Surrounded by the hubbub of downtown Toronto, a group of Métis women in Toronto are connecting with their heritage by planting a garden full of traditional herbs and medicines.

The Métis Women's Talking Circle normally meets once a month for feasting and teaching, but lately, they've added in getting their hands dirty at a small plot in Allan Gardens.

"I feel incredibly fortunate and really blessed to have this opportunity. It really means a lot to me, especially because I can see it from seed to growth," said Samantha Howden.

The women plan to plant one bed of medicines like sage, sweetgrass and tobacco, and another full of vegetables.

womens circle

From left to right: Constance Simmonds, Shirley Debassige Dusome, Elise St. Germain, Sheila Laroque, and Samantha Howden.

"We also want to plant a bunch of strawberries, which is great especially because we are the women's circle. Strawberries are women's medicine. And June, it's strawberry moon," said Elise St Germain.

Sheila Laroque grew up with a vegetable garden, but traditional Métis medicines were never grown.

"We all knew that we were Métis when we were growing up but we really didn't talk about it," said Laroque. "So that part is new for me and I'm really excited to be gardening in that aspect this year."

The talking circle's elder, Constance Simmonds, said that part of the garden's importance is increasing the visibility of Métis people in Toronto.

Simmonds is a senator with the Métis Nation of Ontario's Toronto and York Region Métis Council, and shares teachings with the talking circle every month.

Samantha Howden

Samantha Howden wheels dirt towards the garden in Allan Gardens. (Elise St. Germain)

"We're really trying to let people know that the Métis are here, we're alive, we're well, we're productive. So once we get all the boxes prepared, the soil down and some things planted, we're going to bring four little Métis flags to stick in our gardens," she said.

Simmonds relishes the chance to connect with the young women of the circle, and sees the garden project growing in the future.

"This is just the beginning of the Métis women of Toronto coming together and going on the land. It's very small, it's very modest, but it's a beginning," she said.

This story was first presented on Metro Morning by Jacqueline McKay, herself a member of the circle:

With files from Metro Morning