Rekindle your spirit at Native-themed spas

Regardless of cultural background, people from all walks of life enjoy being pampered.

But imagine being pampered in a spa where the aroma of sage or sweetgrass fills the air and the services offered are distinctly American Indian themed.

Imagine no more.

The following spas not only promise to help you slip into deep relaxation, but also massage your soul and caress your spirit. These are just a few of the world-class, award-winning luxury spas that offer Native-inspired treatments surrounded by enchanting destinations.

Located minutes from Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, the luxurious Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa sits on land unspoiled by urban sprawl, where wild Spanish mustangs are often seen thundering across the desert – land owned by the Gila River Indian Community.

No details were spared in the creation and services offered at the resort’s Aji Spa & Salon. The 17,500-square-foot spa features treatments inspired by the culture and healing herbs of the Pima and Maricopa people.

The spa was named after Aji Mountain, where in times of battle, women and children were sent to hide in this sanctuary that offered a bird’s eye view of the valley.

There are five Native American signature spa services provided by Pima or Maricopa community members. Stephanie Heckathorne, director of public relations for the Sheraton-managed Gila-owned resort, said the Healing Massage, conducted by the tribe’s medicine woman Belen Stoneman, takes guests on a contemplative 110-minute relaxing journey into themselves.

Each session begins with sharing and discussion, and then moves into body work. “It’s an excellent way to get honest about pressures, aches and pains,” Heckathorne said. “She can reach you on a different level, and you can share as much or as little as you like.”

Therapists use shegoi and lavender for the Native Herbs Cleansing Wrap, which includes a scalp massage and a closing verbal gift from the therapist.

As a method to relieve inner aches, the Burden Basket Pima Meditation session teaches guests how to leave their burdens behind by learning stress reduction techniques using visualization, meditation and energy balance.

Additional Native-inspired spa treatments include the Ancient Shegoi & Salt Pedicure, Blue Coyote Wrap, White Clay Wrap, White Clay Facial and the Desert Rain Honey Scrub Wrap and Massage.

Daily cultural activities include purifying sage offerings, medicine trail walks, Aji art tours and the Harmony Keeper Meditation Class, led by Stoneman and often performed in an “Olas Ki,” a traditional Pima dwelling.

The spa also features a couples’ room, hydrotherapy tub steam capsule, vichy showers and specialty rooms, as well as a pool, spa, sauna and indoor and outdoor whirlpools, and a salon and boutique shop that carries the Indigenous collection, a line of skin and hair care products, with ingredients derived from the Gila Indian River Community.

The 500-room resort was designed and built as an authentic representation of the Gila River peoples’ heritage and culture. For reservations call (602) 225-0100 or visit www.wildhorsepassresort.com.

Sedona, Ariz., is known for its New-Age quirkiness and as a vortex of spiraling spiritual energy flow. It’s no wonder people are drawn to seek the healing and spirituality surrounded by breathtaking giant red rock spires and formations.

Mii amo, which means “journey” in the Yuman language, offers a rich array of culturally infused treatments, and it’s the signature Inner Quest treatment that offers clients a spiritual journey.

Native American Program Director R.J. Joseph said it took about a year to develop the treatment with the help of an Apache elder and his uncle, a respected medicine man.

For starters, the therapist places warm stones on different parts of the body. Next, the client is smudged with a combination of sage, sweetgrass and cedar, then wrapped in a Pendleton “Circle of Life” blanket. A drum is used to open the four sacred directions, and to remind clients what their mother’s heartbeat sounded like while in the womb. The therapist leaves the client wrapped in the blanket for 30 minutes.

Joseph, Cree, explained that stones, also called grandfathers, are sacred due to their presence on earth since time immemorial: “As Native Americans, we use these stones in our ceremonies.”

Other Native-inspired treatments include the Blue Corn Body Polish, which combines ground corn and mineral salt crystals. During the Mii amo Spirit, the client is smudged; chakras anointed with oils, and crystals and sound are used to create a deeply reflective experience.

As the program director, Joseph coordinates with elders and other Natives to host celebrations and educational talks. They have a 77-year-old elder on property who does the medicine walk tour and teaches clients about plants, and about the Apache culture.

Also on staff is a Navajo/Ute flute and hand-drum player and singer. He teaches guests about the music and why he carries on the tradition.

“For me, it’s about authenticity; if it’s not traditional and authentic, then it’s weak and we don’t do it,” Joseph said. “The guests really enjoy and respond to it because it’s really authentic.”

To book reservations at the spa or at one of the nearby luxury casitas and suites call (888) 749-2137 or visit www.miiamo.com.

Located at the base of Mount Timpanogos, the rustic luxury of Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah, serves as a perfect year-round vacation spot, with its nearby skiing in the winter, and the rest of the year for guests to explore the 6,000 acres of surrounding wilderness.

It’s also the perfect setting for the Spa at Sundance, which bases its Native-themed spa on the four directions, winds and seasons. While they don’t have a Native director on staff, they don’t profess to be scholars on American Indian history either.

