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Smudge quest continues


Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatric, Behavioral Health. Has 32 years experience.

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.


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