The Nuthatch Books on Birch Avenue in 100 Mile House is hosting a smudging ceremony demonstration and discussion on March 10. The event is led by Karen Pellerin, an elder from the Canim Lake First Nation living in Lone Butte.
“When you smudge, you are cleaning yourself and taking bad spirits away. It’s a thank you to the Creator for everything he’s given to you,” said Pellerin, adding it is also in honour of elders, the teachers, and the youth because they are the future.
Smudging is a traditional Indigenous ceremony involving the burning of herbs for various reasons, such as spiritual cleansing, blessings, or getting rid of negativity or evil influences. The herbs used for the ceremony vary from region to region but most frequently use common sage and cedar.
The process of smudging is lighting the sage and get the people to cleanse themselves by cupping the fumes and saying a prayer to the Great Creator.
Pellerin also does smudgings at Horse Lake Elementary School and 100 Mile House Elementary for the classrooms, though students with parents who are uncomfortable with the ceremony are allowed to leave the room.
“It makes me sad that people don’t want to try our culture, we’re not pushing it on them. You can come at your own time,” said Pellerin. “
She has been practising for the past seven years in addition to becoming a traditional elder dancer and it has been helping her deal with emotional experiences such as losing her father in September.
She used to be a fancy dancer in her youth and used to smudge but didn’t come back into the practice until her brother, also a traditional dancer brought her back into the fold.
“They want me to explain what the smudging stuff is about and they didn’t know who else to ask,” said Pellerin of the upcoming smudging demonstration and discussion at the bookstore. “I have a little bit of knowledge and I want to let people know. I try to help the youth too, I try to talk to people that want to get back into it.”
She hopes people who are having a hard time and want to clear their head will come to the smudging. Even though she typically “wings it” she has prepared a little for the presentation at Nuthatch but she admitted she was very nervous.
Pellerin has also seen a rise in Indigenous youth participation in cultural practices such as traditional dancing, pow wows and smudging.
“There are more younger groups coming. My daughter’s got a little girl and I’m trying to get her into the dancing,” she said, also offering a reason. “They want to get back their heritage. They want to learn about there native ways, I know I want to because I miss them and I want people to get interested in it, especially the youth, because of that’s our culture because we were stripped off it when we were younger. We had to learn it all over again.”
The store has two books for sale relating to smudging, The Smudging and Blessings Book by Jane Alexander and Sacred Smoke by Harvest McCampbell. Pellerin’s son, Colton is also a writer, Darsidian Myths: A Promise Heard.