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Indigenous Land Stewardship Workshops

by Chimu Titi

This fall Green Thumbs was afforded the opportunity through a generous grant from LUSH Cosmetics’ Charity Pot program, to bring Indigenous garden knowledge to three of our schools during school hours and one afterschool program for parents and children.

The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action recommends that educators (among others):

Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.

The Toronto District School Board has instituted a morning Land Acknowledgement, read usually by students over the Public Address system.

“I would like to acknowledge that this school is situated upon traditional territories. The territories include the Wendat (wen-dat), Anishinabek (ah-nish-nah-bek) Nation, the Haudenosaunee (ho-den-oh-sho-nee) Confederacy, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations, and the Métis (may-tee) Nation. … I also recognize the enduring presence of Aboriginal peoples on this land.

We have observed, in our work as garden educators, children speaking of First Nations people in the past tense and in stereotypes. The goal of the Indigenous Land Stewardship program was to truly link the land acknowledgement done in the schools every morning to the children’s practices on the land, and to move beyond just a recitation.

To accomplish this, Green Thumbs reached out to Isaac Crosby “Brother Nature” who hails from the Chippewas of Malden.  Isaac, who sprouts from a long line of Indigenous farmers, and whose Indigenous name, Kani’kaweh, means, “he who has deep roots”, is a renowned urban gardener now working at Evergreen Brickworks.

Isaac managed to bring land acknowledgment to life by explaining what land acknowledgement meant and continues to mean to First Nations people, why it was done and why it needs to continue.  The students and teachers were taught about smudging; the herbs involved and how and where they are grown.  The practice of smudging was one that Isaac used to open the dialogue in the garden and take it beyond plants to people, relationships and responsibilities.

Isaac was able to connect and lay the ground work for a practice creating linkages; our shared home –Earth.  Our shared humanity- there are no expendable people. And the acknowledgment that we only have one earth and we have to share it with all living things and future generations.  These are values to which Green Thumbs is dedicated, and we continue to uphold.

We are grateful to Winchester, Sprucecourt and Rose Ave. Public Schools, the teachers, pupils and parents who participated in our program and of course to Isaac for making it all possible and creating an enriching and memorable interactive experience for all involved.

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