Spiritual Sweat

Tom Little Bear Nason and his family sought federal recognition of their Esselen Tribe in the early 1990s, several years before Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation made its own bid. Nason’s application was withdrawn; the Esselen Nation’s is still pending.

That doesn’t stop the rumors. In 2012, Hummux says, he saw a backhoe digging through a midden to build a handicap parking space near the sweat lodge. After he notified the county, Breschini was called in to monitor the grading. He says he found only minimal impacts – certainly no human remains.

But the incident shows just how intensely some Esalen insiders were opposing the sweat lodge by that point. Hummux felt Proctor had taken over the ceremony and was turning it into a spectacle, “taking liberties with the medicine.” Nason, meanwhile, had booted Hummux out of the Esselen Tribe he’d once adopted him into, saying he’d taken his authority too far.

Hummux began to see the whole sweat ceremony as tainted, tracing back to the lodge’s relocation above Hot Springs Creek.

Even Breschini had misgivings about the new placement. In a 2003 letter to consultant Bud Carney, he advises against the new spot, warning new charcoal from the ceremonial fires could compromise prehistoric deposits.

To prevent more damage, he writes, the lodge should be removed and the area returned to lawn. Instead, an Esalen crew covered the fire pit with concrete.

That didn’t jibe with Nason. “We want direct contact with the dirt, with Mother Earth,” he says.

As Ramirez sees it, the sweat lodge’s location within an archaeological site – whether it sits on top of her ancestors’ bones, or close to them – is a direct affront to the Esselen Nation. She says she can’t force Esalen Institute remove the sweat lodge, stop doing quasi-Indian ceremonies or quit using her people’s language.

But she can be a bureaucratic pain in its ass.

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Rudy Proctor says his mom was a white Englishwoman and his dad a Jamaican-Cherokee military man. Proctor lived many of his younger years in Germany, where he studied world religions. Back in the U.S., he moved to Carmel Valley and became a manager of Monterey Credit Union.

Nason adopted him into the Esselen Tribe in the 1980s. Together they formed a now-defunct nonprofit, Window to the West, to help people recover from substance abuse in the wilderness. Another group they helped form, the Four Winds Council, represents a quartet of local spiritual institutions – the Esselen Tribe, Tassajara Zen Center, New Camoldoli Hermitage and Esalen Institute – and foments strategies to protect the wild.

For most of the past decade, Proctor says, he’s led two or three sweat lodges per month at Esalen, though he’s dialed back this year due to health problems.

Proctor is paid $95 per head for weekend workshops, $208 for week-long ones. When he comes down just to lead a sweat lodge, he’s reimbursed about $100 for his travel and the firewood. He lectures his seminarians on Esselen folklore along with Christian, Jewish and Gnostic teachings, focusing on common denominators.

“A lot of young people are looking for something, and they’re finding it in the old wisdom,” he says.

Students who did a certain number of sweat lodge ceremonies were eligible to do a vision quest in the wilderness, Proctor says. The group would trek into the mountains, make a center camp, and then Proctor would place each student alone inside a circle. They’d sit there for four days, as still as possible, equipped with only water and a tent.

“Strange things happen, because animals are not used to human beings being still,” Proctor says. “The buzzards want to know if you’re dead. And then you’ve got to deal with your mind. Who am I? I’m 4 million years of ancestry.

Students who did four vision quests, one in each cardinal direction, were adopted into the Esselen Tribe – at least while Nason was involved.

It’s not unusual for Native Americans to adopt non-Indians they love, Nason says. But the adopting grated on Ramirez, who worries about New Agers co-opting her tribe’s heritage. “It doesn’t make them Esselen,” she says.

In some respects, the debate over the Esalen sweat lodge comes down to who has the authority to sanction it. Ramirez says it should be her, the chairwoman of the Esselen Nation.

But Esalen Institute leaders point to Tom Little Bear Nason. He’s the one who still lives on Esselen land. It was his father Fred, Nason says, who shattered the official belief the Esselen people were extinct. Esalen Institute leaders often say Little Bear sanctioned their sweat lodge.

What they didn’t know until now: Nason no longer gives the lodge his blessing.

