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The Gift of Sweat

Do you have just $20 to give a gift of sweat?

Winters are cold in Minnesota and the winds blow hard. On the snow-scoured ice of the Land-o-Lakes, they blow colder and harder. In makeshift shanty towns scattered across the frozen lakes, squalid, chilly bands of ice-fishermen subsist only on what they can catch through holes cut in the three-foot thick ice, their meager perspiration freezing instantly into a hard, icy carapace.  For months at a time, these poor peoples’ body temperatures rarely reach the Federal Minimum Sweat Threshold. Last winter, only one in 200 people on Medicine Lake had good, healthy sweat. In the current economic downturn, even fewer will be able to afford perspiration this year.

As the UN’s Millennium Goals state: “The freedom to sweat copiously is one of the hallmarks of basic human dignity. Mankind will not be truly free until all can sweat freely”.  Yet for scores of ice fishermen and their families, access to this global right remains just a pipe-dream. Your contribution of just $20 can help set things right.

On January 15th, the Black Bania opens, offering visitors a wood-fired Finnish sauna room housed within a large tipi on the frozen surface of Medicine Lake. I will be living in that tipi on the lake. The Black Bania team and I will run a public sauna for a month. Your generous contribution of $20 will not only support the building of a grand social sculpture, it will help to bathe and enrich the shivering and unwashed souls of Greater Minneapolis/St. Paul.

If you would like to support our efforts, simply click the “DONATE” button on the right or send your contribution through paypal to our email address (blackbania(at) When you become a supporter you will receive a personal story and picture from the tipi describing how your gift has made a difference in the community of ice dwellers. If you would care to give at a higher level, our individualized rewards program will express our thanks more fully – see program highlights below.

For your contribution of

  • $20: you will receive a letter from the tipi
  • $30: an autographed photo of a Black Bania team member in the sauna
  • $50: An official Black Bania towel and your name will be carved into the wooden water bucket
  • $75: a tipi pole will be named for you with an attractive plaque
  • $100: an invitation to an private sauna and dinner in the tipi
  • Or an autographed special edition hardcover book of recipes Elaine cooked in the sauna
  • $250 or more: choice of two secret options

Here’s what your dollars will help purchase:

  • 19 27-foot tipi poles (shipped from Wisconsin)
  • One pole widget
  • One clear tipi skin for a 22 ft dia tipi
  • One 70 ft tipi liner designed and made by Elaine
  • 200 sq ft of cedar planking
  • Two wood burning stoves
  • One wooden platform, Foam insulation panels and fire brick to keep us from melting through the ice
  • Lots and lots of fire wood
  • Towels and scrubbing cloths
  • Potable water
  • Sauna Rocks
  • One large wooden bucket
  • Long Underwear for Elaine
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