Common Ground |

Common Ground

We all commit acts of ignorance, ignoring the things and people in our lives that matter most. By hurting others, we hurt ourselves.

Or, when wonderful things happen to us we often forget to celebrate our blessings in thanksgiving. Too easily, we ignore the source of all that is good … Creator, Grandfather.

For these reasons and many more personal ones, I am on a journey to my adopted brother’s place in Wyoming for a traditional sweat ceremony. It is the proper way to say “Thank you” for being cancer free for a year.

But more than that, it is the only way to celebrate the gift of life with those good-hearted relations who performed a healing sweat for me last year. They acted on their faith that Creator’s purpose for me was not over.

Though I can never “repay” them, by being together in the lodge we will sing and pray for all living creatures with whom we share the circle of Life.

This is not a matter to be taken lightly. It requires appropriate behavior before entering through the east-facing door of the lodge. And once inside, it is too late for any second thoughts or doubts.

To enter into the womb of Mother Earth unprepared would be foolish. A purification ritual prepares one for a sacred and timeless way of living.

Timeless is good because a “sweat” never starts “on time.” It starts on Indian time.

The 30-plus lava rocks must be the right kind gathered at the right place in the right manner. It is an all-day job to gather the wood, dig a pit east of the lodge for the fire to heat the rocks and know when it is ready.

The lodge is usually rebuilt every spring in a sacred manner using willows bent and tied off into an oval shape with an air-tight covering, which makes the inside very dark.

It’s tall enough for six to 12 people to sit around the center pit where the hot rocks are carefully placed. One must know the proper way to enter the Lodge. What happens inside is not for me to say. It must be respectfully experienced in all its wonderment, awe and inspiration.

This sweat is very special.

Two of us have requested a “thank-you” sweat. That means we will have a “giveaway” after the ceremonies. We will give gifts to everyone present.

It is also a naming ceremony for my brother’s daughter. During the sweat, Grandfather will reveal Liz’s real name to her Uncle.

Native people know that the last thing to happen has to do with food and lots of it. There will be a feast with much laughter and joking with each other. No one will go away hungry with all the Buffalo stew, turkey, ham, and fry bread with plenty of “pop” to wash it down.

Grandfather, this will be a hard, hot sweat. There is much to cleanse. Wrongs need to be made right. Ignorance needs purging. Ahoo!

Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.

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