Veterans are flocking to the Native American sweat lodge on Fort Carson, Colo., for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment. The ritual was once held in secrecy, but it’s now a refuge for active duty and veteran troops who seek its cleansing powers.
Michael Hackwith, a Marine veteran of the Gulf War, started the inipi, or sweat lodge, with friends. They pray, sing, play drums and sweat in the tent around dozens of hot stones. The veterans say the ritual helps them sweat out negativity.
“I’ve deployed five times. I’ve been there and back, and all that negative baggage that you collect and the things that you see and stuff like that, this helps you cope. This helps you deal with all that,” Air Force special agent Kevin Cheek told KOAA.
Fort Carson formally recognized the sweat lodge as a religious practice in 2005. Chaplains now recommend the it to those with PTSD.
“You pray for your enemies and people that don’t like you,” Cheek said. “And that’s difficult, and as a veteran, you’re praying for those people that actually shot at you. That helps you come to terms with a lot of the stuff.”
Spiritual leader Wesley Black Elk hopes the tradition continues.
“There’s not a whole lot of Native Americans left in this country, and the sad truth is someday we’ll be gone, and this is all they have to remember us by,” he said.