Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 30, 2014

Native American worship to resume at Miami Co. prison

Miami Correctional brings back services for Native Americans

BUNKER HILL — Native American inmates at the Miami Correctional Facility will be able to resume worship and study services after the Indiana Department of Correction agreed last week to reinstate their religious ceremonies at the facility.

The prison banned Native American services in June because there were no approved outside volunteers to lead the group, which is a requirement to hold religious services.

The decision prompted a class action lawsuit from Daniel Littlepage, a Native American who has been incarcerated at the prison for two years. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana represented Littlepage in the case.

During a federal court hearing last week, the department of correction agreed to reinstate worship ceremonies like the sacred circle, where prayers are offered by the community, and smudging, which incorporates burning herbs.

The facility said it would bring in a chaplain who assists in Native American worship and study at the Pendelton Correctional Facility to help get the services up and running again.

The prison also agreed to look for a long-term facilitator or volunteer to meet with prisoners and assist with services.

“We’re happy that it turned out this way,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana. “Mr. Littlepage is obviously very happy, too, to see that services will be starting again.”

About 40 prisoners participate in Native American worship and study at the facility, according to a court document filed by the ACLU.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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