Indigenous 'healing gardens' to sprout across South Zone

To mark National Indigenous Peoples Month (June) and National Indigenous Peoples Day today, Alberta Health Services (AHS) facilities across its South Zone are creating ‘healing garden’ spaces, starting with the planting of four sacred traditional plants.

With support from partners, including the Chinook Regional Hospital Foundation, facilities have received kits that include ready-to-plant sage, sweetgrass, saskatoon bushes and wild mint, along with information on how to plant and care for the plants. If needed, facility staff will receive support to build the planter boxes for their gardens.

Staff, along with help from Volunteer Resources and other partners, will work to establish their welcoming healing gardens focused on Indigenous health and healing. The garden space they create will be unique to each site, but the end result will be plants that are usable for years to come for ceremony, consumption and education, while the garden space provides a peaceful place for staff, patients and visitors to go for a source of spiritual renewal.

This project is designed to honour Blackfoot culture and narrow the gaps in health outcomes for Indigenous patients. This form of reconciliACTION will answer some of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada regarding health (Calls to Action 18-22).

Some sites may already have an outdoor space where planters can be added; others might need to begin with the planters and work on developing the space over time. Site managers will work with staff, patients, Indigenous liaisons and physicians to design their healing gardens.

William Singer, (Api'soomaahka, or Running Coyote), Blackfoot creator of the Naapi’s Garden and Katoyiss Seed Bank projects, is a renowned authority on traditional plants and the source of knowledge for this project. He says:

  • Sweetgrass is used in smudge, as an energy food and to treat cough, cold and fever.
  • Mint can be made into tea for comfort, or to treat upset stomach and sore throat.
  • Silver-green leaves of sage can be chewed for sore throat.
  • Saskatoons – referred to as the ‘real berry’ by the Blackfoot people – are used as food and medicine, but also for tools, arrow shafts and pipe stems.
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Thank you for joining us to celebrate the 2023 National Indigenous Peoples Month. Visit Alberta Health Services' Indigenous Health Program  to learn more.

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