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Brantford Native Housing celebrates Elder Heritage Garden project

Local NewsBrantford Native Housing celebrates Elder Heritage Garden project

Over 20 people were in attendance to celebrate Brantford Native Housing’s (BNH) “Roots Renewed” Elder Heritage Garden project on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

The event was held to commemorate the newly planted Medicine Wheel garden outside of BNH’s senior housing facility. The garden features traditional medicine plants such as Tobacco (grown facing east), Sage (grown facing west), Sweetgrass (grown facing south) and Cedar (grown facing north), as well as pollinator pods.

Franklyn McNaughton, Jade Davis-Smoke, Jacob Davis, Fran Davis, and Joanee Davis-Smoke, stand in front of attendees as Jacob opens the event with a Thanksgiving Address (The Words that Come Before All Else) during the Roots Renewed Elder Heritage Garden event on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

Jacob Davis, of Two Row Education Services, opened the event with a Thanksgiving Address, also known as The Words the Come Before All Else, to give greetings and thanks for the natural world in his Cayuga language.

His mother, Fran Davis, Owner of Two Row Education Services, later explained how Jacob sent greetings and thanks to the people, Mother Earth, the waters, the fish, the plants and medicinal herbs, animals, trees, birds, the four winds and thunders, the sun, moon and stars, enlightened teachers and finally, to the Creator.  

Attendees participate in a New Women’s Shuffle Dance during the Roots Renewed Elder Heritage Garden event on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

She explained that after each section, Jacob said “and now our minds are one.”

“That ‘now our minds are one’ is the objective of that prayer, that speech. It’s to bring all of our minds together in that good way to have a good mind. They say, there’s two things we need to have a good mind; we need to have gratitude and we need to have optimism,” said Fran. “So those are the words they say ‘that come before all else’ because it sets the tone, right? Haudenosaunee people, when we do ceremonies, celebrations, when we do meetings and make decisions, we always open with those words because it sets the tone and it’s bringing us to a good place because they say that our good mind is our most powerful mind. And when we’re thankful and we’re optimistic, then we’re going to do really good things and good things are going to happen.”

Fran Davis, Owner of Two Row Education Services, takes the opportunity to educate attendees about Wampum Belts during the Roots Renewed Elder Heritage Garden event on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

She then took the opportunity to educate attendees on Wampum Belts before handing it over to Alma Arguello, Executive Director of Brantford Native Housing for a few words.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for being here on this beautiful rainy day. Thank you to the girls from BNH and to Jane and Ed from Bragg’N Rights Lawn and Garden for putting this all together and helping us. We also thank Tree Canada and Imperial for entrusting us to bring back tradition to this territory that has suffered under systemic rules for many years. They tried to silence and eliminate gatherings like this one …but especially traditional medicine as well. As we gather here today in song and dance celebrating taking back the gifts that Creator and Mother Earth have given to us, that for many years, we were not able to enjoy. Those gifts were the ability to take, nourish, and heal our bodies. This celebration as we gather here as well on our elders building, is to beautify but to also bring back traditional to medicine.”

Alma Arguello, Executive Director of Brantford Native Housing, thanks everyone who was involved during the Roots Renewed Elder Heritage Garden event on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

Project sponsors, Erin Maitland, Associate Forestry Specialist for Tree Canada and Mike Cecconi, Indigenous and External Relations Manager for Imperial Oil, then also took the opportunity to speak about their programs and thank BNH for allowing them to be a part of both the project and celebration.

Danielle Russell, Director of Capital Development and Innovation for BNH, then explained a little about how the new garden came to be, how they applied to Tree Canada for the project and how they worked together to create the Medicine Wheel.

“We thought, where else best than to put something in for our elder’s residence, help them get engaged with the community, have the community be a part of the elders residence and really engage with one another, and so we came up with the idea to do Medicine Wheel and pollinator pods,” she said. “In the Medicine Wheel as we all know, we’ve got the four plants and they’re all positioned according to the direction that they should be. I really hope that through this project, we get to engage our elders a little bit more and that we have our community working with them too because it’s really, it’s really all about engaging with one another. I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to do our first Medicine Wheel at our first residence.”

Mike Cecconi, Indigenous and External Relations Manager for Imperial Oil, thanks BNH for allowing him to be a part of the project during the Roots Renewed Elder Heritage Garden event on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

As speeches wrapped up, Fran then led attendees in several social songs and dances such as the Standing Quiver Dance, Old Moccasin Dance, the New Women’s Shuffle Dance (sung by men to honour women) and a Smoke Dance (a men’s war dance). Throughout the dances, Fran explained the stories behind them, when and why they were performed, and invited the guests to join her family in the dances.

Attendees sit and enjoy a communal barbeque during the Roots Renewed Elder Heritage Garden event on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
Jacob Davis provides music for the Old Mocassin Dance (Giyowa ‘giyon) during the Roots Renewed Elder Heritage Garden event on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

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