So You’re Coming to an Inipi…

Will you be joining us for an upcoming Inipi (Sweat Lodge)?  Thinking about coming our for a sweat and want to know more? Here is what you need to know!

Inipi is the Lakota word for Sweat Lodge.  It translates in english to “Stone People Lodge (house)”, because as the womb of our Mother Earth it is the home of the Stone People, which are often referred to as the Grandfathers.  The Womb of Mother Earth is where we go to be re-created. So, the Inipi is a place of healing, of purification and of prayer for all life.

The Inipi is a dome made out of willow branches and then covered with cloth so that it is perfectly dark inside (this is called “black light” and studies have shown that being exposed to complete darkness stimulates the pituitary gland).  There is a fire outside where the fire keeper heats up the stones, which are brought into the lodge where hot water is poured over them creating steam.  This is why the ceremony is commonly referred to as a “Sweat”.  Many cultures around the world have some form of sweat house for maintenance of health.  The Inipi as we hold it is a very sacred time to come together for prayer and healing and we strive to maintain the integrity of the teachings as they were handed down to us by Wallace Black Elk by following his instructions to the letter!

There are four “doors” or segments to the ceremony, meaning that the door is opened four times to allow new stones and more water to be brought in.  These segments are reflective of different stages of gestation, growth, and healing.  Prayer songs are sung in each round that support each stage of the ceremony and at the end of the Inipi the čhaŋnúŋpa (sacred pipe) is smoked and special food called wasna is passed around.

The ceremony itself usually lasts between 4-5 hours.  A potluck meal together follows to celebrate the ceremony.   This allows time for people to continue to embrace their healing and integrate the experience before they drive home and it makes time for people to debrief their ceremonial experience i.e. get help processing any visions or messages that they may have received.

Warning: Some people experience varied or unexpected emotions and/or physical sensations a day or so prior to the ceremony.  Symptoms may include; excitement, nervousness, fear, contagious outbursts of joy, etc.- this is just the medicine helping to bring things up to the surface for healing -not to worry!

Where to go: We are located at 4615 Passmore Upper Rd. in the Slocan Valley. Follow Highway 6 towards Nakusp/Winlaw from the Junction.  Go past the Slocan Park Co-op and turn left onto Passmore Upper Rd. Cross the silver bridge and continue straight(the road turns to gravel) to the end of the road where you will see a Y intersection. The left turns into a logging road so keep right where you see a “No Through Road” sign and follow down the windy road (there are a few blind corners so use your horn to let oncoming traffic know you’re coming!) the road will come to a straight stretch and about 1.5 km along you will see a large straw bale- timber frame house with a green roof and large reflective numbers on the left.  We are 4.5 km from the highway.  You are here!

When you get here, you will be greeted by Kat, Jess or some of our helpers who are familiar with the ceremony, our house, and the protocols.

For newcomers to the Inipi as we hold it, there will be an orientation, explaining the ceremony, so PLEASE arrive on time, so we don’t have to give the orientation more than once!

We will then have time to change into our lodge clothes and head over to the site.

The Inipi is an all-day affair, so be prepared to put the usual time constraints aside and enjoy the experience.  Please also understand that we will be on “Spirit Standard Time “, which cannot always be anticipated by us two-leggeds, so things can change and therefore challenge our ability to be adaptable on occasion! In saying this, we ask that you please arrive on time, so we don’t keep our ceremonial leaders waiting.

Therefore, plan on allowing yourself extra time and know that you will probably get home later than expected.  It is also recommended that you organize your schedule so that you can arrive well rested and give yourself some time the following day to sleep in or just relax! (for those of you that are parents and thinking “yah right” as you read this, just do your best!)

So, what to bring:

Personal Items:

– a towel

-a warm blanket and adequate winter clothing

– clothes to wear in the Inipi (for the ladies; a skirt or dress that falls below the knee, for the gentlemen; shorts, and a tee shirt if you like).  Loose cotton clothing is the most comfortable, as it breathes.  And leave any jewelry behind, especially metal as it can get very hot! You will also need a pair of shoes that are easy to get on and off, and in the winter, a blanket or poncho is a good idea for between rounds.

– a change of clothes for after the inipi.


tobacco offerings (a pouch of tobacco wrapped in red cloth).This is a traditional offering that expresses our gratitude to the spirits and the creator for the medicine we are about to receive. It is presented to the ceremonial leaders who accept it on behalf of the spirits. Tobacco is a medicine plant that holds and carries our prayers to the Great Spirit, which is why it is offered, and the color red represents life.

*Other traditional plant offerings are sweet grass and sage.

To Share:

– food to share for the potluck.

-your sense of humor (this is very important- please do not forget it!)

-curiosity, gratitude, joy and other such festive attributes!

 -a donation:

It costs us approximately $200-300 to put up a lodge for our community, our time in facilitating is our offering to all life. We so appreciate contributions to help us keep the ceremonies going.


The costs involved are;

  • firewood (usually just under a 1/2 cord)
  • tobacco (for hundreds of little prayer ties, which are tobacco offerings wrapped in cotton)
  • 100%cotton fabric in red, white, yellow, black, green and blue (also for prayer ties)
  • washna (specially prepared food for the spirits made with dried calico corn, choke cherries and buffalo)
  • sage, sweet grass and cedar for smudging
  • And, on occasion, site supplies like new tarps or pitchforks for the fire keepers.

Cash and/or supplies as listed above are welcome donations so that we can keep the ceremonies going.

***No one will be turned away because they cannot afford to make a contribution.***

The Inipi is a community project, it belongs to everyone, and therefore it is up to all of us to keep it going.  No contribution is too small, and those of us with more abundant resources have an opportunity to share them! Helping out with the preparation of the ceremony is also a good way to contribute, as there is a full day’s prep for each lodge.

***Just a reminder to the ladies; the Inipi is a holding and gestating ceremony, it is the pregnant womb of Mother Earth so no moon times (menstruating) please, as moon time is a shedding and discarding ceremony.  The two together undermine each other’s effectiveness and therefore compromise the integrity of the Inipi ceremony.  Please honor your body’s natural rhythms and celebrate your moon time, just not in the Inipi!

Out of respect for Sinixt tradition: we ask that all women who still get their moons to have an herbal bath before attending lodge. Cedar, nettles and/or sage are the herbs you can use. One or all three herbs can be used. Thank you for demonstrating your respect this way.

The purpose of every Inipi is to pray for all life and to embrace help and health in our own lives so we are in good shape to share our gifts.  We look forward to sharing this experience with you, and if you have any further questions do not hesitate to call us.

Please confirm your attendance by phone (not email or text) at least 48 hours in advance as there is a waiting list and it’s first come first serve.

See you soon!

Mitakuye Oyasin

The Four Nations Team

Kat, Jess and Frog


Four Nations Coalition of Indigenous Medicines