This spring, in partnership with Kinghaven Peardonville House Society and Elders in the community we created a Healing Garden at Miyáqˈelhá:wetawt.
The Healing Garden, which is located at Tims Manor – one of our halfway houses in Abbotsford – provides All Nations teachings with learning opportunities and community building through planting, tending, harvesting, and processing sacred medicinal plants. This new initiative expands the continuum of supports and services that we can provide people following an Indigenous life path, including past, present, and prospective service users.
In our work with Elders and Indigenous leaders in Abbotsford, including Elder Mary who leads much of the programming at Miyáqˈelhá:wetawt, we learned that access to sacred medicine was limited in the community. This is what sparked the idea for us to work collaboratively to mend the gap.
The Healing Garden, which currently includes five cedar boxes of sweetgrass, provides paid opportunities for our halfway house residents as well as folks accessing services through Kinghaven to:
- participate in year-round sacred, land-based activities
- connect further with Elder Mary and other Elders in the community
- foster and maintain a sense of accountability, respect, and community
- increase their access to traditional medicine, spiritual and cultural practices, knowledge, and skill development
The Healing Garden provides the opportunity for residents to participate in cultural activities, and build meaningful relationships with Elders, Indigenous leaders, people transitioning to our halfway house from Kinghaven’s Treatment Centre, and Indigenous alumni who are now living safe, healthy, and independent lives in the community.
“We are finding ways to connect people and build bridges between Kinghaven, Miyáqˈelhá:wetawt, and the community, and to make guys’ transition (to our halfway houses, and then to the community) more meaningful.”
– Adam Strider, JHS Pacific Program Manager, Miyáqˈelhá:wetawt & Tims Manor
Now, individuals are more connected throughout their journey: with Elder Mary there to support them along the way.
“We have guys who have worked with Elder Mary while at Kinghaven, graduated from their program, and then come to Miyáqˈelhá:wetawt and continued to work with her here. They go back to Kinghaven to talk to the guys there to show that a successful transition is in their reach.”
– Adam Strider
Alumni, residents, and future residents all play an important part in this initiative. With ongoing support from elders and All Nation teachers, it fosters a supportive community, with connection to culture and pro-social supports at the core.
“We have a guy (a past resident of Tims Manor) who has been our ceremonial drum keeper since we started Miyáqˈelhá:wetawt. He leads drum circles with our group, comes to visit and help out with the Healing Garden, and has gone to Kinghaven to speak with residents there. This helps to normalize a successful transition, and helps to build a sense of ‘you’re here during your residency, but thereafter it’s like a community centre and you can come visit and involve yourself in anything we’re doing.’”
– Adam Strider
In the future, Elder Mary hopes to expand the range of sacred medicines grown at the Healing Garden, and to integrate plants that are grown by local Indigenous communities, such as tobacco. Elder Mary shared with us that sweetgrass is more of a prairie medicine, which is where she and many of the JHS residents she currently supports are from.
Sweetgrass (also known as holy grass or bison grass, along with many other names) is used in prayer, smudging, traditional ceremonies, and has medicinal uses as well.
Elder Mary is working collaboratively with Elders from local First Nations across the Fraser Valley and into the interior of BC to expand the diversity of plants grown at the garden.
While the garden is still in it’s infant stage, with the sweetgrass seedlings starting to grow and many plans in the works for additional medicines to be introduced, it’s been a welcomed addition to our Miyáqˈelhá:wetawt program. Once fully grown and ready for harvest, Elders working to support the program will be teaching our residents how to braid sweetgrass and make them into baskets.
We are honoured to be working with Elders and Indigenous service users, and look forward to seeing the opportunities that arise through this important initiative.
The Healing Garden is made possible thanks to our dedicated partnership with Kinghaven Peardonville House Society, Elders in the community, and thanks to a grant from the Abbotsford Foundation.