The Inipi or SweatLodge Ceremony (as it is currently called) is one of the most ancient ceremonies given to the Lakota People. The old name for the lodge is Tunka Teepee. Tunka is a Lakota word meaning stone and teepee means lodge. So, the Inipi ceremony takes place in the Lodge of the Stone Nation. The construction of a lodge is very simple. It is made of a variety of tree saplings bent to form a framework that is covered with blankets and tarps. A shallow pit is dug in the middle of the lodge to receive rocks that are heated in a fire pit on the outside.
After the participants have entered the lodge, and the rocks and water brought into the lodge in a ceremonial manner; the leader of the Sweat begins the ceremony with a prayer and pours water on the hot rocks. Participants then begin to sing prayer songs and calling songs to show the Creator that they are there to pray and that they want the Tunkashila (spiritual grandfathers) to join them in the lodge.
After three door openings, the Sacred Pipe is smoked to carry the prayers of the participants to the Creator. And, during the fourth and final round, songs are sung to release the Tunkashila to take the prayers to the Creator for answers. The participants then leave the lodge, knowing that prayers have been heard and that they will soon have answers.
Although there are many occasions for the Inipi to be performed, it is not scheduled on specific days of the week. It is performed more as the need arises. For instance, if someone is having trouble in some aspect of his or her life, he or she can ask for a SweatLodge ceremony to pray to the Creator for help. This means that the keeper of a SweatLodge is basically “on call” any at time to “sweat” someone in need. Also, the Inipi is an integral part of the preparation and purification for the Hunblecheya Ceremony and the SunDance.