Article by CVC’s Adam Wilford –

The beat of the drum resonates through the air and through our bodies. The striking song of an Ojibway Elder, dressed in traditional clothing and headdress, conjures up images of a time when ceremonies like this happened all over this land.

In Brampton it’s commonplace to see faces from all parts of the world. It’s a city in which few cultures are lacking, where you frequently see cultural ceremonies taking place in parks and sacred places. However, this ceremony and this culture are rarely seen here. Not anymore.

Garry Sault, an Elder and storyteller from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, joined our Conservation Youth Corps (CYC) to provide a ceremonial blessing for a tree planting at Brampton’s Bach Park on May 21-23. We were also joined by students and staff from Brampton Centennial Secondary School. The tree planting was part of the CYC Branch Out program which runs throughout spring and fall. It provides high school classes an opportunity to plant trees and participate in environmental education activities in their community. On this special occasion students learned about First Nations culture and spoke with a member of the Ojibway tribe. The Ojibway used to occupy this land.

Imagine the scene. We are in Bach Park, which runs along Fletchers Creek on the outskirts of downtown Brampton. It is springtime and a flood has recently washed through this section of the park after a heavy spring rainstorm. This area often floods due to its proximity to Fletchers Creek. A large portion of Brampton’s rainwater drains into this creek. Due to development, rainwater that would normally soak into the ground ends up draining straight into the creek, causing floods.

We are here to naturalize this section of the park by planting trees and shrubs that can withstand these wet conditions. Restoration projects like this have many benefits, some of which include preventing soil erosion, creating wildlife habitat, enhancing water quality and reducing stormwater runoff.

Garry started the ceremony with a song and told several Ojibway creation stories. He showed the students how to ceremonially offer tobacco leaves to each tree they planted. Tobacco is a traditional medicine and offering used in most Ojibway ceremonies. Garry was there because the Mississaugas of the New Credit (an Ojibway nation) historically occupied this land, as well as much of the Greater Toronto Area, prior to the eighteenth century, when the British Crown purchased it. Garry reminded students of this fact and taught them about his culture.

After the blessing ceremony, the students started planting. In total the students planted over 200 native trees and shrubs and learned how to monitor the health of trees and shrubs. They also went on an interpretive hike. Bach park is conveniently located directly behind Brampton Centennial Secondary School, allowing students the opportunity to watch their plants thrive and providing valuable green space for people and wildlife alike.

More information on the Branch Out program is available at www.creditvalleyca.ca/cyc/branch-out.