I could see it nestled in among some trees as I was walking down the path through the field. The thing was humongous from a traditional point of view. I was taught that the lodge should be small and cramped, not even enough room to stand up in. But this one was large. I’m sure that you could fit two rows of people in there, and still have room to be comfortable. I must admit mine aren’t as small as tradition calls for, but I usually have about eight people sweating with me, and that puts us shoulder to shoulder; so close we could sweat without the rocks.

I was there to take the lodge apart, and take the wooden frame down to the river to soak. I needed to re-build it somewhere else. Somewhere where there was no poison ivy. I had built the first lodge on this land, and taken it down that year as was required by the camp. The willows I had hidden nearby tied to a tree, and re-used the following year to make the second lodge. That second year, I was allowed to leave the lodge standing as the camp manager had lived on the Res for some time, and was more accommodating to such things. I had built the lodge, and my group used it, then we left. The next time I set foot on the grounds, my lodge had been disassembled, and the camp manager had built her own. This was the lodge I needed to tear down.

The lodge is basically a set of willow saplings set in the ground in a circle, then bent-over and twisted-together with their adjacent saplings and then tied in place. On this lodge there were also two levels horizontal ribbing woven into the frame about 18 and 36 inches above the ground. I’m not sure, but I suspect the differences I see in this lodge are cultural. All Native Americans had some form of Sweat Lodge, and what I had learned, I received down the Choctaw line. It was interesting to see the differences in traditions.

I set about very respectfully, cutting the strips of colored cloth that held the lodge together. She had used red and black. That makes sense to me as the colors represent the directions, but I had expected to also find yellow and white. The fact that cloth was used was odd to me as I was taught to strip the willows and use their bark as the lashings to hold the lodge together. I started at the door and made two sunwise rotations cutting the cloths on the lower rib first, then the upper rib. I piled all the shredded cloths in the rock pit in the center of the lodge, as they needed to be burned in the next sweat fire. As I walked around the lodge, I stumbled over rocks encircling the lodge. I am not sure what they were there for; some traditions make crescent moons out of spent lodge rocks east of the lodge to mourn the Trail of Tears. Or perhaps these rocks were just used to keep the skins from leaking air underneath them. On the backside of the lodge, there were two ropes affixed to the ground, and going up over the lodge. The other ends were attached to a horizontal bar just over the door. I suspect a blanket would be hung from the bar to close the door. What a neat idea. When I started to untwist the ends of the poles from one another, I noticed that these branches were very brittle, and would unlikely be re-usable. I pulled all the poles out of the ground, and bundled them together. I left them near the fire ring so that they may be used to start the next sweat fire.

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