Sweat lodge ceremony held at Fort Harrison - Montana VA Health Care System
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Sweat lodge ceremony held at Fort Harrison

American Indian Veteran prepares to participate in sweat lodge ceremony at Fort Harrison

Lexie Follette Country, an American Indian Veteran of the Marine Corps and Army, prepares to participate in the first sweat at the Mitakuye Oyasin sweat lodge at Fort Harrison. Attendees at the annual Tribal Veterans Representative training at Fort Harrison participated in the sweat at the medical center's campus April 20.

By Mike Molina
Thursday, April 21, 2011

Montana Veterans may soon be able to attend sweat lodge ceremonies at the Department of Veterans Affairs Fort Harrison campus here.

Attendees at the annual Tribal Veterans Representative training at Fort Harrison participated in the first sweat at the Mitakuye Oyasin (pronounced Mee-tah-koo-yay O-yah-seen), which means "We are all related or all my relations", sweat lodge at the medical center's campus April 20.

Details are still being developed for Veterans to participate in sweat lodge ceremonies at Fort Harrison.

Sweat lodges provide a traditional American Indian ceremony, or spiritual event, where participants enter a sacred domed lodge and participate in various ceremonies for individual healing and to seek healing of others through prayer and songs. Stones are typically heated in an exterior fire and then placed in a hole in the center of the lodge. Water is placed on the heated rocks to create steam, which is an integral part of the sweat lodge, carrying prayers and songs of participants upward.

According to the Department of Defense, American Indians have the highest record of service per capita of any ethnic group. Nearly 300 Veterans who receive care at VA Montana medical center and outlying clinics have identified themselves as American Indians, but the exact number may be much greater.

With more than 100,000 Veterans throughout the state, Montana has one of the highest per capita of military service in the country.

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