Mike Shaving (left) and Mike Jewett (right) after a traditional sweat lodge ceremony. They participate regularly in the purification ritual, where they pray to Native American gods and chant inside a dark, steaming-hot teepee. Shaving, who works for a program that helps low-income families on a reservation in South Dakota, says the practice has helped him overcome his alcohol addiction. Jewett, a self-employed man who suffers from debilitating back pain and does not always have enough money to buy food, says the ceremony helps him stay mentally focused. “If you concentrate on your prayer, you don’t feel anything,” he says. “You have to think with your heart, not your mind.” Until 1978, sweat ceremonies were illegal in the United States.

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