Ceremonial smudging involves the burning of sacred medicines. Indigeneity is having a "moment" in popular culture, one which has lasted decades.
From the appropriation of headdresses and moccasins, to textiles and beadwork, retail chains and brands can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to romanticizing Indigenous culture. The commodification of sage and smudging is just the latest addition to this expanding list.
Amy Willier, co-owner of MoonStone Creation Native Art Gallery in Calgary, doesn’t like the fact that retail chains continue to sell sage and smudge kits.
"These huge companies are profiting off our spirituality. That’s not how it should be, it hurts my heart quite a bit," she said.
Smudging, on the surface, is a ceremony for purifying or cleansing the soul and involves the burning of sacred medicines. In Indigenous practice, these medicines are sage, tobacco, sweetgrass and cedar.
Willier, who is Cree from Sucker Creek First Nation, isn’t saying no one can sell sage, because she does. She’s saying there’s a problem when retail chains sell the idea behind smudging completely separate from the practice. But this isn’t a new problem, it’s merely a growing one.
Despite resistance from Indigenous people, sage continues to be sold by retail chains and online merchandisers. White sage has become so gentrified and has lost it’s true meaning unless it’s blessed & used in a traditional way which I’m 100% sure most non-natives don’t have access too then have fun playing with smoke I guess — . (@lilnativeboy) April 25, 2018 Kory Snache (Giniw), who is Anishinaabe from Chippewas of Rama Mnjiknini First Nation, believes non-Indigenous companies should know they’re crossing a line when they choose to sell items that are sacred to Indigenous people.
"People who utilize sage spiritually have a very different concept of what sage is, and that should be respected," said Snache, who organized a medicine walk in Toronto over the summer. "It is deep rooted with medicinal and spiritual understandings that are reinforced with teachings passed down through generations." Anthropologie recently pulled their "Home Blessings Smudge Kit" Earlier this year, Sephora planned to sell a "Starter Witch Kit" from perfume brand Pinrose that included a bundle of white sage. After protests from both Indigenous and witch communities, Pinrose pulled the product and released a statement apologizing to those who took offence. However, they claimed "the product did not reference ceremonial smudging or ceremony circles," despite stating its intent was "to create something that celebrates wellness, personal ceremony, and intention setting."
Adrienne Keene who runs Native Appropriations, a forum for "discussing representations of Native peoples," spoke in detail about the hypocrisy of labelling the "Starter Witch Kit" an appropriation of witchcraft when practices are routinely taken from Indigenous people.
Up until mid-November, Anthropologie was selling a "Home Blessings Smudge Kit," but this wasn’t the company’s first foray into this territory. In October, they pulled an "Elements of Aura, Cleansing a Space Ritual Kit" that included an abalone shell and sage stick. Sharing some info on IG regarding smudging, why @Anthropologie shouldn’t sell sage and abalone, and indigenous owned businesses that you should be supporting instead! ??? pic.twitter.com/xSZDdp86Hs — Chief Lady Bird ? (@chiefladybird) October 28, 2018 Sage and smudge kits have been routinely pulled from stores but often only after Indigenous people have launched campaigns against the appropriation.
Stores like Sephora and Anthropologie, however, are not alone in commodifying Indigenous spirituality. Urban Outfitters (which shares a parent company with Anthropologie, URBN) sells a " White Sage Incense Stick " and " Incense + Crystal Kit ." Free People (also owned by URBN) sells a " Ritual Kit ," with white sage and feather. Amazon sells […]
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