Sweat Lodges Northern California

Looking for sweat lodges in Northern California? Learn more about the ancient sweat lodges in Northern California and present day ceremonies…

From the Alaskan Eskimos to the north west Californian Indian reservations, you can see a lot of sweat lodges. These were lodges heated directly by a fire and large enough to accommodate many men. Women were not allowed in the male clubs, and there would be separate accommodation for them.  The sweat lodges basically were a social interaction spot.

Medical Use of Sweat Lodges In Northern California

They were also utilized as a cure for different diseases by the native Indians. The tent-like structure would be heated directly via fire. The people would be provided herbs and would be instructed to pray for healing. The basic precept of sweat lodges is that the toxins would be flushed out of the body. However, it is a tedious and difficult process to go through. Often those who have experienced sweat lodges in Northern California claimed that they almost fell short of breath. Therefore, it is not an exciting sauna like experience, but a rather difficult process of healing.

Structure of the Sweat Lodges In Northern California

The small pilot fire would be kept burning throughout the day. After the men spent many hours gossiping and dancing the fire was heightened to a large size. This would turn the sweat lodge into a torrid container of heat and the smoking and sweating would begin.

In turn the caustic smoke filled the sweat lodge. It is surprising that the hot rock method could also be used, but very few native Indians who were aware of this process switched to the cleaner alternative.

Since there was no stover chimney, the central fire was the simplest way to turn the lodge into a smoke-filled arena. When it became difficult to breathe, the men would lie on the ground to take in fresher air away from the rising smoke.

From America to Alaska you can find the sweat lodges in each region. On the lower Trinity River the small lumber community still has sweat lodges. It very often seems that the morning and evening time has convincing moisture, and mill smoke and dew covers the town. There are the Yuork, Hoopa, Karok, Tolowa and Wiyot Indians who have resided in this area for many centuries.

Ceremonies at Sweat Lodges In Northern California

Most of the sweat lodges in Northern California have been abandoned as the native Indians were driven out. However, there are some reservations that still conduct ceremonies. The previous sweat lodges were used by entering through the opening inside the gabled roof. This would mean that you would have to use a trap door and slide down a pole ladder into the pit. The fire was generally in the center of the sweat lodge and it would be surrounded by the flat river stones.

These would be placed on wooden pillows and cedar wood. The men would take turns stoking the fires. The highly qualified warriors and hunters would compete gathering the maximum amount of firewood. Once their people had finished stoking the fires, the north side of the sweat lodge would be opened and the people would slide out in order to plunge inside the river. Here there was another competition where each person would grab onto a heavy rock and try to walk furthest inside the river.

Women were only allowed to enter the sweat lodge during a specific ceremony. This would be a ritual purification during death or when it was not used as a sweat lodge. It was respected primarily as a male domain.

Some of the tribes were inclined towards the direct fire method. However, this is not a commonality amongst all native Indian tribes. The basic change comes due to the terrestrial areas. The different Indian tribes found this as a social gathering space. Each man could work on their craft while they socialized in the sweat lodge. Others would not have to go out and gather food. Thus they ended up spending more time with a friend inside the sweat lodge.

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