'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
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field Seminars for adults: cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. With guest experts, local insights, small groups, and lodge or base camp formats....
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.