Shakopee High School students building outdoor smudging space

Equipped with hammers and saws, Shakopee High School students are in the midst of building something truly unique on campus.

Within a matter of weeks, the campus will be home to one of the first outdoor Native smudging spaces in the state.

The Native American tradition uses the cleansing smoke of sage and other sacred herbs and holds special meaning for students like Chanta Brewer, who is Dakota.

"Smudging for us is a cultural practice that helps cleanse you in a way," said Brewer. 

"Having a building outside that we can get to easily and that we can connect with nature on is really important to us so we can stay connected to our roots."

This was all made possible through a grant from the Shakopee Educational Endowment Foundation. Longtime English teacher Katy Tabke helped lead the effort and wrote the grant application. 

"Seeing every culture, seeing every community is so important, and for a really long time, our Native students were quite as visible as they deserved to be," said Tabke. 

The practice has grown in popularity recently, with Saint Paul Public Schools approving a policy allowing smudging last year. It's significance in Shakopee cannot be overstated, a school district with more than 200 Native students from 28 tribal nations.

"We are getting to make our ancestors proud, and we get to do what our ancestors couldn't do," said Brewer. 

Construction Management students are now making the idea a reality, and the project is expected to be complete by the end of the month.

"Seeing that we get to have this space brings a lot of joy, pride, and strength to the surface for a lot of Native students," said Brewer.