London’s First Indigenous Medicine and Teaching Garden Opens
May 28, 2018
London’s South Branch Park is now home to the city’s first Indigenous medicine and teaching garden.
The garden, located near the Hamilton Road and Trafalgar Street intersection, opened earlier in May after a special ground blessing and medicine planting ceremony.
“The thought came to me as I was walking through the area,” said Russell Green, garden creator and president of the Thames Bluewater Métis Council.
“I could smell sweet grass, which is something that’s very important to the Indigenous community. Normally I’d only be able to get it by traveling to Walpole Island, but that’s quite a distance away.”
In addition to sweet grass, the garden features tobacco, sage and cedar, as well as strawberries, corm, beans and squash.
The plot is also known as Mushkeeki Gitigan, which means medicine garden in Ojibway, and has been built next to an existing community garden and the neighbourhood’s Carolinian food forest.
Green said he hopes the garden will become a safe space for members of the Indigenous community to grow some of their traditional plant medicines, as well as a place for people from other walks of life to learn about Indigenous cultures.
“The purpose was also to show people that Indigenous culture is heavily present within the Hamilton Road area.”
Anyone is welcome to get their hands dirty though, as half the garden’s planting boxes are still available.
The garden is wheelchair accessible , the hope being Green said, that elders will bring the younger generations to learn about traditional plants and their healing properties.
But Green’s favourite part? The atmosphere.
“You can feel a bit of energy – positive energy – here. When you sit back here, for a moment you forget you’re in the city because it’s so nestled in this forest area,” Green said.
The garden was built using a $5,000 one-time SPARKS program grant. The Atlohsa Native Family Healing Services contributed $500, and the Crouch Resource Centre added another $1,000.
But additional grants will be needed for the garden Green said, which took 19 months to bring to life, if it’s going to be used to its full potential.
He’d like to secure funding to offer teaching sessions, such as drum, moccasin and medicine wheel making, as well as dot art, beading and Indigenous language lessons within the garden setting.
The new garden is located at the end of Dillabough Street in south London, off the pedestrian path by the community garden.
Planting space can be booked through the Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre.
“All in all, it was a community effort … I’m grateful it’s come together the way it has,” Green said.