Project and Story By: Kee’Adyn Pitawanakwat (Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School)
A sweat lodge is a very sacred traditional way of helping out the “ spirit, mind and body.”
I apologize for the lack of pictures and evidence of me actually helping. These ceremonies have been with my people for generations. They are so sacred that I’m not allowed to take photos or videos of inside and what happens. My Dad allowed me to take a singular picture of what a sweat would normally look like in order to do this project. I will write about my experience of what happened and the things I learned now that I’m older. I have been around these ceremonies since I was born as my Dad is very traditional. I did go inside and if you are curious since I am not allowed to tell you about the most important part I will provide some insight.
The sweat lodge is essentially like a sauna but a million times worse. It was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time. The sauna part is heat created by steam from water poured onto the rocks which are heated in a sacred fire. We call these the grandfathers. We believe they are alive. They have been here since time and memorial. We use these heated stones to invoke the spirits and call them in to help guide us and doctor us. The sweat has four rounds depending on what it is for and the door is usually opened after each round. Each round consists of songs to call in or acknowledge certain spirits or grandfathers like the thunderbird, bear, turtle, wendigokhan or backwards spirit.
Once you leave the sweat you feel very weak and everything around you feels cold but in a good way and you also feel really good. It is hard to describe but it’s like being born again if that makes sense, aside from that once I did my first round I was pretty much done from there. I decided to help out on the outside instead. Since it gets hotter with each round and I have a choice of participating for each round by either helping on the outside or going in. There was no way i was going back in after I realized how hot it can really get since I haven’t been in one since i was a child. Now since they wanted me to help out in some other way I was tasked with helping setup some food and traditional medicines. Also I was the fire and doorkeeper after I decided to leave the inside.
Along with some tools which I cannot name and since i wasn’t going to participate on the inside of the sweat. I helped out everyone by opening the door and the entrance into the sweat. I made sure no animals or people came around to disrupt the ceremony. I guarded the pipes and medicines. This is an important job since it can be really hot and possibly someone could get hurt if you don’t. Once the doors opened up and the sweat lodge was done. I helped close the ceremony by praying and closing off the pipes that were used in a specific way
This pretty much sums up what I did for most of the sweat, I also had to use tobacco and put it into the fire and pray for all those who go into the sweat so that they will be protected and safe. It is a nice thing to do considering how much they will go through once inside because you are not allowed under any circumstances to leave once you enter and a round has begun until the songs are over. I’m glad everyone was okay, no one was hurt and mostly I had some fun. I am thankful for this experience and I got to learn a lot about my culture with my family.