i used to be spiritual advisor to hundreds of native american prisoners for five years. I was allowed to go in so that native americans would have guidance from one of their own. this was part of religious freedom. but it had to be in accordance with the rules behind the walls. or someones interpretation of the rules.
at one institution, the chaplain told the native brothers "the difference between us and you is that you (meaning the Indians) pray to this (pointing at the fire and rocks) and we pray to God. that summed up my five years going in. native americans were at the bottom and kept there. it was tough to get wood for sweats, our time was cut back because there wasnt enough wood. I offered to have wood donated and delivered, they declined my offer. Another place had a deal with a business that made headstones for graves. The broken pieces of rejected headstones were used in our sweats. I was allowed to bring in lava rocks after the shellac on the headstones burned our nostrils when we used them. After i got a supply of them in, i wasnt allowed to bring any more. The reason given was it was too much work on the staff, even though they were required to provide necessary materials. If i brought in fresh willow poles to rebuild the lodge, that was counted as my clergy visit and I wasnt allowed to conduct ceremony. The brothers used to make a prison stew of ramen noodles and whatever else they could come up with. This was stopped. We all fasted before ceremony. So I wasnt allowed to eat until after I left around 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon, later if they felt like hassling me.
I had security clearance to go into maximum security prisons. I was identified as outside clergy. They wouldnt refer to me as clergy. I was called a 'medicineman' even i told them i wasnt one. even though i was clergy with clearance i was treated differently than the other clergy. they were often waved through security with multiple items while i was checked out each time i went in. the single pipe bag i carried for ceremony was always checked, sometimes several times. one guard said 'i know what you smoke in these'. at one prison they stopped me from bringing in my pipe even though i had been using it for 2 1/2 years. i think some of the other religions were embarrassed by the way i was singled out, but were too afraid to say anything to the staff. one chaplain delighted in hassling me, even if i was there to conduct ceremonies. after he would scream at me like a child, i would go in and pray in ceremony with my bros. most of the other chaplains treated me badly also. they were the 'religious services' people. i couldn't believe they were men of God. they often put themselves in a god-like position. the only way to God was through them. they tried their best to drive me away. in the end they just pulled my badge, which amounts to firing me. i am now pretty much blackballed from going into other institutions.
many times the native brothers would ask me why i put up with the mistreatment. i said because not many natives can come in. many of the ones claiming to be native spiritual leaders in fact arent. there are too many posers. they were often accepted when a brown native wasnt. i knew some of the staff at the prisons i went into didnt want me there. i put up with it to show the natives that no matter what we could still pray in our own way. no one could stop the way we believed. no one could grant us freedom of religion nor could they take it away. no matter how hard they tried.