Author Topic: Notes from Indian Country - Exposing the fake medi  (Read 5169 times)

Offline debbieredbear

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Notes from Indian Country - Exposing the fake medi
« on: November 07, 2005, 06:08:15 pm »

Notes from Indian Country
Exposing the fake medicine men and women

Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji 11/7/2005

© 2005, Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc

In the early 1990’s I asked my staff writer at Indian Country Today, Avis Little Eagle, to write an investigative series on fake medicine men and women. She tackled what turned out to be a 10-part series with trepidation.

It seemed that everywhere we turned in those days, there was another catalog or news story featuring medicine men and women of dubious distinction. An eerie similarity arose in the backgrounds of many of these would be healers and spiritualists.

So many of these new age shaman made similar claims. They had been adopted by a medicine man (it was always a man and he was usually Lakota or Cherokee). They had learned all of the centuries old methods of healing and ministering by these traditional teachers and when they felt they were ready, they set out on their own to spread the good news of Indian medicine and healing.

In the many catalogs where their ads were placed most had assumed names they presumed to be Native American (Blue Dove, Swift Deer, etc.) and set up shop. They developed a system of monetary charges for sweat lodge ceremonies, vision quests and so on. Of course, every true Lakota and Cherokee knows that there are no charges for the services of the medicine people.

Offline debbieredbear

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Re: Notes from Indian Country - Exposing the fake
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2005, 06:08:43 pm »
part 2:

Most of the new age shaman were not Indian at all. When questioned about their roots by Little Eagle they became angry and defensive. Many proclaimed their rights to practice Indian medicine by virtue of their adoption by Lakota holy men. Many would not, or could not, reveal the names of their so-called mentors.

Others said, usually quite vehemently, that they never enrolled with an Indian tribe and never would because it was the government’s way of keeping them down. They would say, “I don’t need a Bureau of Indian Affairs number to know who I am.??? Most didn’t understand or realize that it was an Indian tribe that considered who or who is not a tribal member not the BIA.

Little Eagle, who last month was elected vice president of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and who is the editor and publisher of the McLaughlin, SD, based Teton Times, a weekly newspaper that serves her tribe, began to grow more apprehensive as her weekly series progressed because she was now receiving outright threats.

One fake shaman, Harley Swift Deer Regan, became very vocal in his threats. He had just been featured in an HBO Special called “Real Sex??? in which he allegedly revealed the sex secrets of the Cherokee people. Then Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, protested the lack of authenticity of this show to HBO executives demanding a retraction of the shows contents. Of course, that never happened.

Regan’s phone calls to Little Eagle became more ominous. But he wasn’t the only one. Some of the women shaman exposed in the investigative series by Little Eagle also went from a defensive position to an extremely offensive stance. They also threatened Avis with lawsuits and worse. Of course, as the editor of Indian Country Today, Avis came to me with all of the threats and I had to really encourage her not to give up on the series but instead to let me handle the threatened lawsuits.

You have to understand that some of the false shaman professed to have extraordinary powers. They attacked Avis with threats of a curse or they told her that they would put bad medicine on her and her family. A series of personal bad happenings to Avis totally unrelated to the series or to the shaman only served to increase the fear that was developing in her mind.

At last Avis started to write Part 10, the final issue of the series. It was a summation of all the nine other parts of the series and her conclusions. As I walked by to pat her on the back as she labored at that last part she had a look of great relief on her face. Her lunch hour came right in the middle of it so she cheerfully headed home to eat.

Not five minutes had passed since her departure when her computer monitor suddenly exploded in smoke and flames. Wow! All of the staff still in the office reacted in horror. I immediately told the crew to get her monitor out of there and replace it with an exact duplicate. Of course all of the memory was in the hard drive so nothing was lost and her computer was just sitting there ready for her to resume the article when she returned from lunch.

I swore my staff to secrecy and no one ever told Avis about the mysterious fire that erupted in her monitor. In fact, this is the first time I am revealing this because Avis did finish the 10-part series that day and breathed a sigh of relief. I’m afraid she would have reacted quite differently if she knew what had happened while she was at lunch.

