Youth Leadership: Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan’s Indigenous History Month
Meet Community Development Worker Bert Whitecrow and Gardener Helper Olivia Dziwak
The Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan Crew is proud to announce that June will be a busy month in the St. Matt’s greenspace, led by Community Development Worker Bert Whitecrow and Gardener Helper Olivia Dziwak. A month dedicated to Indigenous History in the national calendar, June also includes World Environment Day, Rivers to Oceans Week, and National Pollinator Week. Funding from Pollinate TO and Canada Summer Jobs means that we can continue to develop the northern portion of our space as well as offer 8 weeks of employment to Indigenous and settler youth as the 2021 growing season gets underway.
We don’t yet know what the public health guidelines governing outdoor gatherings will be, but we do know that Bert and Olivia already have ideas about how to engage the congregation and the community safely, both online and off. We know too that public, intentional, and explicit celebrations of Pride Month will also be part of the mix.
Bert Whitecrow is a 2-Spirited, Anishinaabe multidisciplinary artist from Seine River First Nation who uses the pronouns "they/them." Their work explores themes of healing, preserving, and practicing ancestral knowledge. Bert is currently attending the Indigenous Visual Cultures program at OCAD University, and plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in April 2022. They are a member of the Weave and Mend collective, which is a mixed Indigenous collective that builds relationships with Indigenous communities through art-making workshops, facilitated conversations, and permaculture. The collective came together in the summer of 2018 to design and build an outdoor garden and installation space at 180 Shaw Street. The collective’s current online exhibition titled mend(ing) can be found at Weave and Mend.
Olivia Dziwak has an academic background in Canadian Studies, but came to love hands-on work cooking in professional kitchens, most recently with The Food Dudes at Hotel X downtown. She also cooks with the Apple Crisp Action Brigade for the Overdose Prevention Site in Moss Park. With the contraction of the hospitality industry during the pandemic, she turned to gardening, recently joining the North American Native Plant Society and LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders program. She has volunteered with Toronto Seed Library since 2016, and with Toronto Beekeeper’s Collective in 2019/2020.
The Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan Crew at St. Matt’s foresees much learning and creating with Bert and Olivia beside us. The planting of the circular Food and Medicine Garden will begin following a small Welcoming Ceremony led by Elder Peduhbun Migizi Kwe/Catherine Brooks on May 25th, with so much more to come as the growing season unfolds. We are grateful to all those who have helped us start the season in such a good way: Annemarie Baynton at Pollinate TO, Pollinator Partnerships Pollinator Steward program, Project Swallowtail, our MP Dr. Carolyn Bennett, members of Grow Food Toronto and St. Clair West Gardeners, the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Group and Board at St. Matt’s, Outreach and Pastoral Care Minister Betsy Anderson, and, guiding us always, Elder-in-Residence Peduhbun Migizi Kwe (Early Morning Eagle Woman).
Indigenous and settler youth leadership for the 2021 growing season is supported by the Canada Summer Jobs program.
Bert Whitecrow is the Community Development Worker
Olivia Dziwak is Garden Helper