Sweatbaths and Healing Water

Sycamore TreeOne of the Sycamore Trees along the Creek

Chief Chawkeekee invited Alice and her father to “drink and grow strong”.  They did so and found the water to be a pleasant tasting mineral water clear as crystal.  They then watched the Indians using the water.  Many of them drank a gallon of water or more a day while others took “sweat baths” in it.  Early Indians were taking sweat baths in airtight wigwams where mineral water was poured over hot rocks. This gave them the effect of the modern steambath.


Excerpts from” Visions of a Vanishing Race” Written by Victor Boesen and Florence Curtis Graybill,

daughter of Edward Sheriff Curtis      Page 38

The sweat lodge was a small dome-shaped framework of willow wands covered with blankets.  Close by, the fire was heating the rocks.  The Indians set with their backs to the blanket wall on their haunches.  The attendant dropped hot rocks into the small pit.  The blanket opening was slightly closed and the singing began.  At certain words of the song, water was thrown on the rocks.  This steam filled the place.  The Indians advised only if necessary, that if the heat became too hot, you could lower your head and lift a corner of the blanket to release the steam.  This was a test to see the perseverance of the person and was not considered in good form.

At the end of four songs and the final series, the blanket was lifted slightly to let in a little air.  Then a new supply of hot boulders were thrown into the pit, with new steam rising up for the next round of songs.  The heat that went with the fourth and final round of songs brought the supreme test of endurance. 

The frigid air was a relief after being in the sweat lodge for any length of time.


They were using the blue mud by the springs to draw the poisons out of their bodies.  The Indians attributed the amazing results they were getting to super-natural powers, little realizing that the day would come when modern science would verify their discoveries.

(I remember playing with the mud; it was a blue-gray color and seemed to have a slippery oil coating of some sort. We would spread it on our arms and legs and let it dry. It would form a hard crust.)


NATIVE AMERICAN LEGENDS   Native American Medicine

Legends of America.com

With so many tribes, there were no exact standards of healing.  Most of the tribes believed that health was an expression of the spirit and was a continuous process.  The strength of staying strong spiritually, mentally, and physically, as well as keeping in harmony with themselves, kept their health reestablished. The natural environment, and Creator, would keep away illness and harm. Each person was responsible for his or her own health and all thoughts and actions had consequences, including sickness, disability, bad luck, or psychological injury.

Alice and her father returned home from this visit and the impression made that day never left her. Alice was convinced of its healing qualities.  She believed in them her entire lifetime.


Referenced materials  have been summarized.

Copyright 2015

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