To begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are on Treaty Six territory, home of the first peoples, also known as amiskwacîwâskahikan (ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ), meaning Beaver Hills House.
We are the keepers of the land for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows. We are on the traditional lands, referred to as Treaty 6 territory, and the City of Edmonton. All people here are beneficiaries of this peace and friendship treaty. Treaty 6 encompasses the traditional territories of numerous Western Canadian First Nations such as the Cree, Saulteaux (so-toe), Blackfoot, Métis, Dene (de-nay), and Nakota Sioux (sue). We acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people who have called this area home since time immemorial.
Smudging, an especially important Indigenous tradition, is a ceremony of praying with traditional medicines. We use sage, sweetgrass, fungus, and or cedar. These items are placed in a small cast iron frying pan or shell, which we light with a match if possible. When the smoke from the smudge is burning our message to the Creator, we use the smoke to cleanse ourselves while praying. Take the smoke over your head to think good things, over your eyes to see the way, over your ears to hear good things, over your mouth to speak good things. Inhale to give yourself strength. Move the smoke over your body to help you do what you need to do, and over your feet to take you where you need to go. While you smudge, you pray to the Creator. Those that know their traditional language will pray in that language as it is sacred, and the Creator will hear it more clearly. We give thanks for all things: the sky, the sun, the birds, the animals, the fish, the moon, stars, and our fellow humans. We are all connected, we are all related. After the prayer, those who have been gifted with songs, drums, and rattles may share a song.
We are all traditional people of our Creator who continue to walk together on Turtle Island and pray as one through prayer, kihsakitin, and love one another.
We cannot take one tradition alone and separate it from all the others. Our way of living is connected like the wind, water, fire, and earth. When you smudge our medicines to pray, you cleanse your mind, body, and spirit. They all work together. Everything is a circle of life; one requires the other. When you speak about smudging you are speaking of ceremony, and when you speak of ceremony you speak to prayer, song, and language. This is what we call wahkotowin; everything is related and connected to one another.
Smudging brings all together.
It is not a simple task to choose just one Indigenous cultural tradition to speak to, as all traditions are paramount to the Indigenous peoples. Many Indigenous nations who called this land home had intricate societies with governances and systems in place, and they guided our principles, spirituality, and livelihood. Our ancestors, elders, ceremonial knowledge keepers, and ceremonies bless our way of living and being. Traditions are things that happened to Indigenous people, but those things do not define Indigenous peoples.
It is also important to remember the things that happened after contact—treaties, the Indian Act, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the loss of language and culture. All of Canada must face the consequences of those injustices together. We will see this unfold as we collectively watch the numbers rise of the Indigenous children being found on residential school properties.
The way through this, through the atrocities of residential schools, through our collective mourning, the way to heal is through ceremony.