A coincidence? One would suppose so, but no doubt those who delve into the dark regions of illicit shamanism do so for a reason. Evil can be manifested in many ways and in this day and age of modern technology; many of us do not understand the depths of spiritualism, real and imagined.

The series by Avis exposed many false shamans and she believes to this day that the new owners of Indian Country Today should retrieve her series from the dustbins of the newspaper morgue and re-publish them because there are still many false shamans out there.

(Tim Giago is the president of the Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc., and the publisher of Indian Education Today Magazine. He can be reached at or by writing him at 2050 W. Main St., Suite 5, Rapid City, SD)

Offline Sparks

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Re: Notes from Indian Country - Exposing the fake medicine men and women
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2018, 12:22:36 am »

The original link does not work anymore. I found that introduction in another forum, where the discussion goes on for 36 pages (on my MacBook; your mileage may vary). 715 posts from 2005 to 2015:

It's also posted here, with 5 pages of comments; dating bak to 2005 and 2006:

I have been looking high and low for that 10-article series by Avis Little Eagle, anyone knows its (their) present whereabouts? I found a site where her articles are supposed to be listed, but alas:

Avis Little Eagle
Standing Rock Tribal Member Avis Little Eagle, has served as Councilwoman, Vice Chairwoman and Councilwoman-at-large for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

She is a 1987 graduate of Sitting Bull College and attended Black Hills State University where she majored in Mass Communications with a minor in Native Studies.

She began her career as a journalist in 1990, working at The Lakota Times Newspaper. She eventually worked her way from newspaper reporter to managing editor at the newspaper, which later became Indian Country Today. She reside's in McLaughlin, S.D., where she also is the publisher of the Teton Times, a newspaper covering the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservations.

OpEdNews Member for 74 week(s) and 5 day(s)

0 Articles, 0 Quick Links, 0 Comments, 0 Diaries, 0 Polls

Articles Listed By Date: No Articles have been submitted yet.

Then I found one of those ten articles, concluding with a list of the other nine:

[By] Historian 2008/07/29 07:21 AM
I read all of the 10-part series that Avis Little Eagle wrote back in 1991 and 1992 titled Exposing The Fake Medicine Men And Women, for Indian Country Today newspaper. The following is an example of one of those articles in the series I happened to have in my files, which talks about Wallace Black Elk, Sicangu Lakota, born 1921 - died 2004.


"Sacred Pipe Keeper Fears Feds Will Step In"
by Avis Little Eagle
Indian Country Today (The Lakota Times)
7 July 1991

Rapid City, SD -- Putting a price tag on Native American spirituality has become a way of life for many pseudo-medicine men and women who make a highly profitable living. Several magazines and fliers are circulated around the country, promoting Native American ceremonies and workshops that charge a fee to participants. Many others are more subtle, asking for contributions. It is getting hard to discern which tribe's rites are being promoted. Ceremonies are crossing tribal boundaries and mixing until it is hard to tell which rituals are authentic and which ones are made up.

The Lakota Times has a formidable collection of these fliers. Among them is one from Wapaha Canku Luta, Inc., (Red Road Society). It asks for con- tributions to perform a Sun Dance ceremony and offers national and overseas workshops on: Lakota Language, Understanding the Vision Quest, Understanding the Sun Dance, and the Sacred Pipe.

One 'New Age' man is Sun Bear, who claims to be a sacred teacher of the Chippewa. One of his advertisement reads, 'Sun Bear is looking for Spiritual Warriors. Become an apprentice.' According to these advertisements, he is an expert on crystals and 'The Path Of Power.' He has conducted the Sun Dance and charged non-Indians to participate in this sacred rite of the Sioux. It is not native to the Chippewa tribe. Mr. Sun Bear founded the Bear Tribe Medicine Society, which claims to be a group of people striving to re-learn their proper relationship with the earth. He has written several books, 'At Home in the Wilderness,' 'Buffalo Hearts,' 'The Bear Tribe's Self Reliance Book' and 'The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology.' Mr. Sun Bear writes a lot about mystic power, shamanism, and crystal healing. A Lakota man, who lived in Albuquerque, N.M. for several years, said Mr. Sun Bear uses a pipe studded with crystals which he claims 'could be wiser than man.' Mr. Sun Bear claims to have founded the first new tribe of this century. Because he is geared to 'New Age' people, it is hard to say which ceremonies are actually Chippewa, pan-Indian, or totally fabricated. The worst thing is that there are people out there who will pay large sums of money to seek ties to the earth and to fill a spiritual void within themselves. They never know when they encounter a true medicine man or are being taken in, for their money.

