The Cultural Appropriation of the Sweat Lodge Ceremony

by Sheldon Roussy in collaboration with Brittany Collier

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Cultural appropriation is a persistent topic with regards to cultural and Indigenous studies in Canada. This paper holds that the cultural appropriation of the Indigenous sweat lodge ritual limits Indigenous community control resulting in benefits for individuals and organizations actively appropriating the ceremony. This article highlights the negative implications of appropriating the sweat lodge tradition through a tragic 2009 incident led by self-help guru James Ray. It is argued that intercultural understanding—though limited—must be fostered to ensure the future safety of sweat lodge participants in both Canada and the United States.


Cultural Appropriation, Sweat Lodge, New Age Movement, James Ray, Indigenous
Spirituality, Cross cultural awareness


Sheldon Roussy is a fourth year undergraduate law student at Carleton University from Webbwood, Ontario. Interests are in business and environmental law, and upon receiving a B.A has hopes on attending law school.