Robbinsdale Area School District Starts Native American Medicine Garden
The Robbinsdale Area School District planted the first saplings that will eventually grow into a medicine garden this week.
Students, the district’s American Indian Parent Advisory Committee and an outside advisor conducted a water ceremony and planted four maple tree saplings at Sandburg Middle School and Highview Academy in Golden Valley.
The water ceremony is to “prepare the land for the planting that we did,” said Beth Tepper, director of achievement and integration at Robbinsdale Area Schools. “You have to prepare the land for what you want to have happen there. And I think we did that yesterday … it really had a great feeling and sense of ‘this is why we’re doing this.’ So when we connect our culture with our values and bring in the ceremonial aspect, it really sets the foundation and does what it’s supposed to do. The medicine brings us together.”
The district will also plant a medicine garden at FAIR School Crystal this fall.
“The medicine garden — it’s specific about the plants that we use, so those sacred medicines have been used by both Dakota and Ojibwe people and many other indigenous tribes,” said Tepper. “Those plants have a meaning.”
Medicine Plants Used in Ceremonies
The garden will be seeded with traditional medicine plants like sage, sweetgrass and red willow.
“Our traditional tobacco is called red willow,” Tepper said. “So that’s used during ceremonies and there’s a way that you have to harvest it. And we’ll be using this throughout our teachings with Indian education … we also offer tobacco anytime that we plant.”
The district hopes that students will learn to take care of the trees as they’re growing.
Once the trees have matured, students will be able to tap them for syrup.
“Instead of having to go outside of the district to do maple syrup tapping, we have it right here in our community,” Tepper said. “It’s educational, we can bring in the Dakota and Ojibwe language, and anytime that you can sample syrup, you know, and use that with our foods is a great give-back … food is also medicine in brings the community together.”
Tepper said it’s important for Native American students to see themselves reflected in their schools.
“It’s also an opportunity for families and students to engage others in this educational process and our values that run deep in our culture,” Tepper said. “It’s a time for us to give back to others and teach them about some of the things that have happened here for many years when it was all Dakota territory. So we’re bringing back what already existed and bringing it to light.”
The district received a grant from the Mortensen Family Foundation for the project.