He says he hasn’t led an Esalen sweat lodge, or a vision quest for Esalen seminarians, in many years. (He still leads lodges on his own land and vision quests for his own tribe, he adds.) The last time he ran a lodge at Esalen Institute – more than a decade ago, he says – he got spiritually sick, which made him physically sick and landed him in the emergency room.

“I don’t believe they’ve run the sweat lodge appropriately or traditionally, and I want no part of it,” he says. “I do not give them spiritual authorization to do ceremonies at that sweat lodge. It is at an inappropriate location on a sacred site.”

It’s not that Nason has a problem with non-Indians doing sweats. There are ways to go about it properly, he says, either by stripping out the Native American spirituality to make it a secular thing, like a sauna, or by accepting an invitation from an actual Indian elder and following that tribe’s traditional protocol.

“It shouldn’t be, ‘Oh man, I really want to do a sweat lodge, it’s tomorrow night,” he says. “We’ve been educating [Esalen Institute] to try to slow that down. Because that was rampant.”

A number of other things about the lodge bother him: Its alleged past use as a funding mechanism. The current location near the ancestral burial site. The non-traditional practice of bringing women and men into the lodge naked together. The rapid clip of development on the archaeologically sensitive property.

Nason says he’s never vocalized these concerns publicly before. “They’re going to get very upset with me when I say that,” he says, “but that’s the hard truth.”

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Mac Murphy, the Esalen co-founder’s son and a member of Proctor’s tribe, says Little Bear has been a mentor. When I relay Nason’s current stance, he sputters.

“That’s such bullshit,” he says. “I’m sorry, I’ve been dealing with these politics inter-tribally – with Rudy, with Louise, with Little Bear. He supports us.”

When he speaks in the Esselen language, Murphy says, he does so in reverence to the Indians who once lived on his family’s property. “It helps me connect with the land,” he says. “I have never experienced a ceremony that culturally appropriates Native Americans or pretends to be them.”

Esalen Institute President Gordon Wheeler says the sweat lodge is only made available to people taking certain workshops or month-long internships, and ceremonies are led by a half-dozen people specifically approved by the Esalen leadership.

This is a place that specializes in spiritual cocktails, mixing Tantra and Buddhism and yoga and something called “ecstatic dance.” Crossing cultural boundaries, splicing Eastern religions with Western mentalities, exploring the mind and spirit – these things are Esalen Institute’s M.O., and Wheeler says his board is committed to doing it respectfully and transparently.

“We’re the people who brought Boris Yeltsin to the West,” he says. “We believe there’s a higher intentionality that can unite people, and we reach for that.”

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Ramirez hasn’t spoken with anyone affiliated with the Esalen Institute since their 50th anniversary celebration in 2012, when her communications with the center’s administration broke down.

She says she declined an invitation to give a formal blessing, but Wheeler thought she was coming. He publicly introduced her at the Joan Baez concert on Esalen’s main lawn. That’s when he realized, with some embarrassment, she wasn’t there.

Both Ramirez and Wheeler say they’ve unsuccessfully attempted to contact the other since. Maybe the glitch was as innocent as a wrong email address, but damage was done.

“They wanted the acknowledgement of our tribe but really do not care about my people,” Ramirez emails me. “There is nothing I can do.”

Maybe not in connection with the sweat lodge. But there are a few things Ramirez can do to make her objections known. Earlier this month, she wrote a letter to Monterey County planners and the Native American Heritage Commission, protesting a proposed addition to one of Esalen’s lodges. That project, she writes, is within feet of a relocated midden and within a half-mile of a known burial site. She asks that her organization, Esselen Nation, be consulted every step of the way, from project notices to handling of artifacts.

A truce is possible, Ramirez says, but the path to reconciliation starts by moving the sweat lodge and ending Proctor’s ceremonies. “Nobody’s going to make him change who he is until Esalen Institute stops making money off of him,” she says.

Peace with Little Bear Nason seems closer at hand. “I don’t hate Tommy,” she says. “I think they’re using him, too.”

She has invited Nason to join the Esselen Nation. Nason says he might consider it, if it didn’t threaten his family’s trust allotment in Ventana Wilderness.

Regardless, he says, he now supports Esselen Nation’s bid for federal recognition: “I just don’t want to fight.”

To all the non-Esselens reading this, Ramirez offers one simple phrase from the Esselen language. Words refuting the historians who called her people extinct. Words challenging the federal government to recognize her tribe. Words rejecting heat-induced hallucinations of mystical Indian approval.

