The new Indigenous Plant and Pollinator Garden at Colwood City Hall brought people together to celebrate growing local, the value of partnerships and digging into shared learning to deepen our understanding.
Created by the Colwood Garden Society in partnership with indigenous elders and with funding from a Colwood Create Places grant, this new “learning garden” will include some of the roots, berries, flowers and shrubs that have been mainstays of First Nations health and healing. Past president Barbara Sibbald explained that they also attract a wide variety of bees and insects and are becoming increasingly rare.
Interpretive signs with English and First Nations identifying names will be added so visitors can learn about the plants, language and culture in a welcoming and enjoyable setting.
Guests were welcomed to the garden with an Indigenous blessing and welcome song by Sit-a-luk Raymond Peter, an Elder from Beecher Bay who local students will know as Brother Rick for his work as a counsellor in the School District 62 Aboriginal Education Program.
This was followed by a smudging ceremony to clear the air, minds, spirits, and emotions and invite space for learning and growth. Royal Bay Secondary student Jay Raryk performed the smudging, directing the smoke from a sage stick over the entrance and each of the beds. Jay has also been instrumental in advising the Colwood Garden Society about types of Indigenous plants to include in the garden.
Na’tsa’maht is the word Brother Rick used to describe how the new garden connects us. Na’tsa’maht means being of one mind, one spirit. Together, working side by side, supporting each other, walking together. Connecting mind, body and spirit for the good of our children, for the good of the earth that sustains us.
It's such a wonderful word to describe this garden, where some of the beds are dedicated to growing food to share with those in need, through the Living Edge Food for the Hungry program. Other plots are teaching gardens where students from the elementary school are learning important lessons about nature, food and health.
It gives older folks and youngsters a reason to get out and active in the fresh air to garden side by side and interact in ways they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to. And it's in the tending, teaching, words and stories shared in those small moments that a garden can be a powerful place of learning indeed.