Wellington County seeking grant to create area's first Indigenous ceremony space

·2 min read

WELLINGTON COUNTY – A sacred garden planned for the grounds at Wellington Place would be the first dedicated Indigenous space for ceremony and programming in Wellington County.

Jana Burns, Wellington Place administrator, said in a phone interview they have applied for a $250,000 Canada Healthy Communities Initiative grant to establish a community space at the county-owned lands behind the Wellington County Museum and Archives (WCMA).

Included in the plan is a medicine wheel, a three sisters garden, a ceremony space and a multi-use timber frame pavilion among other features.

This project has the support of the county’s Indigenous advisory committee and Burns said they’re going through the process of understanding the county’s history of treaties with various groups.

“As we are gathering knowledge about treaties and about the various Indigenous groups that are in Wellington County, we could be doing that at the same time we’re planning for this sacred garden,” Burns said.

The grant is the first step in the process of getting this off the ground. Burns said the next step is to engage with Indigenous groups and the public on this project.

She said the timing seems right with the ongoing conversations around current and historic discrimination that have been prevalent recently.

“We (Wellington County) weren’t immune to the conversations that are happening globally about discrimination and I think it’s an opportune time where people are thirsty for this kind of engagement and these conversations,” Burns said.

“I think this project helps. It maybe nurtures this process.”

Burns said the sacred garden ties into themes of reconciliation with its proximity to the WCMA.

The WCMA was historically used as a place of refuge for impoverished, homeless or destitute people and called the “Poor House.”

“The Poor House has always had a history of supporting those most vulnerable in our community so I think there’s a nice tie in there as well,” Burns said. “It used to be an industrial farm as well so there’s aspects of agriculture that we’re going to have in the gardens and harvesting it.”

The space is meant for ceremony and healing which Burns said is something all people could use during this time period.

“I think we’re all going through something very difficult and the pandemic has only exacerbated that,” Burns said.

“Whether it's trying to find your own identity or looking to meet with people, gather with people to share stories, this space is what we’re trying to create to allow for that.”

The plan was well received by the information, heritage and seniors committee at their Wednesday meeting.

Committee members agreed this should go forward even if the grant application isn’t successful.

Burns said they hope to have this space finished by summer 2022.

Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com