Rushmore Mall bans sage burning at I Am Legacy center

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - A Native American cultural practice is now banned at Rushmore Mall because of health concerns.

Thirty "misunderstandings" is what Eric Bringswhite calls it.

It's the amount of times the Rushmore Mall security has complained to the I Am Legacy center. But the main "misunderstanding" constantly reported is the practice of burning sage.

"It is a bit hurtful. You know, as anybody could imagine," Erik Bringswhite, I Am Legacy founder, said.

On Friday, security walked into the center and handed over a letter saying the sage burning is "jeopardizing" people's health.

The center was told to immediately stop otherwise their lease would be terminated. Bringswhite has not burned sage since the warning.

Though Bringswhite did not mean to harm anyone, he said sage burning is symbolic to the native culture.

"It is mainly for exchanging the atmosphere from the negative to the positive and it's often done in a prayerful manner," Bringswhite said.

Bringswhite said he used to burn about a nickle-sized amount of sage twice a day. Though he saw that as a small amount, the mall's general manager said the smell landed some people in the hospital.

"Several shoppers with asthma complained as their asthma would trigger when they would be in that wing. We also had some retailers, actually some had even been hospitalized due to migraines. And they got the migraines because of the odor," Sandy Brockhouse, Rushmore Mall general manager, said.

Before signing the lease in March, both parties agreed to sage burning verbally but Brockhouse said only when there is proper ventilation.

However, adding a major ventilation system in the building could cost about $40,000, she said.

Bringswhite sees this as an opportunity to sit in a circle with the mall officials and talk about culture and come up with a compromise.

To not infringe upon the practice, Brockhouse's suggestion is to let them burn the sage outside of the mall instead.