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"Smudge the Streets" hits downtown Billings

Posted at 10:36 PM, Mar 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 07:37:10-04

BILLINGS - Friday, a group in downtown Billings set out on a mission to "Smudge The Streets."

It's something they've been doing since 2018 to provide a unique and time-tested way to help those in need, as well as the organizers themselves.

Smudge the Streets was born from a Talking Circle led by Josiah Hugs.

Hugs has a long career with addiction counseling, community outreach, and involvement in downtown Billings.

"Talking Circles are for people that are in recovery from addiction. We call it 'Walking the Red Road' and we would go out and smudge the streets," Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness Community Prevention Coordinator Josiah Hugs said.

"The smudge is we burn Sage, Cedar, Sweet-grass, Bear-root, Tobacco, and any combination or singly, and what it does is it's symbolism to purify yourself of any negativity," Hugs said, " And offer up some good words to Creator God, say a prayer, and from that moment, until it's time to go to bed, you respond, and you try to live in a good way."

Smudge the Streets is a coordination between Tumbleweed, Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness Center, and The Native American Development Corporation. Many volunteers, and Montana State University Billings are involved.

"We have our brochures, and some first aid kids and some sanitizing kits for some people on the streets and give them some information, talk to them about our program, quick 2-3 minute spiel, smudge and prayer with them, and then we keep on moving," Hugs said.

Hugs recalls such an interaction that led to an individual seeking help,

" They completed our treatment and now has kind of just turned the page in a good way," Hugs said.

The drive to create and facilitate transformations such as these in this community isn't simply a mission statement for Hugs.

"For myself, I'm in recovery from addiction, so I understand where a lot of these people are, when you're in the thralls of addiction, so I can relate to them on that level- be like, 'Hey, I've been there, and I was able to turn it around by utilizing these resources, and just kind of meeting them at their level," Hugs said.

The group hopes to do a smudge gathering on the last Saturday of the month each month in the future.

"It is a good feeling, but it just reinforces my recovery when I see someone turn the page, step away from their addiction and then start moving forward in a good way," Hugs said.

Q2 will have more next week on the ways that outreach programs such as this are taking steps to combat many issues in our communities.