Let ka lai,” she says.

“We are here.”

Correction 12/19/14: The sixth paragraph of this story has been corrected: Hummux Anax, according to the English-Esselen dictionary posted to the Esselen Tribe website, means "fire wolf." "Fire hawk" is the translation of Shekes Anax, Ekae Tribe member Mac Murphy's name.

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(9) comments

Joelen Mulvaney

The sacred springs above the ocean had been bought and sold, so what can we expect from those who acquired the land by purchase? Sacred sites need no owners, spirit requires free access, no ceremony, save giving the land back into the care of indigenous, is good there until the land is freed from capitalism

lilboutlot

Motivated by Money? Not! No teacher, shaman, or instructor makes merely more than a baby sitter after expenses, to teach at Esalen .
Nobody is naked, they are in sheets, wrapped up more than what clothes would have your flesh contained.

Sweat Lodges are not a one Indian Tribe cultural behavior, needing to be protected from colonialist... read below...
There are examples of ritual sweating in other cultures, though often without any ceremonial or mystical significance. Secular uses around the world include the indigenous people around the Bering Strait, ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, the northern Finns and Laplanders, and the so-called "Turkish bath" in England.

Some European cultures have historically used sweating for cleansing. In most cases the usage is primarily for physical cleansing and warmth, but in others prayer and songs may be involved. Scandinavian, Baltic and Eastern European cultures incorporate sweat baths in their sauna traditions, which are held within a permanent, wooden hut. While modern-day saunas are usually wholly secular, there are older traditions of songs and rituals in the sauna, and the acknowledgement of a spirit-being who lives in the sauna. Early steambath structures can be found in the fifth century BC, when Scythians constructed pole and woolen cloth sweat baths.

"Vapour baths were in use among the Celtic tribes, and the sweat-house was in general use in Ireland down to the 18th, and even survived into the 19th century. It was of beehive shape and was covered with clay. These permanent structures were built of stone, and square or corbelled "beehive" versions are often found, mostly in the Irish and Gaelic-speaking areas of Ireland and Scotland, though most seem of relatively recent date.
We all seek cleansing and spiritual connection.

Finally, Tribes are by nature a mixture of points of view, spiritual beings, and values. Two of the most important values that keeps them relevant is generous listening and a commit to seeking understanding. Try that on. Esselen, Esalen and Ekte

[smile]

alpa

None of you have ever been part of the true Esselen Nation. Nor have any of you been to our meetings even before Ramirez was Chair. You do not know or do you know the struggles the Esselen Nation has been through. We have our own language and it should be for our use only. Our ancestors lived on this land for thousands of years. The esalen institute sits on very sacred land and there are many sacred sites all over the county. We have a right to practice our spiritual ceremonies as an Esselen Native - that is our birthright and as an elder, I have the right to speak about our Cultural Heritage and protect it. There were a lot of people who were not interviewed for this article. Alan Leventhal's quote in the article is so true. You can say what you will, but we know who we are. Aho...

kumal

Dearest Chempa Imita Tanosh. You write eloquently and with profound truth. I am Kumal and was named by Little Bear after vision quest and many rounds in the sweat more than 20 years ago. Tihikpas and Hummux were present at the ceremony. I love the teachings and they have changed my life, saved my life. I am saddened by this diatribe so full of ego and fear. I agree that we must remember our brother-sisterhood and respect each person as a spoke in the sacred hoop. There are many paths to Spirit and it is not for earthly beings to judge which is best. Spiritual food may not be hoarded by any people who may see themselves as chosen, lest it choke them rather than nourish them. Tihikpas has been the most steadfast elder of all, keeping the teachings alive when other elders have be unavailable for extended periods. He deserves respect and honor. I challenge those most vocal in their negativity to look within for the cause of their rage, rather than to cast blame upon others. Look within.

