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Boreal Community Media

Board considers request to allow smudging in district schools in Virginia, Minnesota

May 12, 2022 10:34AM ● By Laura Durenberger
By David Colburn - The Timberjay - May 11, 2022

VIRGINIA, MN- A traditional Ojibwe cleansing and purification ritual known as smudging may become available to Native American students in ISD 2142 during the school day after a request made at Tuesday’s school board study session received initial favorable responses from board members.

Bois Forte Band member Shane Drift, a member of the tribal council, made the request as he talked about the practice and its meaning.

Smudging involves the use of sage, cedar, and sweetgrass, all sacred vegetation in Ojibwe culture, to create a smoldering ember. The rising smoke is then passed around people, objects, or spaces, and even inhaled, to bring about the desired cleansing and purification, Drift said.

“I do it every other morning, I’ll smudge myself down, I’ll smudge my kids down before they go to school,” Drift said. “People smudge their sacred items, their pipes, their jingle dresses, their feathers, they smudge their houses, their cars. I smudge my office down. It goes on as needed.”

In response to numerous curious questions from the board, Drift said that smudging for students in schools would be done by adults and not independently by students, should be in a designated enclosed space indoors, or outside, and should be available whenever possible when students decide they need to smudge. Parental permission would need to be given, and care would need to be taken to identify anyone whose allergies might be exacerbated by any of the smudging elements. He also said that while smudging naturally creates an odor, doing it in a more confined space would keep the scents from permeating the building.

District Director of Teaching and Learning Kristi Berlin pointed out that district policies already contain a provision that allows Native adults to light and use tobacco for ceremonial purposes in school buildings and suggested that could be interpreted to allow for smudging.
Drift noted the Duluth schools were now allowing smudging and said he hoped that smudging could be used at upcoming graduation ceremonies.

Board members were amenable to moving forward with Drift’s request, with the possibility that formal action could be taken as soon as their May 24 meeting.

To see the original story, follow this link to The Timberjay website. 

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