Three kilometres east of Brandon, beginning Monday and continuing every second week, Frank Tacan will call on the four elements and traditional plant medicine to guide participants through the sweat lodge ceremony, known as inipi.
Tacan doesn’t consider himself a medicine man — he’s a spiritual helper.
The 62-year-old member of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation said ceremonies have helped him heal from the trauma of residential school.
"And this is what I’m trying to teach people. Your ceremonies will help you, your culture, your traditions."
Yet, Tacan said the majority of participants in the Brandon Friendship Centre’s inipi programming are non-Aboriginal.
"Sad to say. I wish our people came," said the centre’s knowledge keeper.
Those who do find their way to the sweat can expect to find a natural, spiritual location, one that Tacan loves. Bald eagles live there. The sweat dome represents the womb of Mother Earth.
"You crawl in, you crawl out," he said, adding that before entering the sacred space, participants must be prepared emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.
He suggests practising managing the heat by taking a sauna if a traditional sweat is a new experience.
He stresses that healing is a process.
"A lot of times people will come there and think they’re going to get healed just like that. It doesn’t (happen like that). And people don’t know how to pray. It makes me laugh because when we speak, when we use our voices, we are praying, because our voice is sacred."
Tacan added that while people want to learn, they often don’t listen.
Women wear long dresses into the sweat, while men wear swimming trunks. Tacan said that’s because men’s minds are weak. But participants can choose a mixed-gender sweat, or a male or female sweat. Tacan’s wife Deborah leads the women.
Towels are brought into the dome, in case of vomit, then burned.
"Once you go in there, it’s a different feeling. It’s a calm effect, because you’re inside the womb. There’s no light, total darkness."
Tacan recalls his first sweat.
"I just about ran out, but the elder said, ‘No. You sit down. You stay there. You came in for a purpose, for a reason. You sit there until the four doors are done.’ Back in those days, elders were very strict. But, today, I’m easy on them. If people want to come out, I let them out," he said. "There’s enough suffering in this world."
Ultimately, Tacan said, the sweat is a positive teaching on how to take care of yourself.
"The key to healing is to listen, to what’s above you, around you, below you. Even the birds … they’re talking. The animals, the trees, the grass. You have to listen. This is why we have two ears."
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