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Indigenous garden plants seeds for a path to unity in Colwood

New space part of the Colwood Community Garden
Jay Ruryk, volunteer co-ordinator for the Indigenous and Pollinator Garden at Colwood city hall, performs a smudge ceremony using white spruce at the official opening on July 2. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)

Spirits of unity and growth rang true and clear in the song and prayers shared by Elder Sit-a-luk Raymond Peter at the official opening of the Indigenous and Pollinator Garden at Colwood city hall.

“It’s exciting to open the garden because it will ground us with our past and guide us into our future,” said Peter, or Brother Rick as he is known for his work as an Aboriginal Education counsellor for the Sooke School District.

“It’s pretty awesome to see the work on the garden get to this stage. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work. The closest translation I can make in our culture is that the good feelings that have evolved are part of this work. We were taught to never be stingy with our teachings because we need to give it back for the unity of all coming together.”

Peter, a member of the Cowichan First Nation who lives in Beecher Bay, credited the garden’s volunteer co-ordinator Jay Ruryk for his dedication and research in helping to bring the garden to fruition.

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“I’ve always enjoyed the days I’ve spent with Jay,” Peter added. “His influence and hard work are truly inspiring.”

“The garden means that we can use local Indigenous plants from the Island and Coastal B.C.,” said Ruryk, a recent graduate from Royal Bay Secondary whose Indigenous heritage is mostly Cree, but also includes Metis and Haida. “A lot of these plants are edible and have medicinal value. There’s a lot of great uses for them.”

After acknowledging that everyone was standing on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people, Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said city council and staff have been inspired by the growth of the Colwood Community Garden during the past 10 years.

“I remember the energy that went into starting this garden,” Martin recalled. “The new Indigenous and Pollinator Garden will ground us with our past and guide us into the future. It’s a blessing to be able to share this land and raise our families together.”

Barbara Sibbald, past-president of the Colwood Garden Society which oversees the community garden, is excited to be part of the project and thanked Colwood council for helping fund the project through a Community Spaces Grant.

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“The garden’s Indigenous plants will support a wider variety of insects,” she said. “Some species are completely dependent on specific native plants to survive, such as the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Over the next few years, we hope to see these plants grow and spread, and more plants signage and a path will be added.”

Sibbald also thanked volunteers, and sponsors Josh Driver from Clear Sky Yard Maintenance and Chris Sibbald with Bedwetter’s Irrigation for their support.

Lindsay Lockhart assisted Ruryk with a smudging after the remarks were completed.

Lockhart, a Na’tsa’maht Indigenous and ESD Education teacher with SD62, explained that white sage was used during the smudge ceremony to clear the garden of any negative energy.

Colwood Mayor Rob Martin speaks on July 2 at the official opening of the Indigenous and Pollinator garden, which has been added to the Community Garden at Colwood city hall. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)

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