Building a Native American “Inipi”

Over the July 4th weekend, Chad and I had plans that had manifested through spiritual development and the desire to create an Inipi. Previously, we had participated in Inipi ceremonies, and through God’s will, we were driven to build one.

See previous post: Native American “Inipi” Sweat Lodge Ceremony

Arriving at Chad’s on Friday, we began to work on the Inipi, which was a new process, but we felt guided directly by intuition. Chad had already harvested the White Ash saplings from his property which we would later discover was a sacred tree to Native Americans and drove out snakes and evil spirits. Chad had also already dug out the circle and pit for the stones making sure to exit clockwise as he removed the earth. The dirt harvested from creating the circle and pit was used to build the base for the totem. Everything used in the building of the Inipi had been smudged with sage and respected in Native American tradition. We began by measuring and driving holes into the ground where we would place the saplings. First, we started with the four winds: North, South, East, and West, then the four corners totaling eight. We then started striping all of the saplings of the bark and smoothing the surfaces. The process was very time-consuming but felt very natural, and I enjoyed the process.

After all of the saplings were stripped, we began to place them into the holes we had driven into the ground, placing two saplings in the west and two in the East and bending them until they joined. We then weaved them and tied them together with hemp string. We did the same thing to the North and South and then continued with the four corners, tying each very carefully to secure them to each other. We got all of the vertical poles in, and that took an entire day. That evening I decided to camp at the top of Chads hill, which has beautiful views of the valley and a very peaceful atmosphere.

The next day we began by organizing all of the necessary items for the totem, which consisted of many animal hides, bones, oils, feathers, alpaca wool, deer antlers, and other items to establish a connection with mother earth. We continued to work on the frame of the Inipi, inserting and bending the ribs of the frame into place and then constructing the entry to the Inipi. We captured a rainbow that had developed over the hill behind the Inipi as Chad and Adam were tying the final knots. We felt this was a sure sign that we had the blessing of the great spirit. We then went down to Blue Hole, a beautiful local area, to look for the rocks that we would need to heat the Inipi. We found some nice solid rocks but not of the type we wanted, which would be volcanic, but we settled for what we could find in the Hills of West Virginia. After gathering the rocks, we returned to the Inipi and collected all the blankets needed to cover the frame. We then purchased tarps to protect the Inipi and also to make it completely dark inside waterproof.

We wanted to have a ceremony that night to test out the Inipi, so we rushed to get things done because we knew time was of the essence. It took many blankets, quilts, and rugs to cover the Inipi, including a quilt my mom had given me as a kid and two 14′ x 14′ tarps. We started gathering the wood for the fire to heat the rocks (including the shavings from the saplings), getting water for drinking and water for the rocks to create steam. I would participate as the fire tender, so I built the wood stack around the stones to ensure the most effective heat transfer. I started the fire at dusk and continued to heat them for three hours until the rocks were glowing orange. Chad prepared everything to facilitate the ceremony, including chalupa, drum, water, prayer ties, sage, and other items associated with the ceremony.

Once the rocks were ready, Chad and Adam entered the Inipi. I started transferring the stones into the Inipi, circling clockwise and doing my best to follow the native traditions. Still, I accidentally moved some coals from the fire that caused smoke inside the Inipi. Once I had transferred all of the stones, I entered the Inipi, and we closed it up, making sure no light could enter. We settled in, and Chad started the ceremony by playing drum beats and pouring water onto the rocks to orchestrate the ceremony. We were surprised by how hot we were able to get the Inipi, considering we did not have the ideal type of stones and the large size of the Inipi. We did four rounds of about twenty minutes each, taking a break between passing a wooden ladle of water, the chalupa, and giving thanks Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ.

The ceremony was a blessing, and we were happy with how well it went for the first run. Over time we will perfect the ceremonies and dial in some of the details. We could all focus on our intentions and prayed for unity in the world, loved ones, and guidance.

I look forward to participating in many more Inipi ceremonies and feel blessed to have been guided in this direction.

If you are interested in participating in an Inipi ceremony, please get in touch with me.

Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ “All My Relations”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s