Watch CBS News

Shakopee High School's Indigenous students building outdoor smudging space

Shakopee High School students to build outdoor smudging space
Shakopee High School students to build outdoor smudging space 02:08

SHAKOPEE, Minn. — Shakopee High School is implementing an outdoor smudging space for its Native American students, who are helping construct it.

Nail by nail and board by board, students in the school's Engineering and Manufacturing Academy are busy building something that's never been seen on a Minnesota high school campus. 

"It's one of our core things that's like been consistent throughout all our histories that we smudge and use the smoke to cleanse ourselves," said junior Chanta Brewer, a member of the school's Native Group.

MORE NEWS: How the Lower Sioux Indian Community is building homes with hemp

Smudging is a cultural practice that involves the burning of sacred herbs like white sage or resin. For students like Brewer, and other Indigenous Americans, the act holds profound significance. 

"It helps show us who we are," Brewer said. "Having a space like this is super important for us so that we can continue to practice our culture in like a daily aspect instead of like just at home."


Shakopee Public Schools has roughly 231 Native students within the district, with nearly 80 in the high school alone.   

"It just kind of was the right moment, the right time, the right conversations," said Shakopee High School English teacher Kathyrn Tabke.

It's that fact that prompted Tabke to dig a little deeper.

"What if there was a space here just dedicated for the students to use so that our Native students have a place that's visible, a place that is soley theirs and a place that honors this really important cultural practice for them," Tabke said.

MORE NEWS: New Minnesota license plate will help fund rewards for info on missing and murdered Indigenous people

And thanks to a $3,500 grant from the Shakopee Educational Endowment Association (SEEF), that dream became a reality.

"I think that's really something exciting to see in our district," said SEEF's Julie Maynerd-Johnson.

The goal is to have construction done before spring break.

"It fills us with a lot of pride and it brings a certain sense of like joy that you can't experience anywhere else, seeing that your culture is being represented and is not being shunned for once, it's a breath of fresh air," Brewer said.

Organizers say they hope to have the Outdoor Smudging Space up and running sometime in May.

MORE NEWS: John Bobolink, St. Paul Public Schools' Indian Education Supervisor, dies

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.