Inipi — the Rite of Purification

Periodically throughout the year, our Native American staff and local Native American elders hold an Inipi for our students. The Inipi, also known as a sweat lodge, is the basic purification ceremony of the Sioux, as well as many other Native American cultures.

The Inipi can begin a ceremony, conclude a ceremony, or can even stand alone as a ceremony of its own.

The Inipi lodge takes the shape of a dome and is constructed of 16 tree branches, preferably from the willow tree, and a canvas or hide cover. Due to its shape, some describe the lodge as a symbol of Mother Earth’s womb from the top of the lodge to the circular shape below the earth.

Before the ceremony takes place, prayers are said and the lodge is purified with the burning smoke of sage and cedar.

Throughout Inipi, participants sit in a circle. The ceremonial pipe is smoked while heated rocks are placed on the center fireplace. Water is poured over them to create steam. Songs are sung and prayers are offered by the participants.

During the Inipi, the door to the lodge is opened four times to symbolize the four ages described by the White Buffalo Calf Woman. On the fourth time the door is opened, all participants emerge from the lodge, leaving behind all that is impure.