A sweat lodge for Indigenous ceremonies could be coming to St. Paul.
According to Hinano Rosa, director for the Mannawanis Native Friendship Centre, they are planning to build one behind the centre if they can get the permits and approvals needed from the Town of St. Paul.
“It engages non-natives as well as natives,” said Rosa. “So those who have never experienced a sweat lodge can do so. And one of the things that my wife and I experience, is when we want to sweat, we got to go look around and see who’s holding a sweat. But by having it at the centre, anybody could host one.”
In the past, the Mannawanis has hosted sweats in Lagassé Park as part of Reconciliation St. Paul and National Indigenous Peoples Day events.
Rosa applied for a grant to build the lodge through the Canada Heritage Fund and was approved for $36,000.
“When I wrote the grant, it was based on a garage package that you can buy from Co-op, it costs a little under eight grand,” said Rosa. “I think most of the money will be just taking that equipment out of the ground. And having the town approve that we’re going to put pylons into the ground, and set beams up around the edges, and put the garage right over because we need ground.”
Right now, the location he hopes to build the sweat lodge on is occupied by playground equipment previously used by the Aboriginal Head Start program which used to run out of the Mannwanis. Rosa said he hopes to find another group to take the equipment.
He said direct access to the ground is something critically important for the sweat lodge.
“When the lodge is up, in the middle, they dig a hole, a square one. And then they heat the rocks outside with wood and then they bring the rocks in several at a time. Then they splash water like a sauna and it creates steam.
“So that’s why we need the ground,” said Rosa.
“Then every so often, you got to dismantle the lodge, to give it cleaning. And then you got to put the hole back where you put the willows in. You have to put tobacco. Tobacco has to touch Mother Earth. And so they dig the hole first. Then they put the tobacco and then they bend the willow poles.”
In addition to the sweat lodge space, Rosa also wants to build adjacent change rooms for men and women so the lodge can be used year round without people having to run from the centre to the lodge in the cold.
Now that he has the funding from the federal government, the next step is to talk to the Town about the necessary permits to do the work.
“The bottom line is, whether you’re going to church, you go into a sweat lodge, or a mosque. God is always sitting there. He’ll show up to us the way we believe him to be to show up,” said Rosa.