Boozhoo, meaning Hello in Ojibway.
This is the warm greeting that the Volunteer MBC team received when we arrived at the Medicine Wheel Garden (Gitigaan Mashkiki) at Heartlake Conservation Park on August 24th. We were there to present the V-Oscar Continuum of Care Award to the Four Colours Drum Circle for their continued dedication to cultivate and care for the Medicine Wheel Garden, perform ceremonies to honour the garden, and share their teachings with the community.
The ceremony took place at the Medicine Wheel Garden (Gitigaan Mashkiki) at Heartlake Conservation Park in Brampton. The Volunteer MBC team was honoured to take part in prayer and ceremony led by Elders Cidalia and Steven Winterhawk, members of the Four Colours Drum Circle and custodians of the Medicine Wheel Garden. As we stood in a circle, as per tradition in Indigenous teachings, we learned about the significance of the land and caring for its sacred medicines, the four cardinal directions and the Seven Grandfather Teachings.
At the heart of the ceremony was an acknowledgement and reflection of the Indigenous children who survived or lost their lives to residential schools and the need to raise awareness through calls to actions such as the upcoming Orange Shirt Day.
Elder Steven Winterhawk reminded us “The way that we’ll find those children is by being children again and being innocent.”
As we reflected on our inner child, the reality of children being violently stripped from their innocence and childhoods became even more infuriating. Elder Steven led us around the medicine wheel garden to offer tobacco and prayers for the missing children and invited us to tie orange ribbons on the cedar tree in their remembrance.
“Sometimes we can’t just look at their death as that moment only but it’s that person’s life that makes a difference in our lives,” Elder Cidalia.
Four Colours Drum Circle is the first organization to receive the newly created Continuum of Care Award. The creation of this award was inspired by the recipient itself, along with the various communities that VMBC engages with, in their dedication to the continuity of care.
The award nomination was made by Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) which is mandated to oversee watershed communities including Heartlake Conservation Park. The intent was to acknowledge and celebrate the elders who have dedicated their service to the garden since its official opening in 2010.
Caring for the garden has included cultivation, putting in the hard labour to maintain it, offering ceremony and prayer and hosting public education initiatives for the communities to learn. Women elders were recognized to have put majority of the efforts into caretaking.
“Our garden here, women have done most of the planting and looking over it because of what it stands for,” Steven Whitehawk.
Four Colours Drum Circle is currently selling orange t-shirts to raise awareness about residential schools, with proceeds of the funds going directly towards the artist and Indigenous families involved.
With Orange Shirt Day coming up on September 30th, there exists a greater need to raise awareness and respond to the calls to actions put forth by Indigenous communities and residential school survivors. Now more than ever, we must recognize the ways we can redistribute our power and privileges to support and uplift the original caretakers of this land in their fight for healing and justice, sovereignty and liberation.