3 Sask. First Nations join together to embrace gardening

After wildfires caused power outages in northern Saskatchewan, the importance of food sovereignty became even more apparent for communities like the Muskoday, Mistawasis and Muskeg Lake First Nations.

Muskoday, Mistawasis and Muskeg Lake received greenhouses from Lambton College

Muskoday is helping community members plant their spring gardens. (Leisha Grebinski/CBC)

The Muskoday, Mistawasis and Muskeg Lake First Nations have teamed up with Lambton College in Sarnia, Ont., to start a pilot project to embrace gardening and food security in the communities.

After wildfires caused power outages in northern Saskatchewan, the importance of food sovereignty became even more apparent for communities like theirs.

Joe Munroe is food security co-ordinator for Muskoday First Nation. He said it is great to see an increased interest in gardening.

"As Indigenous people we have a long history of gardening, North America is one big garden," Munroe said. "With colonization we lost a lot of our Indigenous foods, and European foods were introduced, so we're regaining the knowledge."

Jessi Gerard is a community navigator for the First Nation. He said there is an uptick in people on Muskoday who want gardens in their backyards.

He said he has a tractor to help till and fill people's gardens with things like corn, potatoes and carrots.

"We help them make their gardens a success," Gerard said.

LISTEN | Joe Munroe and Jessi Gerard spoke with Stefani Langenegger on The Morning Edition

Gardening has exploded in popularity over the past year. Muskoday, Mistawasis and Muskeg Lake First Nations are working together to help their people embrace that. 7:50

Gerard said Lambton helped build four greenhouses on the three First Nations and that there are big plans for the greenhouses that go beyond gardening.

"We are going to have an aquaculture program inside the greenhouse where we're going to be also be raising fish and food, probably trout," Gerard said. "The water that the fish lives in is filtered for all the waste, the solid waste, and so the liquid waste is pumped through trays of plants.

"It helps the plants get the nutrients that they need."

Munroe said the First Nation is growing a lot of its own food, along with an excess to sell.

"Good quality food that hasn't been sprayed six times with chemicals," he said. "We have [a] good healthy food supply, complete food supply of culturally appropriate foods, and we're also feeding other people and making a living from it."

Gerard said he has always had an interest in gardening and that, living in his community, it is a natural thing to maintain a garden.

"It's out in the front yard so people driving by can see it," Gerard said. "It makes it more interesting for other people and they start thinking 'if he has a garden, I should have a garden.'"

Gerard said harvest time feels good.

"I have my sons and my wife out there and we're working in the garden," he said. "The boys are learning about the storage of the vegetables themselves, so it's something that we're enjoying doing and our sons are learning about the future and how to feed themselves too."

Munroe said he is also teaching his grandchildren how to garden, much like his grandmother did for him. He said transferring knowledge to the next generation is very important.

"We've seen it throughout history and at some point that was broken here in Muskoday, so we need to focus on that."


  • A previous version of this story said that Lambton College is in London, Ont. In fact, it is in Sarnia, Ont.
    May 27, 2021 9:02 AM CT