Inipi – the Rite of Purification

Hello friends of St. Joseph’s,

My name is Amanda and I am a family service counselor at St. Joseph’s Indian School. I work with girls in grades 6-12, along with two other female counselors.

We have 17 high school girls who attend Daughters of Tradition two times per month. This group explores traditional Native American culture along with alcohol and substance abuse prevention. The girls in the group asked if we could hold an Inipi. An Inipi (also known as a sweat lodge) is a traditional ceremony that takes place to pray and purify or cleanse oneself. Two Lakota elders were asked to come from a local Indian reservation to lead the ceremony and pour water for the purification part.

Five students and one staff member participated in the ceremony while the other students and staff helped by making a traditional meal that included homemade beef stew, fry bread and chokecherry wojapi.

The fire was started around 3:30pm to heat the 15 rocks (they are also called grandfathers because they are the oldest entities on earth). When the female elders arrived, students offered a traditional gift of tobacco and money to thank them for giving of their time and wisdom to our students in this way.

Prior to entering the lodge, participants smudge with sage to cleanse and to bring positive energy to the Inipi. All enter the lodge clockwise and say Mitakuye Oyasin (all my relatives) to invite our ancestors in the lodge with us. The rocks are then brought into the lodge one by one and placed in the four directions by the fire keepers. The elders place flat cedar on the rocks as they pray for a good Inipi.

St. Joseph’s high school girls held an Inipi ceremony, which is the Lakota rite of purification.
The girls prepared a traditional meal of stew, fry bread and chokecherry wojapi to follow the Inipi.

Once all this has taken place, the flap to the lodge is closed. While we sit in the darkness with steam from the grandfathers, we all pray and ask for guidance. During this Inipi, we completed four rounds with a break in between so we could have fresh cool air and some water. Once the rounds were completed we all exited the lodge and thanked one another for a great sweat.

During an Inipi, it becomes very hot in the lodge. By the time you leave, you are soaking wet; however, you feel so refreshed and alive and cleansed! After the sweat was complete, we ventured up to one of the high school girls’ homes and enjoyed a nourishing homemade meal and fellowship.

St. Joseph’s is blessed to have a sweat lodge and fire pit, so several Inipis take place throughout the year. An Inipi is a truly amazing experience that allows you to pray with others and purify yourself. The girls always enjoy the experience and the delish meal. They often ask when the next one will be.

Have a blessed day!

Amanda

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 89 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

2 thoughts on “Inipi – the Rite of Purification”

  1. This is a very interesting and informative e-File and took me by surprise. I am more familiar with the Navajo and Pueblo people who also have a sweat lodge tradition, but have not heard them openly discuss that use by women. But then, they are very closed-mouthed about the sacred aspects of their lives. This demonstrates the importance of positive traditions. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for your feedback! Our Lakota studies teacher shared this:
      Traditionally, our women did not “sweat” either. (If the Great Spirit wished us to not be a part of this ceremony we would not. That entity or something close to it asked or agreed that women should take part in this ceremony.)In this day and age, we have to teach our kids what they need to know about the culture. We can’t depend on the entire tribe to teach these parts as they did long ago.
      Amanda is a non-enrolled staff member who has graciously chosen to take part in the ceremony in order to better her relationship with the girls she has the honor to work with here in our mission to educate – heart, mind, body and “spirit.” This ceremony is a part of that spirit path. We would normally not speak out about this, but as educators, we are sharing this experience so that even if one other person is helped by it, we are fulfilled and happy. We haven’t shared anyone’s prayers. This also can relate to the fact that this ceremony was considered “illegal” so speaking about it now feels taboo.

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