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!