by Adrian Alleyne
To be able to explain the emotional, physical and psychological affects of an Aboriginal sweatlodge, one must experience it first. Our journalism class was invited to Piapot First Nations so that we could gain this experience first hand. A trip that started off as a 30 min drive down Hwy 6, quickly turned into an adventure none of us will soon forget.

We decided to take the Trans Canada east, to the Yorkton turnoff and we would be able to find it there, or so that’s what we thought. And by the way, it was about six in the evening when we left. Then our professor, Barreno, realized after 25 minutes or so that he had made a mistake in giving directions. So he owned up to it and called us and said to head back to Regina and start over again from Hwy 6.

Did we listen? No, of course not, because we knew a better way. Well so we thought. There were two cars in our group. The lead car had some Saskatchewan students in it; surely they wouldn’t lead us astray. Wow was I wrong.

Eventually we came across Standing Buffalo First Nations, and decided we should probably ask for directions, just to make sure we were on the right track.

The gentlemen at the gas station seemed pretty helpful at first. He pointed us in the right direction and told us once we hit the fork in the road, we should stick to the left. We traveled down this road for a good 25-30 minutes. Unfortunately, though, it was a dead end. I realized this was going to be a long night.

So we did the only thing we could–turned around and made our way back to the gas station. Once there we told the guy what happened and he seemed confused, like we were crazy. He then went on to say that he made a mistake and meant to say turn right. I appreciate him owning up to his mistake, but really right or left, how do you get them confused? Anyways, we head back up the road and this time we went right and prayed we would find Piapot soon.

By now it’s around eight o’clock and we were tired of driving up and down this grid road. We decided to pull over to collect our bearings. “Hey these are rural folk, they’ll be willing to help,” I decided. So we waved down some people on the highway. The first lady I waved down was very hesitant I guess I can’t blame her: a big guy on the side of the road jumping up and down trying to get your attention is kind of creepy.

She drove by at first, then she had a change of heart and backed up. She opened her window just enough to be able to hear me. So I asked her where Piapot was and she gave me some crazy directions. I was polite and said “thank you.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her she didn’t know what she was talking about. The directions she gave were to go back exactly where we came from an hour before! Oh well, at least she stopped.

Fortunately another person stopped and it turned out he knew someone in the other car and gave us some good information, so we decided to go with it. By this time our cell phones start working again (there was no signal for a while, talk about straight out of a horror movie.) We got a hold of Barreno and he told us he’d meet us at Hwy 6.

At first we’re not too sure and we turn around a couple of times, but we finally decide to do what Leonzo says because it was not following him that got us into this mess in the first place. Before we move on we stop to discuss our game plan and Christine Jakubowski, a very energetic fourth year who was traveling in the lead car decides to come into my car. I guess there were too many women in the other car, and I hear it’s not a good idea to have five women in a car together that gets lost. Those aren’t my words, that’s just what I hear.

Finally we make it to Hwy 6 and we see Leonzo’s car, and there is a collective sigh. No matter how much fun getting lost was, it was a relief to finally know where we were going.

We make it to the reserve and it’s about nine o’clock: three hours after we left. Thankfully our hosts were very welcoming and patient enough to wait. That really tells me something about the character of the people putting on this sweat. They could have easily said “no we need to do this another night,” but they waited, and that’s something I know we all appreciated.

So we chat and wait as they prepared the rocks for the sweat. I am a little hesitant at first because I don’t know what to expect, but I go in and hope for the best. I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences of my life. I felt emotionally cleansed after it, and I was able to say things that I may never had said. So despite being lost for three hours, the end result was worth it and I recommend everyone to try and experience a sweat lodge.

I learned four things from this experience; first a sweat lodge is something that everyone needs to experience. Second, if you think you have an easy way to go somewhere, easy isn’t always the best. Third, you don’t really know a person until you are in an intense situation with them. And finally, journalism students are great with words, cameras, and editing, but please, never ask us for directions.