Editor’s Note: This story is s follow up to a story Native News Online published last week, entitiled “American Indian Group’s Sweat Lodge Fires in Danger of Being Extinguished by Oakland Fire Department.”
OAKLAND – There are a few community organizations in Oakland, California that run sweat lodges. Patricia St. Onge(Mohawk Nation) had a dream of conducting sweat lodges on her property so American Indians in the community and others can seek healing and have a place to pray. Through her company, Seven Generations Consulting, she sought out someone who would conduct the sweat lodges on her property.
Patricia St. Onge (Mohawk)
Last year, she was offered assistance of Jermey Goodfeather and others. They built a sweat lodge on these grounds and after the sweat had run for many months the neighbors called the Oakland Fire Department many times, which came and left without incident for a year. The last time they came however, they wanted the fire that heats the rocks for the lodge put out, but using the American Indian Religious Freedom Act to support their actions the people running the ceremony refused to put the fire out and stop the ceremony. The fire department sent St. Onge a “Cease and Desist” order.
After being ticketed with a fine, Patricia had many discussions and a meeting with the fire chief. In the words of Winston Riles, another land owner, ‘It appears like they have accepted the legal basis of our rejection of their Cease and Desist order’. Many members of the sweat lodge community came to the City Hall and the Oakland City Council Meeting this past Tuesday, April 21, 2015, and spoke. They paid respect to their ancestors and the Ohlone Tribe which were the inhabitants of this land before the goldrushh. Patricia and Oakland’s Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed, met yesterday, April 23, 2015 at the sweat lodge grounds. It was determined for everyones safety that the fire should be on some kind of metal flooring, but other than that there was no problem. The fines were dropped and the sweats will continue once the metal for the fire pit has been installed.