College breaks ground on new Sacred Garden

·2 min read

A new Sacred Garden at Northern College, designed as a medicine wheel, will spark educational conversations and allow for the sharing of traditional teachings, says a Mattagami First Nation elder.

With about two dozen people on hand, the groundbreaking ceremony for the garden took place at the college's Timmins campus Friday morning.

Located right outside the metal teepee, the garden will have four quadrants, each allotted for four traditional medicines: tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar. There will be walking pathways between the quadrants and outside the garden, with benches for people to sit and enjoy the garden. In the middle of the garden, there will be a sacred fire.

The hope is to have medicines planted in the garden by June of next year, said Trudy Wilson, the college’s manager of Indigenous services and initiatives.

“It’s important because it’s another way to Indigenize the college,” she said. “Any opportunity we can take to do that we should be taking.”

Wilson was the one who came up with the design, with one of the college's Indigenous advisors mapping it out.

“It’s designed to look like a medicine wheel because there are over 200 teachings in the medicine wheel, so we’ll be able to share a lot of teaching with the students, staff and faculty going forward,” Wilson said.

The four colours of the medicine wheel are red, black, white and yellow.

Elder Morris Naveau, who was invited to bless the ground and do smudging, said there are different meanings behind each colour of the medicine wheel. The colours stand for four directions, four seasons and four races of people, among many other meanings.

“It’s really important that we know these things, to share what was passed on to us. It’s nice to share that with non-Indigenous people so that they can understand where we came from and how we were taught,” he said.

The medicines from the garden will be harvested, used for ceremonies and possibly shared with others. Wilson said they’re currently researching where to get the best seeds from.

“And it’s interactive so it’s a good place to bring people together,” she said.

Wilson and Northern College President Audrey Penner broke the ground together using a shovel adorned with ribbons.

“This was linked to our strategic plan. This was … what we wanted to do this year given it’s a visual and representation of our work we’re doing. We’re not just talking about it. This is doing and actioning,” Penner said.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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