'Smudge On': Saskatoon man working to fill Indigenous cultural, spiritual gap in city
A Saskatoon man is trying to bring the Indigenous spiritual and cultural practice of smudging to those in the city, where he says it is lacking.
David Fineday, 66, said he was taken from his home at about five years old, then didn't see his mother until he returned home more than a decade later at 16.
He said his mother and elders then taught him how to smudge. Smudging is a spiritual practice meant to purify oneself by washing the smoke from burning certain herbs, like sweetgrass and sage, over your face and body.
Fineday said he doesn't see smudging often in the city — so he treks from his home in Saskatoon to a small, treed area near the corner of 20th Street West and Avenue K South, and does it there.
Fineday leads "Smudge On," a program backed by the Pleasant Hill Community Association that invites people to smudge every Saturday. Last week he also held a smudge on Friday for those who wanted to participate on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
"Smudge On is a spiritual thing that I am trying to bring back to our people," he said.
"When you say your prayers that smoke takes your prayers up and that's how you're heard."
Smudge On started in June 2020, but has become more consistent through 2021 and 2022, operating almost every Saturday through the late winter months into the late fall, Fineday said.
"People can come here if they're having problems, they can have a smudge and have a prayer and if they want to talk, they can talk," he said, calling it a no-judgment zone.
"Everybody deserves a prayer, especially these people on the street with their mental illnesses and addictions. They're chased out of every other place."
Fineday said smudging helped him to know he wasn't alone and to heal from the trauma associated with being taken during the Sixties Scoop, a period from the 1960s to 1980s when Canadian child welfare authorities took thousands of Indigenous children from their homes and placed them with non-Indigenous foster parents.
While Fineday didn't attend residential schools, he said he moved from foster home to foster home from November 1961 until June 1973.
Saskatoon Ward 2 Coun. Hilary Gough stopped by Smudge On's Friday ceremony with a case of coffee and Timbits for the attendees, who sat on blue tarps that circled a metal firepit in the grassed area.
She said she stops by occasionally.
"This is something that is happening today, for [National Day for Truth and Reconciliation], but it's also something that happens every week," Gough said.
"It is intended to meet people where they're at."
Gough said she thinks much of the work done on the national day needs to be done year-round, not just on a designated date.