Aboriginal garden grows knowledge

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications

Spring is here and the Aboriginal garden at New Westminster Campus has been planted.

Despite the chilly wet weather, on April 11, members of the College community came together to plant tobacco and sweetgrass in the garden. The planting included a traditional smudging ceremony by Elder Millie McComber and was followed with celebratory dinners.

“The garden has presented a great cultural awareness and learning opportunity,” said Dave Seaweed, Aboriginal Student Services Coordinator. “Through the various events surrounding the garden we were able to share knowledge about Aboriginal culture and traditions. As we did more events, more and more people heard about them, and the garden, and were interested. In this way, knowledge grows through the community as people tell each other what they have seen and learned.”

The plants chosen for the garden are important to First Nation culture. Sweetgrass is used in smudges and healing or talking circles. It is believed to be the hair of Mother Earth, and when braided represents love, kindness and honesty (or sometimes mind, body and soul). Tobacco is a sacred gift in First Nation tradition; Sacred Tobacco is used for prayer and healing.

The garden box is built from cedar, which is traditionally used in the construction of masks, totem poles and longhouses.

Recently, the Sol Garden at Coquitlam Campus was the location for a spring-themed drumming event. Dave hopes to see similar events at the New Westminster Campus, especially come harvest time, as there are special ways the plants are traditionally harvested.

But first the plants have to grow, and someone has to make sure that happens.

“We created a student position for someone to take care of the gardens at both campuses. It ended up being an Aboriginal student that was hired, which is a really nice opportunity for them to be part of this initiative to incorporate their culture into the College,” said Dave.

Read more in the press release.

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