Healing Forest for Residential School Survivors and their Loved Ones
- 150,000 Indigenous children and youth were stolen from their families and forced to grow up in schools aimed to "break the bond between mother and child" and "kill the Indian, save the man". These schools were developed as a part of Canada's aggressive assimilation tactics to convert the First Peoples into Christians.
- These schools aimed to destroy Indigenous identity and culture, and thousands of children were abused. An infantryman in World War II had a better chance of survival than did a child in an Indian Residential School in Canada in the early 20th century.
- This legacy inspired Peter Croals, a geologist and development consultant, and Patricia Stirbys, an Indigenous lawyer, to envision a place where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can come to heal.
- According to Croals and Stirbys, the National Healing Forest will be a community-based “necklace” of forests across Canada, contributing to reconciliation for all peoples. As Stirbys put it, “there are a lot of healing properties in forests; in trees.”
- We are honoured to offer our forest as a space to heal from the intergenerational effects of this trauma.
We have created a Heart Garden as part of our contribution to Project of Heart. 150 stone people have been put together to form a heart. This number is in honour of the 150,000 children that were forced to attend Canada's residential schools.
Children and their families are invited to join us by donating flowers and helping us in tending to the flowers and plant medicine that serves in memory of the families of residential school victims and those who have been intergenerationally impacted by this horrific part of our collective story.
May we come together and help each other heal.
What is Project of Heart?
Misiwe visionary and caretaker is the granddaughter of residential school survivors and is a Truth and Reconciliation Specialist. She has studied the residential school system extensively over the last 15 years and is passionate about healing the legacy of this horrific part of our collective story.
We aim to share knowledge (Truth), mend the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples (Reconciliation), to help us come together and do what is in the best interest of our children, ALL children, and the future generations. It's all about HeArt!
Therefore, Project of Heart Garden is our response to:
If you are a Canadian Project of Heart is for you. Even if you are not Canadian, but you want to know the true history of the Indigenous Residential School system in Canada you can use Project of Heart.
These are some of the people and groups that have told us that Project of Heart is for them:
- teachers who want to know the truth and to inspire their own students to seek truth and take positive action in our society
- college and university classes
- families who want to become more aware, respectful and engaged neighbours and community members
- faith and church groups that want to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and build a better future
- intergenerational survivors who want to learn more about the history that has brought them, their families and communities to the legacy that they are dealing with today
- court workers, corrections workers and law enforcement personnel who want to better understand and support the people that they serve
- ANYONE who wants to know the TRUTH behind the reality that Aboriginal people are faced with today and to work together to MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE
“The Guardians of our Healing Forest”
have been generously donated by Jenny's loving parents George and Lynn Sutherland. Something she wrote to share more about Why she aspires to create the Space that she does:
"For those who don’t know me very well, I am the Lodge’s visionary and caretaker. I have decided the term Owner assumes an entitlement to something that cannot be owned, and I feel this way about the Land and the Sacred Space which I know the Lodge to be.
And I would like to share about Why we are creating the Healing Forest.
When I left my Homelands many Moons ago, I learned that if I wanted to feel the presence of my parents (whom I missed immensely) that I needed to spend time on the Land, connecting to its Medicine and that feeling of Home that it gave me. I felt comforted knowing no matter where I was on this planet, we All look up at the same Grandfather Sun, Grandmother Moon, Star Nations and planetary system.
I soon discovered I also felt my “Mother” when barefoot on the Earth, and my “Father’s” presence looking down at me from the Sky. And this always made me feel connected to the wonderful parents who raised me from afar.
And something More...
The Natural World became a place I could allow my grief to pour out of me and into the Soil, a place to find rest against a Sacred Tree, a place to feel my energy be restored by the Mineral Kingdom, and a place to marvel at the Teachings of the Animals, with my favourites being the Fliers, the Winged Ones.
These Feathered Friends seemed to carry prayers up to Creator, and bring messages back from the Spirit World. I now spend most of my time in Ceremony learning from birds. Treasuring Feathers as gifts, and dedicating my life to honouring Fallen birds - with the Owl seemingly being the One to come forward most often. So much Wisdom in this Bird Medicine. So it makes sense that it is the Owls that have become the Guardians.
The Forest thus became a Sacred Space for me to spend my time. And I created programming where Medicine Walks were an important part of the Work that I do with others. There is no lack of healing when we become sympathetic to the Touch, Energy and Love we Earth Walkers can have to this Planet.
We all feel alone and lost at times, and seek loving guidance. And therefore we all deserve a Healing Forest. A place to disconnect from the chaos of life and reconnect to the Earth, the Universe, and find our way Home to Ourselves.
You are All Welcome here.
And, the Misiwe Forest is in the process of being officially designated as a place for those who have been impacted by the cultural genocide of Residential schools. A response to the Call from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. For survivors, and those who have inherited the legacy of this trauma, to find solace and comfort. This bench offers them a place to rest their weary Souls, feel held in sacred space and allow Healing to take place.
As someone who is Indigenous, and who’s father is the son of residential school survivors, it is important for Me. In understanding that we are all interconnected, it is important for Us.
All My Relations.
Misiwe Ni Wakamooganuk.
Gitchi-Meegwetch George and Lynn Sutherland.
And Gitchi-Meegwetch to Garrett Nadhee from the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation for carving this incredible bench."
On the beautiful unceded territory of my Algonquin friends.