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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 many other emotional, physical and spiritual healings.[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.

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 prayer 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 pipes. The tobacco is used to send prayers to the heavens.They use tobacco taken from the bark of a red willow tree.

Yuwipi Ceremony[edit]


The Spirits differ depending on who is the Yuwipi Medicine 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.[6]

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 a Lakota Medicine Man . He uses the ceremony to connect with Spirits that can help the people. Each Medicine Man has his own way of conducting his ceremony. 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. It allows the Spirits to work without interruption. The lights must also remain off during the entire ceremony. 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 Ceremony Room for the ceremony. The altar is located in the center of the room. The altar is approximately a ten-foot square. The Yuwipi man's assistant places the tobacco offerings, rattles, and a sacred pipe within the altar area.[7] The altar is different for every Yuwipi Medicine Man depending on what medicine he uses.


The ceremony begins with the Yuwipi Medicine Man being tied up with rope and placed face down on the altar. After this is complete the lights are shut off. The Ceremony room has been made completely dark for this ceremony. 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 ceremony room usually include the floor and rattles shaking as they are dancing to the songs. There are also blue sparks that appear,or many other phenomena. Water may be thrown on the participants by the Spirits. There are lights in the air,gourds flying through the air,eagle sounds,flapping of wings,all depending on the particular Medicine Man.

After the Spirits have been summoned and arrive in the ceremony room, the Yuwipi Medicine Man and the Spirits interact to heal the patient. The Yuwipi man prays during the ceremony as well as everyone else in the ceremony room. 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 Medicine 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 Medicine Man and this lets the people know 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 Medicine Man because of the focus needed to interact with the spirits and more importantly the Spirits use his Life Energy to heal the participants. 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. ^ Shamans of the World: Extraordinary First-Person Accounts of Healings ...
  3. ^ a b c d 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. 111
  7. ^ 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