by T. “Sammy” Pierce, CCWF
I am an active Native American Woman at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). I came here due to closing of Northern California Women’s Facility (NCWF), where we were allowed to practice our Native American beliefs and ways.
At CCWF, when I first stepped onto the grounds of the Native American Indian Lodge I was saddened by the lack of religious rights towards Native Americans. The lack of understanding by staff and our warden is unbelievable. It’s like being in a boarding school with much hate [from the staff] because of our Indian beliefs.
This is beginning to weigh heavily on our hearts. The warden has denied everything put in front of her, denies us any creativity in a positive way that is a part of our Native American Heritage: beads, leathers, 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 items are listed as contraband and destroyed. As prisoners of the state we are allowed to have traditional items and articles which are of ceremonial religious significance in our possession in a proper and honorable manner according to DOM 53050.11.
The ability to practice our religion makes a big difference to us. When I first came to NCWF, my spirit was dark. 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 at CCWF. There are 150 women in here who might attend the ceremony and would benefit from a Lodge.
Our most immediate need for a Spiritual Advisor. The prison has let go our Spiritual Advisor. She could not come as only a volunteer. We really need someone. If anyone can help convince the prison to re-hire her, or finds us someone else who would be willing, please let us know.
You can contact Sammy through The Fire Inside. –Editors