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A Yuwipi is a Lakota/Sioux healing ceremony. In the ceremony, the healer is tied up with a special blanket and ropes while praying for the healing of a specific person or persons. Other participants also pray for the person or persons to be healed.


Yuwipi (pronounced yoo-WEE-pee).[1] is a traditional ceremony of the Lakota people that is used for curing, prophesy, and to find lost items or people.[2] Yuwipi means "they wrap him up"[3] or "they bind up"[4] The ceremony can be performed at any time, it is not an annual ceremony. It is usually performed to heal a sick or injured person but can also be used to find something that is missing or lost. The Yuwipi ceremony is similar to the Sun Dance ceremony in that it uses the sacred pipe and is used to connect with spirits.

This ceremony is practiced by many other tribes in the Americas but is not called Yuwipi, which is a Lakota word.

The sacred pipe is used for the smoking of tobacco (Nicotiana rustica) in ritual ceremonies. The sacred pipe is called Chanupa.[5] The meaning is said to come from references to a tree of life and the concept of Mother Earth. The Lakota people have a specific kind of tobacco that they use for their ceremonies. The tobacco is used for a relaxing and calming feeling. They use three different ingredients to get the tobacco for the sacred pipe. They use tobacco taken from the bark of a red willow tree, bear root, and a green leaf picked from a specific green tree.[6]

Yuwipi Ceremony[edit]


The spirits differ depending on who is the yuwipi man as well what the goal is of the ceremony. The spirits can be human ancestor spirits or they can be animal spirits. Animal spirits can be birds or they can be four-legged animals. The bird spirits can be eagles, hawks, owls, robins, or blackbirds. The eagle is considered to be a very powerful bird and would be a powerful spirit as well. The four-legged animal spirits can range from a coyote to a black bear.[7]

The term Yuwipi may also refer to stones. The spirits are often referred to as stone men. Stones are an important part of the ceremony. The spirits become an important part of the ceremony.[3] The stones are the spirits that come when it is dark. The spirits that come during the ceremony are usually referred to as stone men.

Yuwipi Men[edit]

The Yuwipi man is the healer and is the one that is tied up and performs the ceremony. The Yuwipi man is similar to a medicine man or a shaman. He uses the ceremony to connect with spirits that can help the people. The yuwipi man is well-trained for the ceremony and has specific guidelines he must follow. However, it is also important for the people in attendance to also follow specific rules. No one can touch the area of the altar or the strings that hang around the altar. If a person touches an area they are not supposed to during the ceremony, stones will be thrown at them by the spirits. The lights must also remain off during the entire ceremony. Some claim that if the lights are on while the spirits are being summoned they will not come because they are afraid of the light. However, this is not true. Lights are turned off so that we as human being are able to focus without distractions from the physical world.

The Yuwipi man and his assistants prepare the lodge for the ceremony. The altar is located in the center of the room. The altar is approximately a ten-foot square. The Yuwipi man places the tobacco offerings, rattles, and a sacred pipe within the altar area.[8] The altar is different for every yuwipi man depending on the visions he receives.


The ceremony begins with the yuwipi man being tied up with rope and placed face down on the altar. After this is complete the lights are shut off. The people in attendance sing songs. The drum is considered one of the most sacred instruments to the Lakota people and is also used while trying to summon the spirits. They sing different songs depending on what the ceremony is meant for. The first song is to summon the spirits. After summoning the spirits, they sing prayer songs. The spirits then arrive usually after three or four prayer songs. The signs that the spirits have entered the dark lodge usually include the floor and rattles shaking. There are also blue sparks that appear.[3] Children are more able to see the spirits than adults and this is thought to be because the children are more innocent beings.[2]

After the spirits have been summoned and arrive in the lodge, the yuwipi man and the spirits interact to heal the patient. The yuwipi man prays during the ceremony as well as everyone else in the lodge. Drumming and singing are important components of the ceremony. The drum is considered sacred so the drumming mixed with the singing helps the spirits heal and interact with the healer. Once the spirits and the yuwipi man have finished communicating, the people in attendance sing the song to the spirits to untie the healer. The spirits are the ones that untie the healer and this represents that they helped the sick patient as well. They also sing songs for the spirits to take the offerings that were left for them. The last two songs are for the departure of the spirits. One of the songs means "spirits go home" and the other song means "quitting song".[3]

Once the songs are over and the spirits have left, the lights are turned back on. The yuwipi man is free from the rope and sits peacefully on the altar with the blanket used for the ceremony. The ceremony is often very tiring for the healer because of the focus needed to interact with the spirits as well as the rituals. After the ceremony is complete, everyone passes around the pipe with the tobacco packed inside of it. Everyone is allowed to smoke from the pipe, including women and children, but it is not mandatory to do so.[3]


  1. ^ Yuwipi: Vision and Experience in Oglala Ritual
  2. ^ a b Shamans of the World: Extraordinary First-Person Accounts of Healings ...
  3. ^ a b c d e American Indian Religious Traditions: An Encyclopedia, Volume 2
  4. ^ Pipe, Bible, and Peyote Among the Oglala Lakota: A Study in Religious Identity
  5. ^ Shamans of the World: Extraordinary First-Person Accounts of Healings ..., pg.112
  6. ^ Shamans of the World: Extraordinary First-Person Accounts of Healings ..., pg. 112
  7. ^ Shamans of the World: Extraordinary First-Person Accounts of Healings ..., pg. 111
  8. ^ Encyclopedia of Native American Healing


  • Shamans of the World: Extraordinary First-Person Accounts of Healings... By Nancy Connor, Sounds True, Incorporated (June 1, 2008)
  • American Indian Religious Traditions: An Encyclopedia, Volume 2 By Suzanne J. Crawford, Suzanne J. Crawford O'Brien, Dennis F. Kelley, ABC-CLIO; illustrated edition (June 29, 2005)
  • Encyclopedia of Native American Healing By William S. Lyon, William S. Lyon (Ph. D.), W. W. Norton & Company (March 17, 1998)
  • Native North American Religious Traditions: Dancing for Life By Jordan D. Paper, Praeger (November 30, 2006)
  • Yuwipi, vision and experience in Oglala ritual By William K. Powers, University of Nebraska Press, 1984
  • Pipe, Bible, and Peyote Among the Oglala Lakota: A Study in Religious Identity By Paul B. Steinmetz, Syracuse University Press, 1990