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Four sacred medicines planted

Friday August 8, 2014
Submitted photo

The four sacred medicines of tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar were included in this year’s Ontario Native Women’s Association community garden.

The four sacred medicines of tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar were included in this year’s Ontario Native Women’s Association community garden.

“Embedded within traditional Aboriginal culture is a great deal of respect for Mother Earth,” said Erin Corston, ONWA’s executive director. “The community garden, Omaanake Gagii-Dazhii Maamaw Ombigiyang (A Place We Grow Together), provides a wonderful opportunity to share our respect for Mother Earth, traditional teachings surrounding earth preservation and traditional medicines, and of course, fresh produce, with our community members.”

Commonly used in many traditional Aboriginal ceremonies, the four sacred medicines were planted in the medicine tree garden section of the community garden, which is located behind the ONWA office on the north side of Thunder Bay.

“We’re happy to have the garden again,” said Maryanne Matthews, ONWA’s media and communications officer. “It helps us to promote healthy living and healthy lifestyles, which is very important here at ONWA. We encourage and invite anybody who wants to get involved to contact us and come and tend to the garden and benefit from whatever vegetables they may need as well as the medicines.”

About 45 people helped prepare and plant the about 30 by 30-foot garden in late June. Roots to Harvest staff were on hand to provide support and guidance for the initiative, which is a partnership between ONWA and the Thunder Bay Family Network.

“We were a little late this year due to the weather and getting it planted compared to past years,” Matthews said. “But with the weather now, it’s been (steadily growing) so we hope that we are going to have some good produce come out of it and it will benefit the community members and clients.”

One Elder in her 80s helped with the planting this year.

“The garden has always been really well received by our community members and clients,” Matthews said. “It gives them a chance to learn how to cultivate their own gardens. They also benefit from some of the vegetables and it’s a fun activity for them to come out and do as well.”

This year’s crop of grape tomatoes, cabbage, leaf lettuce, peas, potatoes and onions were donated by George’s Market and Vanderwees. Last fall the produce was harvested in conjunction with a community kitchen day.

“They had clients come out to pick the garden and then they were taught hot recipes that went along with the fresh vegetables,” Matthews said. “Whoever was there was able to take home what we had. We try to give basically all that we grow back to the community.”

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