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Smudge Quest Continues

Society & Culture  (tags: Spirituality, religion, Indians, Native Americans, Religious Tolerance, Religious Practices, americans, culture, ethics, freedoms, humans, news, society )

- 3455 days ago -
Native students at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point have had to get through a lot of red tape or in this case, white tape, some say in order to fight for the right to smudge in their dorms.

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kat yazzie (400)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 11:49 am

Setback at U. of Wisconsin campus viewed as a new opportunity
By Rob Capriccioso

Story Published: Dec 2, 2008

Story Updated: Dec 1, 2008

STEVENS POINT, Wis. – Native students at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point have had to get through a lot of red tape – or in this case, white tape, some say – in order to fight for the right to smudge in their dorms.

As Indian Country Today recently reported, the charge on the issue has been led by graduate student Rory Griffin, Menominee, as a result of misunderstandings he and other Native students have faced when practicing aspects of their religions.

An administrative decision has now been made on this issue, and it isn’t exactly of the sort that Griffin and other students who have faced discrimination after practicing smudging were hoping.

During a recent meeting with a fire marshal for the state, Griffin and others were told that fire codes prevent burning of any kind in dormitories. The marshal said that despite the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, he was uncomfortable with allowing the lighting of sacred medicines used in smudging, due to the possibility of fires.

Candles, incense burning, and cigarette smoking are no longer allowed in the halls for the same reason.

Given the information, administrators decided to offer permission for students to smudge outside the front and back of the dorms. They will also be allowed to smudge down eagle feathers and carry smoke into their rooms.

“It’s a step backwards, and I am disappointed,” Griffin told ICT in a new interview. “But we’ve been told that there’s nothing we can do because of state and federal fire code laws for residence halls.

Griffin is now setting up meetings with Native students and administrators at higher education institutions in other states where smudging is believed to be allowed in dorms.

His hope is to use the information he gathers to convince members of the Wisconsin Legislature that there is precedent for recognizing and protecting smudging in mainstream, public school systems.

While Griffin views the fire code decision as a setback, he is also keeping positive.

“This is the very first time this has been done on any campus in the University of Wisconsin System,” the natural resource management major said.

“I am very excited for the future of our campus because we are now raising visibility on our concerns, and we can now try to get better policies adopted on other campuses.”

Native students are also pleased that administrators are exploring designing a room somewhere on campus that will be ventilated and will not pose a fire hazard. Students will have regular access to the room, including after school hours, to perform religious ceremonies.

Sharon Cloud, director of the institution’s Native American Center and an advisor to a campus Native student organization, said she has been impressed by the activism of Griffin and other students. She noted that in her nearly three decades at the institution, issues over smudging have arisen at least three times, but this is the first time students have been so forceful in making administrators listen to their concerns.

“I think this is a big step, and they’ve come a long way.”

Cloud, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, is currently in the process of gathering data on how many current Indian students at the institution practice smudging. She said that the name collection will help administrators be in contact with students who wish to use the planned private room and to alert them of future decisions on smudging.

Cloud added that there still needs to be a lot of education for non-Natives on what smudging is and for Native students on how to do it properly.

She said, too, that she worries that some Native students have gotten so caught up with fighting for what they believe is right that she worries that their education could be affected.

“I’m always supportive of students to keep on trying. … but I don’t want them to put so much time and effort into it that they’re going to lose track of doing a good job in school.”

The emphasis on smudging became a hot issue on campus earlier this year after a freshman Native student was made to feel uncomfortable about smudging on campus.

In October, the institution’s student government passed a statute making clear that the federal government protects indigenous culture, customs and religious practices as outlined in the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

It also noted that some Native students smudge as a part of their religious practices, and called on the university to uphold federal law by supporting safe spaces for all students.

Raymond M Burton (156)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 12:00 pm
Can you believe it? University educated administrators can't figure out how to afford these kids religious freedom.

Pamylle G (461)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 12:02 pm
I'm glad Griffin feels positive. With dialogue and mutual respect, there's a chance it will work out for everyone. May it be so !

