Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Finding A Traditional And Safe Sweat Lodge.

After many years of pouring water in the Inipi ceremony, I've grown increasingly concerned by those who continue to conduct ceremony's without the proper training or supervision. It is easy to be fooled by those who see an opportunity to take advantage of good people.
It was almost a year ago that we saw just such a tragedy unfold in Arizona before our eyes on the national news. I thank Wakan Tonka for the great teachers I've had over the years. I would like to pass the wisdom they gave me on to you, in the hopes of protecting you from those of questionable intent.
I pray that they serve you well on the red road.

#1-No Charge! Only the questionable leaders put a price tag on ceremony. Those of us who observe these practices, are disgusted by what we see. Perhaps the Great Spirit should charges them for the right to do the ceremony,(And perhaps sometimes he does). The worst of these questionable leaders charge extravagant amounts of cash to attend ceremony. Remember, any amount, even when called a donation, is the fee. The Great Spirit does not recognize loopholes in the language or the law.

#2-Don't Be Fooled By Salesman! Over the many years I've been pouring water in the Inipi, I have noticed many people making a living on spirituality. I'm at a lost myself to tell the good from the bad all the time. However, Uncle and I have discussed many times that these people seem to use the same phrases as if to justify their personal agenda. Phrases like," I'm providing a service." Or " I deserve to be compensated."
It is easy to find these people, for they make themselves readily available to the public, as all salesmen do. I myself recently viewed 3 separate documentary / sales pitch videos, offered of all places on Netflix in the documentary category. Most of these people claim to be medicine men or medicine women with large followings, But I found not one of them to be trustworthy or truthful. When I checked with our Elders on the reservation, I was informed that no
Spiritual Leader (medicine man or medicine woman) would ever make such videos, much less offer them on Netflix. One of these so called " medicine women" I discovered was not even a member of the tribe she had claimed in her video. But was in fact simply married to a Lakota and was actually a white woman claiming pure Native heritage.
Uncle has told me many times," Books, videos, TV, all that. Throw it away. Follow your heart. No book can show you this. If you want to learn, pray. If you need answers, pray. If you need something, pray, and it will come to you." As my own experience has taught me, uncle is always right. Which brings me to number three

#3-Be Careful Of Who Is Calling Themselves A Medicine Man (Medicine Woman). To start with, true medicine people live among their people. The traditionalists have taught me that even true Spiritual Leaders (ie; medicine men and women) who leave their people are no longer true medicine men and should be avoided. These people have forsaken the true reason the Great Spirit had chosen them to work through in the first place." To help their people." This does not mean that true medicine people don't treat other races. What it does mean is that you will find them among their people. Uncle has helped many regardless of race. He would never turn away anyone in need. But as in most cases you'll have to go to him.
{When uncle comes to visit, he's always glad to see us. However, soon becomes anxious to go home to his people.}
I'm sure there are tribes who have been dispossessed of their lands and forced to live in more urban environments. I have noticed however, these more urban Spiritual Leaders exist with and as close to their people as possible.
As I've stated, it is hard to tell who's who. Be careful. If your gut says there something wrong, Listen! The Creator is speaking to you.

#4-Though you don't need to be a Spiritual Leader (medicine man) to run an Inipi ceremony. It is important to have been taught by one. It is important to also note that leaders of the Inipi ceremony have an ongoing relationship with the Spiritual Leader.

#5-Oversized Lodges! The typical Initipi (sweat lodge) holds between six and 10 people. Oversize lodges are usually typical of oversized profits. The more you can stuff into the lodge the more green frog skin (money) for those in charge. It is the responsibility of the water pourer to watch over all of the people involved in the ceremony. Watching over 6 to 10 people in a dark lodge is hard enough without adding 10 to 20 more. I think it's safe to say only a
Spiritual Leader should run such a large size lodge considering the large size of the responsibility involved.

#6-Be assured by those in charge {of pouring water or the fire keeper} that you may leave the lodge at Any Time, should you feel ill or uncomfortable from the heat. I strongly stress the word Anytime. Only you and the creator know your limits and not even the most traditional medicine man or woman will tell you otherwise. Those who forbid the door of the lodge to be opened so that participants can exit are neglecting a primary responsibility both traditional and as ancient as the ceremony itself, to watch over the people at all cost. This closed door policy does not exist in the traditional ceremony, but has come of age through the prison system as a test of endurance for prison inmates. The prison system has made it easy for people to learn the ceremony without proper training.
No good hearted leader of the Inipi would push you beyond your own thoughts on when you've had enough. Please note however, that in most lodges you will not be able to reenter the same ceremony. This also is for your own safety as often you feel so much better after you've been out of the lodge for a few minutes. It is important to remember that you have had enough, for now.

I hope these words of wisdom will guide you well as you walk the Red Road
Mitakuye Oyosin

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