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Aboriginal garden to be a community gathering place

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By Paula E. Kirman Sweetgrass Writer EDMONTON







The Shaw Conference Centre has created a place on its property intended for people to meet, share, and connect. The Community Medicine Wheel Garden was officially unveiled on June 18.

Located on the rooftop of the Riverview Room, the garden overlooks Edmonton’s river valley. It was created with the guidance of local Cree Elder Francis Whiskeyjack, and features four sections within a circular shape filled with specially-chosen plants and flowers. The medicine wheel is a powerful symbol of Aboriginal culture, often a part of sacred rituals, ceremonies, and blessings.

“The story begins with local community builders like Lewis Cardinal, reminding us that we’re a part of a river valley location that has been a gathering place for Indigenous people for thousands of years. We realized that our convention centre, a modern-day gathering place, provides us with an opportunity to help re-connect to the history and spirit of this special place we now call Edmonton,” said Lisanne Lewis, director of business and community development with the Shaw Conference Centre.

“The importance of having a garden like this here really reflects who we are as a building and as a community,” said Cliff Higuchi, outgoing vice president and general manager at the conference centre. “If we go back and look at the origins of why this community exists in the first place, the First Peoples used this area as a gathering spot. That reflects on what we do in today’s sense in that we are the building that facilitates gatherings.”

“The medicine wheel in itself holds many teachings. The way it is circular, for instance, is the way we travels in life’s path and how we honour that cycle of life,” said Whiskeyjack to the audience during the unveiling.

The physical creation of the garden was done in two stages. A designer worked on a permaculture design as a master plan for the whole building, then a contractor built the garden as per the specifications in the plan. The City of Edmonton was also involved to a large extent.

“We remain inspired by the City of Edmonton’s commitment to build good relationships with Indigenous people in the spirit and intent of Edmonton’s Urban Aboriginal Accord,” said Lewis. “We’re also very fortunate to always have guidance and support from the City of Edmonton’s Aboriginal relations office. They continuously assist us in connecting with leaders in the Indigenous community and ensuring our initiatives act as community capacity builders.”

The garden will be a permanent fixture in its location and is open to all. Higuchi hopes that it will become a place that is widely utilized by the community.

“We’re looking for community involvement now to help us guide the future of this garden,” he said. “We want to see this garden be truly reflective of the community, so we’re looking for ideas and opportunities for community involvement, whether it is programming or opportunities for people to come and enjoy it in different ways.”

Photo Caption: (From left): Inspector Dan Jones (Edmonton Police Service); Francis Whiskeyjack (local Cree Elder); Cliff Higuchi (VP and general manager, Shaw Conference Centre); and Rob Houle (supervisor, Aboriginal relations office, City of Edmonton) plant a cedar tree in the Medicine Wheel Garden.