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How To Build A Native American Sweat Lodge

Updated on June 18, 2013
My backyard!
My backyard! | Source

Native American Indian culture became popular and romanticize in the 1970s. Many non Native Indians today are seeking spiritual enlightenment by experiencing this culture through the use of the sacred pipe and the sweat lodge. Here are a few things to know about one of these practices, the sweat lodge or “Inipi”, Lakota word for the ceremony of the sweat. So you want to know how to build a Native American Sweat Lodge?

First and foremost, you will not learn how to build a sweat lodge on these pages. These lodges are to be built and facilitated by lodge keepers only. These people may include medicine men or women, sundancers, tribal leaders and other tribal members who have gone through the rite of passage and earned this leadership role. With great respect, no one outside of this distinct group should ever build or run an Inipi.

The facilitator of a sweat is responsible for all who attend. Their safety and health is of utmost importance, along with aiding the passages of prayers to the Creator. They do not own the lodge, the lodge belongs to the People. The facilitator is merely the keeper of the lodge and cares for it from the heart and with great love and respect. They are committed to any request for prayers and should never, never take money for the act of the ceremony. Money is a necessary evil in our society today, so donations are always welcomed, but the master of the Inipi can not ask for money or set a price. He is to run the lodge from his heart and not his wallet!

Once more, it is important to understand that not all Native American Indian use sweat lodges. Some tribes do other ceremonies for prayer, healing and seeking in spiritual realms. The Inipi Ceremony belongs to the Sue Tribes. They are the keepers, through the White Buffalo Calf Woman. They are to share and educate other tribes of this ceremony and to keep close to heart and in tact, protecting this rite from abuse and manipulations.

Various Tribes have adopted the Inipi practice and cultured it to their own traditional ways. You will found subtle difference from sweat lodge to sweat lodge, but the core is generally the same. Heated rocks, known as grandfathers or grandmothers, the sacred fire, the alter and the four doors or sessions of prayers.

If you are a Non Native Indian and are seeking this traditional way of prayer, know you can participate so long as you approach the correct people in the correct and respectful manner. Tobacco is often the gift to bring to a ceremonial lodge. This demonstrates respect and a willingness to give your energies in exchange for the ceremony. You may gift (not money, but a practical gift) the fire keeper and facilitator to show your appreciation.

Locating an Inipi Ceremony as a Non Indian is sometimes difficult. Become involved in Indian community affairs and learn of the practices and people involved. You must give of yourself in order to receive and bring a true heart. Eventually you will be invited to a sweat lodge, but remember, if they ask for money or charge, it is not the sweat lodge experience you will benefit from or guarantee your safety.

In comparison, the Inipi is like Church on Sunday. It is a place you go for release of anxiety and giving Creator your concerns and gratitude. It is a place you go for releasing and grieving over those who have crossed over. It is a spiritual sanctuary and should be respected in that manner. It is a ceremony belonging to the Native Indian People and the instructions of building and running a lodge are theirs alone and not to be abused by others who do not understand the tribal teachings.

So how do you as a Non Native American Indian build a Native American Indian sweat lodge? Simple. You don’t!


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    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      I watched a documentary on build a sweat lodge and what it means. Very interesting and so is your hub. Voted up!

    • Eugene Hardy profile image

      Eugene Hardy 5 years ago from Southfield, Michigan


      Thank you for this Hub!

      I always wanted to build a sweat lodge, but being that I'm only like an 1/8 Cherokee and non-tribal, I'll have to go with some type of temple-like hybrid structure that sweats.