What’s a better way to bring light to National Indigenous History month than reflecting on our fun day at the Michener Gitigan (the Anishinaabemowin word for garden) on Friday, May 27th . For some people gardening can seem like playing with dirt and digging holes, for the Indigenous it has a deeper meaning and entails a profound sense of respect for the land and the spirits. The Indigenous garden contains many plants and medicines that are native to that area and are used by the Indigenous, such as white sage, tobacco, cedar, and sweetgrass. These plants have healing properties that help improve physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health.

Our day started off with a ritual where we engulf ourselves with the smoke to ward off bad spirits as well as cleanse ourselves both spiritually and physically. It was here where we learned about the importance of tobacco to the Indigenious. Before planting hold some tobacco close to your heart and fill it with good intentions and energy, then you sprinkle it on the soil where you would put your plant. This is done as a thank you and a way to give back to nature. Tobacco is sacred to the Indigenous as it is seen to have lots of medicinal and spiritual properties.

With the ceremony complete we can begin gardening!! Before we could get to the juicy fun stuff, as in planting, we had to work hard and do some cleaning up. We got to work and started to pull out some weeds and roots that were no longer needed. It was in these moments I realized how labour intensive digging actually is….that or I’m just out of shape but let’s go with the first option. Nonetheless, here are people putting in work!!

Here’s a fun gardening joke:

So my neighbour sees me kneeling down, busy in my garden and asks what I’m doing

“I’m putting all my plants in alphabetical order”

“Really?! I don’t know how you find the time!”

“It’s right next to the sage”

After we finished the clean up phase we began the planting phase, everyone’s favourite part. We planted a variety of plants, the names of which I honestly can’t remember, except for white sage, it had such a nice aroma and an easy name. We spent the next couple hours planting away all the plants that were available to us. Luckily the rain and clouds went away and the sun came out!!

Erica planting white sage

The hard work isn’t done yet, our team finished off the day by spreading mulch to trap in the moisture, it’s an important step. It also makes the entire garden look A LOT nicer. Thanks to Fiona Cherryman, everyone was able to take breaks and re-energize with some amazing snacks that she provided. I know I survived off of those, also, some of the best oranges I’ve had in a while. Lastly, to top everything off we watered it all down with a hose. Lisa had a blast showering the plants and pressure washing the concrete to remove all the dirt, make sure you are following the 3 R’s properly or else you might get hosed down. Overall, it was a successful event and lots of fun, thank you to everyone involved and all the volunteers!!

This isn’t all there will be to celebrate Indigenous month, on Tuesday, June 21st the Indigenous Health Program (IHP) is having a Solstice & National Indigenous Peoples Day. They are also in search of three Fire Keepers for June 21st. If you are interested, please contact Ashley.Migwans@uhn.ca

Check out this poster for more details!! Click it 🙂

> Event Date and Time: June 21st, 6:00 AM – 4:00 PM

> Contact: Ashley.Migwans@uhn.ca