In collaboration with Bruce Trail Conservancy, Forest Ontario, and Indigenous partners, Plenty Canada has identified the locations for two new Indigenous Healing Gardens.
Healing Gardens, also known as Healing Places, are havens used to meaningfully engage Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in a restorative process, creating physical places of healing while at the same time cultivating safe and ethical spaces. They are intended to provide spatial experiences defined by natural elements that convey Indigenous principles and teachings and nurture a healing process of reconciliation.
The identification of the new garden locations took place over a two-day assessment trip during which the team visited five sites along the Bruce Trail recommended by Brian Popelier, land stewardship coordinator and ecologist for the Bruce Trail Conservancy.
The first day of travelling took place in the southern region of Ontario. The group comprised two from Plenty Canada, two from the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network, and three from the Bruce Trail Conservancy. The locations visited included Fisher’s Pond, Smokey Hollow, and a section of the Bruce Trail called Woodend Meadows, located near Niagara College.
By the end of the day it became clear which area best suited a Healing Garden. The southern Healing Garden is planned to be located along the Bruce Trail at Smokey Hollow in Waterdown. Our group greatly enjoyed the contours and surroundings of that space, relaxing to the wind blowing through the tall Indigenous grasses while picturing how the land looked and felt like an amphitheatre.
On the second day, the group of seven became eight as a member from Forests Ontario, Emily Hart, joined the contingent. The group travelled to Cape Chin and a meadowland called Vanishing Stream, located near Colpoy’s Bay. Upon assessment everyone in the group agreed that the northern Healing Garden location be that of Cape Chin, which includes a stunning outcrop view of nearly pristine shoreline along Georgian Bay. Not only is the location secluded from bustling city or suburban life, but visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic view of crystal teal waters.
Our group became immediately impressed and in awe of our surroundings. It felt like we had been transported into a place we could all call home. There is the potential added bonus of a house on the property, which could provide support for local Indigenous partners and a space for further Indigenous programming for youth, but plans for the home have yet to be finalized by the Bruce Trail Conservancy.
Both Healing Gardens will help connect Ontario's northern and southern regions. The gardens will provide many programming opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth and provide inspirational spaces for all who visit. The process now turns toward assembling appropriate members from the participating organizations and identifying Indigenous advisors from each of the regions to provide cultural and curatorial guidance. Through this process conceptual content will be determined, Indigenous plants selected, designs considered and approved, and resources procured with installation to begin in 2023.
— Amanda Harwood