Indigenous Arts & Stories - Sweatlodge


2013 - Writing Winner

I drank some water and re-entered the lodge, this time with hope. I gave my prayers of thanks loudly for my Creator and the ancestors to hear. I felt the breath of my mother beside me, and felt the warmth of her skin against mine, and for the first time in two years I felt her motherly embrace.

Read Elicia Withers's Sweatlodge

Elicia Withers

Kelowna, BC
Peguis First Nation
Age 18

Author's Statement

Way, inca i skwist Elicia. Hello, my name is Elicia. I am 18 years young, and I chose to write about my struggle with my mother’s addiction because that is a part of our history. But so is getting better. My life goal is to inspire youth to live a sober life and walk the Red Road. (Road of Sobriety) I have spent my teen years dealing with and thriving in the Ministry. I have also become a leader within my community and have won awards for my leadership qualities.The Sweatlodge has played a huge role in my recovery from hate and moving onto forgiveness. It is important to write our own histories as well, but also not to forget what our Elders tell us. They have inspired me to keep praying to my Creator that my mother will recover. Also along this road I have completed the Katimavik program and met youth facing similar struggles. I hope to inspire. I hope that those who are lost on this road are never forgotten for who they once were and for who they can be when they are sober. I wrote this hoping to help those who are now facing a similar situation as me; please know that it does get better.



I try to embrace the warm breath of the Grandfather rocks, but I choke. I sit in my place inside the sweat lodge and ponder why it is so dark while the Grandfathers glare at me, enticing me to come forward to them with their warmth. The heat stings my skin, but it merely reminds me that I need to pray harder; as my Elders’ say. I pray for purification this round.  The Grandfathers are the only way out of this darkness; off the Black road I am travelling, and onto the Red road. Drugs from days ago seep through my skin, and the Creator comes to me and I break down. I have become the thing my mother has also become. I am neglecting my family. I pray to the Creator quietly for my mother who suffers from addiction, and my brothers who suffer from the consequences of her withdrawals. I forget to pray for the purification of myself.  I remember this in time, and from this I learn to love myself and walk the Red road. All My Relations is exclaimed by those now purified, and the doors are gracefully opened. I humbly crawl out and gasp for cool, fresh air.

My Elders call for those who wish to enter the lodge this round to gather and re-enter in our humble way; on our hands and knees humbly into the womb of mother earth. In this round we are asked to pray for the male aspect of our earth and immediately I think of my brothers, nephew, my Mosom, (Grandfather) uncles, and father.  I recall the pain of being separated from my family, especially my brothers. I reminisce about the many times my father would hurt us for our own good, but also the good times with my dad. Remembering my little brothers face and those last few precious hours we spent together before being separated and not seeing each other for the next two years brings me to tears. And once again back to my mother with whom I was so angry with for taking it all away; my life, my family, my everything! How I HATE my mother! But this is not the time; I need to pray for the male aspect. This brings me to tears remembering my deceased uncle and grandfather. Mosom’s words echo in my head about forgiveness and I immediately pray to my ancestors for help, I need to release this inner pain knowing they are all in a better place: including my brothers no matter how much I ache for them. I embrace the breath of the Grandfathers whom have brought me so far, and I exit the lodge.

Once again we are called to re-enter the lodge: this time for the female aspect and healing. This round I am doing for myself and for those who I have affected and those who affected me because I let them, especially my mother. Cast out the pain I suffer because I let her addictions affect me in such ways of hate. I pray for her because she walks the black road, and I have yearned for her to see my way, my light, and embrace our Native culture for healing. She has put me through such pain! Wounds run deep and bleed inside me because of the cuts she has given me: and the cuts I have physically given myself. Ancestors give me wisdom! Help me help her! I just want my mommy back…She is an evil woman for causing all this pain! I HATE her! Ancestors please heal me, please help me.  My people have asked me to sing the Woman’s Warrior song, but can I sing it? I started to sing but I lost my voice and the heat overcame me, so my people sang for me and gave me strength. The doors are opened and this time I throw myself out of the exit exhausted both physically and spiritually. I had to lie down on the grass, and as I was looking up at the sky I felt the heartbeat of Mother Earth beneath me and realized that I am one with the earth; I am my people, and what I do and say reflects my mother earth.

I drank some water and re-entered the lodge, this time with hope. I gave my prayers of thanks loudly for my Creator and the ancestors to hear. I felt the breath of my mother beside me, and felt the warmth of her skin against mine, and for the first time in two years I felt her motherly embrace. I gave thanks for this life she has given me and the journey I am on because of the lessons she has taught me. I shook with a feeling I think they call happiness; but I haven’t felt it to this extreme in two years. My grief was over, and I could give thanks for the lessons learned and finally forgive for what was done to me, and forgive and love myself above all. I exited the lodge with a renewal I haven’t felt for a long time, and vowed never to forget the power of my prayer.  I gave my round of hugs to my fellow brothers and sisters, but saved a special one for my mom.

We feasted afterwards and filled the one last hole that was aching inside me: hunger. My mother will never know that these are the emotions I have suffered the whole time, but her strength to come here and her decision to get help to get clean again has truly empowered me to be better myself. Yes, I still get scared this will happen again, and yes, even though I am on my own, I still wake up to nightmares about it, but then I remember the woman she is now, and that it is the end of that dark black road chapter in our lives. My mother is my inspiration to continue on in life and to go further with my culture, and be full in all aspects of my psychological Medicine Wheel.