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Indigenous Manitoba elder connects, heals community through traditional gardening practices

Click to play video: 'Indigenous Manitoba elder connects, heals community through traditional gardening practices' Indigenous Manitoba elder connects, heals community through traditional gardening practices
An Indigenous elder in Winnipeg is sharing traditional gardening practices to connect with their culture and feed and heal the community. Global's Rosanna Hempel brings us their story – Jun 21, 2022

Elder Audrey Logan knows their way around Deer Spirit Permaculture Garden in Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood — a place to share Indigenous practices — pointing out plants amid what some may think is a tangle of greenery.

“One man’s weed is another man’s feed,” Logan says.

“That’s our native spinach,” they said, showing Global News around on Monday evening. “It produces a little red berry. Very delicious but only in the morning.”

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From comfrey, sunroot to zucchinis, a mix of about 75 different medicinal and vegetable species grow there, nestled in the ground using companion and moon cycle planting methods.

“No favourites. I look at them all equally,” Logan said. “I can utilize them in a nice tea or in a soup or in a flour.”

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Elder Audrey Logan tends to Winnipeg’s Deer Spirit Permaculture Garden, where about 75 different medicinal and vegetable plant species like nasturtiums grow. Rosanna Hempel / Global News

Logan created the garden in 2014 when Klinic Community Health was still located at 345 Broadway. Since then, the elder has been working in partnership with the West Broadway Community Organization, which launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to help buy plants and support other changes, Logan said.

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It’s a space where this lifelong Nehiyawak (otherwise known as Cree) forager and gardener can share their knowledge — skills they began picking up as a child.

“I’ve been doing that, well, ever since I was a runaway, running away from my foster care and taking care of backyards and foraging myself. That’s what got me through,” they said.

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Logan became even more inspired to live off the land after reconnecting with their aunt and grandmother in the Fort McMurray, Alta., area, where the pair were well-known trappers.

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It’s a way of life that also helps Logan reclaim their health through affordable means. Logan, who lives with dietary restrictions and a disability, couldn’t afford the foods they needed.

“I was (lying) in bed one day at 310 lbs and diabetic because I was eating commercial store-bought food, and I said, ‘I got to change this.'”

Logan’s knowledge of plants, shrubs and trees extends beyond the property. The elder forages around their West Broadway neighbourhood for apples, cherries, plums and more.

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“Just go for walks, and when you spot something, go knock on the (property owner’s) door,” they said.

Logan says they’ve never been turned down.

At the community garden, Logan teaches and tends to the beds a few times a week. In some areas, grasses are braided down instead of being yanked out, to avoid disrupting root systems and offer some reprieve from the harsh Prairie sunlight. People can harvest what they need and learn about Indigenous foods.

“Knowledge sharing is something that has to be done because we always, in the past, we had to hide our knowledge,” they said. “A pandemic is a perfect time for people to learn about food security and how much insecurity they have.”

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Elder Audrey Logan waters Winnipeg’s Deer Spirit Permaculture Garden on June 20, 2022. Rosanna Hempel / Global News

“It’s rewarding, too, when you share with people what can help them.”

Logan hopes their teachings can help others heal.

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