Last Saturday, we went on a tour of the lands that Naadmaadgit Ki Group is taking care of near the Humber River. We all met at Sherbourne St and took the TTC together to Jane and Eglington to meet our guide, Doug, and his friend, Aaron, for the tour.
Although our group was small — no more than 8 people — it happened to be the perfect size for the tour, down to to number of shovels that Doug brought with him. Fortunately, the weather was also cooperating with us that day and held off on both rain and sun to give us a comfortable setting for a tour and some restoration work.
As we walked through the land, Doug and Aaron talked about their indigenous relationship to the land, pointed out all kinds of useful information about the plants around us, and encouraged us to think about our own relations to land and nature. At one point, Doug told us to imagine that the whole area is a garden! We also got a chance to help out by removing some invasive common reeds that are threatening to engulf the side of the Humber River banks; it was hard work but rewarding as we looked back at what we had accomplished in over 30mins time.
Here are a few reflections from some participants on the tour:
“When I saw the work that NKG was doing it seemed like an overwhelming task. My most significant moment was when we were clearing an invasive grass species beside the Humber River. I think I might have helped pull out ten stalks. Our guide, Doug, was appreciative of the contributions we had made. I am sure that I did very little! As I got to know more about the vision of the group for the area, it made me realize that indeed, this was a perfect metaphor for the Oasis Community Food Hub. In order to have the endurance and perseverance, one must be energized by a vision. It was not just about pulling out the invasive weeds beside the river bank but it is seeing the vision of what the place could be for the indigenous peoples in the future. Similarly, one could easily get discouraged if nothing seems to be happening in the accomplishment of an Oasis Community Food Hub but the vision must inspire a persistent action.” – Petite
“The NKG trip was an eye-opener. I realized that parts of many plants can serve as food and are available for consumption if one knows how to recognize and cook them. Some of them are also medicinal. Such knowledge is either not mainstream, or has been lost. Hence people resort to the easily available, and sometimes unhealthy, food. In a similar vein, immigrants who make a new country their home have no option other than consuming food that is easily available. This unavailability of foods that gave them comfort and happiness in their country of origin sets in an additional stressor to their otherwise burdened lives.. OASIS in St. Jamestown has this great potential of growing, acquiring and storing foods that are culture specific and heartwarming thus lending peace of mind and health to the otherwise stressed community.” – Darryl
“I’m an elementary school teacher. I’ve always been keen on inspiring my students with a love for nature. At the tour of NKG, however, I realized that my own enthusiasm for nature is very shallow. Having joined a few other nature walks, I was expecting no more than recognizing plants, their uses as food and medicine or their potential harms to humans and to the ecosystem. We did precisely that, but the experience left a much more impactful impression in me: no one should be owners but caretakers of land. We have the responsibility to interact with, to use, and to look after the plants and other living things on the land. When Doug, our tour leader, explained to us his family’s indigenous tradition and practice of burying babies’ placentas in the land, I realized how central the land is to his identity, his history, and his worldview. The trip has kindled in me a desire to understand myself as a person and as a teacher through this land I’m currently living on. ” – Enosh
“It was a wonderful learning experience to be out in nature with Doug and Aaron from NKG. I learnt so much about the different plants growing in Toronto, both native and invasive species. Other than enhancing my ecological and botanical knowledge, the experience was also very enlightening and rejuvenating as I was able to really connect with nature and reflect upon our place in the larger scheme of things, in the past, present, and future.” – Becky
As these reflections show, all of us are really appreciative of being given the opportunity to learn from and connect with the NKG. It gave many of us food for thought and it was an encouragement as well to see and be a small of their great vision.