Man dies in smoke house ceremony at La Conner - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Man dies in smoke house ceremony at La Conner

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LA CONNER, Wash. - A 28-year-old Puyallup man died of overheating in a ceremony at a smoke house on the Swinomish Indian Reservation near La Conner.

Romain James died of hyperthermia - an overheating of the body.

"Above a certain level of temperature, the body loses its ability to regulate its own temperature," said Dr. Don Slack, Medical Director for Skagit County EMS. "You can experience seizures, circulatory collapse, multiple organ failure and ultimately death," said Slack.

What happened in this case is unclear.

We do know that during "smoke house" ceremonies, fires burned inside make the building very hot. Some ceremonies are rites of passage, while others aim to cure people suffering addiction and other diseases.
     
The tribe is saying little about Tuesday's death, other than to offer condolences to the family.
     
KING-TV also reports a 17-year-old boy died in a Swinomish smoke house ceremony 12 years ago, suffering complications from pneumonia.

The Skagit County Coroner said had help been summoned sooner, the boy might have survived.

The FBI investigated and found no criminal wrongdoing, but since the media attention that case attracted, Swinomish tribal members are very distrustful.

So far, the FBI has not launched an investigation into this case, but they could.

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