White Sage is being poached.
If you ever bought a smudge stick, did you ask the vendor where it came from? Most people don't, including those in indigenous communities. Unfortunately, in the past few years it has come to our attention how white sage is often taken from our land and the land of our Southern California Native neighbors. White sage smudge sticks and products, unless otherwise labeled as "farmed" are often poached from wildlife reserves in Southern California. Scroll down to see how you can be an ally and how poached white sage harms the environment, the Indigenous people of the American Continent, and the body.
Poached Sage harms immigrant communities
Coyotes (a smuggler typically of South American origin) are often used to poach sage. When they're caught, they're taken to prison, deported, or fined upwards of $3,000. The middleman who will profit from the sage has no consequence. Poaching white sage, therefore, harms our Indigenous neighbors from South America.
Poached Sage cannot give blessing
The stress and harm done to grandmother white sage when she is poached is so stressful to the plant that it can no longer give blessing. Ethical gathering should only be done to a sage plant that has been loved and tended to, and should NEVER kill the plant. Sage poaching does both of these things.
Poached Sage Harms Indigenous Communities
Indigenous Southern Californian tribes are no longer allowed to gather our own sage from Mother Earth if we don't have land to grow our own. Poached sage is brought to us, mangled and fermenting, after it has been confiscated by park rangers. It is heartbreaking. Our grandmother white sage and our mutualistic relationship with her is disappearing because of the thousands of pounds poached every year to meet the demand that overlooks our own.
Poached Sage is never ethically gathered
Because white sage can make a good profit, when white sage is poached the whole plant is taken, often killing the sage plant. The health of the plant and the season are almost never taken into account, reducing the survival of the sage even further.
Poached Sage ferments and cannot be safely inhaled
When Coyotes poach sage, they stuff duffel bags as compactly as possible to reduce the number of trips into the wildlife areas they're poaching from. The sage plant stays crammed in a duffel back with very little ventilation, in the California heat, for hours or days before it is bundled by other migrant workers (who are also exploited). This sage begins to ferment and mold almost immediately, reducing the quality and medicinal benefits substantially.
Inappropriate use of sage is cultural appropriation
Although we understand white sage has become an integral part of meditation, the use of an abalone shell and/or a bird feather is cultural appropriation to our ceremonial practices. This is a continuation of the harm of colonization and Indigenous erasure.
How You Can Help
Sage is a Gift not a Purchase
The best way you can smudge with sage is if you build a relationship with the plant! If you live in or around Southern California (or equivalent climate), you can grow your own white sage. White Sage is a gift from mother earth and medicine that should be shared, but buying it is not the answer!
Online Care guide
Online Seed purchase
If you are in Southern California most Botanical Gardens have seasonal seedling sales and lots of resources!