The Cleansing Traditions of Native Americans

Updated on October 17, 2017

The Sacred Place

The Native American steam lodge was not a mere tent where individuals sat around a hot fire. Rather, it was a sacred place where people cleansed their souls.
The Native American steam lodge was not a mere tent where individuals sat around a hot fire. Rather, it was a sacred place where people cleansed their souls. | Source

It's All About Communication

Communication means many things to many people. To some, it is about how you speak to each other. To others, it is about how you touch one another’s hands. And to many different cultures, it is about everything, including the physical environment around you. One such culture that is known for embracing of the physical environment into its language and the way it communicates is the Native American culture of North America. These people are known for being people of the earth, and for communicating with nature. When it comes to the language of the Native Americans, there isn’t just one form of communication used, there are many. They practice everything from sun and rain dances, to shamanism, to chanting. However, the most interesting and intense form of communication used by them is the ritual of the sweat lodge.

The Turkish Steam Bath vs. the Native American Steam Lodge

One might think at first that the differences between these two cultures and their steam baths/lodges were merely cosmetic, but there is more to compare than what one initially sees.
One might think at first that the differences between these two cultures and their steam baths/lodges were merely cosmetic, but there is more to compare than what one initially sees. | Source

The History

The use of a sweat lodge is a practiced worldwide among all native cultures. “Steam baths were popular in Ancient Greece and were later adopted by the Romans.” (E. Saner, News Bank) This long practiced ritual was mainly first meant by past cultures to cleanse the body of “impurities.” (E. Saner, News Bank) Along with Ancient Greece, Turkey and Russia used the sweat lodge as just that, a sweat lodge. (E. Saner, News Bank) But the Native Americans viewed the concept of the sweat lodge differently. It was more than just a steam bath to them. It was a sacred place where their people would come together to cleanse their souls and communicate with each other in a safe and relaxing place.

Going Inside

Source

The Relationship

The relationship between the Native Americans and their sweat lodge can be described through proxemics, “the study of space and distance [and] the way people use the space around them as well as the distance they maintain from others.” (Hybels & Weaver p.142) The Native American sweat lodge is “usually a small dome-shaped structure, about 10ft wide, with a frame usually built from willow or ash saplings, covered with animal hides, canvas tarpaulins, or woolen blankets.” (E. Saner, News Bank). The small enclosed environment is a perfect setting for a small group of people, (“no more than 12”), to engage in a ritual in a personal distance arrangement. (E. Saner, News Bank) Personal distance is described as “the distance you maintain from another person when you are engaged in casual and personal conversations,” and the individuals are usually within “18 inches to 4 feet” from one another. (Hybels & Weaver p.143) Once inside the sweat lodge, the Native Americans’ goal is simple: through the use of intense heat coupled with steam, spiritual cleansing will be reached by “reflection and healing.” (E. Saner, News Bank) The language and communication used within the sweat lodge can vary depending upon the Native American tribe. Some tribes’ rituals “include drumming and offering prayers and songs, as well as sitting in silence.” (E. Saner, News Bank)

Why Native Americans Don't Talk About Ceremony

What We Know So Far...

In most cases, the ritual begins with the passing around of “the sacred chanupa, or peace pipe, in prayer” as a way of getting everyone to tells their real truths. (sweatlodge.html) Once the ritual begins, there is a method and even a word for each and every process. If during the cleansing a person realizes the heat is too much, all they need to do is say the words "Mitakuye Oyasin," or "All my relatives." (sweatlodge.html) In response, “the other participants will move away from the wall so that [he can] pass behind them as [he] leave(s) in a clockwise direction.” (sweatlodge.html) Once settled, the focus is shifted towards the fire pit at the center of the dome. Occasionally pouring hot water on the stones and fire to create the steam, everyone looks to the “luminance of the red hot stones,” and starts to call upon different spirits. (sweatlodge.html) This practice is often referred to as a chant. Native American chanting can involve dancing, drum playing, and singing. However, in a sweat lodge, the environment is mostly meant to be calm and relaxed, so usually the chanting involves monotone singing, accompanied by heavy drumming.

The End

When the Native Americans are nearing the end of their ritual, they chose to say a prayer, similar to churchgoers. By this time, which is 24 hours later, the individuals have accomplished their goal of spiritual cleansing but only at the cost of mental and physical exhaustion. In saying a prayer, the leader of the group gives thanks to their God for everything around them. The process was about healing each other, inside and out. He ends the prayer by saying: “Teach us to heal ourselves, to heal each other and to heal the world. A ho! Love and peace.” (sweatlodge.html)

Never Forget Our True American History: The Native American Culture

I chose to end my article with this picture for two reasons: its simple beauty and the fact that its source is a Native American website.
I chose to end my article with this picture for two reasons: its simple beauty and the fact that its source is a Native American website. | Source

References

References:

  • Hybels S. & Weaver R. (2007). Communicating Effectively. Boston: McGraw-Hill Publishing.
  • “The Native American Sweat lodge
    A Spiritual Tradition.” Retrieved November 14, 2010 from http://www.barefootsworld.net/sweatlodge.html
  • Saner, E. (2009, October 22). The Guardian: G2: Spiritual cleansing: The tradition of the sweat lodge. Guardian, The (London, England.) Retrieved November 14, 2010

© 2017 IrisUnveiled

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)