Oso Blanco Defence Commi (52)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 12:22 pm
They dont want us to smudge in prison either!

Darlene K (356)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 1:18 pm
Very noted, and thank you. In my little opinion, smudging dorms (and prisons) would be a necessity. Much Love...Namaste

Past Member (0)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 2:14 pm
I remember smudging with a friend of the family years ago in Washington. Abnsolutely therapeutic, highly spiritual experience. Those who don't understand should simply show a little respect and leave well enough alone.

Thelma Sumpter (30)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 2:34 pm
Noted & Thank you Kat
You know that time when People Do Not Understand Things They IGNORE it. Well Here is one of those Times.But really I just hope works out for them.

FreeSpirit Running (320)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 3:07 pm
The truth of matter is, everyone should be entitled to practice their religions, no matter what! FREEDOM OF RELIGION!!!
TY Kat my friend for this article, noted.

Sheryl G (363)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 4:55 pm
Yet I have found in other places the Administrations were understanding in this. In Florida a friend and Medicine Man was in the hospital and was near taking his journey to the Spirit World...his wife was given permission to allow the drumming and smudging in his hospital room. My husband who was in Hospice in Florida also preparing for his journey to the Spirit World was also allowed to have the drumming and smudging on four seperate days. Both the Hospital and Hospice had rules against smoking but understood smudging as not being the same thing and respected both these men and our families. It would be nice if other Administrators were this way across our Country the way that these two facilites handled it in Florida.

. (0)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 7:03 pm
I believe every person should have the right to have there own Religion no matter what. Thanks Kat

Morgan Griffith (225)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 7:04 pm
Dar I agree in schools and in prison smudging should not be an option it is a necessity. All peopl should be allowed to practice their religious rites.

. (0)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 7:31 pm
noted thank you

RosemaryRannes HusbandNeedsPrayers (650)
Wednesday December 3, 2008, 11:08 pm
I will send prayers rising my cousin . . . . . . .

Henry P (171)
Thursday December 4, 2008, 4:47 am
Noted and Thanks Kat

Jerry C (16)
Thursday December 4, 2008, 9:18 am
I'm curious. I don't know much about smudging and its significance, but would having a smudging room be an acceptable compromise? I guess that part of my question involves the focus of the smudging. Is it a purification ritual for a place or for a soul? If I smudge here and then go there, do the benefits come with me? Or are they bound to the place that the ritual happened?

Jerry C (16)
Thursday December 4, 2008, 9:24 am
Please understand that I ask out of a recognition of my ignorance and with full respect. If this is not an appropriate question to ask, I apologize.

Locan Sleeping-Squirrel (209)
Thursday December 4, 2008, 9:31 am
And yet I hear everyday how persecuted the Christians are.

Jon Bowman (2)
Thursday December 4, 2008, 7:02 pm
(Oy, please, Locan, don't get me started...) So how do the boss-people at the school explain the fact that practitioners of the religion have been smudging for millenia-----and somehow have not all burned themselves up? I am sure that as part of the culture, people learn how to smudging safely.

Do they forbid Catholics from burning votive candles? Do they forbid Jews from lighting Sabbath candles or yartzheit (death anniversary) candles? If they do they are fools; with the needs of young people starting out in their adult lives, I'd think that the admin would be wise enough to be glad of these rituals----rather than them resorting to drinking/drugging/alienation. Hm?

Past Member (0)
Friday December 5, 2008, 8:41 pm
As far as my limited knowledge extends, I believe the ritual of smudging is a means of cleansing both the soul and the environment of negativity and impurity...? I could be wrong...but in any case, the powers that be at this school are ignorant and truly need to educate themselves rather than condemn such a positive, ancient rite.

Jerry C (16)
Saturday December 6, 2008, 11:47 am
Debbie, from what I have found since my question, both from links offered to me, and from my own investigations,you are right. In that case, a smudging room would only be a partial solution, which answers my original question. Thanks!

Jon - from my reading of the article they were forbidding everyone from burning, period. Perhaps I misremember. I know that if my kids go off to college, I will feel safer if they live in a non-burning dorm. Somehow a balance has to be found.
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