A change to Dalhousie University's space for Indigenous students is expected to increase the number of visitors and virtually eliminate any barriers to performing sacred smudging ceremonies.
"I'm feeling quite positive for the new space," said Aaron Prosper, the co-president of the Dalhousie Indigenous Students' Collective.
In a campus-wide email, the university explained that the existing Aboriginal Student Centre has been renamed the Indigenous Student Centre, and will move to 1321 Edward Street over the summer. The new space will have proper ventilation for smudging.
Smudging away negative energy
The ventilation was important to Prosper because there are few places on campus where it's possible to carry out the burning of sage, sweetgrass, or tobacco.
"It's a fundamental thing within all of our different ceremonies and traditions," he said.
"It's a belief that, through smudging you're taking any negative energy that's within yourself, and when you smudge it's believed that the smudge is taking that negative energy and lifting it away from you."
"Because Dal has a no-scent policy, its been tough for Indigenous students to have access to that," he said.
The present space in the Student Union Building does have a ventilation system for smudging, which was installed last summer. However, Prosper says it took time and advocacy before facilities management recognized the system was a legitimate need and installed it.
Since smudging is supposed to be done in a drug and alcohol-free area students may not feel shared housing is the right place to smudge, Prosper said. Residences are also off-limits because of the scent-free policy.
The new building is also larger than the previous space and will include a library and outdoor area.
Prosper said he also thinks moving from the fourth floor of the Student Union Building to a ground-level building at the corner of Edward Street and University Avenue will allow more Indigenous students to discover the centre.
"A lot of students coming to our Indigenous Students Collective [were] saying, 'We had no idea this existed, we didn't know where to find this on campus,'" he said.
"Unless you were told through some form that our centre existed, really, there was no way to tell."