Guest Column

Tipi Trials

 By Carrie Woodburn, Special to the Independent

I am the homeowner with the sweat lodge and tipi. 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 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 me. This land awakened my creative impulse.

We are privileged to live in such beauty.

Back then seemingly every home had unpermitted additions or structures as the norm (many still do!). My first home was 100-year-old single wall and would never pass inspection. I’d always believed Laguna’s regard for artistry, tolerance and self-expression would remain its unshakable foundation.

Naive of me to think we could erect a tipi without creating upset. Or that speaking with 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 thinking, “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.

We’ve also received vicious anonymous letters on our cars. Our mail has been tampered with and our privacy 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. Andrew gives himself in service to the people. This is what he does.

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

I own and operate three businesses in Irvine. I am a chief executive, certified energy health practitioner, artist, and best selling author. I lead retreats globally. I am licensed by the city of Laguna with a conditional use permit at my home, for which I comply. I am active with a strong thirst for life.

I find it incredibly arrogant that public assumptions and accusations are made in such a self-righteous position as that of Trish Harper who runs a day care business from a neighboring home as though she is the only one with the right to do so. Many homes are zoned for conditional use.

I host an intimate monthly gathering of women at my home. We pray. We celebrate life and being our potential. No different than a bible study or book club. It has far less impact to the neighborhood than the day care she runs daily. Perhaps instead of Trish publicly suggesting to us we seek a realtor in town to move out of her view making life more palatable for her, she consider joining us. There is a rich well of goodness here if she is willing to see beyond her property line.

I’ll likely receive a back-lash for expressing my voice. I’m ok with that. What’s really important is what we stand for. What we all model for the children. I feel the sweet steps of the ancestry of this land. The Chumash. The gentleness in their steps and the reverence they held in their hearts for this land. I hear the beat of their drum as my own heartbeat. Alongside them I feel the ancestry of the founders of this town. The artists and the expansion they stood for, liberating self-expression as a way of being.

A lifestyle. I like the feeling of standing between these lineages. I feel at home here. I feel honored here. I know who I am here. I see my children in front of me. This is what I choose to teach them. I am not an anarchist nor seeking special privilege. I am simply tilling the soil of my land preparing what I believe to be a rich ground for my family to thrive.

The tipi is down. I still pray as though within it’s nurturing embrace. Who knows, maybe the sight of me praying will be more unbearable to some than the tipi….

Carrie Woodburn, Laguna Beach


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  1. Jeff Tyler

    Carrie, your ignorance and narcissism must be bliss.

  2. The Truth

    I recommend everyone to go on here:


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