The Lakota culture is rich in tradition, and St. Joseph’s Indian School looks for ways to honor and connect our students to their culture as much as possible. One of the ways we do this is by providing Inípi.

Inípi, a sweat lodge, is a basic purification ceremony of the Lakota and other Native Americans. It’s a ceremony offered several times a year for students and holds a great depth of meaning.

The Inípi lodge is dome-shaped, constructed of 16 tree branches, preferably from the willow tree, and covered with a canvas or hide. For some, the dome is a symbol of Mother Earth’s womb.

Before the ceremony, participants pray and purify the lodge with the burning smoke of sage and cedar. Participants also purify themselves by smudging with the smoke before entering.

During Inípi, participants sit in a circle. Heated rocks, called “grandfathers” because they are the oldest entities on earth, are placed on a fireplace in the center. Water poured over them creates steam, which is the physical purification of the ceremony.

While participants sit in the darkness with steam from the grandfathers, they pray and ask for guidance, sing and offer prayers to Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka — Great Spirit.

The door to the lodge can open up to four times. The fourth time, participants emerge, leaving behind all that is impure.

Typically, after Inípi, the group moves to a campus home for a meal, where they gather in a circle again —this time around a table. They pray for the goodness they have experienced and offer a spirit place for those who hear their prayers. Conversation radiates around their recent experience and drifts to the future when they can participate in another ceremony.