Indigenous Medicine Garden
In 2021, we committed to embracing and acknowledging more fully our journey of reconciliation. We started by looking through the lens of Mino-Pimatisiwin ~ Living the Good Life. We took the Sustainable Development Goals and connected them to actions we were taking in our building. In 2022, we applied for the LSF grants with the vision of taking our often neglected garden beds and turning them into both a meaningful act of reconciliation as well as a sustainable project by creating a Medicine Garden that would have the 4 sacred medicines of Sage, Sweetgrass, Cedar, and Tobacco, as well as many Indigenous plants that would create a sustainable space; a space that would both provide medicine but also host a natural community of plants that all have medicinal value and are habitat for many insects and birds.
January 2023 Planning meeting with Knowledge Keeper Wayne Manningway
– the importance of asking permission from Mother Earth through ceremony to create our Medicine Garden
– the importance of connecting everything back to the land; every plant we plant we need to connect to the spirit of that plant
– looking for the gifts that each child brings, what is their medicine, what gift do they give to make others feel better
– importance of understanding the land, asking permission and waiting for a response
– the importance of the gifts of LOVE/SPIRIT and VOICE
Wayne will teach us about the 4 medicines of Sage, Sweet Grass, Tobacco and Cedar (we may not plant cedar due to the needs for drainage). We will start germination inside. Wayne will come back once things start growing
We then met in late January over Zoom to plan what bringing the 2 classes together would look like. The classes plan to work together on an art project focusing on “our own gifts/medicines” that we possess.
In early February, Wayne came back and spoke with the children about medicine, and the children from HC Avery School came with their teacher and did a lesson on medicine and thought of the idea of “YOU as medicine.” They talked about the different kinds of medicine that exist and did a sort of plants, medicine, and what medicines we have within us to help others feel better. They will be working on art pieces to represent their learning.
In late February, the grade 1-2 class visited Aki Centre. Aki Centre is a land-based Centre home to dozens of native plants. Alexis Nazeravich is our contact and is supporting us in our Medicine Garden project. The day we visited, we smudged, we learned about some of the plants we will be planting at school, we got to do some planting, learn about vermicomposting and spend time both outside on the land and inside in the greenhouse. We will use the knowledge gained here to plant squash seeds at school in late April.
Wayne joined us again to survey the space that we have chosen to plant the medicine garden. Wayne guided us to where we will plant the 4 medicines. Wayne guides us to plant Cedar in the North, Tobacco in the East, Sweetgrass in the South and Sage in the West.
Students in a grade 1-2 classroom start to plant squash from seeds from a squash they opened. We will germinate these over the next 3-4 weeks. We choose squash as it is one of the 3 Sisters.
As an experiment, another grade 1-2 class plants a different variety of squash seeds from packages. Each child will take a plant home as well as be part of planting in the garden beds.
Students helped to clean out and prep the garden beds and prepare them for planting in June. We removed chives from one of the beds to make way for the 3 Sisters we will plant (squash, corn, and beans). We offered the chives to staff, students, and families to plant in their own gardens. Many families took the chives home.
May children help in prepping the beds with new soil.
Planting the Three Sisters ~ Squash, Beans and Corn
We are excited to use our grow light!! We will be starting our Three Sisters inside and will use the grow light to accelerate growth.
May 16th, 2023:
Blessing and Ceremony take place in the garden. I have been reading “Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, adapted by Monique Gray Smith, and illustrations by Nicole Neidhardt; I have been listening to our elder and Knowledge Keeper ~ Wayne. We must ask permission for this land we plan to use and plant in. We teach the children about The Honorable Harvest and The Thanksgiving Address, which they read at the blessing. We come together, we smudge, we thank Creator and we prepare for our planning day in a good way. We have recently had ribbon skirts made for staff who wants them, I am proud to wear my ribbon skirt today.
Reflection & Celebration
We will be planting our garden in June due to the late frost in Manitoba. We will be submitting our final planting photos and documentation at this time. We are excited to be planting 213 plants, 180 of them Indigenous to Manitoba. Our garden will be both sustainable and sustain the life of many insects and birds in our community. We have come together in our learning of Indigenous ways of knowing and being. We have learned about the land and the importance of our connection with it. We are not above it, we are one. “Ceremony focuses attention so that attention becomes intention” ~ Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults (pg.215). We have been intentional in how we can learn to sustain the earth and be in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, one another, and Mother Earth.
Planting Days!! All that we have worked toward has come together!
Our whole school planting days are complete. We are done planting our garden, with the exception of a White Cedar that will arrive next week. Our garden will have the 4 sacred medicines and 181 plants Indigenous to Manitoba. Each of our 6 classes was a part of preparing the garden beds, planting and watering over the last 2 days. Water ambassadors have been chosen from each room and will be responsible for watering all the beds of the next few weeks of school. A parent volunteer will be helping us throughout the summer to ensure that our garden has the best start it can possibly have. This year our garden will focus on its root system, it will reach down into Mother Earth and establish itself in her warm embrace. Next year at this time, we will see increased growth and each year after. We have planted this garden in a good way, we have learned about Mino-Pimatisiwin ~ Living the Good Life and we will take the lessons learned from the Honorable Harvest and apply it our every day. These lessons are as follows:
The Honorable Harvest
Never Take the First
Listen for the Answer
Take Only What you Need
Use Everything You Take
Reciprocate the Gift
Submitted by Jennifer Wilson