Knowledge planted with creation of Medicine Wheel Gardens at St. Alphonsus, St. Anne schools

Students standing around Medicine Wheel Garden

By Lance Anderson, Peterborough This Week

Knowledge keeper Kim Muskratt takes great pride in knowing students are learning about her culture and ancestors’ teachings.

On Tuesday, children gathered inside the Medicine Wheel Garden at St. Alphonsus Catholic Elementary School to learn about the important the medicines and significance the garden has on the First Nations people. They were joined by peers from St. Anne school, who next week, will create a similar garden at their school.

“When we begin a Medicine Garden, the first thing we should do is the teachings so they understand what that Medicine Garden is about,” says Muskratt.

“They are very important. They help us remember those ancestors. You are on Mississauga Territory and having that Medicine Garden is honouring those ancestors…and the territory.”

St. Alphonsus students learned about the garden last October when it was installed in front of the school. The installation was made possible thanks to grant from the R.J. McCarthy Foundation.

This year, St. Alphonsus joined with St. Anne to secure a Speak Up grant from the Ontario government. Approximately $2,000 was awarded to help create a garden at St. Anne as well as for both schools to participate in lessons together.

Grade 7 St. Alphonsus teacher Aaron McFadden says the lessons include a trip to Trent University’s  Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies and to the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre for a feast.

Grade 7 St. Alphonsus student Thea Tubera authored the grant application with help from McFadden. She felt St. Anne students would benefit from learning about Native Studies, like she has at her school.

“We also wanted to help them (St. Anne students) get a Medicine Wheel Garden and encourage them to go out into nature,” says Tubera.

McFadden says Grade 7 and 8 classes at both schools have been collaborating on Native Studies programs through Google Docs.

He adds having them join for a smudging ceremony on Tuesday and to learn about the Medicine Wheel Garden was the next step to bring the schools together.

And all this effort makes Muskratt happy that she’s able to share the knowledge of her ancestors.

“My grandmother couldn’t talk about this. She hid these things and I get to speak out loud about these things now, so we’ve come a long way,” says Muskratt.

“There is still a long way to go…but I’m proud there is funding there to do this and that helps. The more funding and the more awareness the better.”

Photo Credit: Lance Anderson, Peterborough This Week