Smudging at the Edmonton Public Library 

What is Smudging?

Smudging is a tradition, common to many Indigenous peoples, which involves the burning of one or more medicines gathered from the earth. Generally, smudging involves taking smoke into one’s hands and rubbing or brushing it over oneself or another.

The most common medicines used in a smudge are sweet grass, sage and cedar, though others like fungus may be used. Loose medicines in a shell or other container or with a sage bundle or braid of sweetgrass may be used for smudging. There are many ways and variations on how a smudge is done, even within Indigenous peoples in Alberta.

Smudging allows people to stop, slow down, become mindful and be centred. This allows people to remember, connect and be grounded in the event, task or purpose at hand. Smudging also allows people to let go of something negative. Letting go of things that inhibit a person from being balanced and focused comes from the feeling of being calm and safe while smudging. The forms of smudging will vary from nation to nation but are considered by all to be a way of cleansing oneself and sending prayers. Smudging is part of “the way things are done” and is part of living a good life for Indigenous peoples.

Why is Smudging in Library Spaces Important? 

EPL is dedicated to creating inclusive experiences, services and spaces for all customers from all walks of life. EPL recognizes that Indigenous people may face barriers to using library services. EPL operates on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis Nation; being in good kinship with the original caretakers of the land is important.

EPL branches are important public spaces to gather, hold ceremonies, attend programs and find support and resources and we work to ensure that Indigenous customers feel welcomed in our spaces. As such, smudging is supported at all branches. These guidelines provide baseline cultural information for staff on pipe ceremonies and smudging, as well as procedures that enable both to occur in EPL branches during EPL-led programming, partner programming, or room rentals.

Where can I smudge at EPL locations? 

Since 2020 smudging has been offered at PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN in Stanley A. Milner and has gained significant popularity among visitors. Recognizing this and the importance of smudging within the library setting, EPL has purchased three portable air purifiers to enable smudging at EPL branches. This means that we will be able to smudge at EPL programs and the public will be able to smudge during room rentals.

This initiative is rooted in our community-led service philosophy and is in response to the ongoing feedback on the growing interest in smudging and the request for additional locations to provide this practice within the City of Edmonton. With limited ceremony spaces available in Edmonton, we aim to provide more opportunities for individuals to engage in smudging and foster a culture of shared learning. We will continue to engage with the community about this practice.


PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN, also known as Thunderbird House, is a dedicated Indigenous space at the Stanley A. Milner Library. It is the result of years of engagement with Indigenous communities, Elders and knowledge keepers, serving as a sacred space for ceremonies, cultural gatherings and other community events. When not in use for an EPL-led class or event, the space is available for public use, including private ceremonies and events. PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN was designed as a smudging and ceremony space and has a smoke eater that runs on manual operation.  

You can book an appointment with our Elder-in-Residence, Elder Jo-Ann Saddleback or come to one of the ceremonies or drop-in smudging times available in the space. 

Where can I learn more?  

To learn more about smudging, we recommend the following resources:  


Smudging - MacEwan University 

Medicine Teachings with Elder Francis Whiskeyjack - City of Edmonton

Protocol and Smudging - Sylvia McAdam