“We have attached ourselves to those basic principles of healing through nature, finding balance in your life and that everything is connected,” said Spa Supervisor Tracy Eldevick.

She said the first spa director had consulted with Natives on the treatments to ensure authenticity.

Eldevick’s favorite treatment is the Four Winds Massage, closely followed by the Sundance Stone Massage, in which the therapist uses black basalt stones to massage the client. The therapist incorporates the four directions by laying warm stones on the upper and lower back, and one in each hand.

Her second favorite treatment is the Sage & Sweet Grass Ritual. It incorporates body work and massage. The therapist starts by purifying the room with sage, then smudging each part of the body, followed by a mud wrap and exfoliation. Next, a head massage, shower and then a massage with sage essential oils. Finally the client is smudged with sweetgrass to seal in the positive energy taken in during the treatment.

For a unique experience, Eldevick recommends the Honey & Cornmeal Body Blanket Treatment. The therapist uses the ingredients to take the client on the spa’s version of a vision quest, and it does get sticky, but, “it’s so much fun,” Eldevick said. “We really try to take it back to nature.”

The Spa at Sundance carries a full line of natural spa products. For reservations call (801) 223-4270 or www.sundanceresort.com.

Other Native-inspired spas to consider

The Tulalip Resort Casino opened the 14,000-square-foot T Spa last October. A select few of Native-inspired treatments are in-depth, taking more than two hours to nurture the body. Amenities are cozy and luxurious. Massage rooms feature a double-sided fireplace, and both the men’s and women’s areas are equipped with eucalyptus steam rooms and cedar saunas.

Influenced by Coast Salish culture, the signature five-hour Canoe Puller package begins with a re-energizing body ritual, followed by a mud bath, deep tissue bolus massage, skin resonance vitamin infusion facial, Native Stone Ritual For Feet and lunch.

For four-and-a-half hours, clients can indulge in the Fire and Water Treatment. It begins with the True Ocean Bath Ritual, followed by the Mission Beach Hot Stone Massage, the Cool, Calm, Solace Facial, the Native Stone Ritual For Feet and lunch. The Essence of the Pacific Northwest Treatment takes two-and-a-half hours and includes the Soaring Spirit Oxygenation Facial, Simply Hands manicure, and the Pacific Northwest and Lava Shell massage.

For the ultimate in luxury, the Coastal Salish Journey is exclusive to the Tulalip VIP suite, and combines treatments that take clients on a metaphorical journey through the Tulalip Tribe’s homeland. Treatments include the Mission Beach Hot Stone massage, oxygenation facial, pine and lavender scrub, a soothing mountain pine footbath treatment, and more.

The Tulalip Resort Casino is located 30 miles north of Seattle in Quil Ceda Village. For more information call (866) 716-7162 or visit www.tulalipresort.com.

The Skaná Spa, located inside the Lodge hotel at the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y., may be one of the only spas on the East Coast offering Native-inspired treatments. What makes this spa unique is the opportunity for clients to participate in a sweatlodge ceremony. It was constructed by the Nation with the help of the Oglala and Lakota Sioux tribes, and framed out of red willow and draped with buffalo hides. Like a sauna or steam room, it cleanses the body, but is definitely a sacred ceremony, a place to pray and cleanse the soul.

Select spa treatments utilize ingredients used by Oneida healers. For instance, the White Pine Foot & Body therapist uses white pine as an analgesic to relieve the pain of sore muscles and joints, and mint for its soothing properties.

According to the menu, the white pine is the Great Tree of Peace. The Sage & White Pine Hot Towel Massage combines deep tissue massage and steaming hot towels with a sage and white pine oil blend. Sage is used for clarity and deep relaxation.

The Oneida believe in the healing power of water and offer the Balancing Waters Treatment, a mix of warm and cool water and steam treatments to stimulate the circulatory and central nervous system, to detoxify and ultimately relax clients.

Skaná means peace in the Oneida language; its expansive 33,000 square feet include the adjacent fitness center and salon. For more information call (800) 771-7711 or visit www.turningstone.com.

Editor’s note: Indian Country Today is a division of Four Directions Media, which is owned by Oneida Nation Enterprises, LLC.

Located inside the plush La Posada De Santa Fe Resort & Spa in Santa Fe, N.M., the 5,000-square-foot Avanyu Spa offers Native- and Southwest-inspired treatments with delicious and inviting names.

The Spirit of Santa Fe is the signature treatment that takes clients on a journey with the four directions of the medicine wheel, including a blue cornmeal and tobacco scrub, ceremonial sage tea, cedar oil massage and a sweetgrass tea herbal wrap.

Inspired by the Pueblo people, the Adobe Mud Wrap uses mineral-rich hot adobe mud to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. It may sound edible, but the Chocolate-Chile Wrap is another treat for the skin and senses. The menu features numerous nurturing spa treatments inspired by Southwest culture.

Avanyu means plumed water serpent in the Tewa Pueblo language. For more information, call (866) 331-7625 or visit laposada.rockresorts.com.

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