Well known as the “Urban Elder”, Vern “Asin” Harper is a native Cree spiritual elder and medicine man living in Toronto. A descendent of two hereditary chiefs, he is a fifth generation grandson of chief Mistawasis and a sixth generation grandson of chief Big Bear, who fought the last battle between the Cree nation and the Canadian government in 1885. His name Asin means “stone”.
Vern Harper © Matthew Wiley / photo courtesy Matthew Wiley
Vern has been leading sweat lodges all over North America for decades. I first met him in 1990 at his lodge near Guelph, Ontario for my first “sweat”.
The sweat lodge (Vern says the proper term is purification lodge) is a traditional Native American prayer ceremony held in a kind of domed hut usually made of bent saplings that are traditionally covered with skins, or now-a-days, canvas. People attending the purification crawl inside the lodge and sit in a circle around a pit-like depression in the ground. Once inside red hot stones (the Native American people call them “grandfathers”) are placed in the pit and the entrance door is shut tight.
Sitting in a circle on the cold earth, the experience is very womb-like. Utterly dark inside except for the glow of the red hot grandfathers, herbs and water are then sprinkled over the stones and the singing begins. I can tell you it is an intense experience. Some people have visions. Some just hunker down and survive. Whatever happens you emerge feeling totally relaxed, renewed and lighter. You actually are lighter and it is time to drink plenty of water to replenish the fluid loss.
Last Sunday I attended a sweat / purification ceremony led by Vern at his lodge near Guelph, Ontario. I was able to interview him.
I gratefully accept your comments and feedback.
May there be peace in our hearts.
May there be peace for all humanity.
May there be perfect peace on earth.