Saxi Chai

The rift between the Esalen Tribe and the Esselen Nation developed when CalAm offered $4 million to Little Bear and his father Fred Nason around '94/'95 to mitigate the negative consequences of the eventually shelved construction of the New Los Padres Dam Project on the Carmel River (not the Arroyo Seco as I mistakenly wrote before). The Nason family rightfully and lawfully filed for status as a recognized tribe years before the proposed dam and this legal status denied those who now represent the Nation the ability to collect this large mitigation pay-off or assume the identity of the "Esalen Tribe" in order to do so. It is worth asking Little Bear if he would be willing to publicly restate his belief regarding the placement of the present sweat lodge, which arrived at its current location under guidance from Wallace Black Elk and Carlos Sauer for legitimate and practical reasons (such as greater privacy for lodge partipants). The current sweat lodge site is built on a shell midden like most of the property now called Esalen Institute rather then a burial site as has been alleged. The land where the lodge now sits is treated with the greatest reverence, grace and gratitude by those practicing ceremony as well as by those who built it -using traditional respectful building practices in a good and sacred way. It is not just Tihikpas but other talented leaders who invite other cultures to join in ceremony rather then beat the war drum about colonialism and "Us against Them" as Louise and her allies are doing. The sad truth is that in one way or another we have all been effected by colonialism to various degrees. Louise Ramirez, stuck in her victim mentality, never conducted a lodge at Esalen or participated in the medicine at Esalen as far as I know, other then to try and assume control from the back seat. Are there no bigger more pressing stages to wage a crusade against colonialism then this? Like other critics of Esalen she hurls accusations from the peanut gallery, like an angry child attacking anyone in her way, apparently now inexplicably taking aim at the construction of the new dining lodge that is part of Esalen's county-approved Long Term Development Plan and is not being rebuilt on a burial site, rather the same site it already sits which is also most likely a midden site. Another building elsewhere on property was built on a burial site but this is not the place Louise is demanding to monitor. Another blatant mistake in this article is characterizing Mac Murphy as a member of "Proctor's Tribe". Tihikpas is an elder and never passes himself off as a shaman or leader or chief. He celebrates the Esalen Tribe and is kindly and generously available to all people and humbly and brilliantly shares the medicine of inclusion with whoever is interested. Tihikpas is always clear that Little Bear is chief. I love the ways we honor the ancestors of the land and believe that holding ceremony helps the land and the community to heal. Another reporting mistake is that "Hummux Anax" rather then meaning "fire hawk" means "white fire wolf". Fire Hawk is someone else's name. The location of the current sweat lodge is not on a burial site, rather a midden site like most of the rest of the Esalen property, which sustains little to no negative impact. The ancestors are honored in a good way, in accordance with tradition and education through song and prayer, to thank and give back to the earth rather then take from it. The sweats and vision quests I've been honored to attend are all about One people One song One prayer. Now contrast this approach with the tactic and tone of the voices of anger, differentiation and opposition awarded the lion's share of attention by this article's author and imagine that she instead had bothered to include vital historic information about the dam and its ripple effects and greater accuracy in general rather then writing a sensationalized piece which has the effect of sowing the seeds of anger and triggering people like me who have experienced first-hand the profound gifts of ceremony and celebration with the Esalen Tribe.

Chempa Imita Tanosh

My name is Chempa Imita Tanosh, as named by Wingte Tihikpas, “Rudolph Proctor.” What Saxi Chai says is true about the fact that this issue is much more than meets the eye. There is a rich deep history of hurt feelings, unresolved issues, people not listening to each other, etc. with this topic., much of which has nothing to do with the Ekae tribe (the inclusive offshoot tribe formed by Tihikpas). As a member of the Ekae Tribe, I can say that we have never meant to hurt anyone by embodying these practices. Neither the Ekae tribe, nor any of its members has ever proclaimed to be Esselen, or Native American simply by being adopted into the “tribe”. As Tihikpas says, and with which I agree, “tribe” describes a group of people who come together.

We come together in resonance with the land that every member of our tribe connected with long before being adopted in. We also join in resonance with spiritual traditions that Esselen & other Native American tribes utilize to connect with Spirit. We are a very diverse tribe, joined not by blood but by Spirit. These rituals have helped to root me so deeply into a spiritual practice, enhanced my understanding of my self and of nature, given me a family of love and support, and an opportunity to serve and share these traditions with others through a multitude of modalities.

