Gratitude in Abundance

Recently we had the honour of meeting the wonderful people at the United SteelWorkers Humanity Fund who made the decision to support ᒥᓄᑭᐣ ᑭᑎᑲᓂᐢ back in February.

A chance to reflect on the pleasures and learning experiences of 2018 as our project Minogiin Kiitagenens evolved from an idea to the beginning of a new way forward.

A new direction for the Canadian landscape is emerging from young members of several Northern First Nations. Prominent among them, a terrific team of installation experts from McDowell Lake (MDL). An Ojibwe community so wonderfully remote the road exists only in the Winter. Bush planes with pontoons provide access when the water isn’t frozen.

Members of Mishi Sakahikaniing (MDL) who live in Thunder Bay for part of the year created the first major components of the project building two greenhouses and a Boreal forest edge edible rain garden at Dennis Franklin Cromarty HS (DFC). The high school students, who hail from many other far North fly in First Nations were partners in the garden creation too. Together they planted Balsam Firs, Tamaracks, berry shrubs and medicinal and pollinator forbs and grasses.

We really like the symbolism of building bridges.

The USW Humanity Fund review committee do too!

Myrna created the design in her DFC art class, including a dry pond with a bridge.

All of our senses were stimulated in the process. The smell of the birch logs burning in the tipi fire next to the garden, and plucking a goose with the DFC Elders, are cherished memories.

The Humanity Fund made it possible to share strategies for bringing nature back to diversity deserts (lawns) and for forging relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.

The toughest part of the project was erecting the two greenhouses. None of us had ever built one before, not even MDL’s heavy equipment operator Dakota Pelly who is now the go to expert.

Kelley Bird-Naytowhow, Kay-Lynn Ostamas, Darrien Morton and Verlin Lloyd James.

Thanks to the supreme generosity of Norm Eygenraam at Multi Shelter Solutions and the awesome efforts of the beautiful Regional Multicultural Youth Council (RMYC) including two super cool researchers visiting from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Darrien Morton and Kelley Bird-Naytowhow, the whole process was more celebration than work.

The beginnings of an Indigenous food security complex!

RMYC and MANWO director, Moffat Makuto in the garden with Elena of Thunder Bay Art Gallery, a DFC graduate.

Life holds many gifts of abundance.

At the meeting we shared precontact Blue Maize kernels from a cob gifted to us by Haudenosaunee Wolf Clan director, musician and actor Gary Farmer. In doing so, we learned that Kamloops, BC USW Local 7619 president Kyle Wolff, is also an avid seed saver.

Growing the way nature intended!

Hunting, fishing, foraging, and harvesting from an incredible number of plants in his garden Kyle Wolff avoids visits to the grocery store during the most abundant times of the year. Kyle keeps wild salmon carcasses in his freezer for use in his food mounds! This builds up the nitrogen with a slow release through decomposition.

Along with providing for seed libraries for each of our three partners, the USW Humanity Fund has truly inspired us!

We can’t wait for Spring!

So many exciting plans, Sweetgrass meadows, Community Canoes, Three Sisters mounds, stonework projects…making new friends and forging new ways forward, together.

Thank you UNITED STEELWORKERS HUMANITY FUND for your generous support!

Sharing your abundance has helped us create a new path forward.

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