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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

American Indian Chief Performs Healing Ceremony for Upper West Siders

Staff Reporter of the Sun
February 13, 2007

A fragrant mix of smoky sage and red willow bark filled an Upper West Side meeting room that's windows were covered with blankets and plastic sheeting and whose door jams were sealed with duct tape. Standing near the center of the room, an American Indian chief and medicine man, Harold "White Horse" Thompson, chanted and waved stone-filled rattles that pierce the darkness with streaks of light.

About 30 men and women who had come to the Children of Life interfaith center sat around the chief. They had come to participate in an American Indian healing ceremony called a Lowampi.

A small but growing number of New Yorkers are embracing Mr. Thompson's holistic healing philosophy and making periodic trips to meet with him in South Dakota. In November, some of his adherents paid for him to travel to New York City, and last week they brought him back for another two-week stint.

"It's not about slowing down the pace of New York but bringing a different perspective on life and how we make decisions," a resident of the East New York section of Brooklyn who is studying to become a Lakota medicine man, Omar Miller, said on Sunday. "New York needs this kind of energy."

Mr. Miller, who was reared Episcopalian, said he first became convinced of Mr. Thompson's healing powers eight years ago, after the chief treated a friend suffering from liver failure. Ultimately, Mr. Miller, a 46-year-old registered nurse, said he hopes to balance a career in nursing with practicing as a Brooklyn-based medicine man.

It took Mr. Thompson, 44, a lifelong member of the Lakota tribe of the Sioux Nation, more than 15 years of studying Lakota hymns and natural remedies to receive the title of medicine man. He now treats cancer with poisonous gourd extracts and illnesses such as arthritis, glaucoma, and diabetes with a proprietary concoction of plants and herbs remedies that, he said, lose their potency near dogs, cats, and menstruating women.

Following the guttural chants that inaugurated Sunday 's Lowampi, the chief prompted guests to share their prayers aloud. One by one in the darkness, anonymous attendees prayed for peace among nations, healing for a paralyzed nephew, and their own good health. As they spoke, the chief intermittently shook a rattle or spoke a word or two in his mother tongue, Lakota.

Once everyone had spoken, another participant sang a series of Lakota hymns while he played the drum. The Lowampi culminated with each attendee taking a puff of the chief's bark-filled pipe and a sip from a communal water jug.

A New Age teacher from Astoria, Queens, Stephen Popiotek, 35, said the back and shoulder pain he was suffering from prior to Sunday's Lowampi was gone by the end of the ceremony. "I felt a much deeper sense of peace and centeredness, more of a feeling of being assured about things that are going to happen," he said.

Among the other participants was a suburban New Jersey-based filmmaker and entrepreneur, Salvatore Lumetta, who periodically partakes in Lakota "vision quests" solitary, two-day prayer sessions and ritual fasts that he said strengthen his beliefs and clarify his goals. During his last vision quest, which took place on a South Dakota hilltop last fall, Mr. Lumetta said he heard a voice repeating the phrase "There is no separation," which he took to be God's message of unity among people.

Mr. Lumetta said he grew up Catholic and still considers himself Christian, despite his commitment to Lakota practices.

Mr. Thompson said some members of the Lakota tribe disagree with his decision to teach American Indian rituals outside the community. While some animosity lingers about how natives were treated by European settlers, Mr. Thompson said all people should be able to appreciate centuries-old rites such as the vision quests and Lowampi ceremonies.

Sunday's gathering, he said, gave participants a rare opportunity to let down their guard and verbalize their prayers. "I could tell that a lot of people got answers to what they came there for," he said.

Mr. Thompson will lead another Lowampi ceremony on Friday at 8 p.m. at Centerpoint Yoga Studios, 324 Lafayette St., seventh floor, $65.


Submitted by JM from TX, Feb 15, 2007 15:31

This turns my stomach. A life long member of the Lakota Tribe of the Sioux Nation? Give me a break. Has anyone checked his references? I'm sure he probably has a medical license issued by the Sioux Nation to practice his fancy medicine?

True medicine men and women DO NOT advertise they are medicine men and women; let alone charge a fee. This person is preying on misguided individuals like a televanglist uses Christianity to line his pocket.

What would Christians do if someone decided to take what little they know about their religion, change and alterate to fit their need, and practice this "fake" religion under the guise of being taught everything they know from your local church? People not familiar with your church start to wonder, is this what they learn at that church?


Submitted by Angela Swanson, Feb 13, 2007 23:39

I found this article to be a insult to the Lakota People. First he states he has been a Lakota tribal member his whole life but he didn't know the songs or language??? You all of a sudden do not decide to be a medicine man but it is passed from generation to generation, having being taught from infancy.

Where is his credentials that he is a Chief? I have not heard this? This needs to be checked out. Also true, IS, medicine men DO NOT charge for ceremonies, this makes him a fraud, and Omar Miller now decides he wants to be a medicine man. Sorry it does not happen that way. This is simply exploiting the Lakota ways and another way of genocide of their cultures and ceremonies. I say again this man is a FRAUD and is making, scamming inocent, vulnerable people out of thier money.

There is a name for people like him..."Plastic Shaman."

Rob's comment
There's no such thing as a "Lakota tribe of the Sioux Nation." But there are several Sioux tribes consisting of Lakota people.

Typically a medicine man isn't a chief and vice versa. Medicine might belong a tribe or a clan, but it usually doesn't belong to an individual.

Vision quests are usually four days long, not two.

See the comments on the original article for more criticism of "Chief" Thompson.

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New Age mystics, healers, and ceremonies

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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