Indigenous Education Garden
This garden aims to reflect and embody the principles of Indigenous Education, a key initiative at OISE, by symbolizing the Seven Grandfather teachings of Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, and Truth. The plants reference to local Indigenous traditions and history, drawing on Indigenous plant species from the traditional territories of the Mississauga and the Onkwehonwe peoples. Information about the sacred medicines has been drawn from the teachings of one of OISE's traditional teachers, Jacque Lavalley, as well as from information on Medicine Wheel Gardens from First Nations University.
Eastern White Cedar - gi' jîkandag / gi' jîk - Thuja occidentalis
Eastern White Cedar has traditional medicinal (e.g., vitamin C), spiritual (smudging ceremonies), and practical uses. Gi-shee-kan-dug (cedar) can be used to purify the body and protect from evil.1 In the Indigenous Education garden, it serves as a visual and metaphorical pillar showing strength and resilience.
Sage - Îmbjî'goa / wîngûskw / bebeji'- goga'nji - Artemisia ludoviciana
Sage is one of the four sacred medicines and has been used traditionally in smudging ceremonies and for medicinal purposes as a purifier.2 Mush-ko-day-wushk (Sage) is spiritually imporant, and also attracts pollinators, symbolizing the interconnectedness of natural systems on Earth.
Wild Columbine - Ininiwizh - Aquilegia canadensis
Columbine is a low maintenance wildflower native to Ontario. Its brightly coloured flowers attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. It self-seeds, propagating itself around the garden. Here, it illustrates the interconnectedness of natural systems, a value cultivated by Indigenous peoples
Sweetgrass - Wiingaashk - Hierochloe odorata
A hardy green-gold plant, sweetgrass is one of the four sacred medicines. It is used for smudging, sacred ceremonies, and ritual cleansings. According to Anishinaabe teachings, We-skwu ma-shko-seh was the first plant to grow on Mother Earth, which is why the blades can be braided and symbolize hair.4
Milkweed - cabo' sîkûn/înîni'wûnj - Asclepias syriaca
Milkweed has light pink flowers and contains a bitter white sap that protects it from predators. The sap also is essential nectar for butterfly species, including monarchs, and many other insects. It has long tap roots to spread its plants, as well as the many seeds it grows. In this garden it is symbol of the importance of Indigenous knowledges to the maintenance of our world.
1. Benton-Banai, E. (1988). The Mishomis Book.University of Minnesota Press.
Resources on the Indigenous Education Garden
Articles and Books:
Bouchard, D., & Vickers, R. H. (2003). The elders are watching. Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books.
Caduto, M. J., & Bruchac, J. (1997). Keepers of the animals: Native American stories and wildlife activities for children. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing.
Densmore, F. (2006). Strength of the earth: The classic guide to ojibwe uses of native plants. Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Geniusz, M. S., Geniusz, W. M., & Geniusz, A. (2015). Plants have so much to give us, all we have to do is ask: Anishinaabe botanical teachings. University of Minnesota Press.
Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass. Milkweed Editions.
Turner, N. J. (2005). The earth’s blanket: Traditional teachings for sustainable living. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre.
Canadian Feed the Children Feeding minds, bodies, and spirits with school community gardens
Institute for Aboriginal Health Garden (UBC)
Medicine Wheel Gardening – Winnipeg School District
Medicine Wheel Gardening, First Nations University
Project Land Back – Wiigwaasikaa
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada