Earlier this month, staff and volunteers from Pathways CSA, Mahmawi-atoskiwin and the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary headed to Camp Adventure in Sibbald Lake to build a new sweat lodge in time for the summer. A new sweat lodge is built every season to refresh and prepare for upcoming ceremonies. Staff and volunteers gathered together and helped construct the new lodge using willow and coverings (quilts).
New sweat lodges are always moved to allow the previous site to heal – to allow the grass to grow back and the area to thrive once more. This practice denotes respect and appreciation for nature – a value that has always been a part of Indigenous culture and ceremony.
Building a new lodge serves a practical purpose as well as a more profound one. It enables sweat lodge ceremonies to take place and to continue serving their purpose: cleansing the body, mind and spirit through prayer, and through connection to the spirits of the Grandmothers and Grandfathers. Similar to what takes place during a sweat lodge ceremony, the practice and process of building a new lodge denotes a form of cleansing and renewal in itself.
The construction of a new lodge is another way for people to come together and strengthen their sense of community. It is also a valuable learning opportunity, especially for youth. As Pathways’ Circle Keeper Adrian Goulet says,
Through their participation in the building of a sweat lodge, youth are able to immerse themselves in the culture and learn more about the traditions. They also have the opportunity to learn about themselves – their strengths, skills and cultural identities.
For many, the construction of a new sweat lodge is a way to contribute, to connect with others, to immerse themselves in Indigenous culture, to pass on traditional knowledge, and to learn new things. It is a way of honouring traditional culture and keeping the circle strong for generations to come.