Elder Audrey Logan knows their way around Deer Spirit Permaculture Garden in Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighborhood — a place to share Indigenous practices — pointing out plants amid what some may think is a tangle of greenery.
“One man’s weed is another man’s feed,” says Logan.
“That’s our native spinach,” they said, showing Global News around on Monday evening. “It produces a little red berry. Very delicious but only in the morning.”
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From comfrey, sunroot to zucchinis, a mix of about 75 different medicinal and vegetable species grow there, nestled in the ground using companion and moon cycle planting methods.
“No favourites. I look at them all equally,” Logan said. “I can utilize them in a nice tea or in a soup or in a flour.”
Logan created the garden in 2014 when Klinic Community Health was still located at 345 Broadway. Since then, the elder has been working in partnership with the West Broadway Community Organization, which launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to help buy plants and support other changes, Logan said.
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It’s a space where this lifelong Nehiyawak (otherwise known as Cree) forager and gardener can share their knowledge — skills they began picking up as a child.
“I’ve been doing that, well, ever since I was a runaway, running away from my foster care and taking care of backyards and foraging myself. That’s what got me through,” he said.
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Logan became even more inspired to live off the land after reconnecting with his aunt and grandmother in the Fort McMurray, Alta., area, where the pair were well-known trappers.
It’s a way of life that also helps Logan reclaim their health through affordable means. Logan, who lives with dietary restrictions and a disability, couldn’t afford the foods they needed.
“I was (lying) in bed one day at 310 lbs and diabetic because I was eating commercial store-bought food, and I said, ‘I got to change this.'”
Logan’s knowledge of plants, shrubs and trees extends beyond the property. The elder forages around their West Broadway neighborhood for apples, cherries, plums and more.
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“Just go for walks, and when you spot something, go knock on the (property owner’s) door,” they said.
Logan says they’ve never been turned down.
At the community garden, Logan teaches and tends to the beds a few times a week. In some areas, grasses are braided down instead of being yanked out, to avoid disrupting root systems and offer some reprieve from the harsh Prairie sunlight. People can harvest what they need and learn about Indigenous foods.
“Knowledge sharing is something that has to be done because we always, in the past, we had to hide our knowledge,” they said. “A pandemic is a perfect time for people to learn about food security and how much insecurity they have.”
“It’s rewarding, too, when you share with people what can help them.”
Logan hopes their teachings can help others heal.
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