NEWS & LETTERS, May 2004

No rights for prisoners

I am an active Native American woman at Central California Women's Facility (CCWF). I am saddened by the lack of religious rights of Native Americans. The lack of understanding by staff and our warden is unbelievable.

This is weighing heavily on our hearts. The warden denied everything, denies us any creativity in a positive way that is a part of our Native American Heritage: beads, leather, healing supplies, medicine, such as sage, sweetgrass and so on.

We are not allowed to have any sacred items in our cells or even on the property. All are listed as contraband and destroyed. As state prisoners we are supposed to be allowed articles of ceremonial religious significance.

The ability to practice our religion makes a big difference. Attending sweat lodge ceremonies helped me become a person I want to be, one that cares about others. That is why I want to fight for our rights. There are 150 women here who might benefit from a Lodge.

We are trying to organize on our own. We established a prayer circle that meets once a week. We also started a recovery program for ourselves. We talk about our drug uses and try to get our self-esteem up. We need to keep doing what we can for ourselves.

--T. "Sammy" Pierce

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