Last Friday, the 10th, the Pipeline Students came to sweat with us. The Pipeline is Pitzer’s Native American Summer Pipeline to College Program, a college prep program specifically for Native students.
From the first day of the program, a lot of the students asked whether they could experience a sweat. Some were used to going to sweat, while others had never been before to one. There was a lot of apprehension and nervousness on the part of many students, who had only heard tales of what it was like to sweat. (Even though all of the students were Native, many did not grow up on the rez or were not connected with their tribal culture.)
Chief Cerda graciously agreed to open up the Ohlone sweat lodge to the Pipeline students, even going so far as being the sweat leader that night. 10 pipeline students went, many who had never sweated before. The tribal members who were there were all welcoming and friendly, explaining the rules of sweat to the students and reassuring them.
During the actual sweat, most of the pipeline students stayed all 4 rounds, although a few students left after the 2nd round. One student had a panic attack and left after the 2nd round, but she felt good about her experience nonetheless: “I went outside and threw everything into the sacred fire, which was good. I think that my panic attack happened for a reason and because of it, I got to let out my fears and panic into the fire.”
Everyone agreed that it was a good experience overall and that everyone learned something new. Many of the students were grateful that they got to experience a part of their culture, learned new songs, and gained new brothers and sisters. (Many of the students were from different tribes, including Oglala Lakota from South Dakota, the Menominee Nation, and the Jaguar Nahuat nation of Mexico.) The sweat with the Ohlone was considered a highlight of the program and one that many will not forget.