Another 'medicine woman' who is bilking the public out of its money is Marilyn Youngbird, an Arikara, from For Berthold, N.D. She advertises ceremonies to help people learn about themselves and to test their endurance, entitling them a 'Vision Quest.' Tim Giago, founder and publisher of the Lakota Times, heard of one such quest and joined a group of 38 people near Telluride, Colorado, to investigate the ceremony. Non- Indians were running the sweat and were preparing tobacco ties. Mr. Giago said participants had the most modern equipment and camping gear. A Japanese gentleman was out on the hill for his second day of a vision quest, the longest most people in this operation stayed out. The vision seeker was provided a dry, sleeping bag, because of the weeping skies, and a cup of water. In Mr. Giago's Pine Ridge Reservation experience, such a quest might last four days, but it was something agreed upon by the seeker and the holy man. The seeker went naked, except for his buffalo robe. And he consumed neither food nor water. Mr. Giago was appalled that this woman was performing ceremones in the wrong way and for the wrong reason -- money. She claimed it was her call in life to spread the spirituality of the Indian people -- for a price.

Wapaha Canku Luta, Inc., is run by Gerald Ice and Wallace Black Elk. Both are Rosebud Sioux who are capitalizing on Lakota spiritual ceremonies and are using honorable Indian names to lend credibility to the spiritual scams. Adelle Allison Hedgecoke-Lopez of Kyle, said she is upset that Mr. Black Elk and Mr. Ice use the Indian name of Bill Ice, her late fiance, and accept donations to Cangleska Maza (Iron Hoop) Memorial Fund, when in fact the fund is just a means to fatten their wallets. The money is not going to any honorable cause. She said Wallace Black Elk's birth name is Wallace Running Horse and that he is the son of Arthur Running Horse. He is not related to the respected Oglala spiritual leader Black Elk, but perpetuates that belief to gain credibility, she said. Nor is he a medicine man as he claims. She said he started to act like one after the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973. Wallace is Gerald's mother's brother, Cangleska Maza was Gerald's brother's Indian name. He (Bill) was against what they were doing. They are using his name to get money from white people. To me it's disrespectful. He believed in the Indian way and walked that way. Gerald isn't a medicine man and neither is Wallace. It's called the Cangleska Maza Memorial Fund. They never had a memorial or anything. I had one for him (Bill) in December 1989, the year he died. They make a lot of money off of white people, thousands and thousands of dollars, but it don't go to nobody. There is no headstone on (Bill's) grave. I don't know what they do with the money but it doesn't go to where they say it is. They sell ceremonies and all the relatives get blamed for what these two guys are doing. They bought some land in Colorado. That is where they are going to have white people Sun Dance. My only concern is when Bill was still alive he tried to stop them from doing what they are doing. I want to protect Bill's relatives that aren't participating with them, so they won't be blamed for Wallace's and Gerald's behavior. I'm also concerned that they are using his name. In his last days, he tried to put a stop to what they were doing. I'm hurt they are using his name just to scam white people.

When Mr. Black Elk was associated with Ojai (California) Foundation, he was charging $1,200 for sweatlodge workshops, she said, and what they called a 'yuwipi' or spirit ceremony -- even though it wasn't a 'yuwipi.' They were also charging $350 to $700 for various other spiritual teaching. It's just crazy and sad too. My dad told me this is shaming all of us. Charlotte Black Elk of Wounded Knee, a granddaughter of the respected Oglala spiritual leader Black Elk, said Wallace Black Elk is disgracing her family name. She wants everyone to know he is in no way related to them and wishes he would stop perpetuating the myth that he is the grandson of the late spiritual leader. He's Rosebud and not no relation at all. I've never read his book but I was sent a photocopy of an introduction by Bill Lyons. It said Wallace isn't the blood grandson but the "spiritual grandson." This is a joke, she claims. No, he is not related to us. If people tell him, 'I read your grandfather's book [Black Elk Speaks],' he thanks them. He does everything to perpetuate that he is related. One of the things he did was to have a workshop and show one of the videos I did for Public TV. They said, 'Your daughter was great,' and he thanked them. Ms. Black Elk said she researched how Wallace came upon the name Black Elk. 'When I checked it out, it was a name they had in their family which used to be Black Cow Elk. Back then the Bureau (of Indian Affairs) wanted people to have two names or 10 letters in their name, so it was shortened to Black Elk.' Our name used to be Black Bull Elk. Wallace was one of the people censored by the Keeper of the Sacred Calf Pipe (Arvol Looking Horse of Green Grass). He had a whole list of people who were abusing the sacred pipe. He wanted people to know they were not medicine men.

