Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) schools are supported in their efforts to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into classroom curriculum content and activities dedicated to Indigenous education. This fosters an atmosphere of respect, understanding, equity and inclusivity. By doing this, we honour and show appreciation for Indigenous traditions. One of the most commonly shared experiences, is the tradition of smudging.
Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) schools are supported in their efforts to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into classroom curriculum content and activities dedicated to Indigenous education. This fosters an atmosphere of respect, understanding, and inclusivity. By doing this, we honour and show appreciation for Indigenous traditions. One of the most commonly shared experiences is the tradition of smudging.
Smudging is a traditional ceremony to give thanks for life. Smudging involves the burning of one or more medicines gathered from the earth. There are four sacred medicines, tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar, commonly used in First Nations and Métis ceremonies. The commonly used medicine in TLDSB schools is sage.
Forms of smudging can be different from place-to-place, but are commonly considered a way of cleansing. Smudging encourages people to become mindful and centred, let go of negative feelings and thoughts, and connect and be grounded in the event, task, or purpose at hand. Smudging is one of the hundreds of traditional practices that honour the lands and waters of this territory and all life within it.
As a larger community, it is important for us to acknowledge that at one-time, smudging was an illegal practice in the attempt to assimilate Indigenous Peoples. Today, those who choose to share and participate in this tradition need to feel welcome and respected in our learning environments, as this has not always been the case.
Through the thoughtful practice of planning and communicating, TLDSB continues to show respect and support for Indigenous cultural practices and for Indigenous students and families. We strive to support and embed the 94 Calls to Action about Truth and Reconciliation and bring forward the voices of Indigenous students, parents, and partners. We celebrate the diversity of our community and value the opportunity for all students to learn from and with a host of cultural teachers.
A smudge is led by a person who has an understanding of what a smudge is and why it is done. That person may be any of the following:
Smudging is something that is often shared during cultural teachings or practised by an individual student to help them regain a sense of calm or balance in their day. Smudging can take place in a classroom, in a gymnasium, and/or outside on the school property. Choosing the location depends on the needs of the participants, the person leading the smudge, and the ventilation in the building.
Some TLDSB schools have dedicated rooms to allow students to practice the cultural tradition of smudging. These rooms have ventilation systems so that smoke is extracted from the room and sent outside of the school building.
The commonly used medicine in TLDSB schools is sage. Leaves from the sage plant are rolled together and placed in the centre of a natural vessel like an earthenware bowl, abalone shell, or another object. The medicine is then lit with a match. Once the medicine is lit and the flame goes out, smoke will begin to rise from the sage leaves. The smoke may be pushed forward with a feather, a fan, or hands. In some traditions, the person who lights the smudge is first to smudge themselves with the smoke.
When we smudge, we first cleanse our hands with the smoke as if we are washing our hands. We then draw the smoke over our heads, eyes, ears, mouths, and our bodies. These actions remind us to think good thoughts, see good actions, hear good sounds, speak good words, and show the good of who we are to one another. It is customary to remove any metal, rings, watches, glasses etc. prior to smudging as these objects are seen as a barrier that may prevent them from becoming mindful and centred.
Once the smudge is over, the medicine is allowed to burn out naturally. The person leading the smudge watches until it is completely out and the sage has turned completely to ash. The ashes are then often scattered under a tree or placed outside in another spot, giving it back to the earth.
If an Elder, Knowledge Keeper, Helper or Senator is coming to the school and planning to lead a smudge, it is good practice to let the community know by placing a sign or poster on the school doors.
A cultural teacher invited to the school will sometimes offer or ask to share this practice. If smudging is something they wish to share, ask the person to give a teaching on the smudge practice. It is important to notice that in smudging, medicines and protocol are unique to the person conducting the smudge and his/her own cultural teachings. There may be subtle or distinct differences in the ceremony from area to area. Participants will always be invited to choose to be involved in a smudge. Anyone present can gently decline to participate by stepping back in the circle, holding up a hand, or saying “no, thank you”. Provide parents, guardians, and/or families with an opportunity to give prior permission for students to participate. A sample letter is attached that can be used to seek this permission. The most important thing to remember is that a smudge is done with respect for all those who choose to be involved and for those who choose not to.
We encourage staff to reach out for support at any time to the Indigenous education curriculum consultant and/or the senior administration team for support around smudging in our schools.