Indigenous Garden takes root at Niagara College Welland Campus
Indigenous students and staff at Niagara College’s Welland Campus now have a dedicated outdoor space to help them feel connected to their roots and the earth.
On June 13, the College welcomed students, staff and the community for a grand opening celebration of its new Indigenous Garden. The event, presented by NC Indigenous Education, kicked off with a song and greeting by elder Elaine Berwald followed by welcome remarks from college president Dan Patterson.
“At Niagara College, we’re committed to meeting the needs of our Indigenous students. We’ve developed a strong partnership with the Indigenous community, and we have a strong respect for Indigenous teaching and traditions,” said Patterson. “This garden is one of the ways we can help our Indigenous learners flourish and develop a greater understanding of Indigenous culture within our entire college community.”
The garden includes plants indigenous to Ontario, including the ‘three sisters’ vegetables of corn beans and squash, as well as plants such as cedar, white sage, sweet grass and tobacco which are medicines used in ceremony. A cedar bench was donated to the garden by the NC Retirees Association, and the garden also features a canoe.
“Our new Indigenous garden at Welland Campus is significant because it recognizes and honours the deep connection to land for Indigenous peoples,” said Lianne Gagnon, director of Student Services. “It is important to provide a space outdoors where Indigenous students can go to reflect and participate in ceremonies, and it serves as a teaching tool on Indigenous culture for our students and staff. Learning from the land and connecting to it is important for all of us.”
In consultation with NC’s Indigenous Education Management Circle, the garden was designed by Teri Sherwood, horticulture technician at the College, who is a member of the Oneida nation of the Thames, Turtle Clan. Sherwood also designed the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Garden at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus while she was still a student in the Horticultural Technician program. After she graduated in 1999, she moved on to work at NC where she now teaches a general elective course in Traditional Indigenous Knowledge. Her class planted the ‘three sisters’ area of the garden in early June.
“They loved it,” said Sherwood. “I am very pleased with the final look and proud to be a part of this beautiful garden, and part of a college that supports creative ideas and Indigenous culture.”
Sherwood spoke about plants used in the garden at the event. Guests also heard about plant medicines from Celeste Smith, a recent NC grad who now teaches in the School College Work Initiative dual credit program Traditional Indigenous Knowledge class which helped to plant the garden.
For information about Indigenous Education at NC visit www.niagaracollege.ca/indigenouseducation/
Photo Caption: (From left): Elder Elaine Berwald, Nicole Joy-Fraser and Celeste Smith perform a song while president Dan Patterson looks on, kicking off the grand opening event for the Welland Campus Indigenous Garden.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.