Rideau High supports Aboriginal smudging tradition
Manitoba student fights to practice spiritual cleansing ceremony that is allowed at Ottawa school
As a Manitoba student continues to fight to practice smudging, students at Rideau High School in Ottawa are making use of a new space designated for the spiritual cleansing ceremony.
Grade 12 student Amanda Crete said being able to smudge during school hours helps her when she needs a break.
"All the troubles and all the things that go on in daily life and stuff like that — school, stress — it just makes me calm and takes all the stress away," she said.
Rideau High became the only school in Ottawa with a designated smudge room when it opened the Aboriginal Learning Space in January.
But the Aboriginal tradition that involves burning herbs like sage, cedar and sweet grass has been banned for a Brandon, Man., teen.
Stephen Bunn, 17, was accused of smoking marijuana before school after practising smudging. When he explained his spiritual practice, Bunn was asked to stop to respect his school's scent-free policy.
The principal at Rideau High had a different approach despite the school's own scent-free policy. A separate ventilation system was installed in the smudge room to allow students to burn herbs without disturbing classmates.
"We've created a space where they feel welcomed and respected," said Geordie Walker. "A big part of the First Nations community is doing the ceremonial smudging."
But Crete said Aboriginal or not, all students are welcome to take part in the calming practice.
"It can help anybody. Not just an Aboriginal or a native or a Muslim or a Jew. It just, it doesn't matter," Crete said. "We can all do it now. We can all stand in a room together and be thankful and all our stresses go at the same time."