The spirits of unity and growth rang true and clear in the song and prayers shared by Sit-a-luk elder Raymond Peter at the official opening of the Native and Pollinator Garden at City Hall in Colwood.
“It’s exciting to open the garden because it roots us in our past and guides us to our future,” said Peter, or Brother Rick, known for his work as an Aboriginal Education Advisor for the Sooke School District. .
“It’s quite impressive to see the work on the garden come to this stage. It is the culmination of hard work. The closest translation I can make to our culture is that the good feelings that have evolved are part of this job. We have been taught never to be stingy with our teachings because we must give it back for the unity of all gathered.
Peter, a member of the Cowichan First Nation who lives in Beecher Bay, thanked volunteer garden coordinator Jay Ruryk for his dedication and research in helping the garden grow.
“I always enjoyed the days I spent with Jay,” added Peter. “His influence and hard work is truly inspiring.”
“The garden means we can use local native plants from the island and the BC coast,” said Ruryk, a recent Royal Bay Secondary graduate whose Aboriginal heritage is primarily Cree but also includes Métis and Haida. “Many of these plants are edible and have medicinal value. There are many good uses for them.
After acknowledging everyone stood on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people, Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said council and staff had been inspired by the growth of the Colwood Community Garden over the 10 last years.
“I remember the energy that went into starting this garden,” Martin recalls. “The new Indigenous and Pollinator Garden will root us in our past and guide us into the future. It is a blessing to be able to share this land and raise our families together.
Barbara Sibbald, former president of the Colwood Garden Society which oversees the community garden, is delighted to be part of the project and thanked Colwood Council for helping to fund the project through a community spaces grant.
“Native plants in the garden 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 signage and a path will be added .
Sibbald also thanked volunteers and sponsors Josh Driver of Clear Sky Yard Maintenance and Chris Sibbald of Bedwetter’s Irrigation for their support.
Lindsay Lockhart helped Ruryk with a smudge after the remarks ended.
Lockhart, a Na’tsa’maht and ESD Native Education teacher with SD62, explained that white sage was used in the smudging ceremony to cleanse the garden of any negative energy.
City of Colwood, gardening Aboriginal West Shore