Saskatoon

Saskatoon community garden grows thanks to aboriginal culture

Through the Revitalizing Indigenous Agriculture Project, methods of Indigenous culture will be used to plant the seeds and help the garden grow.

Methods of Aboriginal culture will be used to plant the seeds and help the garden grow

The Revitalizing Indigenous Agriculture Project uses methods of Aboriginal culture. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

There is a new community garden at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, but this isn't your typical agricultural project.

Through the Revitalizing Indigenous Agriculture Project, methods of indigenous culture will be used to plant the seeds and help the garden grow.

"The project itself this year has focused primarily on the corn, the beans, and the squash," said project coordinator Glenda Abbott. "We've had nine sessions where we've had different knowledge keepers come out and facilitate as session to pass on knowledge."
Glenda Abbott is the project coordinator of the project. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Part of the garden is a replica of Buffalo Bird Woman's early 1900's garden. She was a traditional Mandan Hidatsa woman from the North Dakota Fort Berthold Reservation.

The second part is based on Mohawk traditions using the idea of growing for sustenance. Earlier this summer, the group hosted a Mohawk elder who taught them teach traditional seed songs.

"[We're] growing a lot of corn in rows with the squash in the center kind of vining out as kind of a sacred keeper of those rows," said Abbott. The group is also using fish heads as fertilizer under the corn mounds.

In the center of the garden, there is a pollinator section. 

"[This is to] encourage the presence of our indigenous bees," said Abbott. "We have 350 species of bees here and we're hoping they come out and pollinate our garden."

Tobacco, peppers, peas, chili and strawberries surround the centre of the garden.

Adam Gaudry is one of the gardeners. He appreciates the mix of ceremonial and practical methods 
Adam Gaudry is one of the volunteer gardeners. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

"It's about building relationships with the plants as we plant them and understanding what they need and what they're giving us and trying to think of it as more of a reciprocal relationship," said Gaudry. 

The group hopes that the garden will be able to supply the park's restaurant and also be used to develop a seed bank for Wanuskewin.

The last workshop of the season for the garden will take place in September.

"We'll have knowledge keepers come out and teach us about the tradition, and the ancestral passing of seed keeping," said Abbott. "A really important part of indigenous agriculture is [to know] where our seeds come from and how we pass that knowledge from one generation to the next." 

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