I think the biggest point that is being completely overlooked is that spirituality is about Oneness and sameness. If we are ever to overcome separateness, making one person right and the other wrong, and pointing out our differences, we have to stop saying what’s “mine” and “yours”, and who can and cannot practice what. Why would anyone be against people who are finding spirituality through anything? Isn’t that the goal in life? To find connection with God in every moment… doing the dishes, driving, sweat lodge, etc. It is not supporting the goodness and Oneness of all to spend so much time being so hurt and angry over something that can’t be controlled. Spirituality and traditions cannot be owned. Nobody can ever, nor should ever, try to stop us from praying in the way that makes our hearts sing.

Although this topic has a deep history on this land, possibly back to 5,500 years ago, if we are ever to move forward and join hands together and evolve consciously we have to be completely in the present moment and share a common vision of peace and harmony. I know that Native American wisdom speaks of Oneness, peace and harmony. This is not being honored here.

How can we come together?

Saxi Chai

This article is outrageously wrong and biased and deserves to be re-written. It does not take into account that Ramirez stole the Esselen dictionary as their own after Tihikpas and Little Bear and other Tribe members paid to have it retrieved from archives in Europe to share, not to profit from. This article does not mention that the person formally know as "Hummux" never voiced his vendetta about the lodge location until his karmic fall into the fire pit, at which point he attacked a lot of people and got black-listed from Esalen for acting psychotic. Nor does it mention the historic rage from Ramirez regarding Monterey County's last minute decision decades ago to cancel damming the Arroyo Seco, which would have rewarded millions to Ramirez and her nation- money which likely would not go toward peace, harmony or the land (more likely themselves), or that her vocal supporter, a Big Sur local named Jason Fann, scapegoated Tihikpas for vague reasons (his sexuality? His desire to bring together people from across the world to heal through songs and prayer and honoring the ancestors). After Fann's money-making ventures were ended at Esalen he sought revenge on the entire place and Tribe using Louise as his weapon of destruction. I read her letter to Tihikpas after his very gentle and diplomatic letter to make peace and her tone was that of pure greed, hate and delusion. There is nothing "New Age" about the beautiful healing sweat lodges conducted by Tihikpas and the Esalen Tribe, of which I am an adopted member. Perhaps you return to this phrase confusing it with some elements of the Institute itself. I do not claim to "play Indian" like other white men mentioned in your article. Rather I honor my ancestors and the land and Native Americans who stewarded it, and the healing that happens through connection rather then differentiation, rather then angry false beliefs about who is more Native when it comes to fractions of ancient tribal blood, or who is allowed to sing the songs and who exactly qualifies as a colonialist. The way I see it, Ramirez and her likely largely Christian community, is enraged because of getting burned and losing money, just like Fann is enraged because of loss of money. These people you gave so much attention (or omitted despite their key role in this fiasco) suffer from a mentality of scarcity and use their rage and insecurity to manipulate public opinion. Your reporter was not objective. This deserves a much closer look and more voices from those who have been deeply touched and healed during lodge held at Esalen and beyond.

Jannette Witten

Concurrence. There is so much wrong with OCEN today, it's no wonder the feds won't even answer communication from the so called tribe. When Ramirez came along she followed the direction and "white-ways" of Alan Levantall and Philip Laverty stole our ancestral story and plagiaried many writings to finish his dissertation and fraudulently get his PhD. They have stolen everything down to the Logo that still to this day is unpaid to the artist who created it! They dis enrolled key family lineages from the tribe (although keeping these names on the petition for acceptance purposed) OCEN, the way is today will never become federally recognized. Ramirez and her appointed family and council are "playing Indians" themselves! You can tell by the so called regalia she wears....

Kathy S

When I first visited Esalen in November 2001 (during a cross-county road trip from Maryland), the sweat lodge was already at its current location along the creek. As part of Maria Lucia's Spiritual Massage class, I attended my first sweat lodge led by her brother Carlos Sauer, a Brazilian shaman who learned the sweat lodge ritual from a teacher in the Lakota nation.

My experience was beautiful. My intention was to "be able to breathe," meaning to get through the ceremony. I kept my face low to the earth as the steam intensity increased, and found myself singing the Lakota songs though I did not know the words.

Although I did not intend a healing, I received one. I had suffered with chronic bronchitis for more than 15 years, and got sick several times a year for several weeks. After that sweat lodge ceremony, I was "cured" of this suffering.

Since November 2001, I have only gotten sick twice. I received the blessing and am now able to breathe.

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