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Indigenous People's Solidarity Group


Smudging at the March 2022 Equinox ceremony at St. Matthew's Indigenous Healing Garden. (Harold Durnford)

The Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Group (IPSG) was founded in 2018, as congregants and community members acted on the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We aspire to live in accordance with St. Matt’s Territorial Acknowledgement, now posted streetside, which recognizes 15,000 years of Indigenous history in this place as well as our commitment as settlers to the Land and its first stewards.

The IPSG hosts regular ceremonies and events—including book studies, Indigenous Song Circles, liturgies, and other activities—as well as oversees Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan/Healing Garden.


Anyone can join the gardening, reconciliation and spiritual events being held in the garden.  Sign up for the St. Matt’s e-newsletter for regular invitations and reflections from the IPSG, and/or contact Outreach Coordinator Betsy Anderson to join. Keep up with our activities on Facebook.

Upcoming activities:

Time to Plant: A Saturday, May 13, Work Bee


The leaves of the red osier dogwood in Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan are the size of a squirrel’s ear, and likely to be even larger by the weekend. Based on this Haudenosaunee wisdom, our food garden can be planted. If we adhere to western science, and the directive to plant when night time temperatures are consistently above 10C, we can also say it’s time.


Self-seeded red orach, wild strawberries, and perennial Medicines and herbs are already well started in our Right Relations Garden. The Three Sisters mound and adjacent beds have been prepared with layers of compost, manure, and black earth, and sit ready. We have seeds from plants originating in the Americas saved from past harvest, as well as seedlings to hand that have been nurtured under lights.


The forecast for this Saturday, May 13, is 19C, sun and clouds with a 30% chance of a shower. Please join members of the Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan Crew anytime between noon and 3 to help. We’ll hope to picnic outside when we want a break, so bring your favourite lunch or snack items.


If you are wondering about our ongoing project to save the Yew tree from the concrete planter in front of 803 St. Clair, after 60 volunteer hours to prepare a planting site and bare the roots of the tree, we’ve turned to the BIA for help. We don’t think we have the equipment to remove the tree safely from the planter and transport it to our space. If necessary, we will hire an arborist to help us. Some help from the Horticultural Society of Parkdale and Toronto might also be possible: Vanessa Barnes gave the President of the Society, Ron Charlemagne, a tour of the garden on Tuesday, and he suggested we apply for a small grant again this year.


Hardscaping and other tasks for willing hands are also available, especially as we prepare for Doors Open at the end of the month. Thank you to Betsy Anderson for photos from the May 6th Work Bee, which included seeing whole families enjoy picnics in the garden as part of their experience of Hillcrest Community Players’ superb production of The Sound of Music in the Sanctuary.


For more information on plants native to the Americas, see:

  • Doors Open, May 27-28: Tour St. Matthew's United Church and learn more about Indigenous approaches to gardening during Doors Open. 

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 

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Heartbeat of the Earth (Photo by Marcelle St-Amant)

Praise and gratitude to our Grandfather Sun for the stunning fall day for Friday’s Every Child Matters Commemorative Ceremony in Tollkeeper’s Park on September 30th. Well over 100 people joined members of the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Group and Community History Project to honour Indian Residential School victims and survivors; Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, 2-Spirit, and Trans People and their families and communites; and all those impacted by “child welfare” policies that continue to break up families and communities.

People waited patiently as Elder Catherine Brooks sorted out a new order of Ceremony as both former Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit, Carolyn King, and the 416 Singers, Drum, and Dancers were delayed by other events. In the end, all went well, with a dedication of the Park as the 3rd National Healing Forests greenspace in Toronto by volunteer “Tollkeepers;” an acknowledgement of their founder, Jane Beecroft, who passed a year ago; and an introduction to members of her family.
Elder Catherine opened the Ceremony that followed the introductory remarks by saluting the Four Directions, and recognizing that people from the Four Directions were present in the Circle. She shared both the painful history of children being taken from their families in past generations and the current statistics that show far too many Indigenous children in foster homes, and equally estranged from their culture and traditions.
Participants were gifted Tobacco or Sage to hold close to their hearts in prayer, both during Elder Catherine’s reflection and during the Drumming and Dancing that followed. Lead 416 Singer, Isaiah Cada, spoke of the Drum as the heartbeat of the Earth, while his cousin, a Grass Dancer, led a traditional entry for the Dancers. Nichole Leveck and she and Isaiah’s gender fluid child, Indiana, offered Jingle Dances for healing; Nazarene Pope danced Fancy Shawl, a dance rooted in the Intertribal Pow Wows of the last century that created new traditions while keeping old traditions alive.
As the Ceremony drew to a close, we followed Nichole and Indiana as they released Tobacco to the Earth and to the Sacred Fire, then found our way down to a table filled with Chef Charles Catchpole’s Bannock and Cedar Tea, and a basket of seeds and seedlings to take away. A Red-Tailed Hawk, Elder Catherine’s Clan animal, circled overhead.


Gift of tobacco (Photo by Marcelle St-Amant)

The Noojimo’iwein Gitigaan/Healing Garden is Toronto’s first National Healing Forest project.   

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