Local Elders joined staff, students and invited guests at Northwest Community College on March 9 in a short ceremony to bless a bronze plaque that will mark the Indigenous Garden.
Judy Thompson, NWCC First Nations Studies instructor and Nancy Mackin, MRAIC Phd (who originally designed the garden), invited the Kaien Elders from the Prince Rupert Friendship House to a presentation during a meeting of the College’s First Nations Council.
In a moving and powerful event, First Nations representatives from throughout the Northwest met and introduced themselves, many sharing their First Nations names and lineage. The Elders joined the First Nations Council, including NWCC President Dr. Denise Henning, for lunch. After lunch, everyone proceeded to the Indigenous Garden where Elder Leonard Alexcee, a member of the Tsimshian Nation of Lax Kw’alaams from the Killer Whale Clan, blessed the bronze plaque. The plaque is embossed with the Sm’algyax words SUWILAAY’MSGM S’NOODYN A TAX’NII GOO and the English translation of “The Learning Garden of Everything”.
The plaque will be fixed on a rock in the middle of the garden providing a centrepiece for the many varieties of Indigenous plants. The garden supports the Prince Rupert Campus’s journey towards incorporating Indigenous knowledge in post-secondary education.
“Listening to the Elders and members of the First Nations council speak of their connection to their territories was both moving and humbling,” said Wendy Prystay, NWCC Prince Rupert Campus Manager.
“We were very proud to host this event and look forward to the continued involvement of the Elders on our campus.”
NWCC created Indigenous Gardens at its Prince Rupert and Terrace campus in 2008. They showcase local plants and flora with symbolic meanings for the College community, including staff, students and the region’s Aboriginal people.