Elders, leaders and students from Red River College came together today in a special ceremony to mark the official opening of the College’s first sweat lodge.
Led by Elders Jules Lavallee and Mae Louise Campbell, the event involved more than 20 participants, many of whom had never taken part in this type of sacred ceremony before.
“Today is a very important day as we continue our work to infuse Indigenous culture, knowledge and teachings across our College,” said RRC President Paul Vogt. “Indigenous student success is a priority at Red River College, and that means providing culturally relevant student supports to help remove barriers and create more pathways to success for our Indigenous learners.”
“We have a significant Indigenous student population at Red River College and this important addition to our ceremonial grounds will have an amazing impact for many years to come.”
The dome-shaped structure represents the womb of Mother Earth, and was made out of willow trees that were collected and prepared last November. Once the branches were in position, they were tied together and the frame was covered with canvas.
Each sweat lodge ceremony has a different purpose, and is led by an Elder or spiritual leader who provides teachings and songs. Through this profoundly personal experience, the body is cleansed, which aids in removing stress and improves participants' mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Sweat lodge ceremonies are used to give thanks, to heal, to seek wisdom, and to purify the mind, body, and soul.
For now, RRC's sweat lodge will only be available to staff, faculty and students. In time, the College hopes to make its ceremonial grounds available to the broader community.
See how RRC's new sweat lodge was assembled: