Continuing on with our First Nations week, we have made a sweat lodge. Sweat lodges are used by many First Nations people across North America and in my home province of Saskatchewan. They are used in purification ceremonies on reservations.
While we were in Regina over Easter we visited the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. This is a photo I took of of their sweat lodge exhibit. I love the way they build life-size replicas and commission artists to paint the background walls. There are background sounds of singing, drumming, and chatting. Everything is put together so well that it almost feels like you are there!
They are built in a dome shape, but we’ve used a tipi shape for this as we didn’t make the planned tipis when my “work” schedule changed and we did other things. This design is also based on a photo Mom sent to us of a craft she saw. It’s also easier to construct a tipi shape than a dome for younger children. Kallista began by painting a small paper plate for the base of our lodge.
We took 3 disposable chopsticks (I purchased several dozen from an Asian food shop for crafting with the children). and tied them together at the top with a piece of string. We poked holes in the plate to help hold the splayed chopsticks in place
We taped some used crepe paper around the chopsticks. As authentic sweat lodges are usually covered with blankets and towels, this teal colour isn’t out of place. The children went out to the front garden and carefully chose some small stones to place around the tipi to help hold the blankets down.
Tristan and Kallista carefully placed some stones in the centre of the structure. The stones used during a ceremony are carefully chosen for the purpose and heated on a fire outside of the lodge. When they are ready they are moved into the centre of the lodge. Some sweat lodges use these stones hot and dry; others ladel water over them to create a lot of steam. The participants spend their time inside praying, meditating, and seeking help with their problems to cleanse them spiritually.
We again raided the Lincoln Logs box for someone to participate in the ceremony. In order to explain the ceremony to Tristan in a way a four-year-old would understand, I related it to when he is sick with croup and we run the shower with the bathroom door and window closed to make as much steam as we can. We sit in there and let the steam take away all the sickness and bad feelings we have as we sweat through our skin. It also helps to clear the lungs, nasal passages, and head. He seemed to understand the connection that one feels better in their body and their mind after having a ‘sweat’.
For more ideas to engage children in First Nations culture, follow our First Nations page.