Iroquois Indian Sweat Lodge Discovered in Wabash County Indiana

Iroquois Sweat Lodge Discovered in Wabash County, Indiana

Looking towards the rectangular stone wall that surrounds a subterranean area of about 4 feet deep.  Some of the stones  of the outer wall look as if they have been subjected to heat.  While I have championed the theory that most of the burial mounds and earthworks in Northern Indiana were constructed by the early Iroquois, this site has remained a mystery until now.

A closer view of the stone outer wall.  A series of boulders flank one side of the work.  One of the boulders has a bowl carved in to its top.  Another such stone can be found a short distance from this site that has a natural spring that runs in to it. Springs are usually associated with the worship of the Earth Mother, as is the sweat lodge ceremonies.

A stone with a bowl carved in in the top is a short distance down river from the Iroquois sweat lodge site. A sacred spring's waters run in to the bowl.  Another spring is between the stone bowl and the sweat lodge where an immense amount of water runs.

Exactly what the purpose of the stone subterranean enclosure located in the Mississenewa River in Wabash County has been a mystery.  A recent find in Northern New York and Ontario may shed some light on the origins of this work in Wabash County. According to Wikepedia , The Moatfield Ossuary was accidentally discovered during the expansion of a soccer field located in Northern New York and Ontario in the summer of 1997. Upon identifying both Iroquois  artifacts and human remains, a team of archaeologists was contracted by the province to conduct an archaeological investigation and recover the human remains. The Six Nations Council of Oshweken, provided consent to analyze the human remains, however the time to do so was limited as the remains were to be reburied December 12 the same year.
   It is believed the ossuary tradition developed in response to an increased need for integration of members of different families for the purpose of agricultural production. At the same time, we begin to see evidence of semi-subterranean sweat lodges appear in the archaeological record, and thought to have functioned to integrate men from different families within the community.
  The city of Marion is not to far from the site of the stone enclosure.  There are many mounds in this area where many skeletons were found in one mound and could be thus considered ossuaries.

This photo is of an Ojibwa Indian sweat lodge made of whole stones . The sweat lodge in Wabash County is larger and the stone surround a large pit. I thought the similarities were worth noting and also to see what the Wabash sweat lodge may have looked like when it was constructed a thousand years ago.

Reminiscences of the Pioneers of Grant County, “Lest We Forget”, pg 22
   About 1850 some surveyors who were digging for the Kirkwood gravel road, southeast of Fairmount, uncovered an Indian burying ground. The peculiar thing about this was that they were buried in a sitting posture, the heads being uncovered first. The bones were yellow with age, but the teeth were well preserved.
    Also, when Marion was first laid out, several Indian mounds were found. One was situated just back of the Buchanan’s old marble shop on Third Street, and the first court house was build on a mound. This one was the largest in Grant County being sixteen feet in height and sixty feet in diameter. These mounds contained many human bones, and an expert from Chicago said that the people must have been seven feet tall.

Two burial mounds of the three that still exists in the cemetery in the city limits of Marion.  Many of the mounds in northern Indiana where described as having numerous skeletal remains within.

    The sweat lodge is a ceremonial sauna used by North American First Nations or Native American peoples. There are several styles of sweat lodge, including a domed or oblong hut, teepee, or even a simple hole dug into the ground and covered with planks or tree trunks. In the northern part of North America, the sweat lodge is a low dome-like structure built on dirt (as opposed to grass or forest brush). Traditionally it is built with a frame of willow branches, which are long, thin and very flexible. They range from three to five feet in height, as the participants sit or lay down during the ceremony.
The willow structure is then covered with either blankets or animal skins. Sometimes permanent walls of clay are built over the willow frame. The walls must be thick enough for the lodge to be completely dark inside and to keep in as much heat as possible. A shallow hole is dug in the dirt in the center of the lodge where the stones from the fire pit will be placed. Stones are heated in the exterior fire pit and then placed in the hole in the floor of the structure.
During the ceremony, the participants encircle the stone pit inside the lodge. The leader or of the ceremony receives the glowing hot stones from the fire keeper and places them in the pit. When enough stones have been placed in the lodge, the leader closes the door and pours water on top of the stones to fill the lodge with steam. This is then repeated three or four times to keep the lodge hot and filled with steam. Participants stay in the lodge for varying lengths of time, up to an hour.