'Spiritual hucksterism' attacked in Boulder

  A former Naropa University student sued the Boulder, Colo., liberal arts college this fall, claiming "cultural genocide" and "spiritual hucksterism," amid threats of a campus occupation by American Indian activists.


Lydia White Calf and her Oglala Lakota husband, Royce, accused the co-founder of Naropa's Native American Studies program of illegally practicing sacred ceremonies in the classroom. The lawsuit, which alleges the Buddhist-inspired college defrauded, harassed and defamed White Calf, was filed Sept. 9 in Boulder District Court.


The White Calfs' accusation that instructor Eagle Cruz falsely claimed to be a Lakota spiritual leader has raised a broader question: Who is qualified to teach religious ceremony?


"It's a very sticky problem," said University of Colorado history professor Vine Deloria, a Standing Rock Sioux. "In some areas of the country it can be a grave offense, while in others it's a common practice." To Deloria, though, it's not what people teach, but who they say they are. "I've taught courses on other religions that I'm not a practitioner of," he said. "But I didn't hold myself out to be of that religion."


Naropa's lawyers, in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, argue that the courts can't make decisions regarding the "appropriate" use of Native American culture. "Under the First Amendment, the state may not intrude on academic decisions," attorney Alexander Halpern wrote.


Cruz has left Naropa University and the state, but in a letter to students, university president John Whitehouse Cobb called Cruz a "staunch protector of the dignity and integrity of native teachings."


While the issue is being fought in court, American Indian Movement leader Russell Means has made it clear he wants the university held accountable.


Means, made famous by the AIM occupation of Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1973, said his presence at a Sept. 9 news conference in Boulder was meant "to put Naropa on alert." Taking over the college's campus, he said, is a definite possibility.


"If this lawsuit doesn't work, I and those that I represent are going to physically challenge Naropa and their legitimacy - and that includes their buildings," Means told reporters.


* Matt Sebastian


High Country News Classifieds
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Native plant seeds for the Western US. Trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers and regional mixes. Call or email for free price list. 719-942-3935. [email protected] or visit...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking two full time community organizers to join our team. Positions can be based in Garfield County, Montrose...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Join our team as the Association's Executive Director. Working closely with the Board of Directors, take ANWS to the next level of professionalism by managing...
  • FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Friends of Cedar Mesa is hiring a Development Director who will have the overall responsibilities of leading our fundraising programs and reports directly to our...
  • WATER RIGHTS/ADJUDICATION BUREAU CHIEF
    Job Overview: Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that Montana's land and water resources provide benefits for present and future...
  • CLIMATE CHANGE COORDINATOR
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is seeking a Climate Change Coordinator to play a lead role in shaping our programs to make the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...