PHOENIX, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- American Indians say the use of a sweat lodge for a "Spiritual Warrior" retreat in Arizona where three people died has little resemblance to their rituals.
"If you ask just about any Native American out there, they will be appalled by this," Freddie Johnson, language and culture specialist at the Phoenix Indian Center, told The Arizona Republic. "It's disturbing to hear that there were three deaths from this so-called sweat lodge."
Two men participating in the retreat run by James Ray of California died after passing out Oct. 8 in a makeshift sweat lodge at a retreat center near Sedona. Twenty 20 others were hospitalized. Lizabeth Neuman, 49, of Minnesota, died Saturday at a Flagstaff hospital.
Johnson said Indians would not cram 60 people into a sweat lodge. He also said charging fees -- participants in the retreat paid thousands of dollars -- would be like charging admission to a Christian church.
Vernon Foster, a member of the American Indian Movement, said sweat lodge rituals usually involved small groups of hunters or warriors.
"Going into the lodge allowed us not only to be intuitive thinkers but to make contact with the intuitive world, to communicate with unseen things," he said.