Students from John Howitt Elementary School sing a Lahal song during the First Nations Spring Festival earlier this year. (ELENA RARDON/Black Press file photo)

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sharing cultural practices helps to create acceptance of others

Letter writer from U.S. offers her view of smudging case heard in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo

To the editor,

Re: Culture, religion argued in case of smudging in the classroom, Nov. 21.

I am writing this to voice my confusion and disgust about the court hearing on banning smudging in the school system because a mother felt it was harmful to her daughter’s religious views. As a surviving assimilated Apache mother of three (who can still feel the trauma from boarding schools) I find this outlandish, damaging and dangerous.

There are hundreds of tribes in the United States which have cultural beliefs on smudging. This is more than the concept of religion. It’s not all about praying, while most do. It’s about clearing the negative energies and bonding the group as this is something that is done for special events, for healing, for growth.

Denying smudging will only harm the native community around those schools. Culturally separated children suffer the most as they are shunned, bullied and harassed for practising their culture (long hair, eagle feather at graduation, regalia during school photos, smudging during cultural appreciation month, dance demonstrations), which leads to self-harm, depression, and suicide. Our children need smudging to be taught in schools so they can feel safe and accepted especially with those who live off-reservation.

Cultural appreciation is meant to teach people like the mom about why a culture like ours do the things we do. A culture that was almost annihilated by war, so please do not confuse it with a ‘religion.’

Which, to me is silly. If it was a religion, then where is the church? Where is the bible that has smudging in it? You won’t find it. All you will find is hundreds of Native American tribes with the same principle of ‘smudging’ that we want to share, because in the end we want our culture to survive.

Little Dove, Ignacio, Colo.

RELATED: Province argues in B.C. Supreme Court for smudging in schools, says it relates to curriculum

RELATED: Smudging in B.C. classroom had ‘trivial’ impact on Christian family’s faith, says school district’s lawyer

The views and opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of Black Press or the Nanaimo News Bulletin. If you have a different view, we encourage you to write to us or contribute to the discussion below.

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