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Elder Charlotte Nolin holds up a rose hip.

Elder Nolin shows a rose hip and describes its many uses.

Learning from the land with Elder Charlotte Nolin

June 28, 2024 — 

At a land-based teaching session held at the Bannatyne campus June 12, Elder Charlotte Nolin introduced the plants and their properties at Mashkiki Gitigaan – the Medicine Garden.

Surrounded by a gathering of students, faculty and staff, Elder Nolin named each plant as she went around the circle.  “The sage we use with the smudge. Mint, we make tea with it. Sweetgrass we use with our prayers,” said Elder Nolin. “The medicines that are grown here are medicines that we use in our everyday lives.”

Her face broke into a smile when she got to the wild roses blooming in the corner the garden.

“When I was a kid we’d take the petals right off and we’d eat them,” she said. “Once they’re done flowering they form a bud, a rose hip. After frost they turn bright red. Then you can pick them and make a tea or you can use them to make a jelly.”

If you were stung by a bee or if you cut yourself while you were out gathering rosehips, you could use some of the yarrow growing nearby, she added. “You chew it into a paste, then you put it on the skin. It can help stop the sting.”

The garden, opened in 2014, not only includes a variety of medicinal plants and shrubs, but it offers healing for the mind and spirit, she added.

“When I used to work in Child and Family Services, they asked me what my wellness plan was. Some people said they  had counsellors and some people took yoga.”

For her, it was being able to put her hands in soil each day and care for the land and everything growing on it. “When I pick up a handful of soil, I feel life,” she said. “To me, working in the garden is relaxing, it takes away any negative things I may carry,” she said.

“This is a place that we hold very close to our heart,” said Chantal Daniels, director of Ongomiizwin – Education, who organized the teaching session and the garden-clean-up that followed.

“Not just us. If you come  out here at lunchtime, there’s people who sit out here and eat lunch, we have our guests from the neighbouring hospital that come and use the space as well.”

Elder Nolin ended the session by extending an invitation to the group and to all members of the community. “Any time you need to come sit to just unload whatever you’re carrying, this is a good place to do it.”

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