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Saint Paul Public Schools approves smudging policy

Smudging is a traditional Native American ritual practice that involves burning sage and other herbs.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Editor's note: The video above first aired on KARE 11 on June 16, 2022.

The Saint Paul Board of Education approved a district-wide smudging policy on Tuesday, allowing students and staff to use tobacco, sage, sweetgrass, and cedar to perform the traditional Native American ritual.

Smudging, which involves burning sage and other herbs, is something Indigenous communities may do prior to a ceremony or traditional dance. Smudging can be a daily practice as well.

According to the school's new policy, the process to perform smudging will be determined at each district building by administrators, and in all situations "smudging must be conducted under the direct supervision of an appropriate School District staff member, as determined by the building or site administrator."

Tawny Hale, a manager at the Four Sisters Farmer's Market, told KARE 11 in June that Indigenous people use smudging "to purify ourselves, we use this to cleanse the air."

"When we use our plant medicine it's really important to us. It's a sacred time that we can reconnect and give thanks to creator," Hale said.

Nearly 4% of students in the district are Indigenous, and according to the SPPS, it's one of the only districts in the country to adopt a smudging policy.

"Smudging helps to give someone the strength that they need for medical or school testing, or school environment," Lisa Bellanger, an America Indian specialist and SPPS teacher said. "I've used smudging when I've had disagreements between two students. They've sat down and smudged, and been able to clear the air."

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