APTN National News
In a cultural lodge lined with cedar panels, Lorraine Lute bends over slightly, cups her hands and pulls smoke over her head and down her shoulders.
The retired teacher, along with a number of students, is smudging in a new cultural lodge designed for First Nation, Métis and Inuit students at Gloucester High School in Ottawa.
“Isn’t it grounding when you come in here, this is why we have our smudge bowl,” she said with a smile.
Lute is a retired First Nations teacher’s assistant.
She spent 15 years down the road at Rideau High School.
It was the first high school in Ottawa to offer First Nation, Métis and Inuit students a cultural lodge.
But because of declining enrollment, the public school board in Ottawa closed it in June.
Lute said she knew she had to be here to help students in the transition to the new school.
“The kids know me, I know them,” she said. “They’re special and it’s nice to see a familiar face after all the stuff from Rideau.”
Rideau had the highest Indigenous population in the Ottawa area.
17-year-old Kirsten Dumont attended Rideau for three years.
She said it was tough when she learned it was closing.
Then she was asked to be part of the planning for the new lodge at Gloucester.
“I feel like I’m in these walls,” she said. “I had a contribution of what was gonna go on and what was gonna happen and it feels even more like my own space and when I had walked in on Monday, I was just crying because I wasn’t expecting it to be done and it’s just gorgeous, amazing.”
According to Principal Jennifer Perry, Elders, students and members of the Indigenous community were all part of the planning committee for the new lodge.
“The result is this beautiful space with a large window for natural light and a beautiful kitchenette for any cultural activities that the students might be involved in with community storage space, so Wabano will be coming in and doing some after-school programs,” she said.
For grade nine student Amik Hiltz-Andre, it’s a pretty special place.
“When I went into the room over there where we smudge, I felt really at home, I never smelt that great smell in a while,” said Hiltz-Andre.
Lute said that’s what this lodge is all about.
“We have people here from Yellowknife, I just met,” she said. “They come from small reserves and it’s nice for them to meet another person that maybe they could speak the same language that why I feel it’s important for the connection.”
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