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Mrs. Smoke Shares Smudging

The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and the wind was blowing through the trees as the fire crackled. We had amazing weather as Mrs. Smoke led her students through a traditional Smudge Ceremony at the Campground, reminding students to be present and to attentively listen with their mind, body, and heart.

Sharing the traditions and ways of her ancestors, Mrs. Smoke educated students on the supplies and traditions for a Smudge Ceremony and allowed students the opportunity to participate in smudging. We sat down with Mrs. Smoke as she shared more about the history and significance of this important ceremony.

Smudging is part of Mrs. Smoke’s Anishinaabe culture and spirituality (not religion), but many Indigenous communities practice this ceremony. Teaching Indigenous culture in schools benefits all students. 

Some school districts are recognizing smudging as necessary for their Indigenous students and to educate non-Indigenous students about Indigenous culture and beliefs. This is critical for moving toward reconciliation. While anyone can smudge, it is important to note that cultural smudging demonstrations should only be done by an Elder or a knowledgeable Indigenous person.

There are four elements (water, earth, fire, and smoke) represented in the smudging ceremony and four sacred plant medicines (cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco). Each one represents a specific purpose meant to cleanse, protect, and clear away negativity. Traditionally, these sacred medicines were never sold or purchased but rather traded or gifted as they come from Mother Earth. Modern science has recognized the healing benefits of burning these plants as they are proven to release negative ions and promote mental health. 

The smudging ceremony is an important part of Mrs. Smoke’s cultural identity and represents her own path to healing from the intergenerational trauma that has affected her family for generations. It has been important to Mrs. Smoke to share her culture with her students. As an Indigenous educator, Mrs. Smoke can directly connect it to many of the First Peoples Principles of Learning and to many parts of our curriculum. Therefore, the Grade 3s were able to observe and participate in the ceremony as part of their learning. 

Mrs. Smoke chose Ayanna G. to be her helper because her grandmother has a relative who is Algonquin, and her family is on the journey to learning more about that culture.

It is a protocol to pass on the knowledge and to provide opportunities for young ones to help, to learn, and be leaders. This was a perfect opportunity for Mrs. Smoke to do that with and for her.

While anyone can smudge, it is important to note that cultural smudging demonstrations should only be done by an Elder or a knowledgeable Indigenous person.

Student Perspective
Ayanna G. (Grade 4)
When Mrs. Smoke approached me and asked if I was willing to assist her in the Grade 3 Smudge Ceremony, I was so honoured and happy that she asked me to be a part of this amazing ceremony. It felt very special. 

This was a very new experience for me. It felt different than a presentation and I felt very brave trying something new and fun. I was so excited to tell my family as my grandma on my mother’s side is Indigenous and she used to smudge every morning. My grandma is from the same First Nation as Mrs. Smoke which made this even more special. My mom has also done smudging ceremonies and she was so excited that I was going to experience one firsthand. My dad’s side of the family is from Iran, and it was interesting getting to educate them on the history and importance of smudging ceremonies. 

The ceremony was fun and interesting. I liked that Mrs. Smoke explained the different parts, the “dos and don’ts”, and the meaning behind each item. My favourite part was hearing the beating drum as Mrs. Smoke sang- it was so beautiful. I liked learning about the responsibility and purpose of the smudging ceremony – “To cleanse yourself and welcome a new day. To clear away all the bad memories and bring new ones that will fill your day with joy and happiness.”

A key memory for me was the smell of the smoke wafting over my hair. The way my hands felt when we touched the abalone shell containing the four ingredients burning inside (sage, tobacco, cedar, and sweetgrass) and how we washed our hands just above the smoke to cleanse. That was amazing and beautiful.