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Service Berries: Ozigwaakomin

By Robin Buyers

July 2020

On Wednesday morning, The Stop’s Wychwood Open Door Volunteer Program Assistant EveenMohammad came round to the Right Relations Garden, inquiring about ingredients for an ice tea. Webegan with mint, then daylily, then serviceberries: a first harvest shared with our Community Hubpartner.

The serviceberry bushes were already fruiting when the IPSG Garden Crew transplanted them in earlyJune, gradually ripening over the last month, at first only a taste to share among the gardeners andcurious passersby, now handfuls at a time in this July heat. Deep purple and slightly larger than a wildblueberry, these are one of the first fruits of summer where what remains of the Carolinian ecosystemmeets mixed forest.

Amelanchier canadensis is a Carolinian forest understory species. As our three establish themselves inthe Right Relations Garden, they will become a hedge at the south end,


The portrait of Elder Mary Lou Smoke, together with her husband Dan, is one of 28 honouring Elders painted by Tannis Nielsen and young Indigenous artists and community members.

blooming early next spring, one of the first sources of nectar for pollinators. When Europeans arrived, settlers mistook these blossoms for those of a European relative, Amelanchier ovalis, and so they called them by the same name, sardisberry. But to the Anishinaabe people native to this place, they are ozigwaakomin.


Elder Mary Lou Smoke, Anishinaabekwe, advised us as we built the Garden that “acknowledging the plants by their Indigenous names would be educational as well as respectful.”

The Elders who have gifted their voices to the online Ojibwe People’s Dictionary can help us learn the proper pronunciation in this International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Ozigwaakomin. Boozhooozigwaakomin. “Greetings serviceberry,” since “serviceberry” is the most common name forthis species in our area now. And perhaps apt for a church built as Methodist, as one of the stories aboutserviceberry is that it bloomed at the time the circuit riders would once more find their way to Europeansettlements to conduct services that had had to wait until the thaw.

Yes, the St. Matt’s of 2020 cares about our weekly worship services, even when we must meet online.But this week’s gifting of mint, daylily, and serviceberries to refresh others means that we have yet another small way to turn our worship into witness, to be a congregation that serves.


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