A largely Christian community of Native North Americans in Quebec has banned a spiritual practice traditional to their people, the Cree. The decision has disappointed some ministers in native communities in the United States and Canada.

The Band Council of Oujé-Bougoumou, a village of about 600 James Bay Cree, voted in October to dismantle a sweat lodge some residents had constructed. The council decided that Oujé-Bougoumou's Christian founding elders had not intended the community to partake in "native spirituality or practices."

"The practice of the sweat lodge and its rituals are not restricted to merely medical [pursuit] of healing, but [are] in essence a way to contact and communicate with the spirit world through shamanism," the resolution declared.

Jerry Yellowhawk, a Lakota Wesleyan minister from South Dakota, sees Oujé-Bougoumou's choice as "a backwards step."

"It's been very hard to try to bring the love of Christ … to the Native American people," Yellowhawk says. "Things like this, when they happen it just makes it that much more difficult."

Only about 5 percent of Native Americans are born-again believers, experts say. Many, notes Yellowhawk, still think of Christianity as a "white man's religion."

Today, Christians in Native American and Canadian First Nations communities sometimes use traditional practices. For Cree Christian Reformed Church pastor Harold Roscher, the sweat lodge remains sacred space.

"It's four rounds of prayer," says Roscher, "an opportunity to pray to Jesus, to God. So I find it invaluable, especially working amongst my Cree people … it's a good way to make a good connection."

Some native Christians object to this. "Where in the Bible can you go where sacred ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

July/August
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this IssueWhy We Love Amish Romances
Why We Love Amish Romances Subscriber Access Only
In our brave, liberated new world, more American evangelical readers are seeking freedom in the Old Order.
RecommendedGreg Laurie, Calvary Chapel’s Big Crusader, Joins Southern Baptist Convention
Greg Laurie, Calvary Chapel’s Big Crusader, Joins Southern Baptist Convention
Amid shared hopes for revival, Harvest Christian Fellowship goes denominational.
TrendingKay Warren: 'We Were in Marital Hell'
Kay Warren: 'We Were in Marital Hell'
Through God's work in our lives, we've beaten the odds that divorce would be the outcome of our ill-advised union.
Editor's PickThe Church's Biggest Challenge in 2017
The Church's Biggest Challenge in 2017
Let’s get unchurched evangelicals back into church, and prejudiced evangelicals back to the Bible.
Christianity Today
Sweat Lodge Prayers
hide thisApril April

In the Magazine

April 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.