Feature | Scientology Nation: L. Ron Hubbard’s otherworldly salvation plan erupts on Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Feature | Scientology Nation: L. Ron Hubbard’s otherworldly salvation plan erupts on Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation



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It was not the first time Crystal Creek had been in touch with Scientology. In November 2007, Los Angeles-based Narconon sent its executive director, Clark Carr, to speak with the Crystal Creek staff. Afterward, several employees were invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood, a palatial hotel and intensive learning center for the religion.

One of the people who visited was Crystal Creek Lodge Director Pat Calf Looking. He was given a room once occupied by actor Errol Flynn; the whole group got the “red carpet” treatment, he notes.

A tour of Narconon’s Los Angeles facilities left him impressed. “Basically, I thought it was a good program,” says Calf Looking, whose office bookshelf contains a stack of Hubbard books about three feet thick. “The success rate was pretty high. They said it was like 80 percent. It’s worldwide, so I’m sure it’s successful.”

Calf Looking wants to launch a Narconon pilot program in the near future. “I know [Devereaux] wants to come home and possibly start a Narconon here,” he adds, “and I know we’d be interested in working with her.”

After the war-bonnet ceremony, the Scientology Celebrity Centre issued more invitations to Larry Ground, Rayola Running Crane and about 10 other Blackfeet to spend 10 days at the Centre.

“It’s beautiful,” says Running Crane, gushing over the accommodations. “It was so gorgeous I was like, ‘Wow, I’m so grateful I’m here; why would they bring us here?’”

Running Crane says they put her in a room where Marilyn Monroe once stayed. Still, she was a bit skeptical at first.

“For some reason, I was afraid in the back of my mind that it was almost a cult,” she says. But, she adds, “On the fourth day I was there, I was sent to a gentleman by the name of Rev. Alfred E. Johnson, a Baptist minister. This gentleman laid out the whole picture for me—he wrote a sermon especially for the Blackfeet Nation. And it was such a beautiful sermon. My walls went down, my heart opened, my ears opened, my eyes opened.”

She says Johnson explained that Scientology does not require her to give up her faith in Blackfeet tribal religion or in Christianity. “And that’s what got me,” she says. “That’s when I began to believe.”

After that, she spent her time at the Centre learning about Hubbard’s life and about Narconon, Criminon and Applied Scholastics. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is what we need, it’s so simple, it’s so easy,’” she says. Running Crane committed to bringing Hubbard’s world to the reservation.

Will Hubbard save Indian lives?
On March 27, Running Crane took her pot of Indian taco meat to Ground’s home, where about 20 other Blackfeet, including most of those who went to the Celebrity Centre in February, gathered to discuss how to introduce Scientology to the reservation. The group included several teenagers, Running Crane’s sister Marilyn Rhodes, who heads up the drug prevention program at Crystal Creek Lodge, and Frank Kipp, founder of the Blackfeet Nation Boxing Club and juvenile probation officer for the tribal court.

About 30 eagle feathers hung from the ceiling of Ground’s home; he’ll use them to make another Blackfeet war bonnet. Before eating, Ground lit a sweet grass smudge and waved it over the food. Another Blackfeet man chanted and prayed in the tribal language.

“Everybody that is here is working in some fashion to save lives,” Grant said. The hospitality the group received at the Centre convinced him that Scientologists want to help.

“If we would have seen anything other than what we’ve seen, we would have went like this,” he said, crossing his arms and turning his back. “We would have turned our backs on it and walked away.

“The simple fact that they have all the literature and stuff like that … and they’re willing to give it? Hey, you can’t beat a deal like that. If it saves one person, and it changes a life, it’s worth it.”

Everyone in the group has seen devastation on the reservation—a 14-year-old who died while using meth shortly after they returned from the Centre; a rash of drunken-driving accidents that killed and maimed people just this year.

But there’s a palpable earnestness and hope in the air. Now, with the help of Scientology, Ground and the others feel they have the power to do something about the problems they see.

After dinner, the group took pens and paper and made notes on a plan of action for bringing tech to the reservation. The group has been armed with boxes of Hubbard’s books, and videos that explain Scientology and its technology.

At one point, Running Crane holds up Self Analysis, a thick book by Hubbard that describes itself as “a simple self-help volume of tests and processes based on the discoveries contained in Dianetics.”

“I’ve always looked for self-help books throughout my life to make myself a better person,” Running Crane said. “And now I’ve realized I don’t have to do that, because of the simple techniques of L. Ron Hubbard.”

Eventually the talk turned to the problems people might face when they present Hubbard’s work to other Blackfeet. “Here’s one of the things that everybody is going to run into,” Ground said. “You’ll run into skeptics. You’ll run into people that say it’s a cult.”

“Black propaganda,” someone called out, using Scientology lingo for notions that go against the religion.

“Yeah, black propaganda,” Ground continued. “I know that each and every one of you guys have talked to your families about it. Let your families take a look at it and see what they feel and think. Don’t push it on anybody.”