Smudge room to move when Rideau High School closes, trustee says
Smudging is an Indigenous spiritual cleansing ceremony
Public school board officials say they're hoping to relocate the Aboriginal Learning Space — a special room where Indigenous students practice the spiritual cleansing ceremony called smudging — if plans to shut down Rideau High School go ahead.
Smudging usually involves burning a small amount of sage, cedar bough or sweetgrass and cleansing oneself with the smoke.
On Thursday night, trustees with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board recommended closing Rideau High School in east Ottawa, after an emotional two days of delegations and debate.
- Trustee left in tears over Rideau High School closure
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If the recommendation goes ahead, Rideau's 400 students will be sent to Gloucester High School. Both are operating at 40 per cent capacity.
Creating the spiritual space at Rideau High School took years of work, and students will need to have a strong voice when it comes to reestablishing it at Gloucester, said Kris Meawasige, the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit student support coordinator with the school board.
"We need to engage the youth, the young people, the families, [as to] what that transition could look like. It's so important that they're involved, they have voice into it," Meawasige said.
'It's about them'
"It's not about me, it's not about us. It's about them. We need to honour their wishes and what they feel comfortable with."
School board officials say they're committed to creating a similar environment at Gloucester High School, according to Sandra Schwartz, the school board trustee for the area.
"We're working with the community. We passed a motion last night to bring the lodge, and create a new lodge and spiritual place for children at Gloucester," Schwartz told Robyn Bresnahan, host of CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.
Rideau High School is expected to close down after the 2016-2017 school year ends.