(Wallace) started acting like a spiritual leader in the late 1970's. I always got the feeling he awaited until my grandfather died. One time I got a flier that Wallace was having a Sun Dance in the Black Forest in Germany. It was $90 for sweat, $1,000 to Sun Dance, and $5,000 to be adopted into the 'Elk' tribe. He has all these groupies and I really feel bad that some of these people are really looking for something. They are on a real spiritual quest. They are being sucked in by him and he's just using them for money.

Every time you turn around in white society they pay. It's their culture, so they never question having to pay medicine men. Mr. Looking Horse is spiritual leader, saddened that spirituality is being used for monetary gain. He wants the people to know there are ways to tell if someone who claims tobe a spiritual leader is legitimate. First of all, you don't ask for money, for any spiritual teachings or assistance with ceremonies. Second of all, they have close ties with their reservations and they are respected and recognized as spiritual leaders by their people. He said the legitimate holy man will speak the native language. Sacred words are handed down and you cannot be a spiritual leader without knowing your own language, he said. He also has found that a legitimate medicine man will have a spouse of his own culture. It is pretty hard to practice your spiritual religion with a spouse who has other beliefs. Mr. Looking Horse said he knows Wallace Black Elk and Mr. Sun Bear and has no faith in the ways they conduct themselves. He said a longtime friend called him recently and told him she saw Wallace Black Elk and Mr. Sun Bear on a Caribbean cruise. They were doing sweat- lodge ceremonies for the voyagers. Mr. Looking Horse said he laughed when his friend told him there had been one point at which there was great fear the ship might sink. The friend described how Mr. Sun Bear practically climbed on top of women and children to get to the life boat, saying, 'I'm a medicine man I must be saved!'

Mr. Looking Horse said one of his main concerns is that the Lakota people became free to practice their spiritual beliefs only after the Freedom of Religion Act was passed. The government has tried to stifle freedom of religion by calling Indian beliefs paganistic. He fears that the government will use actions by people such as Mr. Sun Bear and Wallace Black Elk and Marilyn Youngbird, and other plastic medicine people, to put a stop to Native religious freedom. He urges people to look beneath the surface and examine the real motives of these so-called medicine men before being taken in by them.

The other 9 articles in the series written by Avis Little Eagle and published in The Lakota Times edition of Indian Country Today were:

1991. After the Sweat: Caviar, Wine & Cheese.

1991. False Prophets Will Suffer.

1991. Lakota Rituals Being Sold.

1991. Medicine Men for Rent.

1991. 'Buck Ghosthorse': Lakota Impersonator.

1991. 'Oh Shinnah': Prophet for Profit.

1991. Paid Ads Call Her 'Medicine Woman'.

1992. Lakota Discuss Exploitation of Religion, Preserving Culture.

1992. 'Spiritual Orphans': Peddle Religion in Great Round.



Black Elk (aka Nicholas Black Elk), Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, born 1863 - died 1950, was the subject of the following books...

Neihardt, John G.
"Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux", 1932, 1961, 1979, 1988, 2000.

Brown, Joseph E.
"The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux", 1953, 1971, 1997.

DeMallie, Raymond J.
"The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk's Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt", 1984.

Steltenkamp, Michael F.
"Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala", 1993.



Wallace Black Elk (aka Wallace Running Horse), Sicangu Lakota from Rosebud, born 1921 - died 2004, was the subject of the following book...

Lyon, William S.
"Black Elk: The Sacred Ways of a Lakota", 1990.