South Bay greenhouse project seeks to preserve sacred medicinal plants

SOUTH BAY—The skeleton of a new greenhouse has risen from the floor of a disused outdoor rink in South Bay as part of a project to revitalize and protect sacred medicine plants in the community. The greenhouse is the prototype for several such greenhouses the Wikwemikong Lands Department hopes to see rise in the various satellite communities.

The project is an initiative of the Those That Help Mother Earth Committee in conjunction with the Medicine Project.

“We have the frame up but we need to get the plastic on,” said Wikwemikong species at risk coordinator Theodore Flamand, who noted that the project has really excited the community. “We didn’t realize it would take off so fast.”

The original funding for efforts to protect medicinal plants came from an Environment Canada prevention stream, noted Mr. Flamand, and arose from the realization that many traditional medicinal plants were becoming harder to find in the bush, notably wild ginger.

“We held two informational meetings about the plants,” said committee member Mary Ellen Flamand. “There was a lady from Environment Canada who came and gave a presentation.”

There is a similar project underway at the Six Nations.

“We held some workshops with medicinal plants,” noted Ms. Flamand. “We went out to collect seeds and now we have to have a place to store them.”

The group hopes to have the South Bay green house up and running by this coming January. In addition to the medicinal plants, the group also hopes to be able to raise herbs. “We want to fill it up with good things,” said committee member Gail Shawande.

“This will do good for the community,” said elder Teresa Shawanda. “It is positive for people in the community both young and old.” One of the challenges facing those members of the community in harvesting plants that remain plentiful from the bush is a simple lack of knowledge as to what those plants look like. “Sometimes people have to wait until they flower to be able to tell what the plants are.”

The loss of traditional knowledge brought about through the residential school system and its legacy have come into play there as well.

“It is important to bring awareness and self-sufficiency to the community,” noted Mr. Flamand, who pointed out that was a long term goal for the program. “That is our hope, especially with medicinal plants.”

The project has been very much a community driven effort, to date, noted Ms. Flamand. The materials, wood, nails and plastic have been donated by people in the community. “Andy ‘Duce’ Manitowabi generously donated plastic for the covering, but we need something a bit heavier,” admitted Mr. Flamand. Fortunately, the proper type of plastic covering has been sourced, thanks to the assistance of biologist Judith Jones of Winter Spider Eco-Consulting.

“We even received a $50 donation for the seed bank from an elder from Cape Croker who came to one of our workshops,” noted Ms. Flamand. “The elder was very supportive of what we are trying to do.”

Those interested in assisting with funding for the project are invited to contact Ms. Flamand at 705-859-1091 or Ms. Shawande at 705-859-2224.