Arts & Culture

Garden Plot Dedicated to Indigenous Students to Welcome Earth Month

Olivia Allery, news editor

To kick off the start of Earth month, the Augsburg Indigenous Student Association (AISA) and the Environmental Stewardship Committee (ESC) held a blessing for the revamping of the existing Native student garden plot in the campus community garden. The garden plot had gone unused by Native students for the past several years, being lent to community growers in the garden for the time being. The plot will soon be home to Native plant medicines that will eventually be utilized by future Indigenous students and community members at Augsburg.

AISA secretary Alyssa Parkhurst (Bineshiiyens), was the major advocate for the medicine plot. “I first brought up the idea to the AISA board during my first spring semester, around February or March of 2020,” said Parkhurst. “I told them that I wanted to take over the plot and we could grow Native foods like squash, corn, and beans or also just have medicine plants in the plot too.” 

Parkhurst went on to explain that the medicine plot plan was then put on hold due to the initial COVID-19 shutdown in spring 2020. Now, after getting the approval from the AISA board, and with help from the Environmental Action Committee (EAC) and ESC, people will be able to take care of the plot. 

Parkhurst is excited for the impact it will have on future Indigenous students and the community. “The thought was that Indigenous students could come onto campus and feel like they have relatives on campus,” she said. “As Native people, we utilize the gifts that the plants bring and we are very familiar with them; everything is a sister, a brother, a grandfather, a grandmother, and for me when I walk around I feel like I have relatives on campus and my hope is for new Indigenous students to come on campus to feel the way that I feel.”

The blessing of the plot included a song and prayer led by Anishinaabe elder, Hope Flanagan (Noodinesiikwe “Little Wind Woman”). During this time, tobacco was passed around to everyone to hold during the prayer and blessing. It was shared during the event that in Anishinaabe beliefs, asemaa (tobacco) is used as an offering to the Creator and the Spirits during prayer. After the prayer and song, everyone was then invited to smudge themselves. Smudging is a practice in some Native cultures where groups and individuals burn different plants or medicines to cleanse their physical and spiritual beings. Smoking sage, cedar, sweetgrass and an eagle feather were brought around to everyone where they could cleanse themselves, if they chose to partake. Everyone was invited to partake in a ritual cleansing with the eagle feather, where their body would be wiped down with the eagle feather that’s smudged. 

After the group smudge, four jingle dress dancers; Alyssa Parkhurst, Jada Lussier, Jada Aljubailah and Miskitoos Henning, danced two songs to continue the blessing. The jingle dress dancers shared what they call a side-step dance. The Little Earth Singers of Southside Minneapolis were invited to sing the songs for the dancers and guests. The blessing came to a close with everyone enjoying food provided by the Gatherings Cafe and a group round dance led by the jingle dress dancers. 
AISA and EAC have a lot more events lined up for the coming weeks to celebrate Earth month. You can find more information on Auggie Life or their instagram pages: @indigenous_auggies and @augsburg_eac