Arizona jail revives sweat lodge

Source: Buffalo Post

To create what the adviser calls a “beautiful opportunity to heal,” the Coconino County Jail near Flagstaff, Ariz., is getting ready to rebuilt its sweat lodge for Native inmates.

Andrew Knochel of the Arizona Daily Sun has the story:

The jail houses around 500 people, about half of them are Native Americans, and many inmates, along with advocacy groups, have asked the sheriff to build a sweat lodge.

The structure will be ready for use later this year. Each inmate will be allowed to use the sweat lodge about once every three months.

“This is a great opportunity that the sheriff and the staff are providing for the inmates here,” (Kevin Long, Navajo spiritual adviser said.) “It’s a really beautiful opportunity for healing to happen.”

The Coconino County Jail had established a sweat lodge in 2001 but discontinued its use a few years later because smoke was getting into the jail’s air ventilation. The new structure and fire pit will be located farther from the jail.

The yard where the sweat lodge will be placed currently has a hogan, a traditional Navajo structure, that is used for other religious ceremonies.

Long said sweat lodges mean different things to different religions and practices. When he enters a sweat lodge, he seeks balance — to center his mental, emotional, physical and spiritual identity.

“We bring those four back together to create a whole human,” he said. “We believe it takes all four of those to be whole.”

The four cycles of ceremonies help people rebalance and recenter themselves to get their lives back on a good path, he said.

Jim Bret, program coordinator of detention services, compared sweat lodge experiences to other volunteer-driven programs that help inmates, such as Bible studies or educational programs.

“Any program is important,” Bret said. “It gives the inmates something to do, and it gives them motivation, it gives them hope.”