Centring Indigenous Agriculture in Wilkinson’s Learning Garden
Greetings from Wilkinson’s new Greening and Grounds Committee! We are very excited to introduce this new project to the wider Wilkinson community.
Although North American textbooks have long represented the “new world” as a virgin wilderness, the land and its abundance have been shaped by Native peoples for millennia. Even now, though Indigenous people comprise less than 5% of the world’s population, they protect 80% of global biodiversity. Practicing and teaching Indigenous forms of land stewardship is a powerful way to expose our students to more sustainable, reciprocal, and reconciliatory methods of living with the natural world—methods we need if we are going to survive the climate crisis.
Our project has two goals:
1. Plant crops and medicines used by groups indigenous to the region, and integrate lessons on aboriginal forms of agricultural knowledge and traditional relationships to the land into the curriculum
2. Foster reciprocal relationships with local Indigenous organizations
Our chief plant guide is Crystal Dawn of Green Thumbelina gardening and rewilding services. As well as having a background in urban horticulture, Crystal identifies as a settler with Haudenosaunee ancestry, and has built connections with several Indigenous Earth workers in Toronto. Some have already generously donated medicine plants to our project, and we hope we will be able to pay the gift forward in the Fall with the donation of a respectable harvest.
Currently this project has a lot of moving parts, and there is a lot we will have to learn about the Learning Garden’s biome, the plants we are attempting to grow, and how to best integrate these lessons into Wilkinson’s classrooms. As one of our guides has suggested, if we proceed with a good heart and good intentions, then the land will teach us what we need to know. In the spirit of that advice, we will be regularly communicating with Wilkinson Council about the progress (and pratfalls) of our work, so stay tuned for regular updates!
Thank you so much to Principal Kim Jensen and the Wilkinson Parent Council for their enthusiastic support for this project. If you have any questions or comments, email Beth Martin
Project Update: June 24, 2021
In these last few days before school is over, the Greening and Grounds committee would like to share some news about our Indigenous agriculture project. If you visit the Learning Garden this summer (and we hope you do!), you can see our “three sisters” mound in the steel stock tank: it currently houses five happy little corn plants, some vigorous squash seedlings, and a few bean sprouts just starting to come up. We are hoping that by autumn, the plants will have found each other, and Wilkinson’s students will be able to witness the benefits of companion planting first-hand.
If you’d like your kids to learn more about “three sisters” companion planting in the meantime, here’s an short but funny and informative video from the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin: https://bit.ly/2UmuX7l.