[UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, Jon Tevlin of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has also taken a critical look at the dubious “Native American” connections of Nemenhah. He is not convinced either.]
JISHOU, HUNAN — The degree to which frauds can dupe the unsuspecting and to which otherwise intelligent people can believe utter nonsense never ceases to amaze me.
Take the sad case of Daniel Hauser, 13, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He and his parents refused chemotherapy after his first treatment, saying it is contrary to their religious beliefs. Their refusal led the Brown County (Minn.) Attorney’s office to file a child endangerment complaint against the parents. The case is now in court.
The Hausers are “traditional catholics,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but the crux of their defense is their membership in the Nemenhah. Their attorneys insist that the Nemenhah’s religious beliefs are protected by federal Indian Affairs law, so the Hausers can do whatever they bloody well please.
The Star Trib and other media sources identify the Nemenhah as “an American Indian religious organization.”
Well, it ain’t.
The Hausers are probably very nice people, and perhaps they would prefer not to see their young son suffer through chemo, but they are dupes, plain and simple.
Here is what I have been able to piece together about the Nemenhah Band, to which the Hausers apparently belong.
The Nemenhah are not a true Native American tribe, nation or group. They are wannabe Natives — white folks who adopt Native-sounding names and
steal adopt Native American ways. This behavior has recently become a trend among New Agers in the USA, who have pretty much milked Eastern medicine and philosophy for ideas to peddle to the ignorant here. Now they are robbing Native American culture for fresh ideas to sell.
The Nemenhah’s websites claim, however, that the people known as the Nemenhah came to North America from the Middle East before the Christian era, and settled in the Four Corners area. Records (the Mentinah Archives) of their history and beliefs were preserved there, and only were recently (2004) translated into English. If this history sounds awfully like what is in the Book of Mormon, then it may interest you to know that the Nemenhah supposedly joined Hagoth, a figure in the BoM, when he left his homeland.
The LDS church, however, does not recognize the Mentinah Archives as authentic. The irony there is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
For suggested initial and monthly “donations,” you too can become a member of the Nemenhah, can buy their tribal medicinals, and can even sell them to your friends and family by joining the Nemenhah MLM.
Being afforded “spiritual adoption” means protection under federal law, the Nemenhah website says. “As a Nemenhah Medicine Man or Woman you will be able to practice your Healing Ministry under the full weight and protection of the Native American Free Exercise of Religion Act 1993 (NAFERA) and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act 1993 (RFRA).”
There is no archeological or historical evidence of a people named the Nemenhah living in the Four Corners, however. (There is also no similar evidence corroborating the Book of Mormon, but that’s another story.) The US Bureau of Indian Affairs and Native American organizations do not recognize the Nemenhah as a valid tribe or nation, either.
Contrary to Native American practice, the Nemenhah’s online healing academy charges money (aka donations) for training to be a medicine man or woman. The Hausers, including Daniel, are medicine men, according to news reports.
You cannot become a member of a recognized Native American nation, tribe or people by paying money. To gain membership, your ancestors had to have been Native Americans, and you have to prove it. Saying your great-grandfather was Cherokee, for example, does not mean you are a Cherokee.
For that matter, paying money to a church for training or religious education is pretty atypical, unless the church happens to be the Church of Scientology.
The presumed head of the organization, known formally as the Nemenhah Band and Native American Traditional Organization (Oklevueha Native American Church of Sanpete), is Phillip R. Landis, who goes by the pseudo-Native name of “Cloudpiler.” Landis is a naturopath by profession.
Landis, coincidentally, wrote the foreword to the “translation” of the Mentinah Archives and published the English translation. The original texts are supposedly locked away in a safe location, while five unnamed translators voluntarily work on the translation.
Someone on a Mormon forum site challenged the authenticity of the Mentinah Archives. Landis, under the unlikely name of Ea-lea Powitz Peopeo, responded with a lengthy diatribe providing arcane details about the Nemenhah and the archives, all couched in language to appeal to a Mormon readership.
Those who want a better idea of what the Lord is doing to bring forth these translations can go back and study how the Lord did it with Joseph Smith. It is very similar. The heavens are opened. The original writers and God are very much involved in helping the translators. This should not be a surprise to anyone, yet it is a great stumbling block for many because of the condition the prophets and Christ said the Church and the world would be in in our day. For example, there are those who simply do not believe that God will allow anyone to be a translator unless he is one of the General Authorities of the Church. They don’t recognize that Joseph Smith was a translator before he was called to be the head of the Church. The fact is, God can call anyone He wants to be a translator, even an ignorant farm boy.
More of his rationalizations can be found here: http://blog.nemenhah.org/ The organization and financial structure of the Nemenhah and its MLM seem pretty sketchy to me, but I am not a lawyer.
Speaking of the law, Landis several years ago had some legal problems in Montana and Idaho regarding a mushroom-growing business that encouraged farmers to grow reishi mushers and be paid for their harvest. Some farmers allegedly never got paid.
The layers of deceit in this story are almost too many to count. We have a family who have bought into (literally) a supposed Native American church. This church claims to give its members protection under federal Indian Affairs law, but the church and the Nemenhah tribe in fact are not recognized Native American entites.
Meanwhile, the sole reason for the Nemenhah Band’s existence apparently is to peddle a line of “traditional” medicinals, using a dubious MLM scheme, to people like the Hausers, who want alternative ways to stay healthy.
A decision on the child endangerment complain is expected Tuesday. We’ll see how successful the Nemenhah Band has been in convincing the judge of their authenticity.
LINKS OF INTEREST:
Minnesota Public Radio report: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/05/07/parents_refuse_treatment_for_son/
Indian Country Today report on the Nemenhah:
Whistling Elk blog – American Indian Voice of Spirit and Reason commentary
New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans – a Native American site criticizing pseudo-Native healers, schools, etc.
Links at the site specific to Nemenhah: