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08/06/2007 Entry: "Bear Butte, Grasshopper, and the Sweat Lodge"
When we left Paul and Judy that morning in Nisland, SD, we headed for Bear Butte. Deacon Joe had recommended that we go to Bear Butte, as it is the Sacred Place of the Plains Indians. Whether or not we are Indian, it is a very spiritual and special place.
It was a mere 26 miles to Bear Butte. After we settled our belongings at the campground there, we hiked up to the summit. Beside the trail were numerous cloths of different colors, some with tobacco wrapped inside it; each cloth is an offering or prayer that some Indian made. As we got closer to the top, we could see miles and miles of the Great Plains stretched out before us. Even though the terrain was hilly on our bicycles, it looked completely flat at the top of Bear Butte. Truly, the Great Plains.
As we were going about our usual business back at the campsite, an Indian in a large pickup drove past us. He went by the lake for a smoke, then got back in his pickup. As he was driving out, he asked us about our trip. Then he told us he'd be back later to camp and then drove away. About an hour later, we came back and said: "You are a very special group. I feel a great energy in your group. I'm going to a Sweat Lodge tonight, would you be interested?" That's how we met Grasshopper, and got to attend a Sweat Lodge.
For those of you who don't know, a Sweat Lodge is the where Indians connect with the Creator. It is where they pray. The structure is a bunch of sticks positioned in a dome, and covered with several layers of blankets. Before the ceremony, they build a fire and heat rocks underneath it. The proper attire for a sweat is: only shorts, no shirt for a guy, and women must have a skirt or a dress. Karen and I borrowed skirts from Vernalee.
At the start of the ceremony, the Indians present their offerings: pipes, eagle feathers, and other things that I couldn't distinguish. Then it is time for people to enter. Before entering, we waft ourselves with cedar smoke using an eagle feather. Then as we enter the Lodge, we must say "Matakayasi" meaning "To all my relations". After everyone is inside, someone brings the hot rocks in, cedar leaves are put on it, and then the door is closed. It is completely dark inside, except for the dim red glow from the rocks. To make it hotter, they poor water on the rocks. The Elder beat on their drums, and sing some songs. Within minutes, we were all drenched in our own sweat. Afterwards, all my body fluids (sweat, snot, tears) made no difference...everything was soaked.
There are several rounds of sweating. I don't remember all of them, but some of them were: opening, prayer, healing, thanksgiving, pipes, and closing. Between each round, the door is opened. Someone must say "Matakayasi" before the door can be opened. Water is passed around in the ladle, where we can rinse ourselves a bit, and drink some water. More hot rocks are brought in before the next round starts.
The Sweat Lodge was a powerful, very personal experience for all of us. We are especially proud of Ariel. She doesn't deal with heat well, and she was in a lot of pain during the second round. We all prayed for her though. And she said during the third round, her headache went away. And that's never happened before! It had always been that if it came, it didn't go away. It was awesome.
After the sweat, we all enjoyed soup together. Vernalee had made 'puppy soup' and we had made the veggie soup from Ariel's mom. We all talked for awhile before Grasshopper drove us back to the campsite. We went to sleep to the sound of Grasshopper singing his Indian songs by the lake.
Replies: Leave us a note! (1)
Hey all... I've been following your progress of your trip. I loved the post about the sweat lodge. Sounds like a good time. You'll be in RAGBRAI right??? I'm riding the last 4 days of it. Take care and ride safe.
Joe... Osage, Iowa
Posted by Mojoe @ 07/14/2007 08:14 AM CST
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