Smudging in Schools

April 24, 2018

Smudging is a ceremony in which individuals and/or groups of people gather in a circle to cleanse or purify themselves with the smoke of burning medicines: Sage, Cedar, Sweet Grass, Tobacco. Most commonly these are intended to cleanse the body, mind, heart and soul of negative energy to carry participants in the next steps in a good way. There is no right or wrong way to smudge.

At Ma Mawi, our final project was to encourage policy change in a Junior/High School in Winnipeg's School Division 1. We held an information booth during the lunch hour for students, teachers and staff to learn about smudging; to educate people about what it is, why people smudge and the different types of medicines there are that are used to smudge with.

Weeks before the event, we had offered Tobacco to a Knowledge Keeper, Wally Chartrand, who came to share teachings about the 4 medicines used in smudging. With his guidance we were able to create poster boards full of invaluable information about Smudging.

We had planned to smudge at our Information Booth, however current school policy dictates that we can only smudge a minimum of 9 meters (30 ft) from the school doors. We used this as a teaching moment with the youth. We can be angry but we need to focus that on creating positive change for the future generations of youth that will attend the school.

We had hundreds of youth visit our stations and our group did a phenomenal job educating their peers and teachers about the medicines and smudging. Many more youth said they would love to be a part of the project as it unfolds to create Policy change.

As a result of our project, youth are more aware of the power of their voice to create change and hold more knowledge to be able to share and teach their peers on their cause. The conversations about indigenous rights and freedoms have started in the school and personal lives of our youth. Students, Teachers and school staff are becoming more aware and educated about the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Principals, the school board and the super intendant are all talking about how to incorporate smudging in their school.