My name is Mike Hoover. I’ve been down since 2006. I’m serving life without the possibility of parole under Washington’s 3 Strikes Law for robbery.
I am Klamath – Lumbee and Irish. I’ve been a Pipe Carrier at the Washington State Penitentiary for 7 years now, and in my tenure within the Native American Circle I have been a strident activist for religious rights within prison.
Our Sweat Lodge is the only place we can go within these iron houses were we r freen to engage each other in a meaningful way and to practice the old ways of our faith. During those 8 hours at lodge we are relieved of the pressures and rules of everyday prison life.
Since first coming to this prison in 1999 our lodge has always been the same. It is a humble plot. there are no flowers or grass. There is a bare area where the sweat lodge structure sits, a mound, a path leading to the fire pit, a staff in each of the four dirctions, and a 4’X6′ garden where we try to grow sage or lavender.
Recently our lode came under attack by administration and custody for not being as bucolic as they felt it should be.
Various members of the circle were called out to the lodge and dressed down by an associate superintendent. Topics discussed: Weeds, water being offered to the fire, an unauthorized garden, water left running, urinating, placing retired rock elders around the mound and path leading from the mound to the fire. (spirit trail).
We were told that if we dident get rid of the weeds and if we could not maintain our grounds that they would consider cementing the entire area. If the water was left on, it would be shut off, and replaced with 2 five gallon buckets of water. We were accused of creating a smoke screen and diversion by placing water on the fire. We were chastised for urinating at lodge during the 8 hours we were locked in the enclosure. (there is no toilet). We get 1 bathroom break for 8 hours.
The worst part of the ordeal for me was being told that we were not even authorized to have a mound, let alone putting the rock elders around it. “Policy only allows for 50 rocks”…. The associate superintendent said she would allow us to keep the mound (the mound is the dirt taken to create the pit in the center of the lodge, a small amount), for now, but that the rocks around the mound and path had to go.
I refused to participate in desecrating the mound. I feel that DOC wants to sterilize and dilute our religion, our way of life. Everything we do at lodge has a meaning and there is a reason for it. If we don’t keep the old ways we are lost. But how can we continue to walk the red road to healing, spiritual growth, and rehabilitation when DOC places so many detours and road blocks along our path.
Lodge was the one place they never interferd with. Yeah, in the past they have always tried to test the fences by creating ludicrous and insensitive policies which were always amended when the tribes or outside factors got involved but this is different. They came into our house and dident just rearrange the furniture they they broke shit. I’be made several attempts to get them to allow us to restore the practice of lining the mound and giving us hourly bathroom breaks, but they’re not trying to hear it.
Categories: Michael Hoover