After two years of planning, Melissa Ireland finally got to see one of her visions for the Aboriginal Student Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University come into fruition.
“It’s fulfilling a dream and a vision,” Laurier’s Aboriginal student support co-coordinator said about the centre’s new garden, which opened on June 21.
“It’s a way to service the whole Laurier community and to share and teach indigenous harvesting practices.”
“For me that’s pretty fantastic that this is happening,” she added.
The Aboriginal Student Centre held a ceremony on Friday to commemorate the opening of the new garden. Titled “Mino-kummik” — which means “the good bountiful earth” in Ojibway — the garden features vegetables, a traditional Aboriginal medicine garden and a rainwater cistern.
“Instead of ordering online or bugging friends or family, we can finally do it ourselves,” Ireland said about the new crops growing in the garden.
The ceremony featured quick speeches from Kitchener-Waterloo MP Peter Braid, Laurier’s vice-president: academic and provost Deb MacLatchy, senior advisor: aboriginal initiatives at WLU Jean
Becker as well many others. In addition to it being the garden’s official opening, many of the attendees and those presenting were celebrating National Aboriginal Day. “We’re just so excited and so happy today to have it ready just in time for National Aboriginal Day, it’s so significant,” explained Becker, who noted that the finishing touches of the garden were completed the morning before the ceremony.
Becker hopes that the garden is not just a place for Aboriginal students but the whole Laurier community. Students, staff and faculty can book the space online.
“We believe that the Earth is a healer, that’s what the Earth is doing all the time. You have to be out here to get the healing,” continued Becker. “So that’s what’s available for students out here.”
But Becker really wants to give thanks to the Laurier students for the construction of this garden. With approval of the Student Life Levy (SLL) in March, the Aboriginal Student Centre received $29,913.09 in funding for the new garden.
“We’re really so grateful to Laurier students,” Becker said. “They totally got the concept and wanted to support.”
During her speech to the attendees, Becker noted that this garden, as well as the student centre, is here for the students to enjoy and use.
“The only reason for our existence is our students; that’s why we’re here. They are our future, they are our present,” she said.
Braid, in an interview with The Cord, echoed Becker’s remarks, “Every time I attend an event, I come away feeling very extremely confident for a future and very inspired by these young Aboriginal people. The talent, the knowledge, the wisdom, the contributions that I’m certain they are going to make to our community and our country.”
The Aboriginal initiatives at Laurier have only been around for three years, and the addition of the garden demonstrates to Ireland an increasing emphasis on Aboriginal student support at Laurier.
“It shows Laurier’s growing commitment and enthusiasm for our Aboriginal initiatives, so we’re creating a space for Aboriginal identity,” she said.