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Commentary: Tipi, sweat lodge owner speaks out

May 01, 2012|By Carrie Woodburn

I am the homeowner with the sweat lodge and tipi, ("A spiritual place to sweat," Feb. 10). I am saddened and surprised by the negative barrage of commentary and inaccuracy of many public statements.

I am not interested in defending myself, or fueling the fire. I am interested in what we and our children can learn from this experience. And I pray anyway.

Unlike my husband, who is new to town, I've been a resident since 1986 with my first home in Woods Cove. I am an artist, businesswoman and entrepreneur. The essence of artistry Laguna was founded in called to me. This land awakened my creative impulse.

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We are privileged to live in such beauty. Back then, seemingly every home had un-permitted additions or structures as the norm (many still do!). My first residence was a 100-year-old single-wall-built home, and would never pass inspection today!

I'd always believed Laguna's regard for artistry, tolerance and self expression would remain its unshakable foundation.

It was naive of me to think we could erect a tipi without creating upset. Or that speaking with the five neighbors directly impacted was sufficient. That there are already two tipis the same size in town had my Pollyanna faith in "live and let live" get the better of me.

A tipi is not a permanent structure. Knowing our ceremonial use for both the tipi and lodge is protected under the American Indian Freedom of Religion Act, and that everywhere my husband lived before recognized his rights had me think, "Sure, who wouldn't love the majesty of the tipi as long as it doesn't block views?"

Thankfully we've received tremendous community support. But we've also received vicious anonymous letters on our cars. Our mail has been tampered with, and our privacy has been invaded by those who feel they have a right to snoop into the sanctity of our home — the place our children are supposed to feel safe.

This is not simply an issue of "neighborhood compatibility." There is much more at stake.

We've been accused of not notifying neighbors and running an unpermitted business from our home. Neither are true. Ceremony is not a business. It is the right of all people. Some choose to donate for propane and what they receive. There is never a fee.

My husband, Andrew Soliz, gives himself in service to the people. This is what he does.

Lodges are peaceful. We request participants park on Oriole Drive, a spacious road rarely used for parking and having very little impact.

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