16 Perhaps more disturbing than threats to what is for some the rather abstract

16 perhaps more disturbing than threats to what is

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16 Perhaps more disturbing than threats to what is, for some, the rather abstract notion of tribal sovereignty are the large number of people who in recent years have used self-identi W cation as an Indian in connection with acts of violent abuse. For instance, a few years ago Indian Country Today reported the conviction of one David Smith, a Pennsylvania man who called himself Two Wolves and claimed to be an Indian “shaman priest” although he was not enrolled in any federally recognized tribe. He had also gathered around himself an Indian recruitment organization. Reported charges against him include engaging in sexual misconduct with a little girl during what he called an Indian “cleansing ceremony.” (He was at the time on probation from a conviction for similar assaults upon another little girl.) The charges, totaling forty- W ve, consisted of both felonies and misdemeanors, for which he received a prison sentence of up to forty years. 17 Another example is found in the biography of Harley “Swiftdeer” Reagan. Reagan claims to be Cherokee and to occupy an invented, but supposedly traditional ceremonial o Y ce in the Cherokee tribe, which gives him the right and duty of “initiating” little girls into womanhood by teaching them how to give and receive sexual pleasure. With the help of his biographer, he extols the virtues of statutory rape, in the name of cultural continuity, for some hundreds of pages. 18 Unfortunately, individuals who share the character and behavior of Smith and Reagan are anything but unheard of. The news article report-
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ing Smith’s actions and convictions notes that “many self-declared med- icine men or spiritual leaders are found throughout the country, and they appear to be part of a growing subculture.” 19 In such a climate, tribes must be able to repudiate those who make fraudulent claims of a Y liation with them the basis of criminal behavior. They must be able to do so, W rst, in the interests of ensuring the physical safety of individuals, and second, to protect their own cultures and spiritualities. When state or federal courts encounter self-identi W ed Indians who have used the con- text of religious ceremony to perpetrate sexual crimes, they may not know that such behaviors are not part of any legitimate Indian ceremo- nial. They may therefore conclude that Indian religious practices in gen- eral are debased and dangerous. Such a conclusion already has a long tra- dition in American society: Many native ceremonial practices were criminalized and otherwise circumscribed in the early twentieth century, and some still are. 20 Widespread abuse of Indian spiritual practice by the illegitimately self-identi W ed could cause misinformed legislators to limit once again the religious freedom of legitimate Indian worshippers.
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