The following story speaks of the sweat lodge as the powerful friend and leader of the “Animal People.” Long ago, in the days of the Animal People, Sweat Lodge foresaw the coming of Human Beings, inhabitants of the Earth. So one day he called all the Animal People together to give each one a name and to tell him his duties. In Council, Sweat Lodge stood and spoke,
“We have lived on Earth for a long while, but we shall not be in our present condition much longer. A different People are coming to live here. We must part from each other and go to different places. Each of you must decide whether you wish to belong to the Four Leggeds, Winged Ones, Creepers or Swimmers. You all may make your own choice.”
Sweat Lodge turned to Elk, “You will be first, Elk. What do you wish to be?”
“I wish to be what I am an Elk.”
“Let us see how you run or gallop,” said Sweat Lodge. So the Elk galloped off in a graceful manner, and returned. “You are right,” decided Sweat Lodge. “You are of the Four Leggeds” With that said, Elk galloped off, taking his place on the Earth.
Sweat Lodge called to Eagle next, asking what Eagle wanted to be. Eagle replied, “Just what I am an Eagle, a Winged One.”
“Let us all witness you fly,” replied Sweat Lodge. Eagle flew, rising higher and higher the winds gently ruffling his outstretched wings. Sweat Lodge called him back and said, “You are correct, you are an Eagle. You will be king over all the Winged Ones. You will soar in the Sky among the Sacred Winds. You will live among the highest Mountains. Humans will admire you.” With that, Eagle flew away happy. Everyone watched him disappear
into the Sky.
“I wish to be like Eagle,” the Blue jay told Sweat Lodge. Sweat Lodge said again, “Then let us see you fly.” Blue jay tried to imitate the easy, graceful flight of Eagle, but could not keep his balance and was soon flapping his wings. Sweat Lodge called him back. “A Jay is a Jay. You will have to be content as you are.”
When Bear came forward, Sweat Lodge said, “You will be known among Human Beings as a very fierce Animal and strong Hunter. People will fear you. You walk as with the Four Leggeds”. With that said, Bear went off to the woods and has since been known as a fierce animal.
Then to all walking creatures, except Coyote, and to all flying creatures, to all Four Leggeds, Winged Ones, Snakes, Frogs, Turtles and Fish, Sweat Lodge gave names, and the creatures scattered.
After they were gone, Sweat Lodge called Coyote to him and said, “You have been wise and cunning. You have been a man to be feared. When this Earth becomes like the air, empty and void, your name shall last forever. The new Human Beings who come will hear your name and say, ‘Yes, Coyote was great in his time. Now, what is it you wish to be?”
“I have long lived as a Coyote,” he replied. “I want to be noble like Eagle, Elk or Cougar.” So Sweat Lodge decided to let him show what he could do. First, Coyote tried his best to fly like Eagle, but could only jump around, this way and that. Then he tried to run as Elk. He succeeded for a short distance, but soon ran as he always had. “You look exactly like yourself, Coyote,” laughed Sweat Lodge. “You are a Coyote.” Coyote ran off howling, to all those that could hear. Before he ran out of sight he stopped, turning his head standing just as a coyote.
Sweat Lodge, left alone, spoke to himself: “All now are gone, and the new People will be coming soon. When they arrive they should find something to give them strength and power. I will place myself upon the ground, for the use of Human Beings who are to come. Whoever visits me now and then, to him I will give power. He will become great in war and great in peace. He will have success in fishing and in hunting. To all who come to me for protection, I will give strength and power.”
Sweat Lodge spoke as he gently lay down on his hands and knees and waited for the first People. He has lain that way ever since and has given power to all who sought it from him.
This is how it was shared to me by an Ojibwa Elder, as I now share with you all….
~ bear Medicinewalker
Swirling Smoke from Pathway to Destiny: Songs of Healing and Contemplation by Louie Gonnie available at