A sweat lodge on Fort Carson is leading the way for military installations around the United States. The centuries-old Native American tradition has become a new form of treatment for soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 What once was a ritual held in secrecy is now a growing trend among both active duty and veteran warriors seeking its legendary cleansing powers. In a remote section of Turkey Creek, the air is filled with songs and smoke at the Lakota Sioux inipi, a traditional sweat lodge made of willow branches and donated quilts.

The sweat lodge has been there since 1995.

Hackwith, a Marine veteran of the Gulf War, started the inipi with a couple friends who wanted to follow their own cultural religious practice. They got permission from the manager of the Turkey Creek ranch at the time. The participants pray, sing, play drums and sweat in the tent around dozens of hot stones, in complete darkness. It is a purity ritual designed to help sweat out negativity, a common problem for struggling soldiers.

Special Agent Kevin Cheek of the Air Force, now the military liaison for the sweat lodge, says, “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.”

Fort Carson formally recognized the sweat lodge as a religious practice in 2005, the first ever on a military base. Chaplains now recommend the ritual to those with PTSD. Guided by natives belting out tribal chants, everyone else is encouraged to pray in their own faith.

“You pray for your enemies and people that don’t like you,” explains Cheek. “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.”

Now rocks provide an escape. The stones heat over open flames for hours before being passed into the sweat lodge, where leaders pour sage and water over them to produce the steam.

Originally designated only for men of the tribe, leaders now welcome anyone to the lodge, especially soldiers. Women and men sit on opposite sides of the lodge, which seats up to 40 participants. Women wear loose cotton garb, while men wear shorts. After four rounds of sweating, the participants share a pipe filled with willow bark and eat ceremonial dishes that represent different aspects of life.

The leaders hope the tradition will continue for generations to come. Spiritual leader Wesley Black Elk says, “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.”

You can now find sweat lodges at a few other military bases and Veterans Affairs centers around the country.

Veterans Using Native American Rituals To Treat PTSD

Veterans are treating their PTSD at Native American sweat lodges

Posted by NowThis on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Responses to "Sweat lodge at Army base helps with PTSD treatment for veterans"

  1. Unknown says:

    I would like to come pour water sometime email me a contact information I was stationed there around 82-83 it was a great time there HHC 3rd Brigade 4th ID email me at

  2. Anonymous says:

    who are you pd2eagle?

  3. Unknown says:

    MJ and the guys at Ft. Carson are taking care of business helping Vets and the community. Keep on holdin' it down, fellas.


  4. Unknown says:

    Pd2eagle, if you had any Real experience in Native ways, you would know without question your comments are very rude and disrespectful. I am not going to explain why cause you should already know!! But just to make it clear to you, no one will be contacting you for any reason what so ever. If you are in any way confused ask an elder from up North, they will explain.

  5. Bedagi says:

    Aho Kola. I retired from the Army in 98. A Gulf war vet. I live near Ft Carson and practice the ways. May I Sweat with you? Pilamya Kola's for helping our Warriors in such a good way. I hope to hear from you. Please let me know at Mitakuya Oyasin.

  6. Unknown says:

    I did not know there was this military base in the Uganda. But did know from this online website map of us military bases. There were other information of US military.

  7. It is huge how far we have come in some ways and not at all, in fact going backwards in others. This warms my heart to see these lodges being introduced to those who need it so much.

  8. Unknown says:

    My cousin and I joined the Navy in 1974. We are both intersted in joining this swetlodge. What do we need to do to join you all there unless you know of one close to where we live in San Antonio Texas. Please let me know what our next step is. We both have PTSD and need to do this. Thank you.

  9. Ric says:

    Not the first. There was one on fort sill for many years. In fact, that lodge started in Germany on a US Kassern before the Berlin Wall came down. But. Happy it’s grown.

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