By Mike Simonson
Bayfield High School valedictorian Victoria Gokee-Rindal dropped more than a few jaws last Saturday during her commencement speech. She said Native American students are made to feel inferior because of their culture, even though they make up the vast majority of the student body: “Even though we're 80 percent Native American, we have to almost check our 'Indian-ness' at the door.”
A member of the nearby Red Cliff Band of Ojibwe, Gokee-Rindal says a tipping point was when students who practiced smudging—cleansing themselves with the smoke of burning sage—were told they couldn’t come to class. On Monday, 15 students walked out of school in protest.
Bayfield School Administrator David Aslyn says the smell upset people with allergies, but they’re working on putting together the first-ever “smudging” policy in the state.