Ceremony (smudging) at the U of A

The University of Alberta respectfully acknowledges we are located on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community.

The U of A is committed to providing all our members an inclusive and respectful environment and opportunities to nurture inter-cultural relationships. The U of A encourages Indigenous peoples to honour and practice their traditions and ceremonies in their place of study, work, and residence.


What is Ceremony?

Ceremony is a traditional way of prayer, common to many Indigenous peoples globally. Here in North America (known by many Indigenous nations as Turtle Island), ceremony often involves burning one or more medicines from Mother Earth. The four most sacred medicines used in this part of Turtle Island for ceremonies are tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar. Once the medicines are lit, the rising smoke is considered a purifying agent for the mind, body and spirit, as well as a connection to the spirit world. 

The most common ceremony held on U of A campuses is the cleansing ceremony, which is also called “smudging” or “prayer.” The cleansing ceremony may be held daily, when there’s a tragedy within a family or community, or anytime balance is needed for mental well being. 

During the cleansing ceremony:

  • We cleanse our hands to remove the impurities we touched before the cleansing.
  • We cleanse our head to clear our minds so we only have good thoughts.
  • We cleanse our eyes so we only see the good in others.
  • We cleanse our ears so we only hear positive things.
  • We cleanse our mouths so we speak with good intentions and kindness.
  • We cleanse our body so we can walk in a good way throughout the day.

Ceremony (Smudging) Guidelines

The U of A has ceremonial protocol and guidelines to ensure indigenous peoples feel comfortable practicing ceremony on campus. Cleansing ceremonies are possible on all U of A campuses. 

Please consider the following points when planning a ceremony:

  • Find the classroom and non-classroom space we recommend for ceremony in our Ceremonial (Smudging) Guidelines
  • Please follow the proper procedure for booking ceremony space. 
  • Please post signage during your ceremony. 
  • Students in residence may pray/smudge in their rooms. Please let your roommate(s) know, and post signage to let neighbours know there is a ceremony taking place. Proper signage is available from Residence Coordinators. 
  • If you feel the spaces we recommend for ceremony don’t suit your needs, please fill out a Space Evaluation Form to request a different space. The university’s Fire Safety Advisor will assess your requested space. Please allow three to five business days for an assessment.

For more information about holding a ceremony at the University of Alberta, please see our Ceremonial (Smudging) Guidelines.