A special ceremony was held on the grounds of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig Thursday to bless its new sacred medicine garden.
Sweetgrass, sage, cedar and tobacco will be grown in four quadrants, according to the four directions of the medicine wheel. Local elders and knowledge keepers were invited to open up the ceremony in a good way with a pipe ceremony in the large teaching lodge behind Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig.
Sacred Medicine Coordinator Joanne Thiessen says the ceremony was held in order to bless the area prior to putting any of the traditional medicines into the ground.
“When they smoke the pipes, it invites and brings in the good spirits — the ancestors are here with us giving blessings to the area and our event,” Thiessen said.
The Office of the Solicitor General funded the establishment of the garden through a grant which Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig successfully applied for.
Thiessen says that Indigenous Peoples are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and as a result are often granted access to traditional healing and ceremonies while in the system.
The sacred medicines that will be grown in the garden, she says, will be there for former offenders to access after they've left the criminal justice system behind.
“They want them to still have access to these medicines so that it could help them stay on the right path, and not end up back in the system,” Thiessen said.
The garden’s coordinator says the garden was also made possible by the hard work of community members, including the efforts of sacred medicine garden worker Lesa Boissoneau.
“It really was a community effort — a lot of people really pitched in and helped out, so I really want to acknowledge that,” said Thiessen. “It’s very much a special, sacred place here.”