Arnold W. Thomas, MSW, Chaplain, Motivational Speaker
Religious Freedom + Native American Spirituality
Over the years I have offered my spiritual guidance and direction to various programs in North America. Certain tribal ceremonies have given me the privilege and honor to conduct ceremonies for the people. It’s awesome to witness an individual’s life begin to be filled with joy and happiness. The gift’s that my ancestors left for me to utilize are priceless!
While residing in the Salt Lake Valley, I have noticed several disheartening issues. The Utah State prison system is allowing two individuals claiming to be Native American and ceremonial leaders to work in the prison with our Native people. It’s disturbing that Utah’s Tribal leaders are not doing something about it. What is worse, the Utah Division of Indian Affairs gave these two individuals an award! It’s disheartening that the L.D.S church has so much influence over our tribal and state leadership. What is really shocking is that Lenny Foster from the Navajo Nation is allowing the dog and pony show to continue with his approval. The corruption and intimidation has polluted the minds of some of our own Tribal people.
It’s sad when our relatives end up in the prison system. It’s not right when individuals break the spiritual and natural laws that govern us all. What is worse is when they are released from prison and tell people they have the right to perform ceremonies and carry a ceremonial pipe. Prison is not a place where individuals go to earn the right to be ceremonial leaders or pipe carriers. What has happen to our leadership to allow this to occur? It’s told that first you start to deceive yourself and then it continues to grow and grow. Before you know it, you began to believe lies and misconceptions as the truth.
For hundreds of years, Tribal people from North America have fought to insure that our various life ways would continue. It’s the tribal traditions they fought for! It’s about being proud of who you are! It’s not about pretending to be somebody your not. Each and every one of us was given original seeds of who we were to be.
At the beginning of the year 2005, I was asked by the George E Wallen Veteren’s Administration Medical Center to provide Native American ceremonies and rituals for patients. Within the last several years, the Medical Center has allocated land for Native American ceremonial grounds. This particular piece of land is called “the Healing Grounds”. On the property, there has been a sweat lodge constructed as well as a fire pit and other tools that assist us in the ceremony. Since 2005, I have been conducting bi-monthly sweat lodge, pipe ceremonies and talking circles. The participants who are involved are patients who are in the Medical Center’s Substance Abuse programs. Veterans who have been traumatized from combat experiences as well as other situations in life have received many blessings from the various ceremonies. It has been an honor to work with veterans who have served and protected this land.